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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2


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Burke brought forward a motion regarding the detention of Henry Laurens, the American envoy, in the Tower. He declared that distinguished person had been very harshly treated, and demanded that the lieutenant of the Tower should be called to the bar of the house and examined. Lord North refused this; and lord George Germaine read a letter from Laurens to himself, thanking that minister for the indulgences which he had received. Burke thereupon gave notice that, after the Christmas recess, he would move for leave to bring in a bill to improve the regulations for the exchange of prisoners. Government prevented this by liberating Laurens on bail, and, as there had been for some time negotiations going on for exchanging him with general Burgoyne,' who was considered as a prisoner on parole, this was conceded.

Ministers were now impatient to adjourn, but just at this moment came the news of the return of admiral Kempenfelt with his merchant-ship captures, but without his having attacked the French fleet bound for the East and West Indies with supplies. When the secretary of the treasury was moving the usual adjournment, there was a cry of "What! adjourn - adjourn?" "No," exclaimed Byng, the member for Middlesex, "rather let us sit through the holidays, and inquire into this miscarriage." But Sir George Saville more justly estimated that affair. " If," he said, " when you sent out twelve ships, did you know that the enemy had nineteen? If you did not - culpable ignorance; if you did - worse." Parliament was accordingly adjourned on the 20th of December till the 21st of January, and thus closed the year 1781.

HI news flowed in apace from all quarters during the recess. The marquis de Bouille had surprised and retaken St. Eustatia. The new conquests in Demerara and Essequibo had also been retaken. Bouille having secured St. Eustatia, next turned his arms against the old and valuable island of St. Kitt's. He then landed eight thousand men at Basseterre, the capital, whose movements were protected by the fleet under De Grasse. General Frazer and governor Shirley took post on the rugged heights of Brimstone Hill, and made a stout defence, whilst Sir Samuel Hood, who had followed De Grasse from the Chesapeake, boldly interposed betwixt the French admiral and the French troops on shore. Hood twice beat off De Grasse; but the British fleet and army were much too inconsiderable to maintain the conquest. The island was finally taken, and after it the smaller ones of Nevis and Montserrat, so that of all the Leeward Islands we had only Barbadoes and Antigua left.

Scarcely had these disasters been suffered, when Rodney returned from England with fresh ships, and confident of victory. On leaving England, he said to a friend, " I will bring you back a present of De Grasse." The highest expectations were built upon him, and he justified them. Lord Sandwich, on taking leave of him, said, " The fate of the empire is in your hands, and I have no reason to wish that it should be in any other." His presence brought new life to the West India fleet.

But at home, fresh tidings of failure and loss were pouring in. At this moment arrived the news of the failure of commodore Johnstone in the meditated attempt on the Cape of Good Hope, and of his merely having seized some Dutch merchantmen in Saldanha Bay. But far worst of all was the intelligence of the loss of Minorca. It was, at the same time, only what might have been expected. The government knew the straits in which the brave old general Murray lay there at Fort St. Philip, surrounded by overwhelming forces, and with a garrison fast sinking under putrid fever, scurvy, and dysentery, and yet no effort was made to succour him. Never did gallant men deserve succour more. Whilst the French and Spaniards, impatient of the dogged defence of Murray, assailed the fort from numerous batteries, numbers of the poor men, worn down by sickness, yet scorning to yield to the enemy before them, sunk, and died on the walls, instead of being in the hospital. Repeated sorties were made, and one of them was so successful as to drive Crillon from his head-quarters at Cape Mola, and to keep them for some time. But, on the 6th of January, the birthday of the unfortunate dauphin, Crillon opened a terrific fire on the fort, from one hundred and fifty pieces of heavy artillery. Murray still held out till the 5th of February, when he found it necessary to capitulate, which he did upon honourable terms. Describing himself the scene, he says, " Perhaps a more noble or a more tragical scene was never exhibited than that of the march of the garrison of St. Philip's through the Spanish and French armies. It consisted of no more than six hundred old, decrepit soldiers, two hundred seamen, one hundred and twenty-five of the royal artillery, twenty Corsicans, and twenty-five Greeks, Turks, Moors, Jews, &c. The two armies were drawn up in two lines; the battalions, fronting each other, forming a way for us to march through. They consisted of fourteen thousand men, and reached from the glacis to George Town, where our battalions laid down their arms, declaring they had surrendered them to God alone, having the consolation to know that the victors could not plume themselves on taking a hospital. Such were the distresses of our men that many of the Spanish and French troops shed tears as they passed them."

They not only obtained all the honours of war, but they received the kindest treatment from Crillon, and from the officers generally. The French and Spanish surgeons attended the sick, and every comfort was afforded them. Murray declared that but for the sickness of his little band, he might have held out for six months more. Thus was lost to England the finest port in the Mediterranean.

These dispiriting losses stimulated the public and the mercantile bodies to petition earnestly for the termination of the American war; and the parliament met at the appointed time amid numbers of such demands. Petitions came from the cities of London and Westminster, and many other towns and counties, bearing rather the features of remonstrances. The West India planters resident in London represented their ruin as inevitable if the war were persisted

in. The people at large, who had been long eager for the contest, were now grown weary of it; and they who were the most unwilling to contemplate the liberation of the colonies, and regarded it as synonymous with the fall of the i nation, were extremely bitter against the ministers for their wretched management of the contest.

No sooner did the house meet than Fox moved for an inquiry into the causes of the constant failure of our fleets in these enterprises, on which so much had depended. The object was to crush lord Sandwich, the head of the admiralty. Numbers of those in Sandwich's interest defended him by throwing the blame on the factions and animosities which were carried from parliament amongst the commanders and officers. Mr. Fitzherbert attributed the deficiency in the number of our ships to the miserable wages given in the royal dockyards, as greatly below the rate paid by private builders. He said the king of France had three thousand shipwrights at work at Brest, whilst the king of England had only eight hundred at Portsmouth. He reminded the house that years ago the shipwrights had petitioned for an increase of pay, and that lord Chatham had warmly urged the granting of it, but that it had been refused, and that we were now suffering the consequences of this impolitic parsimony.

Lord North conceded the inquiry with much professed readiness, but with real resistance to the production of the necessary papers. Fox, seeing that it was intended to stifle the inquiry, whilst appearing to court it, on the 7th of February made another onslaught on lord Sandwich, by a motion that naval affairs had been grossly mismanaged. Lord Mulgrave, who had defended Sandwich on the first occasion, now stood forward again on his behalf; but his defence was far outweighed by the statements of lord Howe, who concurred with Mr. Fox, that Brest ought to have been closely watched by frigates, the Texel blockaded, to keep in the Dutch, and that Kempenfelt ought to have been sent to sea with a much larger fleet. Fox's motion was rejected, but only by a majority of twenty-two. The strength of ministers was fast ebbing. Continual attacks were made. Lord Rawdon, who had reached home, was called upon to defend himself against his alleged concern in the hanging of colonel Hayne; and, in the same house, the surrender of lord Cornwallis was thoroughly commented on by the duke of Richmond.

The first symptom of the breaking up of the ministry was the necessity felt for the dismissal of lord George Germaine, who had contributed so essentially to the defeats in America. But even then the king would not consent that he should resign without conferring a peerage on him, observing, " No one can then say he is disgraced." But George was not clear-minded enough to perceive that he who made such a man a peer was disgraced, and still more so by the selection, in such critical times, of his successor. This was no other than old Welbore Ellis, whose pigmy body and mind had been so mercilessly satirised by Junius, under the names of the " Manikin " and the " Grildig."

The title selected for Germaine was viscount Sackville Loud was the outcry of wonder and indignation which burst from peers and commons when this elevation was mentioned. The marquis of Carmarthen, before the patent of nobility could be made out, moved, in the house of lords, that it was derogatory to the dignity of that house for a person labouring under the stigma of a court-martial to be raised to the peerage. He read the sentence, and also the severe comments appended to it by George II. The motion was got rid of by adjournment; but on the new viscount taking his seat, which he did on the 18th of February, the marquis of Carmarthen re-introduced his motion. Very plain language was used on the occasion by lord Abingdon, the duke of Richmond (who was present in the battle), and lord Southampton (who was a witness on the trial). Germaine defended himself, and chancellor Thurlow declared that it was the sole prerogative of the king to confer honours, and that it was a high disrespect to his majesty to call the act in question. Carmarthen's motion was negatived by ninety- three against twenty-eight; but the marquis of Carmarthen, the duke of Rutland, the earls of Pembroke, Craven, Chatham, Derby, and Egremont, the duke of Devonshire, and the earl of Abingdon, entered a protest, declaring the elevation of lord viscount Sackville to be fatal to the interests and glory of the crown and dignity of parliament, an insult to the memory of the late sovereign, and to every surviving branch of the house of Hanover. Under such humiliating circumstances did the hero of Minden enter the order of nobility.

No quiet was now allowed to the declining ministers. Fox, on the 20th of February, strongly seconded by William Pitt, made another attack on lord Sandwich, this time including the whole board of admiralty; and the motion was only lost by nineteen. Another, and perhaps more formidable, enemy now stood forward. This was general Conway, who enjoyed the highest esteem of the house, and had been the first to propose the abolition of the fatal stamp act. He moved, on the 22nd of February, that the house should address his majesty, entreating that he would " listen to the advice of his commons, that the war on the continent of North America might no longer be pursued for the impracticable purpose of reducing the inhabitants of that country to obedience by force " After a great debate, the house divided two hours after midnight, and ministers were reduced to a majority of one, the votes being one hundred and ninety-four against one hundred and ninety-three.

When this startling division was made, Fox immediately called on lord North to bring forward his budget, as being the only thing he had to do before retiring. Colonel Barre declared that there was no necessity to bring it forward at all, calling lord North " the scourge of his country," and insinuating that, though he had lost the confidence of the house, he did not mean to resign, and stigmatised his conduct as "scandalous and indecent." Lord North's almost imperturbable temper gave way, and he retorted on Barre that his language was " insolent and brutal." The speaker was obliged to interpose. Lord North named the 25th for his budget, and on that day he opened it, proposing a new loan of thirteen million five hundred thousand pounds, which called forth the bitter censures of Fox and Burke, who, only with too much justice, ascribed the necessity for such an addition to the debt to the swarms of contractors, placemen, and members of parliament, who pocketed enormous sums as the reward for swelling the ministerial majorities.

Two days after, general Conway again moved that any further attempts against America would weaken the efforts of England against her European enemies, and, by further irritating the colonies, render the desired peace more difficult. The resolution was carried against government by two hundred and thirty-four against two hundred and fifteen. The address was ordered to be presented by the whole house. The king received it coldly, and on the following Monday returned for answer, that he would take such steps towards producing harmony betwixt Great Britain and the colonies as seemed most desirable. On this, general Conway moved a new address, to the effect that the house would consider as enemies to the king and country all who should advise further prosecution of offensive war in North America. Lord North declared the address unnecessary; that both sides of the house were now equally desirous of peace. But he said nothing yet of resigning; and the insatiable Rigby, who had been enjoying the sweets of office for so many years, broke out on the opposition with much fury. Pitt dealt him a cutting rebuke, telling him the country was weary of paying him, on which the impudent placeman coolly replied: - " Undoubtedly, I am not tired of receiving money; but am I to be told that, because men receive the emoluments of office, they are the authors of our ruin? " The motion was carried without a division.

As a means of retarding the evil day, the attorney- general, on the morrow, the 5th of March, introduced a plan for a truce, preliminary to a permanent peace. Fox, in great indignation, said the only proper way to deal with such a proposition from the ministers, was to burst out laughing and walk out of the house. In his heat, he broke forth into declarations which should not have been made, or should have been better kept. To impress on the house his astonishment at the present conduct of ministers, and his abhorrence of their past policy, he exclaimed: - " From the moment when I shall make any terms with one of them, I will rest satisfied to be called the most infamous of mankind. I could not for an instant think of a coalition with men who, in every public and private transaction as ministers, had shown themselves void of every principle of honour and honesty. In the hands of such men, I could not trust my honour even for a minute." If strange sights had not been seen before in political life, and where place, power, and emolument are concerned, how astonished must those who heard Fox on that night have been, how astonished must he have been himself, when, only twelve months later, he and lord North were sitting side by side in that house, members of the same ministry, and apparently the fastest friends in the world!

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2

Admiral Sir John Jervis
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View of Minden
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Surrender of the Garrison
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Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse
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Comte de Grasse
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Gibraltar
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Siege if Gibraltar
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Washington in New York
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