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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 7


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On the 15th of March he took a more decided position of hostility to the cabinet, by moving for an inquiry into the state of the navy. The earl St. Vincent was now first lord of the admiralty, instead of lord Spencer, who occupied that post in Pitt's time; but Tierney was secretary to the admiralty, and there might be as much satisfaction to Pitt in damaging Tierney by this inquiry as in damaging Addington. He contended that the navy had not been maintained in that state of efficiency in which he had left it, although it was obvious that never was an efficient navy so essential. Many sharp words passed betwixt Pitt and Tierney, and Pitt and Sheridan, in the course of the debate. Tierney taunted Pitt with his active concurrence with the volunteer movement since his retirement, and thought he might very well satisfy himself on land, without troubling himself about the sea; and Pitt, alluding to Sheridan's change of politics, and to his inflaming his complexion by hard drinking, called him a wandering meteor, now appearing on one side of the house and now on the other, but not terrifying him anywhere with his flaming visage. Pitt declared that only twenty-three gun-boats had been built since January, 1803, and that the whole management of the navy was inert and indolent. On the contrary, naval men sitting in the house proved very satisfactorily that, counting sloops, smaller vessels, block-ships, the flotillas of gun-boats, &c., one thousand five hundred and thirty-six vessels had been equipped by the present admiralty, and were now fit for service, while other ships were building in the king's yards; and, upon a division, Pitt's motion was negatived by two hundred and one against a hundred and thirty.

After accepting an offer from the Irish militia serving in England during the war, and agreeing that ten thousand should be the number, and that this number should be reinstated in Ireland by a new levy, the he use adjourned, on the 29th of March, for the Easter recess. But, during the recess, Pitt was planning fresh measures of opposition, and, in fact, driving out Addington, and taking his place. On the reassembling of the house on the 23rd of April, Fox moved that it should resolve itself into a committee of inquiry regarding the measures of defence necessary for the country. Addington opposed the inquiry, as unnecessary; but Pitt declared that it was never more necessary; that, though there were a hundred and eighty-four thousand troops of the line and four hundred thousand volunteers, the measures of government were not of that vigorous character which the times demanded. Yorke, the secretary- at-war, and Spencer Perceval defended Addington; but the latter asserted that great exertions had been made to bring up members to vote for Mr. Pitt's views, and that he did not see how the present ministry could remain in office if this measure was carried against them. It was not carried; but Addington's majority had sunk to only fifty-two, the numbers being - for Fox's motion, two hundred and four; against it, two hundred and fifty-six. Wilberforce, who had a great respect for Addington, as he had a great admiration for Pitt, exerted himself to reconcile the two, and to get Pitt into the cabinet with Addington. He consulted with lord chancellor Eldon on the plan for bringing in Pitt to join Addington. Such a scheme must appear the very height of folly to any one who has studied the domineering character of Pitt. He could only be the head and mainspring of whatever administration he was a member of, and, unless Addington could submit to come down from his place and serve under Pitt, no such union could possibly take place. But Pitt was already doing his own work, and paving his own way. He wrote to the king on the 25th of April, informing him of the determined opposition he felt himself called upon to make to Adding- ton's mode of administration, but assuring him that he would never attempt to force Fox upon him. This was saying, as plainly as he could speak to the king, that he was ready to resume the helm himself, and that, with the opposition that he could exert, the government of Addington could not go on. Accordingly, Pitt received a notice that his majesty would soon call for him to attend on him.

On the 30th of April the marquis of Stafford, in the house of lords, gave notice of a motion, identical with that of Fox in the commons - namely, for inquiry into the national defences. Lord Hawkesbury immediately entreated the marquis to postpone his motion, for reasons which, he assured the house, it would deem fully satisfactory, if he were at liberty to State them. It was at once understood that there were negotiations on foot for a change of administration. Lord Grenville, who was a relative of Pitt, but, at the same time, pledged to include Fox in any offers to himself of entering the ministry, called upon lord Hawkesbury to be more explicit, but he declined; and, after some discussion, the motion was postponed.

Pitt, in fact, had received a message from the king, and on the 2nd of May, through chancellor Eldon, presented a letter, sketching a plan of a new cabinet, in which he included not only lord Grenville but Fox also. On the 7th he had, for the first time, an interview with the king, which lasted three hours, and Pitt then more fully stated his views, and recommended a mixed cabinet, on the ground that there was every prospect of a long war, and that it was desirable that they should have a strong administration. Whether such a coalition would have been strong is more than doubtful, opposed as the views and tempers of Fox and Pitt were. But the king would not allow the name of Fox to be in the list, and probably Pitt was very well aware of this beforehand, and only included Fox in order to keep faith with Grenville. Having done this, we cannot suppose that he pressed that point further. On the other hand, lord Grenville refused to become part of an administration from which Fox was excluded. He said he could not accept office in a cabinet formed on a basis of exclusion, being convinced that an effective government could only be attained by uniting in it as large a proportion as possible of the weight, talents, and character to be found in public men of all descriptions. The way, therefore, was every day becoming more clearly open for the return of Pitt, unfettered by any such anomalous alliances. On the 11th of May the marquis of Stafford said, in the house of lords, that he understood that a certain right honourable gentleman, who had turned his great abilities to the subject of the national defences, was about to take the management of public affairs, and that he, therefore, withdrew his motion. The next day the public announcement was made that Addington had resigned, and that Pitt had accepted the chancellorship of the exchequer. Pitt retained of the Addington ministry - lord-chancellor Eldon; the duke of Portland, president of the council; the earl of Westmoreland, lord privy seal; his own brother, the earl of Chatham, master-general of the ordnance; and lord Castlereagh, president of the board of control. To these he added Dundas, now lord Melville, as first lord of the admiralty; lord Harrowby, as secretary of foreign affairs, in the place of lord Hawkesbury; and lord Camden, as secretary of the colonies, in the place of lord Hobart. Lord Mulgrave became chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, in place of lord Pelham. George Canning, now becoming a marked man, was made treasurer of the navy, in place of Tierney, but this gave him no seat in the cabinet. Lord Hardwicke remained lord-lieutenant of Ireland, with Sir Evan Nepean as his chief secretary, in place of Mr. Wickham, who retired on account of ill health; George Rose and lord Charles Somerset were made joint paymasters of the forces, in place of Hiley Addington and Steele; lord Melville's brother, W. Dundas, became secretary at war, in place of Charles Yorke; the duke of Montrose, postmaster-general, in place of lord Auckland; Huskisson and Sturges Bourne in place of Vansittart and Sargent. Few changes were made in the household besides the marquis of Hertford being appointed master of the horse.

Pitt was once more the uncontrolled head of affairs. There have been many and vehement discussions amongst political men, whether a union with Fox would not have been more beneficial to the country, and whether Pitt could not have brought him in, had he really desired it. We believe that nothing could have prevailed on the king to admit Fox at this moment, nor, had this been possible, could two such men have worked long harmoniously together. The only choice really lay betwixt the imbecility of Addington and the dangerous war tendencies of Pitt. It was on this latter quality that his party the most strongly advocated his return to office. Canning especially pointed to Buonaparte now ruling the destinies of France, and declared that there was but one man here capable of coping with him. Pitt had shown that he would exhaust not only the whole resources of the time but those of all posterity to make universal war on France, instead of standing on that strong, and comparatively uncostly system of naval defence, which, at this moment, paralysed all the power of Napoleon in every quarter of the world, except on the mainland of Europe. Pitt had a party holding similar ideas - a party strong enough to maintain him in his position - and the country, therefore, was unavoidably committed to a career of still deeper involvement in carnage and debt. Pitt made no mention now of catholic emancipation - he knew that it was useless; that resistance on that point would have been the utter defeat of his resolve to again hold office.

The first measure of importance, after the appearance of Pitt in the house of commons as prime minister, was the annual motion of Wilberforce, for leave to bring in a bill for the abolition of the slave trade. Pitt and Fox both supported it, and it was carried by seventy-five against forty- nine. The second reading was carried by a still larger majority - one hundred against forty-two - but, on going into committee upon it, it was postponed to the next session, on account of the pressure of other business. In fact, war, and the preparations for war, were the all-absorbing business of these times.

On the 5th of June, the day after the king's birthday, Pitt introduced his plan of military defence. It was to leave the militia what it was, but to increase the regular army, by making it compulsory on parishes to furnish each a certain number of men to what was called the army of reserve - a body called out for five years, and only to be employed within the United Kingdom. He desired to break down the distinctions betwixt this and the regular army by attaching the reserve to the regulars as second battalions, and encouraging volunteering thence into the regulars. It was, in fact, an ill-concealed mode of raising a regular army by conscription, and was sharply attacked on that ground by Fox and Windham, but was carried, after considerable opposition from the Fox and Grenville party, to whom Sheridan was now added. Pitt no longer professed what lie had hitherto professed, though he had always gone beyond it, that his object was simply security; he advocated the increase of the army as a direct means of interfering on the continent whenever we should see favourable occasion. Thus, from the moment of his return to power, he openly pledged his party to the prosecution of those continental wars by which he had already so greatly increased our national debt.

When Pitt brought forward his budget, the supplies asked for and granted were - for the navy, £12,350,606; for the army, £12,993,625; for the militia and fencible corps, £6,159,114; for the ordnance, £3,737,091; for miscellaneous services, £4,217,295; for extra miscellaneous services, which related to Ireland, £2,500,000; for fresh arrears of debt on the civil list, £591,842; for an additional yearly sum for the better support of his majesty's household, £60,000; making a total of £53,609,574. To raise this sum there were to be new taxes and duties, new loans and annuities, besides three lotteries; yet, on presenting some bills for the royal assent, the speaher had the unblushing hardihood to congratulate his Majesty on the rapid diminishing of the national debt! He must certainly have calculated on not only the king but the nation being insane. The language put into the royal speech at the end of the session, was another proclamation of Pitt's intention to rush still more recklessly than before into the ruinous system of continental warfare. Besides securing the safety of this realm, it went on to say - " In addition to this first and great object, I entertain the animating hope that the benefits to be derived from our successful exertions will not be confined to ourselves; but, by their example and their consequences, they may lead to the re-establishment of such a system in Europe as may rescue it from the precarious state to which it is reduced; and may finally raise an effectual barrier against the unbounded schemes of aggrandisement which tin-eaten every independent nation that yet remains on the continent."

Now, it was impossible for any such barrier to be raised but in the active and resolute union of the continental nations against the aggressor, and the putting forth the sturdy spirit of self-defence in each nation internally. No single nation could do this for them; it could only lead them to depend on our money, instead of their own valour and patriotism. Yet this was the delusive and, to us, ruinous policy of Pitt and of that war party which now ruled the country. Never, indeed, was there less occasion to mingle in continental strife. The nations had made peace with Buonaparte, or had submitted to him, and that adventurer was engaged in internal schemes of ambition at Paris. We everywhere sailed the ocean invincible. Sir Charles Green and commodore Hood, after gaining possession of Demerara, Essequibo, and other Dutch colonies in 1803, this year, in May, added the unhealthy colony of Surinam to the number. The French had managed to surprise and capture Goree, on the African coast, on the 18th of January; but, on the 7th of March, captain Dixon, in a single frigate, retook it, and made the captors prisoners. The French admiral, Linois, had been sent to aid the Mahrattas and the French officers, their allies, against us in India, but finding himself cut off from any active support of them, he attacked and plundered the English factory at Bencoolen, and then employed himself, with his little squadron, consisting of one ship of the line, three frigates, and a brig, in intercepting and capturing our merchantmen in those seas. On the 14th of February he was greatly rejoiced to fall in with a fleet of Indiamen, consisting of sixteen sail, richly laden, and on their way from China without any convoy. They were about entering the straits of Malacca when the French hove in sight. Linois came close in upon them, intending to cut off their rear, and make off with a splendid prize; but the East Indiamen now carried guns - these had from thirty to thirty-six guns each - and, instead of endeavouring to escape, they formed in line of battle, and attacked the French ships of war. Captain Dance, in the Royal George, led the way, and was bravely followed up by the Ganges, the Earl Camden, the Warley, and the Alfred. They speedily beat off and put to flight Linois, and chased him for a considerable distance, then put about, and continued their voyage in safety. Only one man was killed and another wounded, and these on board of the Royal George. Captain Dance and his gallant officers were greatly applauded, both in India and England, for this noble defence of the ships and property confided to them. Various sums of money were voted, by different bodies, to the officers and crews: captain Dance received the compliment of five thousand pounds from the Bombay Insurance Company, and was knighted by his majesty. The Patriotic Fund, in July of the previous year, for giving aid to wounded soldiers and sailors, and to the families of those •who were killed or disabled, gave liberal sums to the heroes of this merchant fleet, which had set the example of manfully defending themselves in the absence of men-of-war - an example, and the honours and rewards which attended it, which stimulated our merchant seamen, during the remainder of the war, to a most resolute spirit.

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