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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 3


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This relation gives us a dark and revolting idea of the infamous practices of Buonaparte, and is the best defence of Drake and Smith from the heavier charges brought against them. On the subject being mooted in parliament by the opposition, Pitt rose and made an indignant protest against the conduct and the accusations of the French government. He declared that the most gross and atrocious calumnies were fabricated by one civilised nation against another. He affirmed, in the name of himself and his colleagues, that they had never authorised any human being to conduct himself contrary to the honour of this country, or the dictates of humanity.

Pitt had returned to office under anything but promising circumstances, Time had taught little as to the folly of involving this country in eternal debt for the nations of the continent. He was as much bent as ever on being the ' universal champion of some hundreds of millions of men, who were too demoralised, or too much shackled by tyrannie governments, to defend themselves against only thirty millions. It was clear that our debts must be enormously augmented for the same purpose; and yet Pitt's health was failing: his energies were prematurely worn out by the gigantic task he had set himself; his end was fast approaching, and his majority was shrunk and attenuated to an alarming degree. The Fox and Grenville opposition held together firmly, and Addington had carried a strong party along with him on retiring. Pitt felt his situation keenly, and the king was sensibly alarmed at it. He attempted to conciliate Grenville, but, as Fox could not be accepted too, that failed. He then turned to Addington, and, as the king was favourably disposed to his old minister, he warmly recommended this coalition. It was effected, and Addington was made a peer - viscount Sidmouth, of Sidmouth. This was one of those rapid political promotions of George III.'s reign, in which politics were made to ennoble men of no particular mark or abilities; and certainly the son of Pitt's father's doctor had never shown those splendid talents, or done those splendid services which justified such an elevation. But, as Pitt would take the lead in the commons, it was, no doubt, felt more convenient that one who had lately been prime minister should not serve under the present prime minister, but should represent the cabinet in the upper house. There were some other changes at the same time. The duke of Portland, who was growing old and infirm, retired from the post of président of the council, which Sidmouth entered upon. Lord Harrowby, a warm friend of Pitt, retired, in consequence of continued illness, from the foreign department, and lord Mulgrave took it, the earl of Buckinghamshire succeeding to lord Mulgrave's post as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster.

When parliament met on the 15th of January, 1805, the king, in his speech, dwelt strongly on the conduct of Spain in forcing us into a war with her. It attributed this behaviour of Spain, as well as all the complications of the continent, to the reckless invasion of all national rights by France, and its domineering influence over many of the Continental governments. It referred to the letter from Buonaparte, and to the negotiations with Russia and other northern powers, but gave little light as to those negotiations. In fact, there were difficulties in the way. England wanted to see the northern powers taking the field in a strong force against France, and these powers wanted large subsidies from England wherewith to get their armies on foot. England, however, had learned sufficient to hesitate to advance the money till she saw the soldiers existing on something more than paper, and thus the proceedings halted.

Fox, in commenting on the royal speech, drew a very; différent picture of the origin of the outbreak with Spain, and condemned, in severe terms, the attack on the Spanish fleet without any proclamation or even notice of war. He also taunted Pitt with taking office without any stipulations made in favour of the catholics. He reminded him of the pledge given to them by him, and treated this throwing of their cause overboard in no light terms. Pitt felt deeply the justice of the charge, and replied by denying his having abandoned his pledges to the' catholics, but pleading that the present moment was not favourable to introducing that subject. The simple fact was, that in the late rebellion in Ireland the catholic clergy had shown great loyalty, and as Buonaparte was now holding the pope in open vassalage, and, at the same time, treating him as an inferior, and junking use of him as a tool, at which the catholics were everywhere indignant, concessions at this crisis would have had a more beneficial effect in increasing the loyal ardour of that body, particularly in Ireland, where there was the most danger of a French attack. But the truth was that Pitt knew very well that to have stood on the ground of his promises to the catholics with the king, was to have kept himself out of office altogether. So far, however, from any concessions to Ireland, on the 8th of February Sir Evan Nepean, the principal secretary for Ireland, moved for the continuance of the suspension of the habeas corpus act in that island; and, though Fox, Windham, and others condemned the measure as unnecessary and cruel, and though Pitt acknowledged that disaffection was greatly diminished there, the measure was carried by a hundred and twelve against thirty-two.

The votes for the army and navy, carried during the month of January, were on the largest war scale. For the navy, including marines, a hundred and twenty thousand men were ordered. The number of men for the army in its différent services was fixed at three hundred and twelve thousand, and twelve million three hundred and ninety-five thousand four hundred and ninety pounds were voted for their support. But the secretary-at-war declared that the number of men actually in arms in the United Kingdom were six hundred thousand! Such an army was perfectly absurd; and had our only object, as Pitt always stated, been our own safety, our navy amply secured that. Of this six hundred thousand men, nearly one-half, however, were volunteers; and, as two hundred and forty thousand of them were reported as in excellent discipline, the internal defence of the country might safely have been left to them. Philip Francis condemned the Mahratta war as unnecessary, and reprobated the system of annexation pursued by lord Mornington, the governor-general, and so vigorously carried out by his brother, general Wellesley. In the course of the month of February there were warm debates on the question of a rupture with Spain, and ministers made many representations of the certainty of such a rupture from the Spaniards being in negotiation with France for a French army; and that therefore it was quite necessary to seize the Spanish ships, which were bringing money to pay these troops. But the cases cited by Sir John Nicholl, the attorney-general, to sanction such seizures before any declaration of war, unfortunately were, with the exception of one - the seizure of the British vessels on their coasts in 1739 - ail our own violations of the ordinary laws of nations. If the English government were, as they stated, quite aware of such preparations for war against us, they should have made their own declaration of war before proceeding to hostilities. That that was contemplated, and on the broadest scale, the budget of Pitt demonstrated. He not only called for fifteen million pounds for the expenses of the navy, but for an additional grant for the army of eight millions five hundred thousand pounds - namely, four million pounds for the militia and fencible corps, anul four million five hundred thousand pounds for the ordnance; besides a large sum for miscellaneous expenses. Thus, there were nearly six-and-thirty millions alone voted for war purposes! The whole supplies for the year were fifty-five million five hundred and ninety thousand pounds. Of course, there were new taxes to be levied, an increase of the income-tax, new duties on legacies, on houses, &c., and a double duty on salt. Fresh loans were inevitable, and this one year added twenty-two million five hundred thousand pounds to the burdens of our children and children's children, whose consent to such unwarrantable impositions, of course, was never asked. This was not simply robbing people in their sleep, it was robbing yet uncreated generations; cancelling, ages beforehand, that freedom with which God sends his creatures into the world.

But the ministry of Pitt contained many elements of weakness and discord. Addington and Melville were violently opposed to each other. Wilberforce found this to his cost when he returned to his annual vote for the abolition of the slave-trade. Addington and Melville, hostile to each other, were both hostile to him and to his project. Pitt warned him of this, and begged him to let his usual motion lie over this session; but Wilberforce had been so fortunate in carrying it the last session through the commons, that he was sanguine of succeeding now with both commons and lords. He introduced the bill, obtained a first reading on the 10th of February, and had the second reading fixed for the 28th; but then it was thrown out by seventy-seven against seventy. The Scotch members, who the preceding year were neutral, now, probably influenced by Melville, voted against him in a body; the Irish, probably incensed by Wilberforce having voted for the suspension of the habeas corpus act in Ireland, had been his warm supporters, but now showed themselves as enemies, or kept away. It was a terrible blow to Wilberforce; but a worse blow was impending over one of his underminers - Melville.

A commission had been appointed to inquire into the department of naval affaire. The commissioners, at whose head was Mr. Whitbread, had extended their researches so far back as to include the time when lord Melville, as Mr. Dundas, had presided over that department. They there discovered some very startling transactions. Large sums of money had been drawn out of the Bank of England on the plea of paying accounts due from the naval department; that these sums had been paid into Coutts's bank in the name of the treasurer of the navy, Mr. Trotter, and that he had there, for long periods together, employed these sums for his own benefit. Other large sums had been drawn in the name of Dundas, and had been employed for his profit. There were still other sums which had disappeared, and no account was rendered for what purpose; but these were scored under the name of secret service money. As much as forty-eight thousand pounds had been paid over to Pitt at once, and no account given of its expenditure. Indeed, as Pitt had nothing to do with that department, the payment to him was altogether irregular. These discoveries created a great sensation. George Rose, who Lad begun life with- out a sixpence, but who, after attracting the attention of Pitt, had rapidly thriven, and become extremely wealthy, had confessed to Wilberforce that some strange jobs had come under his notice as a member of that department. There was a loud outcry for the impeachment of Melville.

Melville appears to have been a jovial, hard-drinking Scotchman, of a somewhat infidel turn, according to Scotch philosophy of that period, and, as we have seen, who had for many years the affaire of India in his hands; for these, oddly enough, at that time, were part of the business of the first lord of the admiralty. In this department he does not seem to have been more or less high-principled than his predecessors. For a long time he supported all the proceedings of Warren Hastings, which were horrible enough; but he at length deserted him, and promoted his impeachment. Amongst Melville's faults, however, it does not appear that he was of an avaricious character, but rather of a loose morale, and ready to fall in with the licence practised by the officers of all departments of government, then and since, in the duties intrusted to them.

On the 6th of April "Whitbread brought forward these charges against Melville in the house of commons, as detailed in the tenth report of the naval commissioners. In doing so, he paid a high compliment to the manner in which the naval affaire had been conducted since lord Vincent became head of that department; but he charged lord Melville with having applied the public money to other uses than those of the naval department, in contempt of the act of 1785 - an act which Melville himself, then Dundas, had supported, that he had connived at a system of peculation in the treasurer of the navy, Mr. Trotter, an individual for whom he was responsible. The salary of this Mr. Trotter had been fixed, by the act of 1785, at four thousand pounds a-year, but he contended that Dundas had allowed Trotter to draw large sums from the bank of England out of the navy deposit, pay them into Coutts' bank, and use them for his own benefit; and that, moreover, he had himself participated in the profits of this system.

This charge called forth a vehement contest of parties. Tierney, who had been treasurer of the navy under Adding- ton, declared that he had found no inconvenience in complying with the act of 1785, whilst holding that office. Fox, Grey, Ponsonby, Windham, Wilberforce, lord Henry Petty, afterwards lord Lansdowne, supported Whitbread's charges, and Pitt, Canning, and lord Castlereagh, defended Melville. In fact, Pitt was considerably implicated in the charges, and we have seen that Castlereagh had no very strict notions of the employment of the public money, having been the great agent for buying over the Irish parliament. On putting the resolutions moved by Whitbread, after a debate till quite late in the morning, they were only carried by the casting vote of the speaker, Abbot. Whitbread then moved that an address should be presented to his majesty, praying him to remove lord Melville for ever from his councils and presence, but it was proposed and concluded to adjourn this motion for two days, and the house rose at half-past five o'clock in the morning.

When the debate was resumed, on the 8th, the motion to present the address to his majesty was carried, though Pitt announced that lord Melville had resigned. The address was carried up accordingly. On resigning, Melville strongly recommended Sir Charles Middleton as his successor; and, accordingly, Sir Charles, who was popular with the navy, was appointed first lord of the admiralty, and, at the same time, created lord Barham.

After the Easter recess the house was called upon, by the opposition, to punish Mr. Peter Stuart, for an offensive article in the Daily Advertiser, Oracle, and True Briton. The article was a violent attack on the members of the house of commons who had caused the resignation of lord Melville. It described Melville as everything that was great and noble, and his opponents as driving him from the service of his country for their party rancour. In the debate which followed, the demand was raised for Peter Stuart's appearance, and in all the debates on the general question, some very hard blows were aimed at Fox by the friends of Melville. Mr. Ward, the author of " Tremaine " and some other novels, said he should entertain a higher idea of the virtue of the house if certain bawling patriots of the day would refund the millions which their fathers had robbed the exchequer of. If they did that, they would not be living as they were, in fine houses, but would be put on the parish. This was particularly pointed at Fox's father, lord Holland, who had retired from the ministry half a million in the public debt, which was not recovered for fourteen years, by which time, at Compound interest, it would have made. another half-million. This extremely incensed Fox, but Ward added that he only mentioned it to show that it might be as well to treat the case of lord Melville with some temper. When Stuart was called to the bar he boldly avowed himself the author of the article in question, and proceeded to pronounce a fine eulogium en lord Melville. Mr. Grey was indignant at his daring to call in question the judgment of the house, and demanded that he should withdraw. This was done, and then Spencer Perceval, the attorney-general, referred pointedly again to the conduct of a certain individual, meaning Fox's father, with whose defalcation the house did not interfere. In the end, Peter Stuart was reprimanded and dismissed.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 3

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