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Chapter XVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

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Sir Archibald Alison would be well enough disposed to accept such an estimate, on such authority, if he honestly could. But truth compels him to admit that the late king was selfish, capricious, and self-willed, as the women admitted to his intimacy too fatally experienced. "Supposing his severance from queen Caroline to admit of excuse, from what was afterwards proved of the frailties and indiscretions of that ill-starred princess, his conduct on other occasions, when he chose for himself, and could not plead the Marriage Act in extenuation, was cold-blooded, perfidious, and deserving of the very highest reprobation. Of truth, like other systematic voluptuaries, he was in a great degree regardless - at least, when it interfered with his pleasures or his passions. Self-willed and capricious throughout, he became, as he advanced in life, faithful only to one desire, the common refuge of such characters - he was mainly governed by the love of ease; and to this he sacrificed many objects, which he even regarded as matters of conscience." f The following portrait, by lord Campbell, is not a bad likeness: - "Possessing great natural advantages, both of person and of intellect, along with his exalted rank, if he could have exercised self-control, he might have been respected and beloved; but, giving way to every inclination and caprice, he disgusted the nation by a gross violation of the duties of domestic life, and he displayed no firmness in maintaining any principles of government. The glories of his regency the people ascribed to the happy auspices of the king, still supposed to be on the throne. From the time that he began to reign in his own right, he had been engaged in the unhappy contest with his wife; and of late years, shut up in his palace, and as much as possible shunning the public gaze, he had been regarded as a heartless voluptuary."

The biographer of the duke of Wellington has not been misled by the eulogy of his hero in estimating the moral character of the late king. "He was," says Mr. Gleig, " a man with many faults and few virtues. His intellect was superior to his moral nature, but it was not transcendent. He appears never to have given his undivided confidence to any minister, but always to have aimed at keeping up what he called 'a king's party.' He professed for the duke of Wellington unbounded love and admiration. That he admired the duke, as meaner natures admire natures that are above them, cannot be doubted; but his love was never such as to prevent him from intriguing and plotting against the object of it. It is beyond dispute that the duke exercised great influence over him; but it was the influence of a superior mind over an inferior."

It is not likely that Mr. Roebuck would have much respect for the character of such a monarch as George IV. He truly remarks that no one now regards his memory with more of personal feeling than if he were one of the Tudors or the Stuarts. " And the fact of this utter absence of every sign or symptom of sympathy towards a powerful monarch, who died comparatively but a few years since, is a damning proof of the worthlessness of the man, who is even now only remembered because he was once a king. To the people," continues Mr. Roebuck, " he rendered the best, the only service of which he was capable, by withdrawing from the world, and shutting himself up in Windsor, with such associates as suited his crapulous tastes and faded desires. Decorum, at least, was maintained by the secrecy which he sought, and the less he interfered with the business of the state the better was his rule. From the great events which occurred while he was regent he derived no honour. He contributed no more to the victories of the duke of Wellington than his father did to the discoveries of Watt. Posterity will regard him simply as a chronological mark, useful as showing when certain great deeds were achieved, but in no other way deriving from them either honour or renown."

These views of the character of George IV. would not be complete without the masterly sketch of lord Brougham: - " Naturally of a temper by no means sour or revengeful, he had become selfish to a degree so extravagant that he seemed to act upon the practical conviction of all mankind being born for his exclusive use; and hence he became irritable on the least incident that thwarted his wishes - nay, he seemed to consider himself injured, and thus entitled to gratify his resentment as often as any one, even from a due regard to his own duty or his own character, acted i n a way to disappoint his expectations or ruffle his repose. His natural abilities, too, were far above mediocrity. He was quick, lively, gifted with a retentive memory, and even with a ready wit, endowed with an exquisite ear for music and a justness of eye that fitted him to retain refined tastes in the arts; possessing, too, a nice sense of the ludicrous, which made his relish of humour sufficiently acute, and bestowed upon him the powers of an accomplished mimic. But his education was neglected." Lord Brougham continues: - " Notwithstanding the lessons of dean Jackson and the fellowship of Thurlow and Sheridan, he was a man of very uncultivated mind, ignorant of all but the passages of history which most princes read, with some superficial knowledge of the dead languages, and no idea whatever of the rudiments of any science, natural or moral. He was much the creature of impulse, and the sport of feelings naturally good and kind, but had become wholly selfish through unlimited indulgence. When he entered upon public life he was found to have exhausted the resources of a career of pleasure, to have gained followers without making friends, to have acquired much envy and some admiration among the unthinking multitude of polished society... Upon the great question which divided the world, he took part with the enemies of liberty and of improvement... When the alarm occasioned by the French revolution had subsided, he gradually came back to the opposition party, and acted with them until his father's illness called him to the regency, when he shamefully abandoned them, flung himself into the hands of their antagonists, and continued to the end of his days their enemy, with a relentless bitterness, a rancorous malignity, which betokened the spite of his nature, and his consciousness of having injured and betrayed those whom therefore he never could forgive. It was, indeed, the singular and unenviable fate of this prince, that he who at various times had more troops of friends to surround him than any man of any age, changed them so often, and treated them so ill, as to survive, during a short part of his life, every one of his attachments, and to find himself before its close in the hands of his enemies, or of mere strangers, the accidental connections of yesterday."

The services, however, which George TV. rendered to the nation, as the patron of the fine arts and of literature should not be forgotten. None of the sovereigns of England, from Charles I. down, had distinguished themselves in this way. But George IV. very early exhibited a taste for the fine arts, and a desire for their general cultivation. When prince of Wales, he said, "We have lost the magnificent collection of Charles I.; I will do what I can to supply its place." And when he brought together a series of chefs d'œuvres, he is said to have observed, u I have not formed it for my own pleasure alone, but to gratify the public taste, and lay before the artist the best specimens of his study." He assisted in establishing and supporting the British Institution and the National Gallery. He was the munificent patron of Lawrence, Wilkie, and other English painters; of Chantry, Westmacott, and other English sculptors; of Nash, Soane, and other English architects. Having become aware that a celebrated enamel painter had died, leaving his widow impoverished, he immediately sent £1,500 for one of the deceased artist's copies. He caused, at his own expense, a monument to be erected at St. Germains, to the memory of James II., and having made comfortable the last years of the last of the Stuarts - cardinal York, at his decease he commissioned Canova, of whom he was a liberal patron, to carve a mausoleum to his memory. He caused the unrivalled statue of the Apollo Belvedere, which had been placed at his disposal, to be conveyed, on the restoration of the treasures of the Louvre, to the gallery from which it had been plundered. He also contributed £500 towards a monument proposed to be erected to do honour to the memory of James Watt. The literary fund was established under his auspices, and supported by him with an annual grant of 200 guineas. He took a lively interest in establishing the Royal Society of Literature, which he endowed with an annual fund of 1,100 guineas. Since his death the former grant has been reduced to one half, and the latter entirely withdrawn. He presented to the British Museum the fine library of George III., 85,000 volumes of well-selected works, as a free gift to the nation. He established an important precedent in honouring literature, by making its greatest existing ornament, Sir Walter Scott, a baronet; acting on whose advice, he liberally encouraged the earliest attempt to cheapen first-class literature made by an Edinburgh publisher - viz., "Constable's Miscellany." "These are services to his country," remarks the duke of Buckingham, "which ought to neutralise grave faults. But the name of George IV. cannot be dismissed without recalling the long struggle that continued through the greater part of his career, in which the nation came out gloriously - a result fairly to be attributed to his steady support of lord Castlereagh, who directed the foreign policy of the kingdom, and of the duke of Wellington, who, instructed by this accomplished minister, succeeded in bringing an almost desperate contest to a fortunate issue." The remains of George IV. were deposited in the royal vault at Windsor, with the accustomed solemnities, in the evening of the 16th of July.

The two most important and memorable events in the reign of George IV. were the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and the passing of catholic emancipation, which established the principle of religious equality, with certain limitations, deemed necessary for the safety of the constitution. The reign was also remarkable as the beginning of a new era in commercial legislation, when the principles of unrestricted intercourse among nations, which Adam Smith had demonstrated to be most conducive to their mutual benefit, were recognised and acted upon by the British parliament. The marquis of Lansdowne, in the upper house, and Messrs. Huskisson, Robinson, and Poulett Thomson, in the lower, were the most distinguished advocates of the new policy of free trade. In giving effect to this policy, some hundreds of obsolete statutes, relative to commerce, aliens, and denizens, were repealed. The navigation laws were modified, and their restrictive character mitigated; bounties for the encouragement of British fisheries, and of the linen manufacture in Ireland, were abolished. The exportation of wool was permitted, and also the importation of manufactured silks, and other goods. The colonial trade was partly thrown open to foreigners, and the colonies were treated as if they had interests of their own apart from those of the mother country. They were no longer required to bring all that they produced to our market, nor to buy everything they required from us. Thus, although the principles of free trade were not fully embodied in our legislation, though the system of protection was not abolished, important steps were taken in the right direction, and the way was prepared for the future triumphs of the Anti-Corn-Law League. The period occupied by the reign of George IV., therefore, was one of preparation, marked by occurrences which derived their chief importance from their precursory character, and from the indications which they gave of the near approach of a great social revolution.

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