History of England, Part III, William and Mary to 1887

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York

1898

CHAPTER I: George III's First Struggles for Power,1760-1782

1. [1]  was twenty-two years old when he began to reign. His mother, Augusta of Sachsen-Gotha, described him as

"not a wild boy, but good- natured and cheerful, with a serious cast upon the whole; not quick, but applicable and intelligent; his book-learning small or useless, but instructed in the general understanding of things."

But she had brought

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[1] 
him up in a very narrow way. He thought Shakespeare

"sad stuff, only one must not say so."

But he liked Handel's music, and was a fair performer himself. He was honest, hard-working, religious, and of good private life. He lived simply and frugally, amusing himself with farming. He married in Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was, says ,

"not tall nor a beauty; pale and very thin, but sensible-looking and genteel."

With his narrow intellect possessed a strong will, a high courage and a vigorous character. He was thoroughly obstinate, and there was no way of getting over his prejudices. [1] He boasted that he was

"born and bred a Briton,"

and he had been taught by his mother

"to be a king."

He chose as his chief adviser John Stuart, Earl of , a rich Scotch nobleman of culture and refinement, but inexperienced in politics and too fond of intrigue. was a new Tory of the school of , and taught to take for his model 's Patriot King,

"the enemy of all corruption, the most powerful of all reformers, the admiration of every honest man."

The patriot king was

"to begin to govern as soon as he begins to reign, purge his Court, and call into the administration such as will serve him on his principles.

" He must

"espouse no party, for party government must always end in the government of a faction."

He was to exercise freely and fully all those powers which the law still gave him, but which the custom of the last two reigns had taken away. Above all, he was to choose his own ministers. He was to accept

" Revolution principles,"

and never break the strict law. But his great object was to overthrow the constitutional usages which had made the king a sort of Venetian doge. He was to extend his connections and enlarge his influence in every way in his power. This great object pursued continuously and persistently for nearly fifty years. He did not flinch under a storm of unpopularity, and in the long run won the day. People respected him because his life was pure, and because he was such a thorough Englishman. His prejudices were, after all, their prejudices. His ends were honest, but he was as corrupt as in the means he took to gain them, and, though he spent little on himself, he got rid of so much money in bribery that he was constantly in debt, though his

"

civil list

"

was a liberal one. He meant to break down the organised ring of noble Whig houses that had ruled England for the last two reigns. His great advantages

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were their unpopularity with the people, their factious quarrels among themselves, and the corrupt and irresponsible character of the House of Commons. His chief dependants soon began to act together independently of party politics, and the secret influence of the

"

king's friends

"

was soon complained of. The new Tories, whom had taught, looked up to him as they had looked up to his father . Even Jacobites attended his Court. Before long the Whig influence began to wane. It would have fallen much sooner, only could not see the strong likeness between his ideas and those of . He even confounded with the Whig noblemen, and hated him the more because he was powerful and beloved. This, along with the unpopularity of his mother and his Scotch adviser, made him much disliked at first. But when experience showed his slow mind the right way to go to work he succeeded wonderfully. Step by step he brought back the Tories to power, and from to the Tory rule was only broken up by short ministries in , and in , which accepted unwillingly and turned out as soon as he could. Yet was no mere Tory king, as his predecessors had been Whig kings. He aimed at being above parties, and only used the Tories because their ideas fell in most nearly with his. In the end he chose what ministers he would. The royal power again became a reality. And he grew more popular as he succeeded better.

2. [2] From to was the period of struggle. kept sowing dissension among the Whigs, and steadily breaking up their party. But though he succeeded in putting a in the place of the strong Whig ministry of and , he quarrelled with his people as completely as with his nobles. He got rid of by putting into his Cabinet, and by rousing 's jealousy against the

"great Commoner."

He also strove for peace, as that would diminish 's glory, and give more leisure to carry out the new policy. But France had now won a new ally in Spain, where in Don Carlos of Naples, the old foe of the English, had become King Charles I I I., in succession to his half-brother, the peace-making , and had formed a (August ) with France, like that of , and was making ready to join the war. got early news of this alliance, and, like of Prussia, proposed to meet the attack by striking first; but all the Cabinet except his brother-in-law, , opposed him.

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[1] 
declared

"that he was called to the ministry by the voice of the people, to whom he was accountable, and he would not remain responsible for measures he was not allowed to guide."

" I can hardly regret his determination to leave us,"

replied old Lord .

" He talks the language of the House of Commons, and forgets that at this Board he is only responsible to the king."

But the language of the French was very different:

"His dismissal is a greater gain to us,"

said the philosopher Diderot,

"than the winning of two battles."

3. [3]  was soon driven away also (), and Lord became chief minister. tried to make unpopular by giving him a pension and Lady a peerage. But though he was very anxious for peace, he was forced to allow that was right by waging war against Spain. England was, however, as lucky in this as in her other wars. She saved Portugal from invasion, and captured Manila and Havana. , however, pressed hard for peace, like in ; and on 10th February the Treaty of Paris was signed, which gave England a great deal, though hardly as much as she might have expected.

Its terms were-(a) France gave up all claims on Nova Scotia, and surrendered Canada and Cape Breton, but kept a share in the Newfoundland Cod Fisheries, with the little islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. (b) The Mississippi was to be the boundary between the English colonies and

Louisiana

, which France a little later ceded to Spain. (c) Grenada and the

" Neutral Islands"

in the West Indies went to England, which gave back Guadeloupe and other conquests. (d) France surrendered Senegal. (c) In India France got back Pondicherri, and her other possessions, but only by promising to maintain no troops or fortifications there. (f) Minorca went back to England. (g) England restored Cuba, and Manila (conquered after peace was signed), but got Florida instead.

of Prussia was disgusted at being thrown over by England, and always refused for the rest of his life to make any alliance with her; but he had himself been saved by the death of Elizabeth of Russia, and the friendship of her successors, Peter III. and He soon after made the , which left him Silesia, But for the next few years Englishmen were too busy at home to trouble much about foreign affairs. let France take Corsica (), and allowed Austria, Prussia, and Russia, to make the first (), -a vast but ill-governed state, with an elective king, and a

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wretched constitution, that could no longer hold its own against the rising military powers of the East. Gradually France recovered from the war, and in joined Spain in attacking the English settlement in the where war was only avoided by the firmness and prudence of England, and a change of ministry in France. But the growth of the Northern and Eastern powers turned the main interest in politics far away from England.

4. [4] In , who was so unpopular that he could only move about the streets with a guard of prize-fighters, suddenly resigned. The king now made George Prime Minister, a clever lawyer and a good parliamentary leader, but with little sympathy or insight, and as narrow and pedantic as the king. was a brother-in-law of , but had quarrelled with him and his brother , and now led a separate faction of Whigs. He was soon strengthened by the other independent Whig faction, called the , from the London house of its leader, the Duke of Bedford. But raised a tremendous storm by prosecuting John , member for Aylesbury, for attacking the king's speech in No. 45 of the North Briton, his scurrilous newspaper. , a clever man of very bad character, now became the people's hero. Chief-Justice Pratt declared his arrest unlawful because he was seized on a general warrant mentioning no persons, but generally the

"authors, printers, and publishers of No. 45,"

and because he enjoyed the privilege of Parliament, though Parliament had thrown him over. Pratt also pronounced the search warrant under which ' papers were ransacked illegal. These decisions were thought to further greatly the liberty of the subject. A London jury awarded heavy damages against the Government; but he was attacked on a new charge of blasphemy and libel, and, running away to France after fighting a duel, was declared an outlaw.

5.[5] In passed the which taxed the American colonies, and quarrelled with the king, who turned him out of office. was now forced to bring back the official Whigs, under and their new leader, the , a Yorkshire magnate, descended from the great Lord Strafford, and a man of unblemished character, but of little ability. This short ministry did very well; but was secretly attacked by the

"king's friends,"

and weakened

78

[1] 
by the hostility of . It repealed the Stamp Act, and ended for a time the difficulties.

6. [6] In turned out Rockingham, and called upon , who agreed with him in disliking party government, to form a ministry. , says ,

"made an administration so chequered and speckled; he put together a piece of joinery so crossly indented and whimsically dovetailed; such a piece of diversified mosaic; such a tesselated pavement without cement, here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white; patriots and courtiers; king's friends and republicans; Whigs and Tories; treacherous friends and open enemies, that it was indeed a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch and unsure to stand on."

formed great schemes for restoring the fading prestige of England. In particular, he wished to reform the government of India.

" I think this,"

he said,

"the greatest of all objects, according to my sense of great."

He also wished to ally England with Russia and Prussia to counter-act the Family Compact, for he was always a friend of Russia, and hoped from the Russian attacks on Turkey that

"the Ottoman would pull down the House of Bourbon in his fall."

But gout and weak nerves left only the shadow of his former self. He knew this so well that he would only take the small office of Lord Privy Seal, and this lost him his popularity by obliging him to be made a peer. He became Earl of Chatham. He soon fell into

"the lowest dejection and debility that mind or body can be in."

" He sits all day leaning on his hands, which he supports on the table; does not permit any person to remain in the room; knocks when he wants anything; and having made his wants known, gives a signal, without speaking, to the person who answered his call, to retire."

In his absence his colleagues upset his most cherished schemes. Charles , the brilliant but erratic Chancellor of the Exchequer, taxed America again. When came back, went to prison, and was elected member for Middlesex, the Government led the Commons to set at naught the rights of the constituencies, and annul the election. Again and again the freeholders returned their favourite; but the House was not to be moved. In the riots broke out, and five or six people were shot down by a Scotch regiment in St. George's Fields in Southwark, outside the King's Bench prison, where was shut up.

In an anonymous writer who called himself

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began to attack the Government with great power, but still greater skill and malignity, in a series of letters in the .

"I speak,"

he boasted,

"from a recess which no human curiosity can penetrate, and darkness, we are told, is one source of the sublime. The mystery of Junius increases his importance."

The famous Irishman, , who had been Rockingham's secretary, and was the great defender of the Whigs, attacked the

"system of double government"

in his (), and defended party government against both and Chatham. Disgusted at Parliament's want of sympathy with the people, strong politicians started an outside agitation for its reform, and founded with this end political societies-such as the . Candidates for Parliament were compelled to make all sorts of pledges, and promise to sit as mere delegates. After a long struggle Parliament gave up its attempt to keep its debates and divisions secret (). Reports of Parliamentary speeches now appeared regularly, and told the people what their members were doing. The result was that interest in politics became much more widely spread. A whole series of political newspapers was set up: the in , the Post in , the in . (that disputed elections should be settled, not by a party vote of the whole House, but by a select committee sworn to act impartially) prevented many elections being upset for merely party purposes (). But long before this Chatham got well again, abandoned his faithless ministers in disgust (), and declared for parliamentary reform.

7. [7] , an easy-going, indolent, pleasure-loving man, tried to keep on the ministry till , when he too resigned in despair. gave to Lord what seemed the almost impossible task of carrying on the government; but

" after a violent ferment in the nation a remarkable calm succeeded, and the people fell into a total indifference to all matters of public concern."

For twelve years remained First Lord of the Treasury. He was

"a coarse and clumsy-looking man, short-sighted, with a wide mouth, thick lips, and inflated visage, giving him the air of a blind trumpeter."

Yet

"within that rude casket were enclosed many useful talents."

"The quickness of his mind seemed intuitive,"

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[1] 
and he was shrewd, good-natured, and exceedingly easy- tempered. He let act as real minister, and the sole director of the Cabinet policy, while each minister stuck closely to his own office, and carried out the king's directions. In he showed his servility by passing the (which still remains law), by which no member of the Royal Family could contract a legal marriage without the king's consent.

8. [8] Chatham thundered against 's rule, crying that

"England was no more like old England than the Rome of the Monsignori like the Rome of the Catos and Gracchi"

; and complaining that

"the public slept quietly under the tyranny of the House of Commons,"

and that

" the whole constitution was a shadow."

But he spoke to deaf ears.

"The narrow genius of old corps connection weakened the Whigs, and rendered national union on Revolution principles impossible."

, their greatest orator and thinker, spoke to empty benches speeches

"far better suited for a patient reader than an impatient hearer."

"Boundless in knowledge, instantaneous in his apprehensions, and abundant in his language,"

's speeches were not merely weapons for the moment, but treasures of political wisdom for all time. He was joined by a brilliant seceder from the ministry in (the third son of the hated Henry , now Lord Holland), who was now rapidly becoming

"the most brilliant and accomplished debater the world ever saw."

"He was,"

says ,

" a man made to be loved, of the most artless, candid, open, and benevolent disposition; disinterested in the extreme, and without one drop of gall in his whole composition."

But he was often factious, and was a spendthrift, a gambler, and a man of too easy private character.

Under and the became purged of the old party leaven. They learnt in opposition to uphold a more liberal policy than in the days of and . Yet they were not so advanced as Chatham, and even common opposition could not bind together the party of Rockingham and the little band that still followed the great orator. The Whigs advocated (that is, cutting down pensions, sinecures, and useless offices, and securing purity of administration), while Chatham was anxious for , and changing the very balance of the constitution by making Parliament more representative. But neither section of the

81

82

[1] 
opposition could dislodge and the king. For twelve years remained in office, doing the king's will. The ten years of struggle were followed by twelve years of triumph for King . But out of his triumph sprang troubles which lost him all the English-speaking colonies in North America and the future empire of that continent.

 
 
Footnotes:

[1] Character of George III.

[1] [1760-1761.]

[1] His political objects.

[2] Fall of Pitt, 1761.

[1] [1762-1765.]

[3] The Bute Ministry, 1762-63, and the Peace of Paris, 1763.

[4] George Grenville, 1763-65, and Wilkes, 1763.

[5] Rockingham's First Ministry, 1765-66.

[1] [1766-1770.

[6] Chatham's Ministry, 1766-68.

[7] Grafton's failure,1768-70, and North's success, 1770-82.

[1] [1770.

[8] The Opposition, 1770-82.

[1] [1765-1773.]

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