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

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


CHAPTER II: George III, the American Revolution, and the younger Pitt, 1765-1789


1. [1] The absolute supremacy of the English in America after caused the colonists to indulge in the wildest dreams of future greatness.

"England will soon repent,"

said a clever Frenchman,

"of having removed (by the conquest of Canada) the only check which could keep her colonies in awe. They stand no longer in need of her protection. She will call on them to contribute towards the burdens they have brought on her, and they will answer by striking off all dependence."

The jealousy of the colonies for one another was the chief hope of the Government; and the last war had shown that even colonial union was possible. But soon after the peace George , who, like , who agreed with him, was a great upholder of strict legality, resolved to enforce the commercial laws, which gave England a monopoly of American trade. They had long been the great grievance of the Americans, who had hitherto evaded them by an organised system of smuggling. 's vigorous execution of the law provoked great discontent, which was much increased when he resolved to keep a permanent army in America and make the Americans pay part of its cost. Now there was no common American assembly, so that the only way in use of making laws for all the colonies was through the English Parliament, which had often passed laws touching America without awakening any opposition.[2]  With no wish to lessen American liberty, passed in a , which required all deeds, newspapers, and formal acts in America to be printed or written on stamped paper, the proceeds of the duty going


to keep the proposed army. But the Americans refused to use the stamped paper, and declared that as taxation and representation went together, the English Parliament, in which they had no part, had no right to tax them, especially an inland tax of the kind proposed. Such was the outcry, that in Rockingham repealed the Act; though he passed another law declaring that Parliament had a right to make laws binding British colonies in all cases whatsoever. This was done by the advice of , while Pitt, who

"rejoiced that America had resisted,"


"that this kingdom had no right to levy a tax on the colonies without their consent."

in , Chatham's own Chancellor of the Exchequer, took advantage of his chief's illness to put some new duties on glass, red and white lead, colours, paper, and tea imported into America. Americans had hitherto admitted the right of England to impose laws regulating their external trade and enforcing duties, but now they were very angry at this silly attempt to revive the policy of the Stamp Act. They maintained that, like Scotland before , America owed allegiance to the English Crown alone, and not to the English Parliament at all. A passive resistance made the new taxes of no effect. English soldiers and the Royalists who took the English side were scouted and insulted. In a fight between some soldiers and the Boston mob resulted in a trifling disturbance, denounced as the

"bloody massacre,"

and the

"foundation of American independence."

In repealed all 's duties except that on tea, and, to help the India Company (then in great financial distress), allowed it to send out tea from England to America, without charging the high English duty, and subject only to this American duty of 3d. a pound. But the Americans would not be bribed by cheap tea to acknowledge the doctrine of the Act of . Men disguised as Red Indians boarded the tea-ships in Boston harbour and threw their cargoes overboard (16th ). Meanwhile the Solicitor-General, the time-serving and astute Wedderburn, grossly insulted Dr. , the famous writer and man of science, who was agent in London for Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Parliament was angry with Boston, and passed laws removing its trade to Salem, making the government of Massachusetts dependent on the Crown, and allowing American rioters to be tried in England, where juries would convict them. At the same time the Puritanism of New England was violently disgusted by the


, which established despotic government and the Roman Catholic Church in Canada.

2. [3] A Congress of twelve colonies met at Philadelphia and made ready for armed resistance. At home Parliament rejected Chatham and 's projects for conciliation, and when Lord himself (Feb. 20, ) carried a proposal that colonies which made a grant towards the expenses of the empire should be freed from all imperial taxation, the concession was too small, and came too late. On the colonial volunteers attacked at Lexington a body of English troops on their way back to Boston after destroying some magazines of stores at . Boston was now blockaded by a force of armed colonists, and on 17th June General Gage marched to dislodge them from their position on Breed's Hill and Bunker's Hill, which overlooked Boston town. Twice the gallant volunteers thrust back the regular troops as they climbed up the steep slopes of Breed's Hill. But the third time the Americans gave way, and the made peace for a time hopeless. Another Congress at Philadelphia made everything ready for fighting, and appointed Colonel George Washington of Virginia general of the American army. In a pamphlet called


Common Sense


by the sturdy revolutionist, Tom , appeared at Philadelphia, and urged America to free itself from

"the barbarous and hellish power which hath stirred up the Indians and negroes to destroy us."

In March Washington seized on Dorchester Heights, which commanded Boston, and forced the English army to withdraw to Halifax. The enlistment of German hired troops to get over the difficulty of recruiting English soldiers still further disgusted the Americans. At last, on , the Congress issued the famous Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, which resolved-

"That these united colonies are and ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved."

3. [4] From the soldiers' point of view, the war of American Independence, so pregnant with great political results, was of very little importance. The armies on both sides were small, half-hearted, and badly led. In England opinion was violently divided, and though the mass of the people agreed with King that America


must be conquered, king and people alike knew little how hard a task they had before them, and could not pick out the right men as generals as Pitt would have done. The Americans were similarly divided: there was, especially in the south, a large loyalist minority; and though there was much violent talk and some vigorous action among the leaders, the yeomen of New England and the Quakers and Germans of Pennsylvania hated fighting, and only wanted to carry on their business in peace. Washington, a great man, of a sober and judicious sort, was disgusted with his soldiers.

" Such a dearth of public spirit, and such want of virtue, such stock-jobbing and fertility in low arts, I never saw before,"

says he in . But every advantage was on the side of the colonists. The vast distances, the impossibility of forcing on an attack, the incompetence of the English commanders, and the smallness of the English armies, all secured the Americans' success. Yet at first the colonists were hard put to it. Sir William Howe landed in Long Island, and won the Battle of Brooklyn (Aug. ), the first fought on the open field. Washington withdrew his troops from New York, which now became the English headquarters. But Howe, unlike his dead brother, Pitt's favourite, was a poor general. Though in he won two battles at and overran New Jersey, and occupied Philadelphia, the seat of the Congress, he left Washington unassailed in his winter quarters at Valley Forge, though the (i.e. the colonial) army was reduced to a half-starved, shoeless remnant of a few thousand men. Howe failed, also, to work well with General Burgoyne, more successful as a writer of plays, and a man about town, than as a general, who had marched from Canada down the Hudson Valley, but was obliged to surrender in October with over 5000 men to the American General Gates at .

4. [5] The capitulation of Burgoyne at Saratoga decided the war. France, long waiting a chance to pay off old scores against England, now acknowledged the independence of America (). Many volunteers, including the young Marquis of Lafayette, afterwards so famous in the history of the French Revolution, and Kosciusko, the Polish hero, joined the Americans. Arms, supplies, troops, and officers were sent over. Open war now broke out between France and England. Now that it was too late, Lord was allowed to carry through Parliament proposals for conciliation such as


had previously urged in vain; but the Americans were now bent on nothing less than freedom from England altogether. In Spain joined France and blockaded Gibraltar. In our old ally, Holland, joined England's enemies, while the northern powers, headed by of Russia and the Great, who still hated the House of Hanover, formed an Armed Neutrality to protect the trading-ships of neutral powers from the English claim to search for and seize enemies' goods. Meanwhile the attempts of to help the English Roman Catholics led to terrible riots in London (June ), when the mob, led by the half-mad Lord George Gordon, burnt Catholic chapels, opened the prisons, plundered the town, and frightened the ministry. [6] In bands of volunteers, formed to protect Ireland from invasion, imitated the acts of the Americans, and destroyed English ascendency.

An able and energetic American captain, Paul Jones, plundered the British coasts. A doubtful battle with the French fleet off Ushant led to a political squabble between the Whig admiral, Keppel, and his Tory second in command, Palliser. English colonies, and especially West India Islands, fell one after the other into the enemies' hands. In India, Haidar Ali, Sultan of Mysore, was laying waste the English settlements on the Karnatik up to the walls of Madras.

5. [7] Many thought that the greatness of England had passed away, and the Whig opposition openly rejoiced at the failures of the king and the Tories; but this conduct made them

"not only patriots out of place, but patriots out of the opinion of the public,"

and considerably strengthened the king's hands. In his worst difficulties never lost heart.

"There shall, at all events,"

said he, in the crisis of the Gordon riots,

"be one magistrate of the kingdom who will do his duty."

Yet he refused to give Chatham the chance to save England once more.

"I solemnly declare,"

wrote he,

"that nothing shall bring me personally to treat with Lord Chatham."

He would allow to offer him a place in the existing ministry, but that was of course impossible. But in April Chatham's eloquent voice was heard for the last time in the House of Lords, protesting with faltering though spirited accents

"against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy."

He fell back in a fit when his speech was over, and died on 11th


May. With him expired the last faint hope of regaining America.

The American war was now carried on more vigorously than in its earlier stages, and the difficulty of keeping together the troops and of paying them in Government bank notes that were worth much less than their nominal value, because they could not be exchanged for gold or silver, drove Washington well-nigh to despair.

"The combined fleets of France and Spain,"

he wrote,

"were greatly superior to those of the enemy: nevertheless the enemy sustained no material damage, and at the close of the campaign gave a very important blow to our allies."

Though in Clinton, Howe's successor, was forced to leave Philadelphia, the loyalist colony of Georgia became the basis for the conquest of Charleston and South Carolina in . Two American generals, Benedict Arnold and Lee, deserted to the English. But the English failed in their invasion of North Carolina, and in the main fighting was in Virginia, where, after some successes, Lord , who, alone of the English generals, formed great plans (which he had not strength to carry out) for offensive war against the Americans, was hemmed in by superior forces at and, on 17th October, forced, like Burgoyne, to surrender with all his army. This really ended the war, though Charleston held out against the Americans for some time, and New York was only given up at the peace. The independence of the thirteen United States was secured, and a great migration of persecuted loyalists to Canada and Nova Scotia completed and assured the final fall of English influence.

6. Elsewhere, however, England showed that her vigour was not yet abated. The energy of Warren , the first and greatest Governor-general, and the military skill of the veteran, Sir Eyre , led to the complete defeat of Haidar Ali in at . In the West Indies the French had taken every English island except Antigua, , and Jamaica, and were planning a great expedition against the latter island. But in April Rodney won a great victory over De Grasse, near , in which he succeeded in the manoeuvre of breaking the French line. This saved Jamaica from the projected attack. In September the last great effort to get back Gibraltar was made by the Spaniards, and resisted by General Eliott. The ten battering ships which were believed to be proof against the heaviest hostile artillery were set on fire by red-hot shot from


the fortress. Next month Admiral Howe, brother of the two generals, relieved the garrison; but the blockade, begun in , was only raised when the peace was signed.

7. [8] Lord had long wished to resign, and only kept in place to please the king ; but as his majorities were gradually dwindling away he suddenly threw up office in March . seriously thought of giving up the crown rather than receive a Whig ministry, but at last he reluctantly took Rockingham as First Lord of the Treasury, and as Secretary of State. The influence of the Whig houses was checked by the accomplished but bad-tempered and intriguing Shelburne, 's son-in-law, the leader of the Chathamites, accepting the other secretaryship, and the coarse and brutal Thurlow, the most important of the

"king's friends,"

remaining Chancellor. was only made Paymaster of the Forces, and did not get even a seat in the Cabinet. But his violence and want of tact, together with the gang of doubtful Irish friends by whom he was always surrounded, rather than his poverty and humble origin, were the real causes of this. He was intrusted, however, with the great plan of Economical Reform, though it was made much less sweeping than he wished in order to satisfy the king.

8. [9] To get England out of her difficulties was the chief task of Rockingham's government. By yielding legislative independence to Ireland () it quieted for a time the imitators of America among the Irish Protestants. Its greatest task was to enter into negotiations for peace. Before, however, these were ended, a violent quarrel broke out between and Shelburne, and when on Rockingham's death the king made Shelburne First Lord of the Treasury, and his followers went out of office in July , leaving Shelburne at the head of a ministry of

" king's friends "

and Chathamites. Thurlow still remained Chancellor, and , Chatham's younger son, who had just entered Parliament, was made Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Shelburne now ended the peace negotiations by the () on the following conditions :-

(a) England recognised as the basis of negotiations the independence of the United States, and the boundaries were so fixed that the land between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi was recognised as belonging to them. (b) The English kept power to navigate the Mississippi, while the Americans kept a share in the Newfoundland fisheries. (c) The loyalists in America were left to their fate. (d) England ceded

Tobago, Senegal, and a few other possessions to France, but received back most of her losses, resigning her conquests, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and giving up the offensive clause of the Treaty of Utrecht prohibiting the fortification of


. (e) Spain received from England Minorca and Florida.

9. [10] Shelburne's ministry did not last long. He professed to have

" learnt from his master in politics, Chatham, that the country ought not to be governed by any party or faction,"


"to stand up for the prerogative of the Crown, and to insist on the king's right to appoint his own servants."

But the dislike felt for Shelburne united all parties against him. The Tories under were disgusted because the king had deserted them. The Whigs under were always factious and violent. But few were prepared for what happened. , who had said in

"that the idea of union with the ministers who had betrayed their country was too monstrous to be admitted,"

now formed a close coalition with .

"The king,"

said ,

"must not be suffered to be his own minister."

" If you mean there should not be government by departments,"

answered ,

"I agree with you. It was not brought in by me. I found it so, and had not vigour to end it. The appearance of power is all that a king of this country can have."

But every one was disgusted at their sudden change of front, at what the Scotch poet Burns called

" yon mixtie-maxtie queer hotch-potch, the Coalition."

As himself said,

" Nothing but success can justify it."

It succeeded in turning out Shelburne, and in forcing on the king a government, nominally headed by the Duke of Portland, but really by the two secretaries, and (April ). 's grief was the more bitter, as his son, , Prince of Wales, now of age, whose private extravagance and immorality disgusted his father even more than his public conduct, sided strongly with the Coalition, and professed an open friendship for .

10. [11] 

" I trust the eyes of the nation will soon be opened,"

moaned ,

"as my sorrow will be soon fatal to my health if I remain in this thraldom."

The first weighty measure of the Coalition gave him an opening. brought in an to regulate the terrible disorders of the East Indian Company's administration. It was a bold and wise measure to take away from the Company all political rights, and to put the government of India in the hands of a


commission named by Parliament. It was attacked as assailing the chartered rights of the Company, and the prerogative of the king to appoint ministers.

"If this bill passes,"

said Thurlow,

"the king will take the diadem from his own head and put it on the head of Mr.



But resolved it should not pass. It went through the Commons easily, but Lord (nephew of Lady Chatham, and son of George ) handed round in the Lords a paper written by the king, saying that

"whoever voted for the India. Bill was not only not the king's friend, but would be considered as his enemy."

The old Whig majority had long been broken up by secessions and new creations and by making bishops.

"We were beaten,"

said ,

"in the Lords by such treachery of the king, and such meanness of his friends, as one could never have expected."

now turned the ministers out, but they passed a resolution through the Commons condemning 's action

"as a high crime and misdemeanour,"

and boasted that

"nobody could undertake to form a ministry without madness."

, however, did undertake the task, though he could not get a single minister of cabinet rank from the Commons. The news of his appointment was received with shouts of laughter.

" It will only be a mince-pie administration, and will not outlast the Christmas holidays."

"They are a set of children playing at ministers," said a Whig leader, "and must be sent back to school."

An extraordinary struggle occupied the spring session of . Pitt was beaten again and again, and the fiercer Whigs threatened to stop supplies; but the young minister haughtily declared that so long as he kept the king's confidence he would neither resign nor dissolve Parliament. Soon popular enthusiasm for the son of Chatham began to flow, and, combined with the influence of the Crown, was strong enough to win the battle. The Tories now began to desert for , and himself was hot against the Coalition. On 25th March Parliament was dissolved, and the new elections gave king and minister a solid and triumphant majority. It was the greatest victory had ever won. It was also the greatest victory of the people. had learnt from the son what he would never learn from the father. Pitt had united king and people in opposition to greedy and selfish factions. The principles of Chatham and were at last realised together.

11. Pitt was now just twenty-five years old. He was tall, thin, stiff in his manner, dignified, sickly in health, shy,


and proud, though among his few intimates he was gay, easy-tempered, witty, and affectionate. [12] He had been taught oratory by his father, and had studied hard at Cambridge. Without Chatham's fire and passion, he yet had a

"premature and unnatural dexterity in the combination of words,"

was a ready debater, and a fluent and impressive rhetorician. With but little of his father's genius, he had the tact and business knowledge which Chatham had lacked. called him

"the sublime of mediocrity,"

and the phrase expresses a truth, though not the whole truth. As a statesman, he was hopeful, stimulating, and steadfast. Though so closely bound up with the king, he was too powerful and too hard-working to become his dependant like . He still looked to the people for support, and though he led the Tory party, still called himself a Whig among his friends. He believed in parliamentary reform and the relief of the Catholics, and he was in favour of a generous attitude to Ireland. He found, however, that the king and his party were against him, and he was rather too ready to rest contented with making his views known, without taking vigorous steps to carry them into effect. Under him bribery ceased, though he was a lavish creator of peers, and thought that all very rich men ought to sit in the House of Lords. He was a great financier. He had read and digested 's , and believed in his doctrines of and colonial policy. His budget speeches were much admired. In he carried a plan for a , by which he proposed to set aside a part of the national revenue every year to be invested and applied with its interest towards the reduction of the national debt. In the same year he made a famous with France, which went a long way towards free trade between the old enemies. He carried an (), which, though not so broad as 's, brought about nearly the same end by establishing a new government department called the under a President who was a member of the ministry, to supervise the political policy of the Company. When, in , the opposition impeached the great and successful governor-general, Warren , for corruption, misgovernment, and oppression, Pitt, urged by , who was horrified at the wrongs of the Indians, accepted their policy, and supported the impeachment, though stoutly and manfully backed up .



The great trial began in , but was more famous for oratory than for its results, and, after languishing many years, ended in the much-wronged ' acquittal.

Pitt was very careful in his foreign policy, and strove successfully to win back the friends England had lost during the American war. He formed a close alliance with Prussia, Holland, and other northern powers, and was the first English statesman to look with jealousy on the rise of Russia, where the great Empress II. had formed a close alliance with the philosophic reformer Joseph II. of Austria, the son and successor of Maria Theresa, and had arranged with him to partition Turkey.

In went quite mad for a time, and and the Whigs argued that their friend the Prince of Wales had a right to act as Regent. Pitt rightly maintained that in Parliament alone lay the appointment of a Regent and the definition of his powers. He was ready to make the prince regent with certain limitations to his power by Act of Parliament. But under the mild and gentle treatment of Dr. Willis, the king soon got well again, and, approving Pitt's behaviour, he said that

"they were united for the rest of his life, and that nothing but death should separate them."


[1] Origin of the American War.

[2] American Taxation, 1765-73.

[1] [1775-1778.]

[3] The Declaration of Independence, 1776.

[4] The American War, 1775-82.

[5] War with France, Spain, and Holland, 1778-80.

[1] [1779-1782.]

[6] Ireland, 1778-82.

[7] Death of Chatham, 1778, and loss of America, 1781.

[1] [1782-1783.]

[8] The Second Rockingham Ministry, 1782.

[9] The Shelbourne Ministry 1782-3, and the Peace of Versailles, 1783.

[10] The Coalition, 1783.

[11] Fall of the Coalition and triumph of the King, 1783-84.

[1] [1783-1787.]

[12] Pitt's character and early government,1783-89.

[1] 1789.]

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