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CHAP.
LVII.

1784.

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The records of history would be searched in vain for a parallel to the contest between the King and the House of Commons, which has been thus minutely related; a contest conducted with so much zeal, and Importance of terminated without violence. A majority of the House, the late conwithout any ground of complaint, except their dislike of the minister the King had chosen, maintained a conflict with the Crown which lasted three months, to the utter obstruction of important and truly urgent business. The pecuniary accounts of the late war, the state of finances, the revival of trade and renewal of commercial connexions, the prevention of contraband dealing, which had now risen to an enormous height, the interests of Ireland, matters of internal and colonial policy; and, not least of all, the great and overwhelming subject of India; all pressed for consideration, and all were disregarded for mere questions of personal ambition. A majority of the House of Effect of the Commons alone, when resisted by the King, counter- anti-ministeacted in the Lords, and not supported by the people,

rial majority. formed an extremely narrow and insecure basis for raising a superstructure suited to the views of ambition; and the leaders of opposition must have felt more anger and mortification than astonishment, when they found the triumphant band of adherents which had carried Mr. Fox's India bill by more than two to one, and had shouted derision on the announcement of Mr. Pitt as Chancellor of the Exchequer, reduced, on a night of great expectation, in a debate of vital importance, to a majority of one only, when three hundred and eighty one members were present. In fact, they might have obstructed public business; they could obtain an address or a representation to the Throne, but could not give effect to any legislative general measure. Had they refused the supplies, they would have withheld the claims of the public creditor; had they prevented the mutiny bill, they would have placed the army on the footing of an ungoverned mob, with arms in their hands, inadequate to restrain, but very able to produce, alarm, distress, and confusion. From such measures even the intrepidity of Mr. Fox would have

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СНАР.
LVII.

1781.

Isi March.

shrunk, had they been seriously suggested; or if he
and a few more had the courage to make the attempt,
it was not probable that considerate and loyal men
would have continued their adherence. Both proceed-
ings were intimated and threatened; but a difinitive
effort was never ventured. Mr. Fox, when moving
his address for removal of ministers, said, “why, it had
“been asked, were the supplies not withheld ? The
reason on which he had hitherto voted for the

sup-
“plies might appear a paradox; he had not sufficient
“confidence in the ministers of the day to withhold
“ the supplies. This, he had always maintained, was
"a weapon given to the House for the advantage
“of the community at large. Were they certain that
“such a vote could bring back the servants of the
“ Crown to constitutional ground, and re-establish
“ the consequence and importance of the House, he
“would willingly proceed to that extent; but, if the
“measure were resisted, into what difficulty did it
“plunge them ? what infinite and irreparable confusion
“would it not occasion in the country?” And, after-
ward, when the postponement of the mutiny bill
was proposed, Mr. Fox, although he professed that
power over a standing army ought not to be entrusted
to a minister whom the House had declared unworthy
of its confidence, would not reject it altogether; but
its duration might be limited to a month or two; at all
events, there would be sufficient time, as the present
act would not expire in less than three weeks*, to pre-
vent any dangerous consequences. With all this ex-
planation, he had a majority of nine onlyt; and pro-
bably a little indiscretion, in any part of his speech,
would have decided the question against him.

As no bill of public interest or importance was transmitted from the lower to the upper House, and as no motion on public affairs originated in the Lords, except one which has already been mentioned, no other

5th,

State of the
House of
Lords.

Viz. on the 25th of March. † 171 to 162; and see also Tomline's Life of Pitt, vol. i. p. 300, 313, et passim.

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CHAP.
LVII.

1781.

debate occurred in which the feelings and temper of the peers were particularly disclosed; yet it was perfectly known that the majority of that body would not have concurred with the predominant party in the House of Commons. Consequently very little public business was transmitted to them. Before the

Before the recess, they had passed bills for the land-tax and malt duty; but, from that time until within a few days of the dissolution, only two public general acts were sent up to the Lords; and they were not of a nature to call forth any discussion* In all his acts and declarations, the King had shewn Firmness of

the King. his determination to support the ministry he had appointed; and if it was sought to conquer him by hostile speeches, addresses, and remonstrances, Lord North, at least, had enjoyed sufficient intercourse with the Sovereign to be sure that his firmness was not so to be broken down. It is now ascertained, by the letters of the King himself, that he viewed the probable expulsion of Mr. Pitt from office, and the re-instatement of his adversaries, with undissembled horror. On the first divisions

12th January against the minister, the King, in a letter to him, treated his opponents as desperate men, and as a faction whom he was prepared to resist, and maintain the struggle to the last period of his life.

“ If they in the end succeed,” his Majesty said, “my line is a “clear one, and to which I have fortitude to submitt." If this last phrase could be deemed ambiguous or equivocal, it was fully explained on the day Lord Effingham made his motion. The King then said, “Should not “the Lords stand boldly forth, this constitution must " soon be changed; for if the two only remaining pri“vileges of the Crown are infringed, that of negativ“ing bills which have passed both Houses of Parlia“ment, and that of naming the ministers to be employed, “I cannot but feel, as far as regards my person, that I

can be no longer of utility to this country, nor can " with honour remain in this island.” From this ex

4th Feb.

* One related to the postage of letters from Ireland ; the other to the receipt tax.

† Tomline's Life of Mr. Pitt, vol. i. p. 28.

CHAP.
LVII.

1784.

tract, Mr. Pitt's biographer observes, coupled with the conclusion of his former letter, as well as from other authorities, it is evident that the King had, at the time, serious intentions of retiring to Hanover, in case Mr. Fox and his party should prevail*. Such declarations must, however, be viewed with caution. It may easily be conceived that the thought of retiring to his Hanoverian dominions may have crossed the King's mind, as a resource in case of extremity; and when he used the expressions from which the intention is inferred, he was perfectly sincere; but it is not easy to believe that, under any circumstances, it would have been carried into execution. The throne of Great Britain and Ireland, however it might be beset with difficulties, was not to be hastily renounced. George the Third knew history too well, and had read mankind too attentively, to expect that, if he vacated his dominions, powerful voices would be raised sufficient to procure his recall on his own terms. Born and bred in this country, glorying in the name of Briton, used to sway, and surrounded by a large family, he could hardly have reduced himself to the situation of a minor potentate, an elector, to live among people to whom, in every respect, he was a mere alien.

With feelings so much excited against those whom he termed a desperate faction, as unprincipled and mischievous as ever embroiled the affairs of any countryf, his Majesty viewed their ultimate failure with the joy that is experienced on being freed from a powerful and dangerous adversary. “Mr. Pitt's letter, the King said, " is undoubtedly the most satisfactory “I have received for many months. An avowal, on “ the outset, that the proposition held forth is not in“ tended to go farther lengths than a kind of manifesto; " and then carrying it by a majority of one only; and “ the day concluded with an avowal that all negotia“tion is at an end; give me every reason to hope that,

by a firm and proper conduct, this faction will, by

66

* Tomline's Life of Mr Pitt, vol. i. p. 253. † Same, p. 337.

CHAP
LVII.

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1784.

“ degrees, be deserted by many, and at length be for

got. I shall ever, with pleasure, consider that, by " the prudence, as well as rectitude, of one person in " the House of Commons, this great change has been

effected; and that he will ever be able to reflect “ with satisfaction that, in having supported me, he “ has saved the constitution, the most perfect of human “ formation."

While such sentiments were entertained, and only Conduct of the disclosed confidentially by the King, those of the Wales. Prince of Wales, publicly and explicitly avowed, were diametrically opposite, although his Royal Highness, as a peer of Parliament, would not sustain, by his vote, measures which he had reason to believe were unpleasant to his father. Thus, while he sided with the friends of Mr. Fox's India bill, on the first division, he abstained from appearing on the second, when the King's disapprobation of the measure was announced, apparently from authority. Still the persons forming the opposition were the most favoured and intimate of his friends; and, during the meetings at the St. Alban's tavern, magnificent entertainments were made for them at Carlton House.

To those who considered the possession of office the On the atonly matter in contest, to those who fancied that, if tempts at union Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt could once be brought to sit in a cabinet together, all differences of opinion would be surrendered or compromised, the communications commenced for the purpose of union might present some pleasing hopes; but those who reflected more cautiously, could anticipate no beneficial result. While the clamour was so loud and general against a coalition, such a coalition as was proposed would have destroyed all hopes of confidence in public men. Even while some were willing to believe that a favourable result might be expected, the language used in Parliament was as lofty and exasperating as ever; the desire of peace was never expressed, although each side professed to have no objection to an arrangement; but every declaration was accompanied with qualifications and suggestions which seemed to place the desired

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