The Project Gutenberg eBook of The history of England, from the accession of George III. to the close of Pitt's first administration, 1760-1801

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Title: The history of England, from the accession of George III. to the close of Pitt's first administration, 1760-1801

Author: William Hunt

Editor: William Hunt

Reginald Lane Poole

Release date: April 29, 2008 [eBook #25232]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Paul Murray, Brownfox and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)



Seventy-five years have passed since Lingard completed his History of England, which ends with the Revolution of 1688. During that period historical study has made a great advance. Year after year the mass of materials for a new History of England has increased; new lights have been thrown on events and characters, and old errors have been corrected. Many notable works have been written on various periods of our history; some of them at such length as to appeal almost exclusively to professed historical students. It is believed that the time has come when the advance which has been made in the knowledge of English history as a whole should be laid before the public in a single work of fairly adequate size. Such a book should be founded on independent thought and research, but should at the same time be written with a full knowledge of the works of the best modern historians and with a desire to take advantage of their teaching wherever it appears sound.

The vast number of authorities, printed and in manuscript, on which a History of England should be based, if it is to represent the existing state of knowledge, renders co-operation almost necessary and certainly advisable. The History, of which this volume is an instalment, is an attempt to set forth in a readable form the results at present attained by research. It will consist of twelve volumes by twelve different writers, each[Pg ii] of them chosen as being specially capable of dealing with the period which he undertakes, and the editors, while leaving to each author as free a hand as possible, hope to insure a general similarity in method of treatment, so that the twelve volumes may in their contents, as well as in their outward appearance, form one History.

As its title imports, this History will primarily deal with politics, with the History of England and, after the date of the union with Scotland, Great Britain, as a state or body politic; but as the life of a nation is complex, and its condition at any given time cannot be understood without taking into account the various forces acting upon it, notices of religious matters and of intellectual, social, and economic progress will also find place in these volumes. The footnotes will, so far as is possible, be confined to references to authorities, and references will not be appended to statements which appear to be matters of common knowledge and do not call for support. Each volume will have an Appendix giving some account of the chief authorities, original and secondary, which the author has used. This account will be compiled with a view of helping students rather than of making long lists of books without any notes as to their contents or value. That the History will have faults both of its own and such as will always in some measure attend co-operative work, must be expected, but no pains have been spared to make it, so far as may be, not wholly unworthy of the greatness of its subject.

Each volume, while forming part of a complete History, will also in itself be a separate and complete book, will be sold separately, and will have its own index, and two or more maps.[Pg iii]

Vol. I. to 1066. By Thomas Hodgkin, D.C.L., Litt.D., Fellow of University College, London; Fellow of the British Academy.

Vol. II. 1066 to 1216. By George Burton Adams, M.A., Professor of History in Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

Vol. III. 1216 to 1377. By T. F. Tout, M.A., Professor of Medieval and Modern History in the Victoria University of Manchester; formerly Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.

Vol. IV. 1377 to 1485. By C. Oman, M.A., Fellow of All Souls' College, and Deputy Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford.

Vol. V. 1485 to 1547. By H. A. L. Fisher, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of New College, Oxford.

Vol. VI. 1547 to 1603. By A. F. Pollard, M.A., Professor of Constitutional History in University College, London.

Vol. VII. 1603 to 1660. By F. C. Montague, M.A., Professor of History in University College, London; formerly Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford.

Vol. VIII. 1660 to 1702. By Richard Lodge, M.A., Professor of History in the University of Edinburgh; formerly Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.

Vol. IX. 1702 to 1760. By I. S. Leadam, M.A., formerly Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.

Vol. X. 1760 to 1801. By the Rev. William Hunt, M.A., D.Litt., Trinity College, Oxford.

Vol. XI. 1801 to 1837. By the Hon. George C. Brodrick, D.C.L., late Warden of Merton College, Oxford, and J. K. Fotheringham, M.A., Magdalen College, Oxford, Lecturer in Classics at King's College, London.

Vol. XII. 1837 to 1901. By Sidney J. Low, M.A., Balliol College, Oxford, formerly Lecturer on History at King's College, London.

The Political History of England


Edited by WILLIAM HUNT, D.Litt., and REGINALD L. POOLE, M.A.











The production of this book, which was ready in April, has unavoidably been postponed by the Publishers[Pg ix]



The King and Bute.

25 Oct., 1760. Accession of George III. 1
National feeling 1
The king's education and character 3
His plan of government 6
His first cabinet 8
Influence of the Earl of Bute 11
The civil list 13
1761. The war in Germany 13
7 June. Capture of Belle Ile 15
The king's covert attack on the whig ascendency 15
Opposing views with respect to the war 17
The general election of 1761 19
25 Mar. Bute secretary of state 20
8 Sept. The king's marriage 21
Bute's unpopularity 22


The Peace of Paris.

1761. Negotiations for a peace 23
France and Spain act together in negotiation 25
Pitt maintains British honour and interests 26
Pitt and his colleagues 28
5 Oct. Pitt resigns office 31
2 Jan., 1762. The family compact. War declared against Spain 32
Frederick of Prussia offended 33
25 April. Newcastle's resignation. Bute succeeds to the treasury 34
The war in Germany 35
British conquests: Martinique, Havana, Manila 37
Negotiations with France 38
A majority in the commons secured 39
The terms of peace 40
10 Feb., 1763. Definitive treaty signed at Paris 42
Mar. The cider tax 43
[Pg x]11 April. Bute retires from office 44


The Grenville Administration.

1763. The new ministers 45
April. The North Briton, No. 45, and the general warrant 46
Aug. The king's attempts to strengthen the administration 48
Sept. Changes in the administration 49
Nov. Proceedings in parliament against Wilkes 50
19 Jan., 1764. The commons expel Wilkes 51
Violation of the privileges of parliament 52
Grenville's economy 53
Great Britain's colonial policy 54
1763. Defence of the American colonies 58
10 Mar., 1764. The stamp bill proposed 59
22 Mar., 1765. The bill enacted 60
American resistance 60
The right of taxation 62
Unstatesmanlike policy 63


The King, The Whigs, and Chatham.

1765. The king and Grenville 64
April-May. The regency bill 65
The weavers' riot 66
16 July. A whig administration formed under Rockingham 67
Its weakness and difficulties 68
Jan., 1766. Pitt on American taxation 69
Burke, his character and political principles 70
Mar. Repeal of the stamp act. The declaratory act 71
July. Pitt forms an administration, and is created Earl of Chatham 73
His foreign policy 74
Sept.-Nov. "A forty days' tyranny" 76
Feb., 1767. Chatham incapacitated by disease 76
June, 1763. Revolt of Mír Kásim 77
23 Oct., 1764. Battle of Baxár 78
June, 1767. Parliamentary interference with the E. India Company 79
1767-69. Haidar Alí's invasions of the Karnatic 80


Growth of the King's Power.

1767. C. Townshend and the new American duties 82
The ministry in Chatham's absence 85
Jan., 1768. Junction with the Bedford party 87
Feb. The Nullum Tempus bill 87
[Pg xi] Massachusetts heads resistance to the revenue acts 88
1 May, 1769. Partial repeal of the new duties decided on 90
1761. Condition of Ireland. Rise of Whiteboyism 91
The government of Ireland 93
1768-69. Octennial act and augmentation of Irish army 94
1768. The general election of 1768 94
Wilkes returned for Middlesex 95
10 May. Riot in St. George's Fields 96
1769. Wilkes and the Middlesex electors 97
French annexation of Corsica. Faltering policy of ministers 98
Arrears of the civil list 99
The Letters of Junius 99
Chatham in opposition 100
28 Jan., 1770. Grafton resigns. North forms an administration 102
Triumph of the king's policy 103
Discontent with the constitutional machinery 103
Chatham and Burke differ on character of needful reforms 105


The King's Rule.

1770. Two parties in the opposition 106
The struggle in parliament 107
April. The Grenville controverted elections act 108
5 Mar. The "Boston massacre" 109
Chatham and his city friends demand a dissolution 110
They are foiled by the king 111
Dispute with Spain concerning the Falkland islands 112
England's foreign policy 114
1770-71. Changes in the ministry 115
The law of libel 116
The house of commons and the printers 117
1772. Religious toleration 118
The royal marriage act and C. J. Fox 119
June, 1773. Affairs of E. India Company. North's regulating act 121
May. Clive's acquittal 122
The king's political predominance 123


The Quarrel with America.

1772-73. Resistance to law in America 124
16 Dec., 1773. The Boston tea-riot 126
29 Jan., 1774. Franklin before the privy council 126
The penal acts 128
[Pg xii] The Quebec act 129
5 Sept. First meeting of a continental congress 132
The American loyalists 134
The general election of 1774 135
Opinion in England on the American crisis 136
Feb.-Mar., 1775. Bills and resolutions for conciliation 138
The Americans prepare for war 139
19 April. Fighting at Lexington and Concord 140


The Colonial Rebellion.

April, 1775. The American army at Cambridge 143
May. Americans seize Ticonderoga and Crown Point 144
English opinion on the outbreak of war 144
15 June. Washington appointed American commander-in-chief 146
17. The battle of Bunker hill 147
The invasion of Canada 151
31 Dec. Defeat of the Americans at Quebec 152
The king hires German troops 153
17. The evacuation of Boston 155
May-June, 1776. The Americans chased out of Canada 155
Spread of the idea of separation 156
28 June. Unsuccessful attempt on Charleston 157
4 July. Declaration of American independence 158
1775. The war generally popular in Great Britain 158
The opposition in parliament 159
The state of the navy 161
Nov. North's prohibitory bill 162



27 Aug., 1776. The battle of Long Island 164
15 Sept. British take New York 165
11, 13 Oct. Carleton's victory on Lake Champlain 166
8 Dec. Washington retreats across the Delaware 167
26. The surprise of Trenton 168
Partial secession of whigs from parliament 169
Impressment for the navy 170
1777. Arrears of the civil list 171
Plan for co-operation between Howe and Burgoyne 172
June-Nov. Howe's campaign. Battle of the Brandywine, Sept. 11 173
American camp at Valley Forge 175
6 July. Burgoyne captures Ticonderoga 176
His difficulties, distress, and failure 177
17 Oct. The convention of Saratoga 179
Responsibility for the disaster 179
6 Jan., 1778. Alliance between France and the Americans 181
[Pg xiii] Why England had not yet subdued the Americans 183


War with France and Spain.

1777-78. The opposition and the war 186
Mar., 1778. The king's refusal to allow Chatham to form a ministry 187
11 May. Chatham's death 190
Constitutional importance of the issue of the war 191
Abuses in naval administration 191
27 July. Naval action off Ushant 193
Progress of the war in America 193
Lord Howe and Count d'Estaing 194
Mistaken naval policy of Great Britain 195
Aug., 1779. Combined French and Spanish fleets in the Channel 196
The war in various parts of the world 196
12 May, 1780. The surrender of Charleston 198
Jan.-Feb. Rodney's relief of Gibraltar 198
17 April. His indecisive action off Dominica 199
Ireland's grievances 200
1779. The volunteers 202
Removal of restrictions on Irish trade 202
1779-80. Activity of the opposition in England 202
2-7 June. The Lord George Gordon riots 205


Yorktown and the King's Defeat.

Mar., 1780. The armed neutrality 208
20 Dec. Dispute with the Dutch: war declared 209
Defence of Gibraltar 210
5 Aug., 1781. Battle of the Dogger Bank 212
1780. General election and the new parliament 212
2 Oct. The fate of Major André 215
3 Feb., 1781. Rodney takes St. Eustatius 216
July, 1780. French squadron at Rhode island 218
16 Aug. Cornwallis's campaign in the south: battle of Camden 219
17 Jan., 1781. Battle of the Cowpens 221
15 Mar. Battle of Guilford 222
May. Cornwallis in Virginia 223
How England lost command in the American waters 224
19 Oct. The capitulation at Yorktown 225
Causes of the disaster 225
Reception of the news in England 226
Events in the war with France and Spain 227
Mar., 1782. The second Rockingham ministry; the king's defeat 229


The Rout of the Whigs.

1782. Attack on the corrupt influence of the crown >231
May. Legislative independence conceded to Ireland 232
12 April. The "battle of the Saints" 234
Last scenes of the siege of Gibraltar 236
1780-84. War in India and in the Indian waters 236
Quarrel between Fox and Shelburne 238
July, 1782. Shelburne forms a ministry 240
30 Nov. Preliminaries of peace between Great Britain and America 241
The American loyalists 242
3 Sept., 1783. Definitive treaty of Versailles 242
State of parties in parliament 243
The coalition between Fox and North 244
April. The Coalition ministry 245
May. Pitt's motion for parliamentary reform 246
Warren Hastings in India 247
Nov.-Dec. Fox's India bills 249
Dec. The Coalition ministry dismissed; Pitt prime minister 251
Struggle on the question of a dissolution 251
25 Mar., 1784. Parliament dissolved 254
General election: "Fox's martyrs" 254


Social and Economic Progress, 1760-1801.

General character of the period 255
Amusements, gambling, racing, the drama, etc. 256
Travelling and the state of the roads 258
Literature: poetry, fiction, and serious prose works 259
The arts, architecture, painting, etc. 262
Natural science 263
Voyages of discovery 263
Religion 264
The criminal law 265
The prisons and transportation 266
The police system 267
Increase of trade and manufactures 268
The mercantile system and laissez-faire 269
Steam and water power: iron manufacture 270
Canals 271
Manufacture of textile fabrics 271
Failure of domestic industries 272
Wages of agricultural labourers 273
Regulation of corn trade 273
[Pg xv] Improvements in agriculture 274
Enclosures 275
Combinations of workmen to raise wages 277
The poor law 277
Sufferings of the poor and specially of factory children 278


Early Years of Pitt's Administration.

1784. Significance of Pitt's victory 280
Change in office of prime minister and in house of lords 281
Pitt's character and management of parliament 282
The Westminster election 283
1784-85. Pitt's finance 284
Aug., 1784. His bill for the government of India 286
18 April, 1785. His bill for parliamentary reform 287
May. His resolutions on Irish trade 288
1786. Establishment of the sinking fund 291
26 Sept. Commercial treaty with France 293
1787. Consolidation of customs and excise 294
Bill for relief of dissenters 295
1788. The slave trade question 295
Foreign policy 296
1785. Austrian aggression 297
1786-87. French influence in the United Provinces 298
Oct., 1787. Restoration of the stadholder 300
April, 1788. Triple alliance—Great Britain, Prussia, and the United Provinces 301


The Regency Question.

1785. Return of Hastings to England 302
1786. Pitt and the charges against Hastings 303
13 Feb., 1788. Trial of Hastings begun 304
1788-93. Cornwallis as governor-general of India 305
Feb., 1788. Pitt's (India) declaratory bill 305
May, 1787. The Prince of Wales's debts paid 307
5 Nov., 1788. The king's insanity 309
10 Dec. Fox asserts the prince's right to the regency 311
Pitt's resolutions 312
10 Mar., 1789. The king's recovery announced 314
The Irish parliament and the regency 314
The French revolution begins 315
English opinions on events in France 317
1790. Dispute with Spain relating to Nootka Sound 319
[Pg xvi]28 Oct. Convention with Spain 321


Declaration of War by France.

1790. General election 322
1795. Acquittal of Hastings 323
1791-92. Struggle for the abolition of the slave trade 323
1792. Fox's libel bill 324
Pitt's foreign policy 324
1791. The Russian armament 326
Nov., 1790. Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution 328
May, 1791. Rupture between Burke and Fox 329
27 Aug. The Declaration of Pilnitz 331
Revolutionary propaganda 331
1792. Dismissal of Thurlow 332
A whig scheme of coalition 333
French proposals 333
21 May. Proclamation against seditious writings 335
Aug. British ambassador recalled from Paris 336
French conquest of Flanders 337
The provocations received by England 338
Dec. Disruption of the whig party 340
21 Jan., 1793. Execution of Louis XVI. 342
1 Feb. France declares war on England 342
War necessary for the safety of Great Britain 342
Conduct of C. J. Fox 343


The First Coalition.

1793. Change in Pitt's domestic policy 345
Pitt as a war minister 346
Loans raised by Pitt 348
Formation of the coalition 349
April. The conference at Antwerp 349
Success of the allies 350
Their discordant aims 351
Aug. The surrender of Toulon 352
8 Sept. York before Dunkirk: the battle of Hondschoote 353
Dec. Attempted co-operation with the Vendeans 354
Siege and evacuation of Toulon 355
Mar. Traitorous correspondence bill 357
1793-94. Repressive proceedings 357
1794. The opposition in parliament 359
Selfish conduct of Prussia and Austria 360
The British retreat through Holland 362
The coalition in a shattered state 363
Aug. British conquest of Corsica 363
28 May-1 June. Naval victory: the glorious First of June 364
Portland whigs coalesce with government 366
[Pg xvii]1791. Ireland. Society of United Irishmen founded 367
1793. Catholic relief act 368
1794. Catholic emancipation question 368
Feb., 1795. The recall of Fitzwilliam 370


England's Darkest Days.

1795. A desire for negotiation 372
8 April. Marriage of the Prince of Wales 373
Difference between Pitt and Grenville 373
5 April. Treaty of Basle 374
Treaties with Austria and Russia 374
Feeble conduct of war in the Mediterranean 375
June. The expedition to Quiberon 376
War in the West Indies 377
Scarcity, riots, and democratic agitation 378
Nov. Repressive legislation 379
1796. Bonaparte's campaign in Italy 380
British fleet evacuates the Mediterranean 381
Overtures and unsuccessful negotiations for peace 382
Financial difficulties: the Loyalty loan 384
Ireland—United Irishmen adopt a military organisation 386
Dec. French attempt an invasion of Ireland 386
27 Feb., 1797. Suspension of cash payments 387
14. Battle of Cape St. Vincent 388
18 April. Preliminaries of peace between France and Austria signed at Leoben 390
The mutinies in the navy 391
Negotiations at Lille 396
17 Oct. Treaty of Campo Formio 397
11. Battle of Camperdown 398
A partial secession of whigs from parliament 399
Nov. The triple assessment 400


Irish Rebellion and Naval Supremacy.

1798. Threatened invasion of England 401
The Irish peasantry look to France for help 404
1797-98. Rebellion in Ulster averted by severities 405
12 Mar., 1798. Arrest of rebel leaders in Dublin 407
Cruel measures adopted in midland and southern counties 407
23 May. Outbreak of rebellion in Kildare 408
Rebellion in Wexford 409
21 June. Rebels routed on Vinegar hill 411
20 Aug. French under Humbert land in Killala bay 413
27. "The race of Castlebar" 413
Other attempts at invasion 414
[Pg xviii]1 Aug. The Battle of the Nile 416
Mar.-May, 1799. The defence of Acre 418
4 May. Storming of Seringapatam and death of Tipú 420
1798. Paul of Russia proposes a coalition 421
Dec., 1798. - Jan., 1799. The second coalition formed 423
1798. British troops withdrawn from San Domingo 424


Isolation in Europe and the Irish Union.

1799. Campaign of Suvorov 425
A French fleet in the Mediterranean 426
June. Nelson and the Neapolitan jacobins 427
Aug.-Oct. The expedition to the Helder 429
Paul of Russia deserts the coalition 431
9 Oct. Bonaparte returns to France 432
Jan., 1800. The convention of El Arish 432
25 Dec, 1799. Bonaparte's letter to the king 433
April. Payment of the income tax 434
Scarcity of wheat 435
April, 1800. Investment of Genoa 436
14 June. The battle of Marengo 437
Bonaparte proposes a naval armistice 438
Unprofitable expeditions 439
9 Feb., 1801. The Treaty of Lunéville: isolation of England 440
Paul's anger against England 440
Dec., 1800. The armed neutrality 441
Great Britain's maritime supremacy 443
Scarcity and desire for peace 443
Irish independence a source of weakness 445
Oct., 1798. Pitt contemplates union on a protestant basis 446
1799. Hopes of the catholics excited 447
How the government secured a majority 448
1 Aug., 1800. The union enacted 450
Sept. Pitt proposes catholic emancipation 451
Feb., 1801. The king refuses his assent: Pitt will resign 452
20. The king's insanity 453
Mar. Pitt's promise to the king 454
14. Pitt resigns office 455
Appendix I. On Authorities 459
II. Administrations of Great Britain, 1760-1801 470
III. The Grenvilles 476


(At the End of the Volume.)

1. Great Britain, showing the parliamentary representation.
2. The United States of America (northern section) } illustrating the War of Rebellion and the Treaty of Sept. 3, 1783.
3. The United States of America (southern section)


[Transcribers' Note: These corrections to errata have been applied to the e-book]

Page 4, line 25, for "George" read "William".

" 10, note, for "From about 1760" read "From the Revolution".

" 49, line 23, for "of state in Egremont's place" read "and took the northern department".

" 55 " 4, for "1657" read "1660".

" " " 9, for "cotton" read "grain".

" 71, lines 8, 9, omit comma after "matters," and for "including taxation. The court party" read "whatsoever. Some of the king's household".

" 115, line 23, for "northern" read "southern".

" " " 24, for "southern" read "northern".

" 121 " 3, for "cousin" read "aunt".

" 130, lines 11, 12, for "French laws and customs were swept away" read "The administration of the law was confused".

" 135, line 7, for "astride on iron rails" read "to ride upon a rail".

" 144 " 29, for "up" read "down".

" 220 " 29, for "stony" read "strong".

" 245 " 36, for "1788" read "1778".

" 259 " 33, for "1774" read "1770".

" 263 " 5, for "steel" read "copper".

" 282 " 12, for "than" read "to".

" 351 " 31, for "1,500 (Austrians)," read "11,000".

" 394 " 27, for "Commander" read "captain".

" 467 " 40, for "Karl von Martens" read "F. de Martens".

" 468 " 41, for "Clerque" read "Clergue".

" 470. Newcastle's administration, secs. of state, E. of Egremont, for "succ. March, 1761," read "succ. Oct., 1761"; for E. of Bute, "succ. Oct., 1761", read "succ. March, 1761". Ld. privy seal, after "E. Temple" read "D. of Bedford succ. Nov., 1761".

" 471. Grenville's administration, secs. of state, s. dept. for "E. of Sandwich" read "E. of Halifax, succ. Sept., 1763"; n. dept. for "E. of Halifax" read "E. of Sandwich, succ. Sept., 1763".

Rockingham's administration, secs. of state, s. dept. after Conway read "D. of Richmond, succ. May, 1766"; n. dept. for "D. of Richmond" read "H. S. Conway, succ. May, 1766".

" 473. North's administration, secs. of state, s. dept. for "E. of Sandwich, E. of Halifax, E. of Suffolk, Visct. Stormont" read "E. of Rochford, succ. Dec, 1770, Viscount Weymouth, succ. Nov., 1775, E. of Hillsborough, succ. Nov., 1779"; n. dept. for "Viscount Weymouth, E. of Hillsborough," read "E. of Sandwich, succ. Dec, 1770, E. of Halifax succ. Jan., 1771, E. of Suffolk succ. June, 1771, Viscount Stormont succ. Oct., 1779".

" 475. Pitt's administration, admiralty, for "Hood" read "Howe".

" 478, col. 1, line 32, for "afterwards" read "previously".

" " " 2 " 50, Bridgewater, for "Earl of" read "Duke of".

" 481 " 1 " 27, Cumberland, for "George" read "William".

" 482 " 1 " 26, Emmet, for "Robert" read "Thomas".

" 487 " 1 " 51, Lincoln, for "Earl of (Clinton), 195, 197, 198" read "American general, 195, 198".

" 491 " 2 " 25, Queensberry, for "Earl of" read "Duke of".



George III. was in his twenty-third year when he succeeded his grandfather, George II., on October 25, 1760. His accession caused general satisfaction. The jacobite schism had come to an end; no one imagined that a restoration of the exiled house was possible, or seriously wished that it might take place. The remembrance of the rising of '45 strengthened the general feeling of loyalty to the reigning house; the Old Pretender had lost all interest in public affairs, and his son, Charles Edward, was a confirmed drunkard, and had alienated his friends by his disreputable life. Englishmen were determined not to have another Roman catholic king, and they were too proud of their country willingly to accept as their king a prince who was virtually a foreigner as well as a papist, and whose cause had in past years been maintained by the enemies of England. It is true that their last two kings had been foreigners, but this was so no longer; their new king had been born and brought up among them and was an Englishman to the backbone. He succeeded an old king of coarse manners and conversation and of openly immoral life, and his youth and the respectability of his morals added to the pleasure with which his people greeted him as a sovereign of their own nation.

National feeling was growing in strength; it had been kindled by Pitt, and fanned into a flame by a series of victories which were largely due to the inspiration of his lofty spirit. He had raised Great Britain from a low estate to a height such as it had never reached before. The French power had been overthrown in North America and the dominion of Canada had been added to the British territories. In India the victories of Clive and his generals were soon to be crowned by the fall of Pondicherry,[Pg 2] and French and Dutch alike had already lost all chance of successfully opposing the advance of British rule by force of arms. Great Britain had become mistress of the sea. Her naval power secured her the possession of Canada, for her ships cut off the garrison of Montreal from help by sea; it sealed the fate of the French operations in India, for D'Aché was forced to withdraw his ships from the Coromandel coast and leave Lally without support. In the West Indies Guadeloupe had fallen, and in Africa Goree. In every quarter the power of France was destroyed, her colonies were conquered, her ships captured or driven from the sea.

The naval supremacy of England is attested, strange as it seems at first sight, by her losses in merchant shipping, which were far heavier than those of France, more than 300 in 1760, more than 800 in 1761, for many English merchantmen were at sea while the French dared not send out their merchant ships for fear of capture. Nor was this all, for the ruin of the commerce of France led the shipowners of St. Malo to fit out many of their ships as privateers and corsairs, and the ruin of her navy sent many a fine seaman aboard them. Skippers of English traders who straggled from their convoy, or sailed ahead of it in order to be first in the market, were often punished for their obstinacy or greediness by these fast-sailing privateers.[1] In spite of these losses, England's supremacy at sea caused a rapid increase in her wealth and commerce, and she took full advantage of her power, seizing French merchandise carried in neutral vessels. The wealth acquired through her naval supremacy enabled her to uphold the cause of her allies on the continent. England's purse alone afforded Frederick of Prussia the means of keeping the field, and the continuance of the war depended on her subsidies. The continental war, in which our troops played a secondary part, was by no means so popular as the naval war, yet under Pitt's administration it had helped to rouse the spirit of the nation. A new militia had been created and the old jealousy of a standing army was weakened. It was, then, at a time when national feeling was strong that Englishmen were called upon to welcome a king of their own nationality, and they answered to the call with enthusiasm.[Pg 3]


George was in many respects worthy of their welcome. Moral in his conduct and domestic in his tastes, he set an example of sobriety and general decency of behaviour. He was kind-hearted and had the gift of pleasing. On public occasions his demeanour and words were dignified. In private he talked in a homely way, his words following one another too quickly and sometimes showing a confusion of thought and excitability of brain. To the poor he would speak with familiar kindness, chatting with them like a good-natured squire. Yet simple as he was in his habits and private talk, he always spoke and acted as a gentleman; the coarseness of the old court was a thing of the past. He was deeply and unaffectedly pious, and was strongly attached to the Church of England; his religion was of a sober kind and was carried into his daily life. He was constantly guided by the dictates of his conscience. His will was strong; and as his conscience was by no means always so well-informed as he believed it to be, his firmness often deserved the name of obstinacy. Nor, in common with the best of men, did he always clearly distinguish between his personal feelings and conscientious convictions. He had great self-control, and was both morally and physically courageous. Though as a youth he had been idle, he was never addicted to pleasure; his accession brought him work which was congenial to him, he overcame his natural tendency to sloth and, so long as his health allowed, discharged his kingly duties with diligence. His intellectual powers were small and uncultivated, but he had plenty of shrewdness and common sense; he showed a decided ability for kingcraft, not of the highest kind, and gained many successes over powerful opponents. The welfare of his people was dear to him; he was jealous for the honour of England, rejoiced in her prosperity, and strove with all his strength to save her from humiliation. In religion, tastes, and prejudices he was in sympathy with the great mass of his people; and in matters in which his policy and conduct seem most open to censure, he had the majority of the nation with him.

He had, however, some serious failings which brought trouble both on his people and himself. They were largely the results of his training. His father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, a fool, a fribble and worse, died when George was twelve years old. His mother, the Princess Augusta, was a woman of strong will,[Pg 4] ambitious of power, unamiable in temper, thoroughly insincere, narrow-minded, and full of petty feelings. She was strict in all religious matters, had a high sense of duty, and was a careful mother. When her son became king, she acted as though she had a right to direct him in his political work. Her interference was mischievous: she was unpopular and incapable of understanding the politics of a great country; for she had the prejudices of a little German court, and regarded politics merely in a personal light. George grew up completely under her influence. Jealous of her authority and influence over her sons, she was quick to suspect their governors and preceptors of trying to act independently of her, and thwarted them continually. They had no chance of gaining George's confidence or of giving him the benefits which a lad may derive from the society of men experienced in the ways of the world. Do what they would, the princess was always too strong for them, and Lord Waldegrave, one of the prince's governors, records as his own experience that "the mother and the nursery always prevailed". Nor had George the opportunity of learning anything from companions of his own age; his mother was afraid that his morals would be corrupted by association with young people, and kept him in the strictest seclusion. He had no friend except his brother Edward. Her jealousy extended to her children's nearest relations. They had little intercourse with the court, and William, Duke of Cumberland, whose upright character and soldierly qualities might well have endeared him to his nephews, complained that as children they were taught to regard him with the most unworthy suspicion.

Brought up among bed-chamber women and pages, in an unwholesome atmosphere of petty intrigue, and carefully kept from contact with the world, George had the failings which such a system might be expected to produce. His mother certainly succeeded in implanting in his heart religious principles which he preserved through life, and she turned him out a pure-minded and well-bred young man; but the faults in his character were confirmed. He was uncharitable in his judgments of others and harsh in his condemnation of conduct which he did not approve. His prejudices were strengthened; he put too high a value on his own opinions and was extremely stubborn. In dealing with men, he thought too much of what was due to himself and too[Pg 5] little of what was due to others. As a lad he lacked frankness, and in later life was disingenuous and intriguing. When he was displeased his temper was sullen and resentful. He was always overcareful about money, and in old age this tendency developed into parsimony. His education was deficient; it had not been carried on steadily, and he had been allowed to indulge a constitutional inertness. Though he overcame this habit, the time which he had lost could not be made up for, and ideas which might have been corrected or enlarged by a more thorough education, remained firmly fixed in his mind.


Among these ideas were an exaggerated conception of the royal prerogative and the belief that it was his duty as king to govern as well as to reign. His mother's constant exhortation to him, "George, be a king," fell upon willing ears, and appears to have been enforced by his tutors. A more powerful influence on the mind of the young prince than that of any of his tutors was exercised by John Stuart, Earl of Bute, his mother's chief friend and adviser. He was a fine showy man, vain of his handsome person, theatrical in his manners, pompous, slow and sententious in his speech. His private life was respectable; he had literary and scientific tastes, and a good deal of superficial knowledge. His abilities were small; he would, George's father used to say, "make an excellent ambassador in any court where there was nothing to do".[2] He lacked the steadfast self-reliance necessary to the part which he undertook to play, and had none of the dogged resolution of his royal pupil. His enemies freely accused him of falsehood; he was certainly addicted to intrigue, but he was probably too proud a man to utter direct lies. The friendship between him and the princess was close and lasting. It was generally believed that he was her paramour, but for this there is no real evidence. It would have been contrary to the character of the princess, and the assertion seems to have been a malicious scandal. George liked him, and when he was provided with a household of his own in 1756, he persuaded the king to put the earl at the head of it as his groom of the stole. Though utterly incompetent for the task, Bute instructed the prince in the duties of kingship; he encouraged him in the idea that a king should exercise a direct control over public affairs,[Pg 6] and is said to have borrowed for him a portion of Blackstone's then unpublished Commentaries on the Laws of England in which the royal authority is magnified.

George's political system was, it is evident, largely based on Bolingbroke's essay On the Idea of a Patriot King. In this essay Bolingbroke lays down that a king who desires the welfare of his people should "begin to govern as soon as he begins to reign," that he must choose as his ministers men who "will serve on the same principles on which he intends to govern," and that he must avoid governing by a party. Such a king will unite his people, and put himself at their head, "in order to govern, or more properly subdue, all parties". This doctrine seemed specially appropriate to the state of affairs at George's accession. During the last two reigns the power of the crown had dwindled. Neither George I. nor George II. had cared for, or indeed understood, domestic politics, and the government had fallen into the hands of the whig party which became dominant at the Revolution. The whigs posed as defenders of the Hanoverian house and of the principles of 1688. Those principles limited the exercise of the prerogative, but they did not involve depriving the crown of all participation in the government. The whig party exaggerated them, and while the fortunes of Hanover and continental affairs absorbed the attention of the king, they completely usurped the government of the country. They were strong in the house of lords, and secured their position in the commons by employing the patronage of the crown, the money of the nation, and their own wealth and influence to control the borough elections. For nearly fifty years a small number of whig lords shared the government of the country among themselves. During Walpole's administration the whigs became split into sections. Several of the more powerful lords of the party had each his own following or "connexion" in parliament, composed of men bound to him by family ties, interest, or the gift of a seat. These sections, while they agreed in keeping the crown out of all part in the government, and the tories out of all share in the good things which the crown had to bestow, struggled with one another for office.


Meanwhile the tories were left out in the cold. So long as jacobitism was a danger to the state, this was not a fair cause of complaint, for many tories had corresponded with the exiled[Pg 7] princes. By 1760, however, tories had become as loyal as whigs. George was fully determined to put an end to this state of things: he would be master in his own kingdom; he and not the whigs should govern England. He naturally rejoiced to see the tories, a large and important body of his subjects, reconciled to the throne; and as he had been brought up in tory principles, he welcomed with peculiar pleasure the support of the party of prerogative. The tories were no longer to be neglected by the crown; the whig monopoly was to be brought to an end. He did not contemplate taking political power from one party in order to vest it in another. He designed to rule independently of party; no political section was necessarily to be excluded from office, but no body of men, whether united by common principles or common interest, was henceforth to dictate to the crown. To be willing and able to carry on the government in accordance with his will was to be the sole qualification for a share in the administration. Ministers might or might not be agreed on matters of the first importance; all the agreement between them which was necessary was that each in his own sphere should act as an agent of the king's policy.

The system was not so impossible as it would be at present. The idea of the cabinet as a homogeneous body, collectively responsible to parliament, was not yet established. Government was largely carried on by ministers working more or less independently of one another. In 1760 the cabinet, an informal committee of the privy council, was an institution of a different character from that of to-day. During the last two reigns it had included, along with the ministers holding the chief political offices, whether of business or dignity, certain great court officials, and some other personages of conspicuous position whose assistance might be useful to the government. Nominally the "lords of the cabinet" were fairly numerous. They did not all take an equal share in government. The king's "most serious affairs" were directed by not more than five or six of them, who formed a kind of inner cabinet, the first lord of the treasury, the two secretaries of state, one or more of the principal supporters of the administration, and generally the lord chancellor. They discussed matters privately, sometimes settling what should be laid before a cabinet meeting, and sometimes communicating their decisions to the king as the advice of his ministers, without[Pg 8] submitting them to the cabinet at large.[3] Outside this small inner circle the lords of the cabinet held a position rather of dignity than of power, and some of them rarely attended a cabinet meeting.[4] This arrangement was mainly due to the long predominance of Sir Robert Walpole and to the overwhelming political influence of a few great whig houses. The strife among the whigs which followed Walpole's retirement and the critical character of foreign affairs tended to increase the number of councillors who commonly took part in cabinet business.


The first cabinet of George III. as settled with reference to a meeting held on November 17, consisted of the keeper of the great seal (Lord Henley), the president of the council (Lord Granville), the two secretaries of state (Pitt and Holdernesse), the Duke of Newcastle (first lord of the treasury), Lord Hardwicke (ex-chancellor), Lord Anson (first lord of the admiralty), Lord Ligonier (master-general of the ordnance), Lord Mansfield (lord chief-justice), the Duke of Bedford (lord-lieutenant of Ireland) and the Duke of Devonshire (lord chamberlain). If Lord Halifax (president of the board of trade) pleased, he might attend to give information on American affairs; and Newcastle suggested that Legge (the chancellor of the exchequer, whose office, as finance was then largely managed by the first lord of the treasury, was of less importance than it soon became) and the "solicitor" (Charles Yorke, solicitor-general) should also be summoned.[5] Soon afterwards Bute was appointed groom of the stole to the king and entered the cabinet.[6] After 1760 the cabinet began to assume its later form; questions of the highest importance were debated and decided on in meetings of eleven or twelve councillors, and in 1761 Hardwicke complained that the king's "most serious affairs" were discussed by as many as would in earlier days have formed a whole cabinet.[7] From 1765 the existence of an inner circle[Pg 9] becomes less distinct, though at all times a prime minister naturally takes counsel privately with the most prominent or most trusted members of his government. Non-efficient members of a cabinet appear more rarely until, in 1783, they disappear altogether. The old inner cabinet becomes expanded into a council consisting generally of high political officers, and the members, ten or twelve in number, discuss and settle the weightiest affairs of state. With the critical negotiations with France in 1796 came a new development; the prime minister, the younger Pitt, and Lord Grenville, the foreign secretary, arranged that the British ambassador should write private despatches for their information, and others of a less confidential character which might be read by the cabinet at large.[8] Here a new inner cabinet is foreshadowed. It differed from the old one: that arose from the small number who were entrusted with an actual share in the government; this, from the fact that the number of the king's confidential servants was so large that it was advisable that certain matters of special secrecy should only be made known to and discussed by two or three. The subsequent increase of the council promoted the development of an inner cabinet, and such a body is understood to have existed for many years during which cabinets have been of a size undreamt of by ministers of George III.

The solidarity of the cabinet is now secured by the peculiar functions and powers of a prime minister.[9] It was not so at the accession of George III. That there should be an avowed prime minister possessing the chief weight in the council and the principal place in the confidence of the king is a doctrine which was not established until the first administration of the younger Pitt; and though the title of prime minister had come into use by 1760, it was still regarded as invidious by constitutional purists. According to George's system he was himself to be the only element of coherence in a ministry; it was to be formed by the prime minister in accordance with his instructions, and each member of it was to be guided by his will. The factious spirit of the whigs, the extent to which they monopolised power, and the humiliating position to which they[Pg 10] had reduced the crown, afford a measure of defence for his scheme of government. Yet it was in itself unconstitutional, for it would have made the ministers who were responsible to parliament mere agents of the king who was not personally responsible for his public acts. And it was not, nor indeed could it be, carried out except by adopting means which were unconstitutional and disastrous. It necessarily made the king the head of a party. He needed votes in parliament, and he obtained them, as the whig leaders had done, by discreditable means. If his ministers did not please him he sought support from the members of his party, "the king's friends," as they were called; and so there arose an influence behind the throne distinct from and often opposed to that of his responsible advisers.


Since 1757 the strife of the whig factions had been stilled by coalition. At the king's accession the administration was strong. It owed its strength to the co-operation of the Duke of Newcastle, the first lord of the treasury, and Pitt, secretary of state.[10] Newcastle, the most prominent figure among the great whig nobles, derived his power from influence; he had an unrivalled experience in party management and as a dispenser of patronage, and though personally above accepting a bribe of any kind, he was an adept at corrupt practices. He would have been incapable of conducting the war, for he was ignorant, timid, and vacillating, but he knew how to gain the support of parliament and how to find the supplies which the war demanded. Pitt was strong in the popular favour which he had gained by his management of the war; he was supremely fitted to guide the country in time of war, but he was too haughty and imperious to be successful in the management of a party. He did not care to concern himself about applications for bishoprics, excisorships, titles, and pensions, or the purchase of seats in parliament. All such work was done by Newcastle. For his attack on the whig party George needed a scheme and[Pg 11] a man—some one to act for him in matters in which as king he could not appear personally to interfere. The man was ready to his hand, his friend and teacher, Bute. His scheme of attack was to create a division between Newcastle and Pitt, to make peace with France, and force Pitt to leave the ministry, Pitt's resignation would weaken the whigs, and the king would be in a position to give office to Bute and any other ministers he might choose. Newcastle and Pitt were not really in accord, for not only was Newcastle jealous of Pitt, but he was anxious to bring the war to an end while Pitt wished to continue it. George therefore started on his work of sowing dissension between them with something in his favour. He disliked Pitt's war policy. He and Bute desired peace, no doubt for its own sake, as well as because it would forward their plan, for when the war ended the great war minister would no longer be necessary to the whigs.

On the day of his accession George privately offered to make Bute a secretary of state.[11] He refused the offer, for to have stepped into the place of Holdernesse while the whig party was still united would have been premature. The council was immediately summoned to Carlton house, a residence of the princess-dowager. George at once showed that he would take a line of his own. After a few gracious words to Newcastle in private audience, he closed the interview by saying, "My lord Bute is your very good friend and will tell you my thoughts at large". The duke, Pitt, and Holdernesse were called into the closet to hear the declaration he was about to make to the privy council; it is said to have been written by the king himself with the help of Bute. When it had been read George merely asked if anything was "wrong in point of form". Pitt could scarcely believe his ears; the war was described as "bloody and expensive". He had an interview with Bute in the evening and insisted on a change in the sentence. He carried his point, and the words in the council-book with reference to the war are: "As I mount the throne in the midst of an expensive, but just and necessary war, I shall endeavour to prosecute it in a manner most likely to bring about an honourable and lasting peace in concert with my allies". The[Pg 12] last five words were dictated by Pitt.[12] Bute having been sworn of the privy council, and having entered the cabinet as groom of the stole, assumed "a magisterial air of authority," and was universally recognised as the king's confidant and mouthpiece.

The king opened parliament on November 19, wearing his crown. His speech was settled by his ministers, and was sent to Bute for his perusal, Newcastle intending himself to lay it before the king, as it was his right to do.[13] Bute, however, took it to the king, and Newcastle to his amazement received it back from the earl with an additional clause written by the king's hand, and a message that the king would have it inserted in the speech which was to be laid before him next day in cabinet council.[14] The clause began: "Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Britain" [sic], and went on to express the king's confidence in the loyalty of his people and his desire to promote their welfare.[15] The words were unexceptionable, but the absolute command to insert them in the speech for which the ministers, not the king, were responsible, was unwise. The use of the word Britain was attributed to the Scotsman Bute. In later life the king declared that he had written the clause without suggestion from any one.[16] His command was obeyed, and the manner in which his words were received illustrates the adulation then customarily rendered to the sovereign. Hardwicke, who was in the habit of composing addresses for his colleagues, seems to have taken "Britain" for "Briton," as indeed it usually appears in print, and inserted a clause in the lords' address ending with—"What a lustre does it cast on the name of Briton when you, Sir, are pleased to esteem it among your glories!" When whig lords could adopt such words as these, a young king might well be encouraged to think over-highly of the royal prerogative. The incident has a special interest. The cabinet council of the 17th, in which the speech was read in its final form, was held by the king in person.[Pg 13] By the end of the last reign it had become unusual that the king should preside at cabinet meetings. With one doubtful exception, George III. never again presided at a meeting, and so the absence of the sovereign from the deliberations of the cabinet became an established constitutional usage. Thus at the time when the king was preparing to assume a preponderance in the government, the crown finally abandoned one of the few remaining customs which indicated a right to govern as well as to reign.


A like contrast is afforded by the arrangement of the civil list. George was the first sovereign who entirely surrendered his interest in the hereditary revenues of the crown in England, and placed them at the disposal of parliament. In return parliament voted him a civil list, or fixed revenue, "for the support of his household and the dignity of the crown". The sum voted was £800,000 a year, which was at first charged with some pensions to members of the royal family. By this arrangement the control of parliament over the king's expenditure was asserted at a time when the king was relying on his prerogative to enable him to become independent of ministerial control. Besides this income George had the hereditary revenues from Scotland, a civil list in Ireland, the duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster, and certain admiralty and other dues, the whole amounting to "certainly not much short of a million annually".[17] If the value of money at the time is considered, it may be allowed that the crown was amply provided for, and that so thrifty a king as George would always have found his revenues sufficient for his needs, if he had not spent large sums in supplying pensions and places of profit for his political adherents, and in other methods of corruption. The good impression made by the young king was heightened by a speech from the throne on March 3, 1761, recommending that in order to complete the independence of judges, their commission should not for the future be terminated by the demise of the crown, and that sufficient salaries should be assigned to them. An act to that effect was accordingly passed. On the 19th the king closed the session, and parliament was dissolved shortly afterwards.

The war was going on gloriously under Pitt's direction. Our ally, Frederick of Prussia, was, indeed, in distress in spite of his[Pg 14] hard-earned victory at Torgau, for his resources were exhausted, and half his dominions were occupied by his enemies. During 1761 Prince Henry made no progress in Saxony. Frederick himself lost Schweidnitz, and, with it, half Silesia, while the fall of Colberg left the Russians free either to besiege Stettin in the following spring, or to seize on Brandenburg. In Western Germany, however, where a British army was serving under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick in the defence of Hanover against the French, a signal success was gained. Early in the year the allies entered Hesse, and forced the French to retreat almost to the Main. Nevertheless they failed to take Cassel, the chief object of the campaign, and were obliged to retire from Hesse. In June two French armies, under Marshal de Broglie and Prince Soubise, effected a junction at Paderborn, advanced to Soest, and threatened Lippstadt. Ferdinand took up a position between the Lippe and the Ahse at Vellinghausen. On July 15 he was attacked by the French. The enemy engaged his left wing, formed by the British troops under their commander, the gallant Marquis of Granby. The attack was splendidly met and finally repulsed. The battle was renewed the next morning at daybreak, and the allies gained a complete victory. The British troops, who formed about a fourth part of the allied army, highly distinguished themselves; Maxwell's grenadiers alone captured four French battalions. This victory, won against heavy odds, foiled the most serious attempt of the French against Hanover; it saved Lippstadt, which would have been exceedingly useful to them as a depôt; and, more than that, it caused a quarrel between Broglie and Soubise, which ended in the recall of Broglie, by far the abler of the two generals. Meanwhile they parted company; Soubise did much mischief in Westphalia, and Broglie campaigned to the east of the Weser. The French kept their hold on Göttingen and Cassel, and were therefore in a position to renew their attacks on Hanover the following year.


News came from India of the fall of Pondicherry on January 15, 1761, and this was the end of the French power in that land. Few were the French ships which put out to sea during the year, and they were all taken. In the West Indies Dominica, one of the so-called neutral islands, of which the French had taken possession, was reduced by Lord Rollo, then holding a command in New York. About the same time the French received a more[Pg 15] galling blow. On March 29 a fleet under the command of Keppel, carrying a land force of about 9,000 men under General Hodgson, sailed for Belle Ile, a small and barren island with a population of 5,000, mostly fisher-folk. It was fortified and well garrisoned. A first attempt to land was repulsed with nearly 500 casualties. Tidings of the repulse were brought to Pitt; he sent reinforcements and ordered the commander to persevere. A second attempt, carried out with remarkable daring, was successful, and siege was laid to Palais, the strong place of the island. It was gallantly defended by the governor, who in a night attack surprised the British in their trenches and inflicted a heavy loss upon them. The lines which covered the town were taken by storm and the place was abandoned, but the fortress still held out. As, however, the British ships cut off all supplies, the garrison was at last, on June 7, forced to capitulate. They marched out with the honours of war and were conveyed to the mainland. By the capture of Belle Ile England gained far more than the barren island; it was French soil, and France would be prepared to surrender possessions of greater value in exchange for it. For Pitt the success of the expedition was a special triumph, for he had insisted upon it in spite of the opposition of Newcastle and the adverse opinion of the admirals Hawke and Boscawen.

While Pitt was laying down and carrying out plans of victory, the king and Bute were exciting discord between him and Newcastle. For a few days after the accession Newcastle seemed more in favour than Pitt, who was justly displeased because Lord George Sackville, one of Bute's friends, was received at court in spite of his recent disgrace. Before long, however, Newcastle found himself slighted and became violently jealous of Pitt. If Bute were to ally himself with Pitt and adopt his policy, the old minister knew that his own day would soon be over. He received a hint that a change was contemplated. At the end of six months, Bute said, the king "will declare whom he will call to his cabinet council".[18] The alliance between Pitt and Bute seemed complete. In January, 1761, the Spanish ambassador wrote: "there is no better voice in council than his [Pitt's], which joined to that of my Lord Bute seems to decide matters".[19] Pitt could work well[Pg 16] with the rising star so long as Bute did not oppose the continuance of the war, for he heartily approved of breaking down party distinctions, and, like the king, hated government by connexion. While, however, the king desired to destroy factions in order to establish personal government, Pitt desired that they should give place to a system of government by the best men, supported by the king and the nation. Tories were graciously received at court, and among them many of Bute's fellow-countrymen. In November, 1760, six tory lords and grooms of the bed-chamber were appointed without any intimation having been given to Newcastle.[20] The whigs were amazed, and the duke's mortification was keen.

The king's determination to break down the system which had so long secured the whig power was set forth and commended in a remarkable pamphlet written by Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, and probably inspired by his patron, Lord Bath.[21] It urged the king to be on his guard against "the pretensions of a confederacy of ministers," and to exercise the full extent of power allowed him by the constitution. He must not let his patronage go by the advice of ministers. Let him rely on his people; let him be master. Proscription, the writer says, is ended, and he expresses his belief that if the king will pursue the line marked out in his pamphlet, corruption also will disappear; for so long as a minister disposes of places, he has the means of corrupting parliament, whereas if the crown dispenses its own patronage it will gain strength, and the independence of parliament will be restored. For Newcastle, the veteran dispenser of the royal patronage, such a system meant political extinction. Its meaning was already brought home to him by an intimation that he was not to have "the choice of parliament," the management of the coming general election in boroughs under government influence, nor to purchase seats with the treasury money. Anson was reproved by Bute for having, according to custom, provided members for the admiralty boroughs. Newcastle believed, with good reason, that Pitt and Bute were agreed on this matter. He was deeply distressed, and told his friend Hardwicke that he[Pg 17] thought he must resign office.[22] That, however, was the last thing he was likely to do.


While Pitt may have welcomed the co-operation of his new ally from a belief that they had a common policy as regards government by connexion, and as a means of checking the opposition with which his plans were often received by Newcastle and his friends, it is certain from later events that the king and Bute were not sincere in their dealings with him. They designed to raise dissension between him and his fellow-ministers, and so prepare a way for Bute's assumption of office and for the termination of the war. As early as January 18, 1761, when Newcastle was sufficiently frightened and humbled, the Sardinian minister, Count de Viri, one of Bute's tools, had a secret interview with him, and proposed that the earl should be made a secretary of state. Newcastle, who was mortally afraid of Pitt, said that the appointment must be made with his concurrence, for otherwise Pitt might blame him, and might perhaps resign office and leave him and Bute saddled with the conduct of the war.[23]

Bute intended when in office to make a peace which would immortalise his name. He saw that this would soonest be obtained if England withdrew from the war on the continent and confined her operations to the sea. France would then be induced by the loss of her colonies to make a separate peace. Pitt was determined not to assent to any peace which was not made in concert with our allies and did not insure England a full return for her victories. Bute would have had the country stand apart from continental politics; Pitt desired that it should have continental allies and make itself felt in the politics of Europe. The two opposing views are characteristic of the two men. Pitt maintained that the continental war was profitable because it had hindered France from putting forth her full strength in defence of her colonies. Statesmanlike as his position was, there was much to be said on the side of the tories and others, who held that England should confine herself to a naval war. We have, they argued, no interest in a war for Silesia. Why should we pay Frederick £670,000 a year, the amount of the subsidy again granted to him soon after the accession, for[Pg 18] fighting in his own quarrel? What profit do we derive from the £340,000 paid to the Landgrave of Hesse for the hire of troops? The naval war has brought a rich return; on the continent we have nothing to gain by victory. As for the argument that the German war is one of diversion, why should we divert a war from the sea, where we are supreme, to land, where we must necessarily be inferior to France? To fight in Germany for Hanover is to surrender the advantages of an insular position. Better let France overrun Hanover, for, as we shall possess her colonies, we can force her to surrender it again.

These arguments are ably stated in a pamphlet entitled Considerations on the German War, written by one Israel Mauduit, and published at the end of 1760. It had a strong effect on public opinion, and was followed by other pamphlets more or less on the same lines, and probably written at the instigation of Bute, for he employed and largely rewarded the services of pamphleteers. Their arguments were enforced by the growing expenses of the war and the difficulty of obtaining men for the army. The supplies granted for the year 1760 were £15,503,563; for 1761 they amounted to £19,616,119, the interest on which was to be paid by the continuance of the old taxes and a new tax of three shillings per barrel on beer and ale. The national debt of Great Britain and Ireland, which in 1755 was £72,505,572, entailing a charge for interest and expenses of a little over £2,500,000, amounted in 1760 to £102,000,000, with a charge of £3,500,000.[24] In 1761 the British troops serving abroad were thirty-nine regiments of foot and thirty-one of horse and dragoons; in all, 110,000 men, besides 60,000 German auxiliaries in British pay. In Germany we had about 25,000 men. At the same time sea-pay was drawn for 288 ships of various kinds and 80,675 men, the navy then consisting of 378 vessels, of which 285 were first to sixth rates.[25] Of these, 121 ships of the line with about 70,000 men were in active service. The call for men was very heavy in proportion to the population, and high bounties were offered for enlistment. Balloting for the new militia caused some riots in the north, specially at Hexham, where the miners fiercely attacked the militia, and forty-two men were killed and forty-eight wounded.[Pg 19]


Before the king and Bute opened their campaign they insured support in parliament. Early in 1761 preparations were made for the general election. The court spread the idea that it was for purity of election; it was known that Newcastle's hands were tied, and it was expected that no money would be issued from the treasury. Nothing was less true. Corruption was rampant and the treasury issued large sums. George personally named candidates for boroughs belonging to the crown, to which the ministry had hitherto appointed, and otherwise took an active share in the arrangements. For the most part he worked through Bute, to whom Newcastle was forced to submit his lists of candidates that he might compare them with his own and decide who should be brought in. This was galling to the old minister, but he had already done much to forward the whig interest in the coming election, and flattered himself that "they [the court] had left matters too late for them to do any mischief".[26] In former elections the whigs used the resources of the crown to secure power for themselves; in this election the crown itself used its own means of corrupt influence. Private men followed its example. A new class of candidates appeared, men without party connexion or local interest, who had lately become rich, West India merchants, "nabobs" gorged with the spoils of the East, shareholders of the East India Company, admirals and others who had reaped a splendid harvest from the destruction of the commerce and shipping of France. The competition for seats was extraordinary; at Andover there were nine candidates. Constituencies which had long obeyed the orders of great landlords were no longer to be reckoned upon. No political question was exciting public interest, and the borough elections were decided rather by money than by measures. Bribery was carried to a preposterous height, and the new-rich bought seats as openly as they bought their horses. The borough of Sudbury went so far as to advertise itself for sale. Those who without political aims or connexions forced themselves into parliament by their wealth were peculiarly open to court influence. Newcastle's belief that the elections would secure his position was ill-founded; many members on whom he relied were ready to desert him at the bidding of the court. By the beginning of[Pg 20] March, before the elections were over, the king and Bute were sure of the support they desired.

Bute was in a position which enabled him to take office and to begin to carry out the designs cherished by his master and himself, to bring the war to an end and to encourage the jealousy of Pitt's colleagues to such an extent that they would force him to leave them. He could be dispensed with as soon as peace was made, and without him the whig ranks could easily be broken up, for Newcastle could be crushed at any time. With Bute as an ally Pitt dominated over his fellow-ministers, who bore his yoke with rebellious feelings. If Bute came over to their side they could make a stand against him. Viri's secret negotiations on Bute's behalf gave them a chance not to be neglected. Newcastle, Hardwicke, and the Duke of Devonshire took counsel together, and Newcastle went to the king with a proposal that Bute should accept office. To this George, of course, readily assented. Pitt knew nothing of all this until the matter was settled.[27] On March 12 Holdernesse was dismissed. It was not a creditable business; four months before he had signified his readiness to make room for Bute,[28] and he received a present pension of £4,000 a year and the reversion of the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, which was at least equally valuable, as a reward for his complaisance. He was succeeded by Bute as secretary of state on the 25th.

At the same time Legge, the chancellor of the exchequer, who had refused to accede to Bute's wishes with regard to two elections, and was much disliked by the king,[29] was dismissed, and was succeeded by Lord Barrington, an honest man, with no strong political convictions, who was always ready to carry out the king's plans. Barrington was succeeded as secretary-at-war by Charles Townshend, a brilliant wit and orator, "the delight and ornament" of the house of commons,[30] a reckless and unstable politician, who was destined to bring evil on his country. A month earlier, one of Bute's adherents, George Grenville, the treasurer of the navy, a brother of Earl Temple,[Pg 21] lord privy seal, and a brother-in-law of Pitt, was rewarded by a seat in the cabinet. He had considerable ability, great aptitude for business, and a thorough knowledge of parliamentary affairs, was a statesman of unsullied purity, public-spirited, hard-working and ambitious;[31] he was deficient in tact, had no generosity of mind, and was harsh, formal, and impatient of opposition. Newcastle's perfidy increased the ill-feeling between him and Pitt, against whom the new alliance was avowedly directed,[32] for at the time that Newcastle sold himself to Bute in order to gain his support, Pitt was becoming aware that the king was probably about to oppose his policy with respect to the war. Newcastle was delighted with the success of his trick, but he soon found that Bute slighted him, and that his power was going from him, for he was no longer allowed to control the patronage of the crown.[33] By treating him in this way the king and Bute kept him subservient. Bute aggravated the division between the ministers, and used Pitt's colleagues against him in the conflict which was impending on the question of peace and war. The history of that conflict is for convenience' sake deferred to the next chapter.


The satisfaction caused by the young king's gracious manners and respectable life was increased by his marriage. In 1755 his grandfather had proposed that he should marry a princess of the house of Brunswick, but abandoned the project in consequence of the opposition of George's mother. About a year before his accession George fell in love with Lady Sarah Lennox, a daughter of the late Duke of Richmond and sister-in-law of Henry Fox, a young lady of remarkable beauty. His attentions to her were continued after his accession. Fox and his wife, Lady Caroline, took care that he should have every opportunity of seeing her; and George, as he rode through Kensington, was charmed to find her in a fancy dress playing at hay-making in front of Fox's residence, Holland House. He went so far as to signify plainly to her that he meant to make her a formal offer of marriage.[34] Most inopportunely Lady Sarah broke her[Pg 22] leg, and while she was laid up, the princess-dowager and Bute persuaded George to change his mind. They at once arranged a marriage for him with the Princess Charlotte, a daughter of the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and the marriage took place on September 8. The queen did not meddle in affairs of state; she bore fifteen children, and had many domestic virtues. On the 22nd the king and queen were crowned.

George's popularity was impaired by the influence exercised over him by his mother and Bute, which excited the ridicule of the higher class of society and the bitter feelings of the London populace. Bystanders sneered when they saw him on his way to visit his mother, and it is said that on one occasion he was insulted with a coarse jest. In Bute's case the idea that he was the royal favourite would alone have sufficed to make him hated. The term was generally applied to him. Yet he was not a favourite in the more odious sense of the word, for though the king showed him signal favour, their relations were rather political than personal. His nationality strengthened the dislike with which he was regarded. The jacobite troubles had increased the prejudices of the English against the Scots; they looked down upon them as a half-barbarous people, poor, and greedy to enrich themselves with the wealth of England. Scorn and indignation were aroused by the grants of honours and employments made to Bute's Scottish followers who came in great numbers to the court under his patronage. Bills were posted in London with the words: "No petticoat government! No Scotch minister! No Lord George Sackville!" Any unpopular measure was set down to Bute's advice. The beer-tax was believed to have been suggested by him, and provoked a disturbance in the theatre in the king's presence, which caused Bute much annoyance. He was yet to rise higher in the state, and to arouse more violent feelings of hatred and contempt.


[1] Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, pp. 318-19.

[2] Earl Waldegrave's Memoirs, p. 36.

[3] See, for example, "Memorandum of what past at Sir R. Walpole's house," Sept. 9, 1725, Add. MS. 32,687 (Duke of Newcastle's Papers), f. 155.

[4] Engl. Historical Rev., xvii. (1902), 678 sqq., an interesting article by Mr. Winstanley to which I am indebted.

[5] Add. MS. 32,914, ff. 171, 189; the order in the text is that of the manuscript, the names and offices within parentheses are supplied.

[6] His appointment about Nov. 16, Add. MS., u.s., f. 369; he appears as a "lord of the cabinet," Jan. 8, 1761, Add. MS. 32,917, f. 180.

[7] Add. MS. 32,929, f. 143; see also Engl. Hist. Rev., u.s.

[8] Dropmore Papers, iii., 337-38, 341-43 (Hist. MSS. Comm.); Earl of Malmesbury, Diaries, etc., iii., 465.

[9] J. Morley, Walpole, p. 157.

[10] From the Revolution the two principal secretaries of state took one the southern, the other the northern department. Both were responsible for home affairs. Foreign affairs were divided between them, the southern department including France, Spain, etc., the northern, Germany, the Low Countries, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia. A third secretaryship was established for the colonies in 1768, and abolished in 1782, when the distinction between northern and southern was discontinued and the secretaryships were divided into home and foreign.

[11] Newcastle to Hardwicke, March 6, 1764, Add. MS. 32,919, f. 481.

[12] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Oct. 26, 1760, quoted in Harris's Life of Hardwicke, iii., 215-16.

[13] Memoranda, Nov. 13, 1760, Add. MS. 32,914, f. 277.

[14] Bute to Newcastle, Nov. 16, ibid., f. 345.

[15] Add. MSS. 32,684 (Royal family), f. 121, and 32,914, f. 359.

[16] G. Rose, Diaries and Correspondence, ii., 189.

[17] Burke, "Present Discontents," Works, iii., 143, ed. 1852; May, Constitutional History, i., 236.

[18] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Nov. 7, 1760, Add. MS. 32,914, ff. 171-72.

[19] Chatham Correspondence, ii., 90.

[20] Newcastle to Duke of Manchester, Dec. 14, 1760, Add. MS. 32,916, f. 173; see also f. 322.

[21] Seasonable Hints from an Honest Man, 1761.

[22] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Dec. 7, 1760, Add. MS. 32,915, f. 332.

[23] Secret Memorandum, C. V. [Count de Viri], Add. MS. 32,917, f. 461.

[24] Parliamentary Paper, xxxiii. (July, 1858), 165, National Debt.

[25] MS. Admiralty Miscell., 567, The Progress of the Navy, R.O.

[26] Albemarle, Memoirs of the Marquis of Rockingham, i., 61-64.

[27] Secret Memoranda, C. V., Add. MS. 32,919, f. 285; see also ff. 314, 400, 402 sq., 477 sq., and 32,920, f. 66.

[28] Dodington's Diary, p. 416.

[29] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Feb. 10, 1761, Add. MS. 32,919, f. 43.

[30] Burke, "On American Taxation," Works, iii., 214.

[31] Burke, "On American Taxation," Works, iii., 197.

[32] Memoranda, Add. MS. 32,920, f. 65.

[33] Newcastle to Devonshire, July 11, 1761, Add. MS. 32,925, f. 10; see also ff. 155-56, 185, 235, Add. MS. 32,926, ff. 189-93, 284, 352.

[34] Life and Letters of Lady Sarah Lennox, i., 13, ed. Lady Ilchester.



By the beginning of 1761 France was anxious for peace, and in concert with her allies, Austria, Russia, Sweden, and Poland, invited Great Britain and Prussia to negotiate, and suggested that a congress should meet at Augsburg. England and Prussia assented, and plenipotentiaries were appointed. In England the prospect of a peace was hailed with satisfaction, and the funds rose 4 per cent. The congress never met, but the plan was not abandoned for some months; and Choiseul, the minister of Louis XV., sent a memorial to England proposing that, as difficulties would arise at the congress if the questions in dispute between England and France were debated along with the affairs of their respective allies, the two courts should enter on a separate negotiation. He offered to treat on the basis of uti possidetis, that is, that the possessions of both countries should be acknowledged as regards the conquests made by the one from the other, and that certain dates in the current year should be fixed upon as those on which the conquests should be ascertained. The offer was large; for at that time England had conquered from France Cape Breton, Canada, Guadeloupe, Mariegalante, Goree, and Senegal, and had also gained great advantages in India, though the fall of Pondicherry was not yet known; while France had only conquered Minorca from England. She had also, it will be remembered, gained insecure possession of Hesse, Hanau, and Göttingen. England agreed to a separate negotiation on the basis of uti possidetis, but Pitt would not commit himself as to the dates, for he was preparing the expedition against Belle Ile, and intended that England should not lose the advantage which would accrue from its success. He also declared that his court would not desert the King of Prussia. Choiseul replied that neither would France desert her allies,[Pg 24] and that the negotiation only concerned the interests of the two powers. On this understanding the two courts sent representatives the one to the other; the English representative chosen by Pitt was Hans Stanley, and M. de Bussy was sent to London by Choiseul.

Soon after they arrived at their destinations Belle Ile was conquered. Pitt knew how deeply the national spirit of France would be wounded by this blow; he promised to restore the island if adequate compensation were made, and Choiseul professed himself willing to make important concessions. On July 15, however, he made proposals of a less favourable kind than might have been expected. They were, briefly, that France should cede Canada on certain conditions, one of which was that she should have liberty to fish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and dry cod on the Newfoundland shore, and should have Cape Breton in sovereignty for a shelter for her ships, though she should not erect fortifications. She would restore Minorca, and should receive back Guadeloupe and Mariegalante; two of the neutral islands, Dominica and St. Vincent, should be under her protection, and of the other two she should keep St. Lucia and England should have Tobago. The rival claims in India were to be settled on the basis of a treaty of 1755, before the late English victories. England should restore either Senegal or Goree, for unless France had one of them, her West India possessions would be useless, as she would have no port for the shipment of negroes. Belle Ile was to be restored, and France would evacuate Hesse and Hanau. After preliminaries were signed England was not to help Prussia, nor France Austria, but France would not surrender the territories conquered from the King of Prussia, for they were conquered and held in the name of the Empress-queen. This stipulation was made in favour of Austria which had assented to the separate negotiation on condition that her interests were guarded. The proposals were of a kind to suggest doubts as to Choiseul's sincerity. As a matter of fact he was secretly arranging a strict alliance with Spain as a means of forcing England to make favourable terms.


Spain had three grievances against Great Britain. She complained that her ships had wrongfully been made prizes, that she was shut out from the Newfoundland fishery, and that British settlements had been made on the bay of Honduras. Charles III,[Pg 25] of Spain had a strong leaning towards a French alliance; he was much influenced by the family tie between himself and the other Bourbon powers, and he considered that the destruction of the French navy by Great Britain deprived Spain of a guarantee for the safety of her possessions in the western hemisphere. He believed that by identifying the interests of Spain with those of France, he would gain a satisfactory settlement of his own claims and also better terms for France than she could otherwise obtain. As early as September, 1760, the Count de Fuentes, the Spanish minister in London, presented to Pitt a memorial on the Newfoundland fishery, in which it was stated that a copy had been communicated to the court of France. Indignant at the implied threat, Pitt replied that he was at a loss to understand the meaning of such a communication, and that France had nothing to do with the question.[35] A month later Dutens, secretary to the British embassy at Turin, sent him information which proved that the King of Spain would not long remain a passive spectator of the war.[36] Pitt was thus fully aware of the necessity for watchfulness as to the relations between France and Spain; the correspondence between Fuentes and the Marquis Grimaldi, the Spanish minister at Paris, was regularly intercepted and its contents communicated by Pitt to his colleagues. The two ambassadors were endeavouring to bring about an alliance between their king and Louis, and, on March 10, 1761, Fuentes wrote that "if this is done, at the end of the year we shall have a peace to our liking and France's," and that England would be compelled by "force and fear" to do justice to Spain. Pitt soon showed him and Choiseul how unsafe it was to reckon on English fear.

Along with the French proposals of July 15, Bussy presented Pitt with a memorial on the grievances of Spain, proposing that England should terminate her differences with that court, and declaring that the French king "cannot disguise the danger he apprehends, and of which he must necessarily partake if these objects which seem nearly to concern his Catholic majesty shall be the occasion of a war". Pitt was furious at this insult to his country and at once addressed Bussy in terms different from the ordinary language of diplomacy. He declared in plain words[Pg 26] that the king would not allow the dispute with Spain to be blended in any manner whatever in the negotiation, and that any further attempt to blend them would be considered an affront. He returned the memorial as "wholly inadmissible".[37] In answer to the French articles he replied that Canada must be ceded unconditionally, and refused to surrender Cape Breton or to allow France any part in the fisheries. Both Pitt and Choiseul held the fisheries question to be of prime importance. If France were shut out from them, she would, Pitt believed, permanently be crippled as a maritime power, for apart from the value of the fish both for victualling ships and in commerce the fisheries were a nursery for a race of hardy seamen, and Pitt wished to prevent France from ever restoring either her merchant marine or her naval strength. The second crucial question in the negotiation concerned our allies. Pitt insisted that Frederick should receive back the territories conquered from him by France, and that both England and France should be free to help their allies. Determined to give France no commercial advantage, he refused to cede either Senegal or Goree. England must have Minorca, but would agree to an equal partition of the neutral islands, and would restore Belle Ile, Guadeloupe, and Mariegalante. He further rejected the date proposed as a basis for a peace in India.


Pitt kept the negotiation with Bussy in his own hands, and met opposition in the cabinet with haughty determination. Newcastle and his party were eager for peace, and, equally with Bussy, complained that the tone of his despatches was too peremptory. Bute resented what he described as Pitt's insolence.[38] Nevertheless the king and he considered the French proposals unsatisfactory and were annoyed by the memorial concerning the Spanish grievances, but Bute believed that patient negotiation would induce France to yield all that was in dispute. Accordingly, to Newcastle's consternation, he supported Pitt's demands. Pitt's strongest opponent was the Duke of Bedford, who was urgently summoned to the council by Bute and Newcastle when they wanted a champion against him. Upright and fairly able, Bedford owed his political prominence mainly to his rank and vast wealth; he was much addicted to sport and[Pg 27] other pleasures, and allowed himself to be guided by a gang of greedy adherents of whom Rigby, a coarse and shameless place-hunter, was the chief. Pitt laid his ultimatum to France before the council on August 15. He had so far yielded to pressure as to offer France a limited right of fishing, and the island of St. Pierre as a shelter and port, provided it was kept unfortified. On the other crucial question his demand was unchanged; the Westphalian lands were to be restored to Frederick, and both parties were to remain free to help their allies. His despatch was considered needlessly irritating, but he would not allow a word to be altered. Bute would give no help against him. Bedford, who had a violent temper, was so angry at being overborne, that he declared that he would attend no more councils, and Newcastle was reduced to whining despair. By the 18th, however, Bute came to an agreement with the Newcastle faction and promised to help them against Pitt.[39]

Lord Bristol, our ambassador at Madrid, was instructed to remonstrate energetically with General Wall, the Spanish minister, on the subject of Bussy's memorial. He was to say that as regards the prizes there were courts whose business it was to decide such matters, that England would not allow Spain any share in the fishery, but was willing to receive representations as to the Honduras settlements, provided they were not sent through France, and that any union of counsels with France would hinder an amicable arrangement. He was, further, to demand an explanation of the naval preparations which Spain was making. He could obtain no satisfaction, and on August 31 sent Pitt a paper in which Wall declared that his master concurred in Bussy's memorial, and, while he protested that no offence was intended, maintained that Spain and France had a right to mix in the affairs each of the other "for mutual assistance". A declaration of war from Spain was, Bristol thought, not far off.[40] On September 2 Stanley sent Pitt a copy of what he believed to be an article of a secret treaty between France and Spain, and wrote that he was assured in Paris that Spain would immediately declare war, and that a treaty between the[Pg 28] two powers only needed signature.[41] Intercepted letters between Fuentes and Grimaldi proved that a treaty had been signed between them on August 15. This was the famous family compact, the purport of which was not yet known in England. A fresh set of proposals was made by Choiseul, and Stanley was led to believe one day that peace was unlikely, and another that France would agree to terms and that "the affair of Spain would be dropped".[42] It became evident that Choiseul was trifling with England, and on September 15 the cabinet decided to recall Stanley forthwith.

Choiseul was anxious to avoid an immediate breach between England and Spain, both because Spain was expecting the arrival of her treasure-ships from America,[43] and also because her naval preparations were incomplete. Pitt, who was convinced that Spain was intending to declare war, was anxious to strike while so grand an opportunity lasted. A cabinet council was held on the 19th. He was not present, but sent in a paper signed by himself and Temple, urging that, in view of Wall's avowal of "a total union of counsels and interests" between the two Bourbon monarchies, Bristol should be ordered to return to England without taking leave, in fact, that war with Spain should at once be declared.[44] Unfortunately we had no casus belli against Spain, and could not found one on secret information. The council made a point of this, and voted that a declaration of war would neither be just nor expedient, but that Bristol should demand further and distinct assurances of the intentions of Spain. They knew that their decision would probably lead to Pitt's resignation, and held anxious discussion, for they were in great perplexity. Bute had hoped that peace would be made, and then Pitt might be got rid of. Things were turning out awkwardly. "If," he said, "we had any view of peace, he should be less solicitous what part Mr. Pitt took, but that, as the continuance of the war seemed unavoidable, he thought that we should do what we could to hinder Mr. Pitt from going out, and thereby leaving the im[Pg 29]practicability of his own war upon us."[45] He and the rest of the council knew that Pitt could conduct the war, and that they could not. They agreed that peace with France might still be hoped for.


That belief was strongly held by the king, and he was delighted by a letter from Stanley holding out hope of peace.[46] George believed Choiseul's assurances, and was angry with Pitt for treating them as mere amusements. At a council on the 21st, Pitt, in an eloquent speech, pointed out "the almost certainty" of success against the united forces of the Bourbon monarchies, but, said he, "there is not an hour to lose". He regretted the concessions which he had been persuaded to make to France, and "was determined now to abide by his own opinion". The council adhered to its decision of the 19th. It was plain that Pitt and Temple would retire, and their colleagues discussed who should succeed Pitt.[47] George's spirits were dashed by another letter from Stanley expressing his belief that Spain was contemplating an attack on our ally the King of Portugal.[48] He could not conceal his ill-temper, and let it be known that he wished to get rid of Pitt "in all events".[49] He was soon gratified. Another cabinet meeting was held on October 2 to decide what orders should be sent to Bristol. Pitt took the same ground as before, and declared that his opinion had been strengthened by one of Grimaldi's intercepted letters. Granville, the president of the council, said that he was convinced that a declaration of war with Spain would neither be just nor expedient. Newcastle, Devonshire, and Hardwicke concurred. Bute said that such a war would be dangerous, and in any case should be put off as long as possible. Anson thought that our ships were not in a condition for it.[50] Mansfield[Pg 30] feared that if England declared war against Spain the other maritime powers would think that she was set on destroying them all. Ligonier believed that Spain could put 70,000 men in the field; she had made "a great figure" in Queen Anne's reign, and might do so again, and she would be joined by Naples with an army of 20,000. Temple spoke on Pitt's side, and then appears to have left the council-room in anger.

Pitt spoke again. He had, he said, "been called by the sovereign, and in some degree by the voice of the people, to assist the state when others had abdicated". He had succeeded in spite of opposition, for hardly an expedition he had proposed, "though most probable and attended with the greatest success, had not beforehand been treated as chimerical and ridiculous". He knew the little interest he had either in council or parliament, but, said he, "the papers which I have in my bag" (meaning a letter from Bristol, and the paper which he sent from Wall) "fix an eternal stain on the crown of England, if proper measures are not taken upon them"; and he would not acquiesce in sending no answer to Spain. He was responsible, and he "would not continue without having the direction". No one could be surprised at his going on no longer, for he would be responsible for nothing but what he directed. Granville spoke some words of compliment to him, but protested against his claim to direct; when the king referred a matter to the council "the opinion of the majority must decide". The council rejected Pitt's proposal.[51]


It must not be supposed that Pitt had information as to the relations between France and Spain which he did not lay before his colleagues; indeed it is fairly certain that this was not the case. They knew that a treaty was made, and that Spain had entered into it with hostile intentions. Pitt, with the insight of a statesman, was sure that war with Spain was certain, and desired to strike before she was ready. His colleagues, anxious for peace and fretting under his predominance, allowed themselves to be blinded by their hopes. They believed that France might yet shake off her engagement to Spain, and be willing to make peace on terms to which Great Britain could agree; and they determined in any case to put off a declaration of war[Pg 31] against Spain as long as possible. Pitt resigned the seals on the 5th. So ended the ministry of that great man who alone, at a critical time, had justly rated the strength and spirit of England, and had dared to rely upon them, who had taught his fellow-countrymen how great things they might do, had sent them forth, confident in that knowledge, to victory after victory, and had laid broad and deep the foundations of Britain's colonial empire.

The king's petulant wish was fulfilled, but though he and Bute approved of the decision of the council, Bute thought that Pitt's resignation was "not favourable in the present minute to the king's affairs". He would have been well pleased if George could have found in Pitt a minister subservient to his royal will; he could not endure that he should give strength to a whig cabinet. Pitt took a line which the king disliked, yet Bute knew that he could ill be spared so long as the war lasted, and was annoyed that his intrigues against him had been successful at an inopportune time. The leaders of the whig oligarchy, and specially Newcastle, Devonshire, and Bedford, sometimes inspired by Bute, and sometimes urging him on, had succeeded in driving Pitt out of office. What was to be their reward? They were to fall back into disunion, and were consequently to find themselves unable to resist the growth of the royal power. As for Pitt himself, his resignation dissolved the unnatural alliance between him and them. His position was tolerable only so long as he was their master, for in feeling he was not one of them. As heartily as George himself he hated government by connexion, and like him desired to break up all parties. He despised the corrupt practices by which the whigs strengthened themselves, and he had a deep reverence for the crown. Yet his aims were totally different from those of the king. He would have broken party ties in order to form a strong administration; he would have destroyed corruption and looked to the king and nation for the support of government, and relying on their support would have crushed the enemies of England. George, on the other hand, wanted ministers who would carry out his will; he was led to imitate and, indeed, to surpass the whigs in corrupt practices; he desired that England should be at peace, and should take no part in continental politics. Pitt at last stood alone and unconnected.[Pg 32] Which would gain his support, the king or the whigs? The question runs through the history of the party politics of England during the next eight years.

When Pitt went to the king to give up the seals of his office, George spoke graciously to him. Always intoxicated by a peep into the royal closet, Pitt burst into tears and replied in words of absurd self-abasement. The tidings of his resignation were received with general indignation. For a moment his popularity was overclouded. He accepted a pension of £3,000 a year for three lives, and the dignity of Baroness of Chatham for his wife. With mean and studied[52] adroitness it was contrived that the Gazette announcing his resignation should publish with it a notification of these grants, and a letter from Stanley again holding out hope of a peace with France. For the grants it is, as Burke wrote, "a shame that any defence should be necessary".[53] Pitt addressed a dignified letter to alderman Beckford, his chief follower in the city, on the cause of his resignation and the "unsolicited" marks of royal favour which he had received. His popularity rose as high as ever. The city was specially strong for him, for its merchants and traders owed him a deep debt of gratitude. At the lord mayor's feast on November 9, which was attended by the king, he had the bad taste to draw off the cheers in the street to himself; he was loudly applauded, and the king coldly received. Bute's coach was escorted by hired bruisers; it was attacked amid cries of "Damn all Scotch rogues!" "No Bute!" "No Newcastle salmon!" and Bute was rescued from the mob by constables. In parliament Pitt adopted a noble line; he justified his own conduct without blaming his late colleagues, disregarded attacks upon himself, and urged the ministers to act firmly, and the house to give them its united support.


He was succeeded as secretary of state by Lord Egremont, a man of small ability; the leadership of the commons was committed to Grenville, and Bedford took Temple's place as privy seal. Events soon vindicated the wisdom of Pitt's demand for instant war with Spain. Bristol in vain demanded satisfactory assurances from that court. At first Wall's answers were conciliatory, but naval preparations still went on. By[Pg 33] November 2 all the treasure-ships had arrived safely. Their arrival caused a marked change in Wall's tone; he no longer disguised the hostile feeling of his court. At Christmas the Family Compact was published. It was of the same character as the compacts of 1733 and 1743, and arranged a strict alliance between the sovereigns of the house of Bourbon. It was formed between the Kings of France and Spain, the King of Spain also engaging for the King of the Two Sicilies, and it guaranteed the dominions of the three kings and of the Duke of Parma. Each sovereign was to send specified assistance to any of the others who might require it, but wars undertaken by France in consequence of engagements to German or northern states were not to be cases in which Spain should be bound to send help, "unless some maritime power should take part in them". These words pointed directly to Great Britain. On January 2, 1762, war was declared against Spain. France and Spain forced our ally, the King of Portugal, to declare war, and in the spring Spain invaded his kingdom.

This new war afforded Bedford an opportunity for moving in parliament for the recall of the British troops from Germany. Bute, though equally desirous for their recall, opposed the motion as inopportune; circumstances, he said, had arisen which promised to enable us to lessen expenses and reduce the war. The motion was lost. The declaration of disagreement between two cabinet ministers on so serious a question illustrates the difference between the cabinet system of the time and that of to-day. The circumstances to which Bute referred were the death of Frederick's enemy, Elizabeth of Russia, on January 5, and the accession of Peter III., who was his ardent admirer. Peter restored East Prussia to Frederick, ordered Tchernitchev and his 20,000 men to withdraw from Glatz, and entered into negotiations for an alliance with Prussia, which was concluded later. Frederick's position was totally changed. Bute hoped that he would use this change of fortune to make peace; it naturally caused him to be more eager to prosecute the war for Silesia. When he applied for the renewal of the English subsidy of £670,000, Bute informed him that it would only be granted on condition that he gave assurances that he was ready to make peace. This Frederick would not do. Other difficulties arose between the two courts. Bute complained that[Pg 34] Frederick was secretly negotiating with Russia for a separate treaty which would hinder a general peace, and thwart our policy in the north by encouraging Russia to enforce the surrender of Schleswig. Frederick also had his complaints. Early in the year Bute made certain efforts for a general peace, and Frederick asserted that Bute had suggested that Russia should force him to surrender Silesia to Austria. Bute was deceived as regards the tsar's intentions, and his words were spoken in the interest of Prussia. Nevertheless, Frederick would not be pacified, and he further accused Bute of trying to dissuade Peter from making an alliance with him. This charge was flatly denied by Bute. It rests solely on the assertion of Prince Galitzin, the Russian ambassador in London, and there is no reason for doubting Bute's word.[54] As Frederick refused to give any pledge as to the terms on which he would make peace, the British government refused the subsidy.

Pitt having been driven from office, the king and Bute turned upon Newcastle. Bute and Grenville treated him with discourtesy; he found himself deprived of the power of dispensing patronage; the king did not even consult him as to the new peerages granted in the spring. As an old whig he set a high value on the continental connexion formed by the alliance with Frederick, and cared more for the war in Europe than for naval expeditions. He was deeply annoyed by the desire of Bute, Grenville, and Bedford to withdraw our troops from Germany and by the refusal of the subsidy. He would not, he declared, "be Grenville's tool and load the nation with four or five millions to carry on a ridiculous, destructive maritime war".[55] Nevertheless he clung to office. Devonshire and Hardwicke agreed with him, and attached themselves to a section of the whigs who acknowledged the Duke of Cumberland as their head. Newcastle proposed that a vote of £2,000,000 should be asked for, £1,000,000 as usual for the German war and £1,000,000 for the war in Portugal. Bute and Grenville maintained that only £1,000,000 was wanted. That, he said, implied the abandonment of the German war. The[Pg 35] question was decided against him in a cabinet meeting on May 4. Bitterly as he felt this defeat on a matter concerning his own office, the treasury, he would not do more than threaten to resign, and found an excuse for retaining office for the present. George and Bute were determined that he should go; George was ungracious, Bute uncivil. His friends urged him to resign. At last he brought himself to the point and resigned on the 25th.[56]


On his resignation the king spoke kindly to the old man, as indeed he well might, for the duke had spent a long life and a vast fortune in the service of his house; he had, it is said, reduced his income from £25,000 to £6,000 a year in securing support for government by means which, whatever we may esteem them now, were then considered becoming to a man of his wealth and station. George pressed him to accept a pension. He refused, declaring that the gracious sense which the king expressed of the sacrifices he had made for his royal house was all the recompense he desired.[57] If Pitt's acceptance of rewards needs no defence, Newcastle's refusal of them demands admiration. Bute succeeded him as first lord of the treasury. Several other changes were made in the administration. George Grenville became secretary of state in Bute's place, and Sir Francis Dashwood chancellor of the exchequer in succession to Barrington, who took Grenville's office as treasurer of the navy. Dashwood was utterly ignorant of the rudiments of finance, and was scandalously immoral; his house, Medmenham abbey, was the meeting-place of the Hell-fire club, of which he was the founder, and he took a foremost part in the childish mummery, the debauchery, and blasphemy of the "Franciscans," as his companions called themselves. Lord Halifax, a man of popular manners, loose morals, and small ability, succeeded Anson at the admiralty; Henley remained lord chancellor, Bedford privy seal, and Fox paymaster. Devonshire had ceased to attend meetings of the cabinet but was still lord chamberlain. The king and Bute had won a signal success; the whig administration was broken up and Bute was virtually master of the government.

The Russian alliance more than made up to Frederick for the loss of the English subsidy; Tchernitchev and his army were[Pg 36] at his disposal. Suddenly his hopes were clouded over. On July 10 Peter was deposed and soon afterwards was murdered. He was succeeded by his wife Catherine, who did not share his admiration for the Prussian king. Frederick was facing the Austrians in Silesia when orders came to Tchernitchev to lead his army home. Tchernitchev delayed his departure, remaining merely as an onlooker, to give the Prussians the support of his presence. On the 21st Frederick won the decisive battle of Burkersdorf, and a few weeks later was master of Silesia. In western Germany, where the war more immediately concerned England, Prince Ferdinand showed consummate skill in forcing the French to act on the defensive. On June 24 the allies defeated them at Wilhelmsthal. The victory was decided by Granby, who, after a fierce engagement, destroyed the pick of the French army under Stainville. A series of successes followed; Göttingen was evacuated, the larger part of Hesse reconquered, and Cassel and some other places which remained to the French were blockaded. The French army of reserve under Condé marched from the Lower Rhine to help Soubise; a junction was effected to the north of Frankfort, and the French attempted to open up communications with Cassel. After much manœuvring about the Lahn, no way seemed possible for them save by crossing the Ohm. The passage at Brückenmühle, near Amöneburg, was held by the allies. The French attacked on September 21. During the last four hours of the conflict, which lasted the whole day, the defence was taken up by Granby, and was maintained with splendid determination until at last the French retired. Cassel surrendered on November 1, and the war ended.


Success attended the arms of Great Britain in other quarters. Pitt's spirit still animated her efforts. How far the government adopted his plans and arrangements cannot, perhaps, be decided with certainty. He had large ideas, which probably included not merely the conquest of Martinique and Havana, but also an attack on Louisiana. The enemies of the government attributed to him the victories which followed his resignation.[58] The ministers naturally claimed the credit of them and certainly[Pg 37] made arrangements for them,[59] probably following lines already marked out by Pitt. Rodney, who was in command on the Leeward islands station, acting in co-operation with General Monckton, reduced Martinique in February. The fall of that island, the seat of the government of France in the West Indies, the centre of her privateering expeditions, and her chief mart in those parts, was followed by the surrender of Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent, and England became mistress of all the Windward islands. Against these losses France could set only a momentary possession of St. John's, Newfoundland, which was speedily retaken. Spain had to pay heavily for her rashness in espousing the French cause. Her troops, indeed, entered Portugal, overran Traz-os-Montes, and threatened Oporto, while south of the Douro they advanced as far as Almeida and took it. But the aspect of affairs changed when 8,000 British soldiers landed at Lisbon and the Count of Lippe-Bückeburg took the command. He was ably seconded by General Burgoyne, and the Spaniards were forced to retreat within their own frontier.

So far as England was concerned the war in Portugal was a small matter. It was through her power on the sea that she was able to reap a rich harvest from her war with Spain. In March a fleet under Pocock, carrying 10,000 men under the command of the Earl of Albemarle, sailed for Havana. Off Cape St. Nicholas, Pocock was joined by a reinforcement sent by Rodney. There was no time to lose, for the hurricane season was near; and he therefore took his ships through the shoals of the Bahama channel instead of to the south of Cuba, and brought them out safely on June 5, a notable piece of seamanship, for the channel was little known. The troops laid siege to Fort Moro, which commanded Havana. The Spaniards made a vigorous defence, and the British suffered terribly from disease; at one time 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 seamen were incapacitated by sickness. Much-needed reinforcements arrived from New York, and, on July 30, the fort was taken by storm after a siege of forty-five days. The town capitulated on August 12. The reduction of the island deprived Spain of a rich colony, an important centre of trade, and, more, of a port which commanded the route of her[Pg 38] treasure-ships from the Gulf of Mexico. An immense booty was secured, £3,000,000 in money besides merchandise.

About the same time England dealt Spain a heavy blow on the other side of the world. An expedition under General Draper sailed from Madras in a fleet commanded by Admiral Cornish, and on September 25 landed at Manila. The Spaniards, though unprepared, refused to surrender, and the place was taken by storm. Large government stores were seized by the victors, but the British commanders allowed the inhabitants to ransom their property for 4,000,000 dollars. Half this sum was paid in bills on the Spanish treasury which were rejected at Madrid, and the money was never paid. With Manila the whole of the Philippines passed to Great Britain. Though a privateering expedition undertaken with the Portuguese against Buenos Ayres was beaten off with heavy loss, Spain was unable to defend the sources of her wealth against the British navy. In May the capture of the Hermione, from Lima, brought over £500,000 to the captains and crews of the frigate and sloop engaged in the business. A glorious procession passed through London, carrying the treasure to the Tower, on August 12, when people were rejoicing at an event scarcely to be remembered with equal satisfaction, the birth of the future king, George IV. Two of the ships belonging to the Manila expedition also made a prize of an Acapulco ship with a cargo worth 3,000,000 dollars.

During the summer Bute treated with France through the Count de Viri. Bedford urged concessions upon him, and his fear lest the negotiations should be broken off made him willing to agree to Choiseul's demands. He would, indeed, have yielded more than he did, if Grenville had not checked him in the cabinet. In September Bedford was sent to Paris to settle the preliminaries. Peace was by no means desired by the English people; they were proud of their victories and were disgusted that Bute should have the management of affairs. Bedford was hooted in the streets of London as he set out for Paris. Both Bute and his enemies prepared for a struggle. Bute, as usual, employed the press to fight for him, and engaged the services of a number of pamphleteers and newspaper-writers. His character as a patron of men of letters rests chiefly on the money which he spent in this way, though it must be set to his credit that he procured a pension for Samuel Johnson without stipulating for[Pg 39] any return. Among his hired scribes was Smollett, who edited a paper for him called The Briton. The other side, too, was active. In obedience to Frederick's instructions the Prussian ambassadors took part in exciting popular discontent with the government; and were justly reproved by Grenville for their preposterous conduct. Bute was vigorously assailed in print. The publication of The Briton called forth the ironically named North Briton, of which the first number appeared in June. It was brought out by John Wilkes, member for Aylesbury, a clever and dissipated man of fashion, with literary tastes, great courage, an excellent wit, too often employed in obscenity, and a remarkably ugly face. He was incorrupt and his political professions were probably sincere. Behind him stood Temple, ever ready to instigate others to stab the objects of his hate. The court party was strengthened by grants of peerages, preferments, and other good things, and "the king's friends," as they began to call themselves, became a recognised body. Yet Bute feared that parliament would be hostile, and made overtures to Newcastle and Hardwicke, hoping to secure the duke's influence; but they would not be cajoled.


A majority for the peace had to be insured before the preliminaries came before parliament. Grenville was dissatisfied with some of the articles, and would in any case have been too scrupulous for the work which had to be done. Bute was driven to apply to Henry Fox, whom both the king and he cordially disliked. Fox, who had previously sold his support to Bute at the price of a peerage for his wife, was offered Grenville's place as secretary of state and a peerage for himself, if he would take the management of the commons. "We must," George said, "call in bad men to govern bad men." Fox at once broke with the whigs and accepted the leadership, but he refused the seals, for he preferred to continue in the more lucrative office of paymaster of the forces, which he had used during the last six years as a means of amassing a great fortune. As paymaster he had large sums of public money in his hands to meet calls at fixed periods. Holders of the office were wont to employ such sums for their own benefit. Pitt would not do so, and left the office a poor man. Fox had no such scruples. During the war the government often obtained ready money by issuing bills at 20 per cent discount. Fox bought these bills with the public[Pg 40] money which lay in his hands. He also used the public money in operating in government stock and gained immense profits from the fluctuations of the funds, for as a minister he of course knew more about the chances of peace than the public.[60] Grenville was forced to resign the leadership to him, and the office of secretary to Halifax, and take the admiralty in exchange. Fox set about the business of securing a majority in the commons by bribing members. In one day £25,000 was paid out of the treasury, and it is said even so small a sum as £200 was not refused.

Encouraged by Fox's success, George gave the whigs a lesson on the fruits of opposition. The king, so the court party said, would be king; the prerogative was to shine out. Devonshire, the "prince of the whigs," was forced to resign the chamberlain's staff; the king treated him uncivilly and with his own hand struck his name from the list of privy councillors. The whigs were enraged at this high-handed proceeding. The Marquis of Rockingham resigned the bed-chamber, and George received his resignation with indifference. Worse was yet to come. Overtures were made to Pitt by the whigs who gathered round Cumberland, but he would not connect himself with them. They had defeated his policy, and though he desired Bute's removal, he would not help to turn him out in order to put Newcastle back in power.


The preliminaries of peace were signed on November 3, and laid before parliament on the 29th. France agreed to restore Minorca and to evacuate the territories of Hanover, Hesse, Brunswick, and Prussia. Both parties were to withdraw their troops from Germany. Dunkirk was to be dismantled. France resigned Canada, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton, together with some territory hitherto claimed as part of Louisiana. Spain ceded Florida and received back Havana and Manila. Portugal was restored to its position as before the war. Great Britain restored to France Belle Ile, Guadeloupe, Mariegalante, Martinique, and St. Lucia, and retained Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago. France was allowed a right of fishery in the gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Newfoundland coast, and received the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon as shelters, covenanting[Pg 41] not to fortify them. Spain gave up its claim to the Newfoundland fishery, agreed that the dispute concerning prizes should be settled by the courts, and acknowledged the right to cut logwood on the Bay of Honduras. In Africa England restored Goree to France and kept Senegal. In India France abandoned her pretensions to conquests since 1749, and received back the factories which she had at that date. As a compensation to Spain for the loss of Florida, France ceded to her Louisiana; a Spanish governor arrived there in 1766, but though Spain had posts and settlements in the province, she can scarcely be said to have ever had any effective hold upon it.

It was a glorious peace for Great Britain; it marks a signal epoch in her imperial history. But it was not so advantageous as she had a right to expect. Financially peace was desirable, for the national debt of Great Britain and Ireland, which before the war stood, as has already been stated, at £72,505,572, had risen to £132,716,049, but her resources were by no means exhausted; she could have continued the war without distress. It is fairly certain that better terms might have been obtained if the government had carried on the negotiations in a different spirit. Martinique, specially valuable to a maritime power, was surrendered without compensation; Manila was simply thrown away through careless haste; Goree, on which the French slave trade depended, might easily have been retained. Grenville protested against the surrender of Guadeloupe, and it was decided on when he was too ill to attend the council. Florida was a poor exchange for Havana, the richest of our conquests. Whether Pitt's policy of obtaining commercial monopolies by force of arms was economically sound, and whether the restoration of the French navy would have been impeded so materially by exclusion from the fishery as he believed, are questions on which we need not dwell here. The treaty must be judged according to the beliefs of the time. As it ceded valuable conquests without adequate compensation, and encouraged France again to enter on a naval and commercial policy by restoring to her Goree, colonies in the West Indies, and her factories in India, and by granting her a share in the fisheries, it was justly condemned as unsatisfactory. As regards the continental war, the change in Frederick's position was sufficient reason for our withdrawal from a quarrel which did not concern[Pg 42] us. Yet he had some cause of complaint, for though the treaty provided that the French should evacuate his territories, it did not provide that the territories should be handed over to him. He gained possession of them without difficulty, but for that he owed no thanks to England. He believed that he had been betrayed and deserted, and adopted an unfriendly attitude, which was a hindrance to England's foreign policy in later years.

At home the peace was widely condemned. When parliament met on November 25, Bute's coach was attacked and he was in some danger. In the lords the address approving the preliminaries was passed without a division. In the commons the debate had begun when Pitt entered the house. He was suffering from gout, and was carried by his servants within the bar. Dressed in black velvet, and leaning on a crutch, he advanced slowly to his seat, his limbs swathed in wrappings, and his face pale with suffering. Yet he spoke for three hours and forty minutes. After declaring that he was unconnected with any party, he criticised the various articles of the treaty, pointing out that they surrendered maritime and commercial advantages which would have been doubly valuable because our gain would have been the loss of France. The treatment of Frederick he denounced as base and treacherous. The address was carried by 319 to 65. The definitive treaty was signed at Paris on February 10, 1763, and on the 15th Prussia and Austria made peace at Hubertsburg. The majority was largely obtained by corruption. Many members, however, no doubt welcomed the peace, even though they were not fully satisfied with its terms. The rout of the whigs was completed by their disunion; some who would have voted against the address were discouraged by Pitt's attitude of solitary independence.[61] The king had succeeded in breaking up the whig party, and there was no organised opposition. The court was triumphant. On hearing the result of the division, the princess-dowager is said to have exclaimed, "Now my son is King of England!" The victory was followed up by a general proscription of the whigs; Newcastle, Grafton, and Rockingham were dismissed from their lord-lieutenancies. Nor was vengeance confined to the great. All whigs who held places were deprived of them, and even[Pg 43] poor clerks and excisemen lost the employments bestowed on them by whig ministers. Fox urged on the execution of this shameful business. Every effort was made to obtain congratulatory addresses on the peace from municipal bodies, and money was offered for them. London and several other places refused to be won over by any means.


The unpopularity of the administration was heightened by its finance. Dashwood's scheme for the supplies included a loan of £3,000,000, which was negotiated on such extravagant terms that the scrip soon rose to a premium of 11 per cent. The loan was not open to public competition, it was distributed among the chief supporters of the government; nine of them, it is said, cleared each £20,000, Fox £10,000, and so on, while the nation lost £385,000 by the transaction. It was a new form of corruption, specially dangerous because indirect.[62] More general indignation was excited by the proposal of a tax of four shillings a hogshead on cider, to be paid by the maker and collected as an excise. The tax was excessive in amount, onerous in its conditions, and unfair in its incidence, for it fell equally on the poorest and the most valuable cider, and pressed solely on particular districts. It was, however, as an extension of the excise laws that it was specially offensive to public feeling. That was a matter on which Englishmen were extremely jealous. Thirty years before a proposal for an extended excise nearly wrecked the power of Sir Robert Walpole, who wisely yielded to the storm. By Dashwood's scheme farmers were liable to have the privacy of their homes invaded by the visits of excisemen. Disturbances broke out in the cider counties, and troops were moved into them. The excitement was general. London petitioned against the tax, and its example was followed by many other corporations and counties. Bute was violently assailed in print, by Wilkes in prose and by his friend Churchill in verse. A parliamentary opposition was organised; it was joined by Pitt and Temple, and had its headquarters at Wildman's tavern in Albemarle Street. Pitt spoke strongly against the tax in the commons. It was defended by Grenville, who in the course of his speech constantly demanded where another tax could be[Pg 44] laid. Mimicking his querulous tone, Pitt repeated aloud the words of an old ditty, "Gentle shepherd, tell me where". The nickname, Gentle shepherd, stuck by Grenville. The bill passed the commons and was sent up to the lords. For the first time since the revolution the lords divided on a money-bill, and voted 49 against, to 83 for its committal.

A few days later, on April 7, Bute announced that ill-health compelled him to retire from office. The announcement caused general surprise, but he had for some weeks determined to retire, and had arranged with the king that Grenville should succeed him. That he should have taken office was, Pitt wrote, more astonishing than his departing from it.[63] He took office with the intention of carrying out the king's policy of breaking up the whig phalanx and bringing about a peace. Both objects were accomplished. Though still strong in votes in the commons, he had few allies of any weight, for Bedford was offended with him. The newly formed opposition caused him uneasiness, specially as it included Pitt and Temple; it was strong in the lords, and he feared its influence in their chamber.[64] Though his health was not materially affected, he was doubtless weary of a task which he must have learned was too great for his abilities. He knew that he was generally hated by the people, and feared that if he remained longer in office, his unpopularity would become injurious to the king. Before his resignation he provided handsomely for his relations and friends at the expense of the nation; reversions of £52,000 a year were distributed among them. Fox was rewarded by his creation as Baron Holland, and managed to keep the pay office for two years longer.


[35] Chatham Correspondence, ii., 69 n.

[36] Dutens, Mémoires d'un voyageur, i., 178-79.

[37] Parliamentary Hist., xv., 1044-47.

[38] Newcastle to Bedford, July 2, 1761; Bedford Correspondence, iii., 19.

[39] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Aug. 17, 1761, Add. MS. 32,927, f. 68; Bedford Correspondence, iii., 36-42.

[40] Bristol to Pitt, Aug. 31, 1761, Add. MS. 32,927, ff. 285-87.

[41] Stanley to Pitt, Sept. 2, 1761, Add. MS. 32,928, f. 14.

[42] Stanley to Pitt, Sept. 6, 1761, ibid., ff. 1, 148, 179.

[43] Stanley to Pitt, Sept. 8, 1761, ibid., f. 40.

[44] Ibid., f. 225, printed in The Grenville Papers, i., 386-87.

[45] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Sept. 20, 1761, Add. MS. 32,928, f. 260.

[46] Stanley to Pitt, dated Sept. 14, 1761, received the 21st, ibid., f. 148.

[47] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Sept. 21, 1761, ibid., ff. 303-6.

[48] Stanley to Pitt, dated Sept. 19, 1761, received the 25th, ibid., f. 245.

[49] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Sept. 26, 1761, ibid., f. 362.

[50] The disposition of the naval force fit for service on Sept. 15, 1761, was: At home and within call, 54 ships of the line and 58 frigates; with Saunders, 11 of the line and 12 frigates; East Indies, 14 of the line; Jamaica, 6; Leeward islands, 8; North America, 6; other plantations, 2; convoys and cruisers, 4; total, 105 of the line. Men wanting to complete ships at home, 15,490 (Add. MS. 32,928, f. 185). France could not have had more than 42 ships of the line (Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, p. 312). Spain had 49 of the line fit for service, but insufficiently manned (Coxe, Bourbon Kings of Spain, iii., 245, ed. 1813).

[51] Minutes of Council, Oct. 2, 1761, Add. MS. 32,929, ff. 18-28.

[52] Newcastle to Hardwicke, Nov. 9, 1761, Add. MS. 32,929, f. 143.

[53] Annual Register, iv. (1761), 48.

[54] Bisset, Memoirs of Sir A. Mitchell, ii., 283, 286, 294 sq.; Buckinghamshire Correspondence, i., 47-52; Adolphus, Hist. of the Reign of George III., i., App. 5, 79-83.

[55] Newcastle to Devonshire, April 10, 1762, Add. MS. 32,937, ff. 11, 87.

[56] Add. MS. 32,938, ff. 18, 50, 105 sq., 239, 262, 304, 425.

[57] Newcastle to Cumberland, May 26, 1762, Add. MS. 32,939 f. 5.

[58] Newcastle to Pitt, 1762, MS. Pitt Papers, 25, R.O.; Temple to Pitt, Oct. 3, 1762, ibid., 61.

[59] As regards Manila, see Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep., vii., 316 sq.

[60] Fox's Memoir in Life and Letters of Lady Sarah Lennox, i., 72-73.

[61] A. von Ruville, William Pitt und Graf Bute, pp. 55-56.

[62] Parl. Hist., xv., 1305; History of the Late Minority, p. 96; May, Constitutional History, i., 382-83.

[63] Pitt to Newcastle, April 9, 1763, Add. MS. 32,948, f. 84. Bute resigned on the 11th.

[64] Newcastle to Lord Kinnoul, June 3, 1763, Add. MS. 32,949, f. 15.



The king appears to have received Bute's resignation without regret; indeed it was remarked that the day before it was announced he was in unusually good spirits, "like a person just emancipated".[65] Bute had done all that he could do for him as prime minister; he had cleared the ground for the establishment of the king's system of government; the whig oligarchy was disorganised and overthrown, and the war was at an end. George could not have wished to keep a minister in office who was hated by his people; that would have been contrary to the idea of a patriot king, and would in time have made him unpopular. Nor was he perhaps altogether satisfied with Bute's conduct in office; for in later life he observed that he was "deficient in political firmness".[66] Bute was to continue to be useful to him in another capacity in which political firmness was not so important; he was to be the king's private adviser, and help him to select and manage his responsible ministers. Through his instrumentality, George had already secured a set of ministers who would, they both believed, be content to carry out the king's will. Grenville, though he had opposed Bute in the cabinet with reference to the negotiations with France, professed that as prime minister he would try to win his complete approval, and with only one exception allowed Bute to form his administration for him. Bute and his master thought they had secured a useful tool, a subservient and hard-working drudge. They were mistaken in their man; Grenville was independent and self-confident. He took the two offices of first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer. Dashwood retired with Bute and the barony of Despencer was called out of abey[Pg 46]ance in his favour. Halifax and Egremont remained secretaries of state and Henley lord chancellor. Bedford distrusted Bute and refused to take office. The new administration promised to exercise economy, and Grenville took care that the pledge should be redeemed. Its frugality did not make it popular; it did not command the confidence of the nation, and was generally considered a feeble continuation of its predecessor.

The king prorogued parliament on April 19, 1763; his speech described the peace as honourable to his crown, and claimed, or at least implied, that it had induced the enemies of the Prussian king "to agree to a peace which he had approved". On the 23rd appeared No. 45 of the North Briton with a violent denunciation of the speech. It declared that the king had given "the sanction of his sacred name to the most odious measures and to the most unjustifiable public declarations from a throne ever renowned for truth, honour, and unsullied virtue". That the ministers were responsible for the king's speech was well understood, and was clearly recognised in the article. George took the article as conveying an accusation of falsehood against himself personally, and there was some excuse for this interpretation of it. Other numbers of the paper had been violent, and had been passed by without notice. His present ministers were not deficient in political firmness; he ordered them to prosecute the writer. Halifax thereupon issued a general warrant, that is a warrant directed against persons not named, ordering the king's messengers to search for the authors, printers, and publishers of the North Briton, arrest them and seize their papers. Warrants of this kind to be executed on persons not named, without evidence of their identity or guilt, had hitherto been held lawful, but they were subversive of the liberty of the subject and contrary to the spirit of the constitution. During three days forty-nine persons were arrested under this warrant. Among them were the avowed publisher of the North Briton, the printer, and his workmen. They declared that Wilkes was the author.


Wilkes was arrested under the general warrant on the 30th, and carried before the secretaries of state; his house was searched and his papers seized. He was committed to the Tower. He hoped, he said, that he might have the room in which Egremont's father had been confined as a rebel, and,[Pg 47] referring to the popular belief as to the consequences of the dirty habits of Bute's fellow-countrymen, in any case, one which had not been tenanted by a Scot. Temple at once applied on his behalf for a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted by Pratt, chief justice of the common pleas, but as Wilkes was no longer in the custody of the messengers, they could not produce him. He was kept in close confinement; Temple and the Duke of Grafton who went to see him were not admitted, and even his solicitor was denied access to him. A new writ was issued, and on May 3 he was brought before the court of common pleas. He pleaded his privilege as a member of parliament. Pratt delivered judgment on the 6th and decided that he was entitled to the privilege of parliament, which extended to all offences save treason, felony, and breach of the peace. The other judges concurred, and he was set at liberty. The crowd which had collected in Westminster Hall received the result of the trial with loud applause, and escorted Wilkes to his house in Great George Street. Meanwhile Egremont had in the king's name ordered Temple, the lord lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, to deprive Wilkes of his commission as colonel of the Bucks militia. In forwarding this order to Wilkes, Temple added some complimentary expressions, and on the 7th the earl was dismissed both from his lieutenancy and the privy council.

Several persons who were arrested on the general warrant brought actions against the messengers. In the first of these suits Pratt, setting aside evil precedents, declared general warrants to be illegal. A master-printer obtained £400 damages, one journeyman £300, and others £200. Wilkes sued Wood, the under-secretary of state, for ransacking his house, and the jury awarded him £1,000 damages. He also began actions for false imprisonment against the two secretaries of state. His suit against Egremont was cut short by the earl's death on August 20. Halifax took advantage of various legal devices to delay the hearing of the suit against himself, and it was not decided until six years later. Temple, who had paid Wilkes's law expenses, wished him to avoid giving further cause of offence. Wilkes, however, set up a press in his own house, reprinted the North Briton in volumes, and printed other matter also. The arbitrary proceedings of the government in this case excited much adverse feeling, especially in London, and gave[Pg 48] a fresh impetus to the discontent in the cider districts. They were attributed to Bute's influence. In some western villages a man in Scottish dress led about an ass decorated with a blue ribbon and wearing a paper crown; and at Exeter an effigy of Bute remained hanging on a gibbet for a fortnight, no one daring to remove it.


George, though at first well pleased with the new administration, soon saw that it lacked strength. He made an attempt to enlist Hardwicke and Newcastle, but they would not take office without their party. Bute advised an offer to Bedford, who declared that he would not join the government unless Bute would undertake to retire, not only from the court, but from London. Negotiations were also carried on with Pitt, whom Bute was most anxious to secure for the king. Pitt made it clearly understood that he would not take office with Bedford, the man most responsible for the peace, nor would he come in alone. In spite of Pitt's objection to him, Bedford, who did not care for office, advised the king to take him. George was dissatisfied with his ministers; he was annoyed by their unpopularity and by the growth of a spirit of turbulence among the lower classes, and personally was wearied by the constant interviews and the long harangues which Grenville inflicted upon him. Bute, too, was not finding Grenville so anxious to win his approval as he expected, and on Egremont's death had an interview with Pitt. The result was satisfactory; and George, much to Grenville's disgust, told him that he meant to ask Pitt to enter the administration, and would "do it as cheap as he could," with as few changes as possible. Pitt had an interview with the king on August 27. Both evidently thought that there was nothing to prevent him from taking office, and he communicated with Devonshire, Newcastle, and Rockingham. The next day George seems to have changed his mind; he told Grenville that Pitt's terms were too hard. Bute is said to have instigated this change, and it is probable that both he and the king were disappointed at finding that Pitt meant to bring in with him several of the whig leaders. Pitt had a second interview with the king on the 29th, and George is said to have closed it with the words: "Well, Mr. Pitt, I see this will not do. My honour is concerned and I must support it." Pitt's proposals were probably exaggerated by the ministerial party. It is certain that he pro[Pg 49]posed several changes, and the admission of some of the leading whigs, and that either he or the king suggested Temple for the treasury. George had made up his mind before the interview that it would probably be useless. Both he and Bute would gladly have secured Pitt's support, but they wanted him to take office alone, or at least not with a party. George had no mind for another whig administration with Pitt as its master-spirit.

He again turned to Bedford and told him that Pitt had stipulated that he was to have no office, even about the court, at that time, though in future years he might be permitted to hold a court appointment, and that no favour should be shown to any one concerned in the peace. George may well have believed that this was the meaning of Pitt's words. Even so, he should not have divulged anything which took place in his closet, specially if it was likely to make mischief; he was, however, in serious difficulties. His device succeeded. Though Bedford was already aware that Pitt would not act with him, he was piqued at this fresh declaration of hostility; he agreed to take office, and, on September 9, was appointed president of the council in succession to Lord Granville who died in the previous January. He was considered head of the administration. The Earl of Sandwich became secretary of state and took the northern department, and Lord Hillsborough succeeded Lord Shelburne as president of the board of trade. Sandwich had official experience, and was neither idle nor incapable, though unprincipled and extremely profligate; Hillsborough was deficient in tact and judgment. Shelburne had been one of Bute's followers, and arranged his bargains with Fox, who accused him of having deceived him. He was employed in the late negotiations with Pitt, resigned office on their failure, and attached himself to Pitt. The king was completely in the hands of Bedford and Grenville, his only defence against an administration composed of whig magnates. They used their power to force him to send Bute out of London. This insolent conduct was specially reprehensible in the case of Grenville, who owed his advancement to Bute's recommendation. Grenville continued to weary the king with interviews; he worried him with his disputes with his colleagues, and irritated him beyond endurance by suggestions, which were not ill-founded, that he was still under Bute's influence. "Good God,[Pg 50] Mr. Grenville," the poor king exclaimed, "am I to be suspected after all I have done?"

Parliament met on November 15, and the government at once made an attack on Wilkes. In the lords, Sandwich complained of two profane and obscene pieces printed in his private press, An Essay on Woman and a paraphrase of the Veni Creator. There was no evidence of publication; a few copies only were printed, evidently for private circulation, and one of them was obtained by tampering with a workman. Even if publication had been proved, there would still have been no reason for the lords' interference; for obscene and profane publications were punishable by law. But the ministers were anxious to obtain support for their measures of revenge. The name of Bishop Warburton of Gloucester was attached in mockery to notes in the Essay on Woman, and with his concurrence the case was brought before the house as a breach of privilege. The lords lent themselves to this transparent device; they petitioned the king to command the prosecution of Wilkes and, later, when he was out of their reach, ordered that he should be confined for his offence against themselves. Their proceedings excited public ridicule. That Sandwich should complain of obscenity and profanity, and should censure Wilkes, a fellow-monk of Dashwood's debauched fraternity, for indulging in them was, indeed, a case of Satan rebuking sin. At a performance of the "Beggar's Opera" at Covent Garden theatre the audience caught up with delight Macheath's words, "That Jemmy Twitcher should peach me I own surprised me," and Sandwich became generally known as Jemmy Twitcher.


On the same day as the proceedings in the lords, Grenville brought a message from the king to the commons informing them of what had been done in Wilkes's case. They voted, 273 to 111, that the North Briton, No. 45, was a false and seditious libel, and ordered that it should be burnt by the common hangman. In the course of the debate, Martin, who had lately been secretary to the treasury, called Wilkes a cowardly and malignant scoundrel. The next day, the 16th, they fought a duel with pistols in the ring in Hyde Park; they had no seconds and each fired twice. Martin's second shot wounded Wilkes dangerously. In his absence the commons discussed his plea of privilege. Pitt strongly urged the house to maintain its privileges.[Pg 51] Parliament, he said, had no right to surrender them; if it did so it would endanger its own freedom and infringe upon the rights of the people. As for Wilkes personally, Pitt was anxious to show that he did not approve of Temple's support of him, and called him "the blasphemer of his God and the libeller of his king". The house voted by 258 to 133 that privilege of parliament does not extend to seditious libels, and ought not to obstruct the ordinary course of the law in such cases. In itself this was an excellent decision. Parliamentary privileges had increased to a mischievous extent. By the abandonment of many of them, such as certain invidious exemptions from the course of law which it claimed for its members, the exclusion of strangers from its debates, and the prohibition of reporting, parliament has gained in dignity and purity, and has confirmed the liberties of the people. Nevertheless, though the abandonment of privilege was in itself a step in a right direction, it was reprehensible in Wilkes's case, because it was an ex post facto measure, designed to meet a special case, and vindictive in its intention.

The lords agreed in the decision of the commons, though a protest against the surrender of privilege was signed by seventeen peers. On December 3, the day fixed for the burning of No. 45 in front of the Royal Exchange, a large mob broke the windows of the sheriff's coach and pelted the constables. Encouraged by gentlemen at the windows of neighbouring houses, they tore a large part of the paper from the executioner with shouts of "Wilkes and liberty," carried it in triumph outside Temple Bar, the boundary of the city, and there made a bonfire into which they threw a jack-boot and a petticoat, the popular emblems of Bute and the Princess of Wales. Yet Wilkes was in an unpleasant position. A Scot went to his house intending to murder him; was arrested and found insane. A summons was sent to him to appear at the bar of the house of commons; his surgeons stated that he was too ill to attend, and a later day was fixed. Before it came he went off secretly to Paris, and while there excused himself from obedience to the order of the house by sending a medical certificate. The commons refused to give any weight to it, declared him in contempt, and guilty of a seditious libel, and on January 19, 1764, expelled him the house. An information was laid against him in the court of[Pg 52] king's bench for reprinting and publishing No. 45; he was convicted and, as he did not appear to receive sentence, was outlawed.

While little sympathy seems to have been felt for Wilkes personally, except among the lower classes, the attack upon him was widely resented because it was regarded as an encroachment on national liberty. Parliament was not in accord with public feeling. A strong effort was made to induce the commons to declare that general warrants were illegal. Pitt acknowledged that he had issued them during the war, when it was necessary to find out and remove suspected persons; but no such necessity existed at present, and he urged the house to do justice to the nation, the constitution, and the law, by condemning them. The ministers managed to shelve the question, but carried the adjournment only by 234 to 218. Though on other matters they commanded a large majority, several members from whom they expected support voted against them in the debates arising out of Wilkes's arrest. Among these were General Conway and Colonel Barré. Conway, the brother of the Earl of Hertford, had gained much credit in the war in Germany; he was a dashing officer and a respectable general, a man of refined tastes and high principles. As a politician he was thoroughly honest, of small ability and utterly wanting in decision of character. He was the dearest friend of Horace Walpole; and Walpole, who regarded politics in a personal light, exercised an unfortunate influence upon him. Barré, who had served with distinction in Canada, was a coarse man, eloquent, and feared by his opponents on account of his remarkable power of invective. He sat for one of Shelburne's boroughs, and believing himself slighted by Pitt, attacked him vehemently in the house on his resignation of office. As a supporter of Bute he was appointed adjutant-general and governor of Stirling, posts worth £4,000 a year. George, who regarded a vote against the ministers in this matter as a personal affront to himself, was determined that all who held either military or civil appointments should clearly understand that they could not continue to serve him if they opposed his policy in parliament. With Bedford's approval, Conway, Barré, and with them General A'Court, who had also voted in the minority, were deprived of their commands, and Shelburne, Barré's patron, was dismissed from his office as aide-de-camp to the king. Barré followed Shelburne's example in attaching himself to Pitt.[Pg 53]


These dismissals violated the most valuable of the privileges of parliament, freedom of speech and immunity from royal coercion. It was a well-established constitutional rule that the king should not take notice of anything which passed in parliament and that no member should suffer for his speeches or votes. This rule had been broken in the last reign when, in 1733, two officers lost their commands and, in 1735, Pitt his cornetcy for acting with the opposition. On the present occasion the responsibility for its violation rests on Grenville at least as much as on the king himself. Parliament took little notice of this infringement upon its privileges, though on the first day of the session, 1765, Granby pleased the army by some sharp remarks on the dismission of officers on account of their votes in parliament.[67] Encouraged by their success against Wilkes, the ministers waged war on political libels. A large number of ex officio informations, or accusations presented by the attorney-general on which the person accused was brought to trial without the previous finding of a grand jury, were laid against printers and others during the course of the year. As this looked like persecution, it excited popular anger. One bookseller who was sentenced to stand in the pillory in New-palace-yard, Westminster, drove thither in a hackney coach numbered 45, and was cheered by a crowd estimated at 10,000 persons. Two hundred guineas was collected for him, and the mob hung a jack-boot and a "Scotch bonnet" on a gibbet and then burnt them.

Grenville insisted on economy in the national expenditure; it was needful, for during the late war the public debt had risen from £72,500,000 to £132,700,000, and the country was heavily taxed. His budget stood in honourable contrast to the finance of the late administration; it did not propose lotteries or a private loan, and it included an advantageous bargain with the Bank of England for the renewal of its charter. Yet in some matters his economy was short-sighted and peddling. He starved the naval estimates. During the war many ships were built hastily of timber insufficiently seasoned, and had fallen into so bad a condition that half their original cost was needed for the repair of their hulls; there were too few workmen in the dockyards, and the stores were empty of sails, rigging, and[Pg 54] cordage. Lord Egmont, the first lord of the admiralty, represented the necessity for a large expenditure on the navy, but Grenville would not hear of it. So, too, in less important matters, he grudged spending money on the police of London, and highway robbery and other crimes of violence were insufficiently checked, and he even refused so small a sum as £20,000 which the king wanted for the purchase of some land at the back of Buckingham House, the site of part of the present Grosvenor Place, in order that the garden which he was then making might not be overlooked.

The expenditure on the American colonies and the irregularities by which they evaded their legal obligations, were offensive to his frugal and orderly temperament; he proposed to enforce their obligations, and to draw from the colonies some part of their cost to the mother-country. The colonies occupied a long and comparatively narrow tract of country stretching for seventeen hundred miles along the Atlantic. They differed in character. In the northern colonies the puritan element was strong, and the chief sources of wealth were commerce and farming. The southern colonies had cavalier traditions, and their wealth was chiefly derived from plantations which were cultivated by slave labour. Though puritanism as a religious force was well-nigh extinct in the New England provinces, it affected the temper of the people; they set a high value on speech-making and fine words, and were litigious and obstinate; lawyers were plentiful among them, and had much influence. As a whole the colonies were impatient of control and jealous of interference. Their constitutions differed in various points; in some the governor was appointed by the crown, in others by the proprietary. All alike enjoyed a large measure of personal and political freedom: they had the form and substance of the British constitution; they had representative assemblies in which they taxed themselves for their domestic purposes, chose most of their own magistrates, and paid them all; and it was seldom that their legislation was interfered with except with respect to commerce.


The freedom which they enjoyed did not extend to commerce and manufactures. In those matters the policy of Great Britain was founded on the "mercantile theory," then universally accepted, and was directed towards securing a monopoly[Pg 55] of trade. Other countries pursued a like policy towards their colonies, though they treated them with far less liberality. The restrictions placed by Great Britain on colonial trade were based on the Navigation acts of 1660 and later years, which were originally aimed at the maritime power of the Dutch. Briefly, they confined trade with the colonies to English or colonial ships; the Americans were debarred from exporting a number of the most important products of their country, their tobacco, grain, sugar, hides, and timber for masts, except to Great Britain; no foreign ship might enter their harbours, nor, with certain exceptions, could they import foreign merchandise, except in ships sailing directly from England. Various acts debarred them from manufactures which would have entered into competition with English goods; they depended on the mother-country for the commonest and most necessary things, for their cloth, hardware, and a host of manufactured articles. Port duties were imposed by England, and were collected by officers of the customs, whose business it was to prevent contraband trading. These duties were not imposed for the sake of revenue, but for the regulation of trade; and the whole system of restrictions was founded on the idea that colonies should be made to serve the interest of the mother-country by giving its merchants and manufacturers the monopoly of the colonial market.

The colonies received some compensations for the restrictions placed upon their industry and commerce. With certain exceptions their trade was free. While some of their products were confined to the British market, they had the monopoly of that market; no Englishman, for example, might buy tobacco which did not come from America or Bermuda. Their export trade to England was encouraged by bounties, and, though their foreign imports generally had to come to them through England, a system of drawbacks, by which the duties were remitted on exportation to America, enabled them to buy continental goods more cheaply than they could be bought in England. Nothing indeed can be further from the truth than the idea that England's treatment of her colonies was harsh or illiberal. Unfortunately the mercantile theory set up an opposition between the interests of a mother-country and her colonies. A far more important mitigation of the restrictions imposed on the colonies than any[Pg 56] that came from English liberality, was derived from the constant violation of them. Few English statesmen knew or cared to know anything about colonial affairs. Left to themselves the American colonies grew rich. Their merchants, especially in New England, carried on a brisk and extremely profitable contraband trade. In exchange for lumber, fish, and cattle the New England merchants obtained sugar and molasses, and bullion from the French and Spanish colonies; and vast quantities of rum were distilled in Boston and exported to Africa to be used in the slave trade.

England was not altogether a loser by these transactions. The richer a Boston merchant became, the more British goods did he import, and as he had to pay for them in bullion, his contraband trade enabled him to meet his obligations. These advantages were indirect, the loss to the English West India merchants was obvious and heavy. In order to protect them an attempt was made in 1733 to stop this contraband trade by the imposition of heavy duties; but the profits of the trade were so large that the revenue officers found it to their interest to be careless or actually conniving, and scarcely any duties were paid. On an average the American customs cost England from £7,000 to £8,000 a year and did not bring in quite £2,000. During the war the contraband trade afforded the French useful supplies, and in 1760 Pitt ordered the colonial governors to punish those who traded with the enemy. More power was placed in the hands of the revenue officers by the issue of writs of assistance enabling them to search for dutiable articles in any place without alleging specific information. These writs were lawful and were specially justifiable in time of war. Their lawfulness was unsuccessfully disputed before the superior court of Massachusetts by a lawyer named Otis, an eloquent speaker, singularly devoid of moderation. His speech, in which rhetoric is more conspicuous than a knowledge of law, attacked the commercial legislation of parliament generally; it was much admired, and has been regarded by some Americans as the first step towards revolution.


A system which cramped the trade and industry of a self-reliant people, growing in wealth and intent on gain, for the benefit of a country separated from them by 3,000 miles of ocean, then only crossed by sailing ships, must sooner or later[Pg 57] have led to revolt. The Americans were impatient of control and apt to quarrel with their governors, who often found their office an unenviable one. "Such wrong-headed people," said one of them, "I thank God I had never to do with before." They were not a people patiently to submit to restrictions. Two causes had contributed to bind them to Great Britain. One of these was their fear of the French in Canada. So long as the French and their Indian allies threatened their homes, even the most turbulent of them knew that they gained by being subjects of the English king. The war with France called forth a feeling of loyalty. The triumph of England freed them from the fear of French aggression and their protestations of gratitude were exuberant. Yet there were many who saw that the conquest of Canada loosened the tie which bound the American colonies to the mother-country and would probably lead to an assertion of independence. Separation would, however, have been impossible without union. The jealousies between the colonies were so strong that revolt seemed improbable. Were they left to themselves, Otis declared in 1765, "America would be a mere shambles of blood and confusion". A common cause alone could bring about union, and such a cause was soon to be found. The termination of the war enabled the ministers to direct their attention to the contraband trade which had assisted the common enemy, defrauded the government, and annoyed the commercial class. During Bute's administration, in 1763, revenue cutters were sent to cruise off the American coast, the officers of the king's ships were sworn to act as revenue officers, and revenue cases were heard in the admiralty courts. Smuggling was more effectually checked, and the irritation caused by the loss of trade was aggravated by the roughness with which the seamen enforced the law.

Grenville adopted a new policy apparently contemplated by Bute's ministry. Hitherto parliament had imposed customs duties on the colonies solely for the purpose of regulating trade; he designed to raise revenue from them. The idea was suggested to Walpole as a means of obtaining money on the failure of his excise scheme, and that wary statesman promptly rejected it. The money, however, which Grenville hoped to raise from the colonies was not to swell the revenues of England; it was to be applied to their own defence. His design was reasonable. The[Pg 58] war had enormously increased the public debt. It is true that it was not undertaken only for the defence of the colonies; it is not less true that it was not a merely insular war. The war concerned the empire at large, and Great Britain's lavish sacrifices of blood and treasure delivered her children across the ocean from the fear of French conquest. Her expenditure on their defence could not end with the war; a small standing army had to be maintained for their protection. It seemed not unlikely that France would attempt to regain her lost dominions; it would have been fatal to leave the American colonies undefended. And another foe was always at hand, for the Indians regretted the overthrow of the French and were exasperated by the ill-treatment they received from the British colonists. In 1763 Pontiac, head-chief of the Ottawas, formed a confederation against the English. Along the borders of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland the Indians massacred outlying settlers, surprised many forts and slew their garrisons. Three provinces might have been overrun before the inhabitants had organised any defence, had not Sir Jeffrey (later Lord) Amherst, the commander-in-chief, had a small British force at his disposal, consisting mainly of companies of the 7th, 42nd, and 77th regiments of the line, and of the Royal American regiment (later the 60th Rifles), formed in 1755 for service in America. A little army composed largely of men of the 42nd Highlanders, and commanded by Colonel Bouquet, defeated the Indians at Bushy Run on August 5. Fort Pitt was relieved and, the victory having encouraged the provincials to make a stand, the war virtually ended in November, 1764.


The provincials disliked the idea of a standing army, and would have preferred that their defence should have been left to themselves. That was impossible. They were largely farmers and traders, peaceful folk unwilling to leave their profitable pursuits. There was no central authority to dictate the proportion of troops which each of the colonies should contribute to a common force, and their selfishness and jealousies made them grudge help one to another. The Americans behaved shabbily to the troops sent to defend them, but Pontiac's war proved that in times of pressing danger their safety might depend upon the presence of a British force. Was it right or just that the colonies should be defended by England and should contribute nothing[Pg 59] towards the cost of their defence? Grenville thought that it was not. On March 10, 1764, he laid before parliament a list of port dues; some of them were higher than before, and to counterbalance the increase he proposed to give several new advantages to colonial trade. Payment was no longer to be evaded so easily as in past times, and smuggling would be attended with greater risk. The money was to be paid into the English treasury and was to be used only for colonial defence. More would be wanted for that purpose, and he proposed to raise it by an act requiring that all legal documents should bear stamps. This measure he deferred for a year in order to ascertain the feeling of the colonies and to give them an opportunity of raising the money in some other way if they preferred it. The force to be kept in America was twenty regiments, or about 10,000 men, which, with the maintenance of fortifications, would cost £350,000 a year. Of this sum the proposed stamp act would, it was calculated, bring in about £100,000. The bill passed without remark.

In an interview with the agents of the colonies Grenville pointed out that the tax was reasonable, and was an easy and equitable way of raising the required money, but promised that if the colonies disliked it, and would raise the money themselves in some other way, he would be content. Before the year was out they met him again and, acting on instructions from their colonies, tried to dissuade him from his purpose. Chief among them was Benjamin Franklin, then agent for Pennsylvania, a New Englander by birth, not a puritan either in religion or morals, a wise politician, shrewd, public-spirited, inventive, and full of schemes of practical usefulness. He proposed that the money should be voted by the provincial assemblies, but could not say that the colonies would agree as to the amount which each should contribute. On that of course the whole matter depended. When Grenville brought in his stamp bill the debate, Burke says, was extremely languid. Parliament had no idea that the act would lead to serious consequences. Nor were the American agents much better informed, for Franklin, who considered that a small standing army might be useful, believed that the colonies had no choice but to submit to the tax. Pitt was absent from parliament, suffering from gout. Conway and Barré opposed the bill, and Barré, in a speech of fervid[Pg 60] eloquence, described the Americans as "sons of liberty," driven from their country by tyranny and treated by her with neglect. In the commons the bill was carried with only forty dissentients, and in the lords apparently without a division. It received the royal assent on March 22, 1765, and was to come into operation on November 1. In April the mutiny act was extended to America, binding the colonies to provide the king's troops with quarters and certain necessaries, such as fuel and candles.


The stamp act raised a storm of indignation in the American colonies. Some of them, and especially the New England colonies, already had a substantial grievance in the heavy blow dealt to their prosperity by the repression of their contraband trade. Their discontent was increased by a suspicion that England was about to establish episcopacy among them at their expense, for Archbishop Secker and other English churchmen were anxious to introduce bishops into America. A more sentimental, though an efficient cause of irritation also existed in the affectation of superiority adopted by Englishmen towards their colonial fellow-subjects. The stamp tax brought their discontent to a head, and gave the party hostile to government an opportunity for stirring up opposition. During the year unwisely allowed by Grenville for considering the proposed tax, they busily agitated against it. While at that time the Americans allowed that parliament had a right to impose duties for the regulation of trade, they denied its right to levy an internal tax for the purpose of revenue, because they were not represented in parliament.

Opposition to the ministerial policy naturally began in Boston, where the repression of contraband trade weighed most heavily and where—though that was a smaller matter—the dislike to episcopacy was specially strong. The town-meeting promptly passed resolutions denying the right of parliament to tax the colonies without their consent. The meeting was led by Samuel Adams, a man of frugal life and austere character, who, after failing as a brewer and as a tax collector, adopted the career most congenial to his tastes and talents of political agitator. The resolutions were adopted by the provincial assembly, and on its invitation five other colonies joined with Massachusetts in sending memorials and petitions to England against the proposed tax. The assembly of Virginia was in[Pg 61] session when the news came that the tax was enacted, and Patrick Henry, a lawyer, brought forward some defiant resolutions, of which four were carried, though only by a small majority. His speech, which contained an insolent reference to the king, was much admired. A general congress of the colonies was proposed by Massachusetts and met at New York on November 7. Representatives of nine colonies attended and others sent expressions of good-will. The members drew up a statement of their claims and grievances in moderate terms, and further expressed them in an address to the king, a memorial to the lords, and a petition to the commons.

These orderly proceedings were accompanied by outbursts of lawless violence. Societies for resistance were organised. The "sons of liberty," as they called themselves in reference to Barré's speech, were active in Boston, and in August, 1765, a mob plundered the house of a man who was nominated as a distributor of stamps, destroyed a building on his land which they believed was to be used as a stamp-office, hanged him in effigy, and forced him to renounce his appointment. A sermon preached by Jonathan Mayhew, a popular unitarian minister, on the words "I would that they were even cut off which trouble you," was followed by a more serious riot. Public buildings were attacked, the records of the admiralty court were burnt, and the rioters forced their way into the custom-house and got at the liquor in the cellars. Maddened by drink they wrecked the stately mansion of Hutchinson, the lieutenant-governor, and destroyed his fine collection of books and manuscripts. Persons of good position more or less openly encouraged these excesses and no one was punished for them. Outbreaks of mob violence, though of a less riotous kind, took place in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and elsewhere. On November 1, the day on which the stamp act came into operation, copies of it were offered for sale headed, "The folly of England and the ruin of America," bells were tolled, and mock funerals passed through the streets.

Everywhere the new stamps were seized and destroyed. At New York the lieutenant-governor, encouraged by the presence of the king's troops, tried to secure the stamps sent to the town. A riot ensued. General Gage, the commander-in-chief, declined to interfere at the risk of beginning a civil war, and the stamps were surrendered and locked up in the town hall. Besides these[Pg 62] not a parcel of stamps was left in the colonies. For a time this put an end to legal business, and the courts were closed. Then lawyers agreed to take no notice of the lack of stamps on documents, and at last the governors declared that the operation of the act was to be reckoned as suspended. Retaliatory measures were concerted. Merchants combined to stop all importation from England, cancelled their orders and delayed sending remittances. Associations were formed for abandoning the use of English goods, and the richest citizens either wore old clothes or rough material of colonial production. Manufactories of linen, cloth, and hardware were started, and in order to insure a supply of wool, butchers were forbidden by their customers to kill lambs.

The distinction made by the party of resistance between external and internal taxation was in accordance with previous practice. Though parliament had frequently imposed port-duties on the colonies, it had abstained from imposing taxes within them. The stamp act was a new departure. English history afforded ground for the distinction, which was alleged in Bate's case, in the reign of James I., in support of the claim of the crown. Yet it is clearly artificial, for a division of taxes, such as into external and internal, only concerns their incidence; it is a matter which belongs to economics and does not affect political right. The colonists' claim of exemption from parliamentary taxation on the ground of non-representation appeals to the sympathy of Englishmen. Both in England and America there were some who desired that the colonies should be represented in parliament, but their distance from England and the ignorance of both peoples as regards the circumstances and needs of each other would have been fatal objections to any such scheme. The claim of the colonists seems to imply a misapprehension of the character of parliament; for parliament is not a mere meeting of delegates, it is an imperial assembly, and its sovereignty is neither derived from the perfection of its constitution nor lessened by its imperfection. Taxation is an attribute of sovereignty, and parliament had a right to tax the colonies because the sovereign power resided in it. Where else could it reside? To deny the right to tax and to admit the right to legislate was inconsistent. How could parliament, in virtue of its sovereign authority, have a right to pass a bill[Pg 63] ensuring personal freedom in the colonies, and yet have no right to pass another bill imposing a tax on them? The logical outcome of the American contention was that all parliamentary legislation concerning the colonies was null, except so far as they chose to admit it. Under all their arguments lay the germ of independence, though as yet the leaders of the agitation loudly professed loyalty.


That the tax was reasonable in intention, equitable in incidence, and in itself tolerable, few probably will now deny. Nor will any one surely deny that the act was foolish and unstatesmanlike. Strict definitions of legal right are not safe guides in practical politics: sentiment and circumstances should be held to be of far greater account. The Americans maintained that there was an important difference between external and internal taxation, and, in common with all other Englishmen, they highly valued the right expressed in the maxim, "No taxation without representation". It was a fatal mistake to disregard their belief and, for the sake of avoiding a not very serious expenditure, to seem to deny what they claimed as their heritage as Englishmen. Heavy as its expenses were, Great Britain could have afforded to take upon itself the sum required for the defence of the colonies. Grenville could not see the matter in this light. Well-meaning and wishing to act fairly both towards England and the colonies, he brought trouble on both alike by his insistence on legal right. His administration was fruitful in evil. He permitted parliament to enter on a disastrous struggle with Wilkes in order to gratify the king; he raised up discord between England and her most important colonies; he allowed the strength of England to decay by grudging to spend the money needed for the maintenance of the navy, and its dignity to be impaired by neglecting to insist on the payment of the Manila ransom, though for that he was not individually responsible. One judicious act of his administration may be recorded here. The Isle of Man, though under the allegiance of the king, was not fully under the royal authority; the king had no courts and no officers there, and it was, as Burke said, "the very citadel of smuggling". In 1765 the crown bought the rights of the Duke and Duchess of Atholl over the island for £70,000, and it became thenceforward an integral part of the realm of England.


[65] Hardwicke to Newcastle, Add. MS. 32,948, f. 54.

[66] G. Rose, Diaries, ii., 192.

[67] James Grenville to Lady Chatham, Jan. 12, 1765, MS. Pitt Papers, 35.



Both for public and personal reasons George was anxious to get rid of his ministers. Unlike them, he appears as early as the spring of 1765 to have considered the discontent of his American subjects a serious matter, and he blamed them for it.[68] In other respects, too, he was dissatisfied with their public conduct, and he complained bitterly of their behaviour towards himself. In spite of some outward agreement in action, he and Grenville, who without the name retained nearly all the authority of prime minister, pursued fundamentally different systems. Grenville, though not less ready than the king to meet opposition with violent measures, was imbued with whig theories. While George sought to rule by securing the support of parliament, Grenville tried to use that support to enable him to rule the king. He was a pedant, and lectured the king on his duty like a schoolmaster. Bute stood in his way as the king's ally and secret counsellor. His victory over him was partial and short-lived. While Bute was in the country the king corresponded with him, and he returned to London in the spring of 1764. His return made the ministers uneasy, and Grenville's lectures became intolerable. "When he has wearied me for two hours," George complained, "he looks at his watch to see if he may not tire me for an hour more." Bad as their public conduct was, he and his colleagues owed their fall chiefly to their unbecoming behaviour to their sovereign.


Early in 1765 the king had a severe illness and showed signs of the insanity from which he suffered later. He recovered in March, and as he believed that his life was not likely to be prolonged, he was anxious to provide for a possible regency.[Pg 65] Constitutional usage pointed to the queen as the proper person to be regent during the infancy of her son. George, however, wished to have the power to nominate a regent by an instrument revocable at pleasure. Grenville dissuaded him from this idea, and, with his ministers' consent, he announced from the throne that a bill would be laid before parliament restricting the regency to the queen and other members of the royal family usually residing in England. When the bill was proposed in the lords the question was raised whether the king's mother was a member of the royal family, or only those in the order of succession. If the Princess of Wales became regent, Bute would probably regain power. In order to prevent this dire possibility, Bedford sacrificed decency and common sense by successfully opposing a motion that the princess's name should expressly be included in the bill. While the matter was pending, on May 3, Halifax and Sandwich went to the king and persuaded him that the bill would not pass the commons unless the princess was excluded. Anxious to save his mother from insult, George authorised Halifax to move an amendment that only the queen and those descended from George II. should be capable of the regency. Halifax, in moving the amendment, announced that he did so with the king's sanction, and it was adopted by the lords.

George soon learnt that he had been deceived, that people were scandalised at his appearing to cast a slur upon his mother, and that the opposition in the commons would move to include her name. In great agitation he appealed to Grenville to help him by announcing a message from the crown to the commons recommending the inclusion of the princess. Grenville, though he had had no part in the trick of the two secretaries, refused his request on the ground that it would stultify the ministers, nor would he give way though the king actually wept with mortification. An amendment to insert the princess's name was proposed in the commons, was carried by 167 votes to 37, and was accepted by the lords. George determined to shake off Grenville's yoke. He called on his uncle, Cumberland, to find him new ministers, and the duke, though he had been treated unkindly by his nephew, loyally came to his help. Evidently by Bute's advice, the king authorised him to treat with Pitt and Temple. Pitt was living in retirement, and in October, 1764, told Newcastle that he intended to remain unconnected. He[Pg 66] was willing to accept office in a comprehensive administration on the understanding that the officers who had been dismissed for their votes in parliament should be restored, that the new ministers should be at liberty to propose a resolution declaring general warrants illegal, and that a continental alliance should be formed against the Bourbon powers.

Temple, however, refused office, and Pitt would not come in without him. As Temple was on the eve of a reconciliation with his brother Grenville, with whom he had quarrelled over the Wilkes affair, it was thought that his refusal was due to an ambitious idea of a family administration of himself, his brothers, and Pitt. Be this as it may, he probably suspected that Bute would have an influence in the proposed administration. Pitt allowed himself to be swayed by gratitude for help which Temple had given him in the days of his poverty. During this negotiation a riot broke out in London. The silk manufacture was depressed owing to foreign competition, and thousands were consequently almost starving. A bill to check the importation of silk by the imposition of fresh duties was laid before the lords; it was opposed by Bedford, who was averse from restraints on commerce, and it was rejected. On this a large number of Spitalfields weavers went to Richmond, on May 14, to seek help from the king in person. They met him on Wimbledon common. He received them kindly, but could not, of course, give them the help they wanted. The next day many thousands gathered in Spitalfields and Moorfields at beat of drum, marched to St. James's and Westminster, and stopped members on their way to parliament. Bedford was assaulted and wounded, and on the 17th a determined attack was made upon his house on the north side of Bloomsbury Square. It was garrisoned by soldiers and others, but the attack was only defeated by the arrival of fresh troops. When the disturbances were at last quelled, a large collection was made for the relief of the immediate distress, which was further mitigated by a sudden fall in the price of bread.[69] The affair increased the king's discontent with his ministers and embittered the feelings of anger between the Bute and Bedford factions.[70][Pg 67]


On Pitt's refusal to take office, Cumberland tried Lord Lyttelton and Charles Townshend, but they declined the king's offer because they believed that no strong administration was possible without Pitt. George was forced to beg his ministers to continue. They took full advantage of his humiliation. Pitt had asked for assurances on matters of public policy; they made stipulations which chiefly concerned persons. The king must promise never again to consult Bute, and must deprive his brother Mackenzie of the office of privy seal of Scotland. As regards Bute, George at once gave the required promise, and though he was afterwards constantly suspected of consulting with him, there is good reason to believe that he loyally kept his word, and that Bute never again offered him any advice.[71] He had promised Mackenzie his office for life, and declared "that he should disgrace himself" if he took it from him. Nevertheless Grenville forced him to give way. His relations with his ministers were naturally strained; they complained that he did not support them, and on one occasion Bedford remonstrated with him in insolent terms. Again George requested Cumberland to treat with Pitt, who had two interviews with the king and was anxious to accept his offer, but Temple peremptorily refused to take any office, even the treasury, and Pitt with deep regret again followed his lead. The king found no way of escape, save by authorising Cumberland to turn to the great whig families. Grenville was dismissed, and an administration formed under the leadership of the Marquis of Rockingham took office on July 16. It must have been a bitter humiliation to George after all that had passed. Yet, though for the moment he was defeated, he did not mean to give over the rule of his kingdom to the whigs, and for the present anything was better than Grenville's tyranny. George respected his character, but said he, "I would rather see the devil in my closet than Mr. Grenville".

The weakness of the Rockingham administration was patent from the first. Charles Townshend, who succeeded Holland as paymaster, called it "a lutestring ministry, fit only for summer wear"; Pitt was expected to supply one of more durable material before the winter. The old phalanx of the whigs, tried[Pg 68] hands at political business, was broken up by death and desertion; their successors lacked experience and authority. Rockingham, a man of thirty-five, a prominent figure on the turf, of vast wealth and irreproachable character, was a wretched speaker, and had neither genius, knowledge, nor industry. The Duke of Grafton, the secretary of state for the northern department, was even younger, and, like Rockingham, a great racing man. His public spirit made him a politician, but he cared so much more for pleasure than for politics that he was apt to be content so long as any immediate difficulty was tided over, and he suffered in public estimation from the scandal caused by his dissolute life. The southern department was taken by Conway. Dowdeswell, the chancellor of the exchequer, was a sound financier, but a dull man. Newcastle, who was privy seal and again had charge of church patronage, was no longer so powerful as in earlier days. Nor were the ministers unanimous in feeling. Grafton was far more at one with Pitt than with the Rockingham party; and the chancellor (Henley) Lord Northington, Egmont the first lord of the admiralty, and Barrington the secretary-at-war were included to please the king. Another cause of weakness was George's notorious dislike of his new ministers, which encouraged his "friends," the court party, to intrigue against them.


Most serious of all was the attitude of Pitt. He was pressed to join the government; its policy was in many respects such as he could approve, and in other matters he could almost have made his own terms. Nevertheless he refused to take office and openly declared his lack of confidence in the ministers, though they tried to satisfy him in various ways, such as by obtaining a peerage for Pratt, who was created Baron Camden. Magnificent as he had shown himself as a dictator, he was unfitted by temperament to work with others, and his natural defects were aggravated by his constant attacks of gout. At the same time his present attitude was to a large extent also a matter of principle. He would willingly have taken office if he could have simply been the king's minister, unconnected, without belonging to any party. The Rockinghams, as they were called, were a party connexion, and under Rockingham's leadership would remain so, and their character was emphasised by the inclusion of Newcastle, the chief representative of a system which Pitt[Pg 69] hated, government based on the influence of the whig houses and not on the good-will of the crown and the people. Pitt plainly declared that he would not sit at council with Newcastle. Nor would he take office under Rockingham. Without him the ministry had neither an original policy nor a chance of permanence. Called into existence by Cumberland, it leant on him for support; he was present at all cabinet meetings, and they were sometimes held at his house. His sudden death on October 31 was a severe shock to the stability of the government. Pitt would not advise the ministers. Grafton urged that he should again be invited to take office, but the king would not enter on a fresh negotiation with him, for he had refused his former overtures and held very different views from his regarding the American stamp act.

For months the ministers paid no heed to American discontent, save that Conway wrote rather feebly to some of the colonial governors with reference to the disorders. Parliament was not summoned until December 17, and though the king's speech directed attention to the late occurrences in the colonies, the ministers had not decided on a policy. They ascertained Pitt's opinion, and so gained a lead. When parliament assembled in January, 1766, after the recess, Pitt spoke warmly against any attempt to enforce the stamp act. He avowed his distrust of the government in a characteristic fashion: "Pardon me, gentlemen," said he, bowing towards the ministers, "confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom; youth is the season of credulity". He thought that he saw "traces of an overruling influence," a dark saying which probably referred to Newcastle.[72] While he asserted the sovereignty of Great Britain over the colonies in legislation, he maintained that parliament had no right to tax them; taxation, according to him, was "no part of the governing or legislative power". He regarded the tax as an infringement of constitutional liberty, and rejoiced that the Americans had resisted it. Such a matter, he urged, was not to be decided by text-books; he had not come down to the house "armed with the statute-book, doubled down with dog's-ears, to defend the cause of liberty". America might be crushed, but if she fell, she would fall like Samson,[Pg 70] embracing and pulling down the pillars of the state, the constitution, along with her. Let them bind her commerce and restrict her manufactures, but abstain from demanding money without the consent of her people. His words had a great effect; they put enforcement out of the question.

A few days later Edmund Burke made his first speech in parliament, recommending the house to receive a petition from the colonies, and was at once recognised as a new power. He was an Irishman, and was already known as a writer. He became Rockingham's secretary in 1765, and a seat was provided for him. Unsurpassed in his mastery of English prose, he exhibits to the full the splendour of the English language in his speeches and pamphlets. Nor is his thought unworthy of the gorgeous attire with which it is invested. His power and constant habit of discerning and expounding the principles which were involved in questions of the moment, give him a supreme place as a teacher of political wisdom. In character he was pure, generous, and tender-hearted. His fervid imagination extended the area of his sympathies, and sometimes prejudiced his opinions. As a speaker he was eloquent, and now and again carried his audience completely with him, but he never caught the tone of the house of commons; his longer speeches were too much of the nature of exhaustive treatises to be acceptable to its members; he had little tact, an impatient temper, and often spoke with execrable taste. The chief article in his political creed was his belief in the excellence of the constitution. He was an ardent reformer of abuses, but with the constitution itself he would have no meddling. Unlike Pitt, he saw that the only effectual check to corrupt influence was to be found in government by a party united for the promotion of national interests upon some common principle. Such a party might, he believed, be based on the whig families, if only they would keep themselves free from court intrigue and selfish jealousies. He was a whig of a different type from Newcastle and Bedford; he built his hopes on the Rockinghams and inspired their policy. That he never sat in a cabinet was chiefly because in those days such a distinction was confined to men of higher birth.


Decided action with regard to America was a pressing necessity. The measures of retaliation adopted by the colonists were[Pg 71] depressing trade at home. Petitions against the stamp act were presented from the merchants of London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and other towns, setting forth the loss inflicted on manufacturers and their work-people by the stoppage of the American trade, and the difficulties arising from the non-payment of debts due from America, which amounted to £4,000,000. The ministers resolved on the repeal of the act, and on a bill declaring the right of parliament to legislate for the colonies on all matters whatsoever. Some of the king's household having voted against the government, Rockingham went to the king to remonstrate with him. George told him that he was for repeal, and that Rockingham might say so. Two days later the ministers heard that Lord Strange, one of the court party, was saying that the king was against repeal, and wished it to be known. This made a great stir, and the "ministerial lives were thought not worth three days' purchase". Rockingham went to the king for an explanation. George acknowledged that he had told him that he was for repeal, but said that they had been speaking only of the choice between the repeal and the enforcement of the act, that of the two he was for repeal, but that he desired that the act should be modified and not repealed. The ministers had therefore "to carry on a great public measure against the king's declared sentiments, and with a great number of his servants acting against them".[73] Nevertheless the bill for the repeal of the act was carried in the commons on March 11 by 275 votes to 167, and a week later in the lords by 105 to 71. It was a signal victory; but, apart from the interests of commerce, it was due rather to Pitt than to the government. The declaratory bill also passed; its chief opponents being Pitt and, in the upper house, Lord Camden, who on this question, as well as on that of repeal, talked much trash about a fundamental law of nature and the limits of the power of parliament, more in place in the mouth of an American demagogue than of an English judge. An address was also carried recommending that the colonial governors should be instructed to require compensation to be made to those who had suffered during the late disturbances.

Both in England and America the repeal of the stamp act[Pg 72] was hailed with rejoicing. American discontent was hushed, and the public manifestations of gladness were accompanied by expressions of loyalty and affection for the mother-country. The colonists, however, knew that they had won a victory over parliament, and they did not forget it. Their substantial grievance, the commercial regulations, still remained; they soon saw that they must go further, and that Pitt's distinction between a direct money-tax and duties on merchandise, though it had served their immediate purpose, would no longer be useful. The declaratory act was regarded as a menace, and kept alive their feelings of suspicion and irritation. Their temper was shown by the delay of many of the colonies to vote the required compensation. In Massachusetts, where the vote was passed in December, it was insolently accompanied by a vote of indemnity to all concerned in the riots. The repeal of the stamp act needs no defence; a mistake had been made which was leading to serious consequences, and in such a case it is a statesmanlike policy to retrace the false step. The declaratory act was passed to save the dignity of parliament. In spite of Burke's admiration for this act, it may be suggested that the assertion of a right by a party which at the same time declines to enforce it, is neither a dignified nor a wise proceeding. Its only, and sufficient defence is that without it the repeal of the tax would have been impossible. The Americans' denial of the right of parliament, accompanied as it was by violence of word and action, roused much indignation in England and involved every supporter of the repeal in the imputation of betraying its dignity. If repeal was to be carried it was necessary to satisfy men's minds by a declaration of the right of parliament to tax the colonies.


Some good work was done in other directions; the cider-tax was repealed, a commercial treaty was made with Russia, and the house of commons came into agreement with the judges on the question of general warrants by resolving that general warrants being illegal, except in the cases provided for by act of parliament, the arrest of any of its members on such a warrant would be a breach of privilege. The administration, however, was enfeebled by the unconcealed dislike of the king, the hostility of Pitt, and the general belief that it was keeping him out of office. Pitt was extremely anxious for office, but would not accept it unless a "transposition of offices" was made; unless,[Pg 73] in fact, Rockingham was got rid of. To this Rockingham would not consent; he wanted Pitt to take office as his ally, not as his successor. There were differences in the cabinet on the matter. The king's section wished to gain Pitt for their master; Rockingham was upheld by his friends; Grafton wanted Pitt as prime minister, and Conway, though less decided, agreed with him. Pitt became querulous and unreasonable, and in April violently attacked the ministers, specially excepting Grafton and Conway.[74] All attempts at negotiation having failed, Grafton made his choice for Pitt and resigned office. It was not easy to fill his place, for the ministry was regarded as moribund, and finally the king was forced to give the seals to Rockingham's friend, the young Duke of Richmond. The chancellor, Northington, a strong supporter of the king, saw that the end was not far off, and apparently determined to make sure of a place in the next administration by sacrificing his colleagues. He quarrelled with them in the cabinet on a question relating to the administration of law in Canada, and early in July told the king that he must resign office, and that the ministry was too weak to go on. George eagerly seized the opportunity for getting rid of it and replacing it by a more comprehensive ministry with Pitt at its head. The difficulties which had stood in Pitt's way were removed; the American question seemed to be settled; he had made it known that he would not again be guided by Temple, and he was delighted to be the king's minister, avowing his determination "to defend the closet against every contending party"—against, that is, the great whig houses and their connexions.

The satisfaction consequent on Pitt's accession to power faded at the news that he had accepted a peerage as Earl of Chatham. It was unjustly considered as a bribe, and lost him much of his popularity. A more serious consequence was that it left the leadership of the house of commons to weaker hands. Though prime minister, he took for himself the unimportant office of privy seal. His course was probably determined by a consciousness of failing health. Conway became northern secretary of state, with the leadership of the commons, and Shelburne secretary for the southern department. In spite of Temple's opposition to the repeal of the stamp act, Pitt offered[Pg 74] him the treasury, but that vain man would not enter the cabinet except as Pitt's equal, and a quarrel ensued between them. The treasury was then accepted by Grafton; and, unfortunately, by his advice, Charles Townshend was made chancellor of the exchequer. Camden was appointed chancellor, Northington president of the council, and they, with Granby as commander-in-chief, and Sir Charles Saunders, who succeeded Egmont at the admiralty, completed the cabinet. Besides Conway and Saunders, some other Rockinghams had inferior offices, but Rockingham himself and most of his party considered that Chatham had treated them badly, and repelled his advances. The ministry was unfortunate in being represented in the house of commons by the irresolute Conway and the unprincipled Townshend. Worse still, Chatham, whose arrogance increased with his disease, alienated adherents, and treated his colleagues with reserve and disdain.

Chatham at once pursued the foreign policy which he had consistently recommended by seeking a continental alliance to counterbalance the alliance of the Bourbon powers. The family compact did not lose its importance at the peace of Paris. Choiseul in France and Grimaldi, who succeeded Wall in Spain, worked together heartily in promoting a Bourbon policy, and looked forward to the reconquest of the lost possessions of France and Spain. The allies were strengthened by the good-will of Austria. Schemes of aggrandisement were formed, which included the acquisition of Corsica by France and of Portugal by Spain. There were unsettled causes of dispute between them and England touching the fortification of Dunkirk and the Manila ransom, and Spain was also aggrieved by a British settlement in the Falkland islands. Against France the natural ally of England was Russia, for she had a strong interest in opposing French influence in Denmark and Sweden; while on the side of England a Russian alliance would, in the event of war, secure her Baltic trade and enable her fleet to act elsewhere, and would be a defence for Hanover. An alliance with Russia had already been discussed, but Catherine II. had far less interest in the matter than England, and insisted that any alliance should include her Turkish war, to which England would not consent. Catherine was in alliance with Frederick of Prussia, and Chatham, hoping that the adhesion of England would be welcomed,[Pg 75] designed a defensive alliance between Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia, which might take in Denmark, Sweden, the States-General, and any other power interested in withstanding Bourbon aggrandisement. To Catherine her alliance with Prussia was much more important than anything which she could obtain from England, and Chatham's design therefore depended on Frederick's good-will. He declined the proposal of Great Britain: he had not forgiven the ill-treatment which he believed he had received from Bute; he admired Chatham, but had no assurance that he would remain in power; and he considered any possible danger to himself from the Bourbon alliance to be too remote to make it advisable for him to join in a concert to prevent it. He was already meditating the partition of Poland, and the proposed combination would have been contrary to his policy. Chatham's great design was consequently defeated.


His arbitrary temper soon brought him into difficulties. He desired to reward a new adherent with the office of treasurer of the household, then held by Lord Edgcumbe, and on Edgcumbe's refusal to vacate the office, he deprived him of it. Edgcumbe was connected with the Rockingham party, and, with the exception of Conway, all the more important members of it who had joined the new ministry, the Duke of Portland, Saunders, and others, resigned office. Conway was almost persuaded to follow their example, for Chatham treated him with haughty coldness, but he yielded to the urgent advice of his friend Horace Walpole, and remained in the ministry, uneasy and vacillating. Any alliance with the Rockinghams being out of the question, Chatham was driven to make overtures to the Bedford party, which failed because they asked more than he would grant. Finally, Saunders's place at the admiralty was supplied by the famous admiral, Sir Edward Hawke, and the other vacancies were filled by tories and courtiers.

The harvest of 1765 was bad, and that of the present year promised to be no better. The price of wheat rose rapidly, and in July reached 44s. a quarter. The poor were distressed, worse times seemed to be ahead, and the dealers were believed to be keeping back supplies in the expectation of higher prices. Riots of a more or less serious character broke out in some fifty places; bakers' shops were pillaged, mills and barns were fired, and dealers and tradesmen were forced to sell provisions at[Pg 76] prices fixed by the people. It was not until September 10, when wheat had again risen, that the ministers, in accordance with the economic ideas of the time, issued a proclamation against forestalling and engrossing. It had no effect; the price reached 49s., and on the 26th the council laid an embargo on exportation. By law the ministers had no right to take such a step until wheat was at 53s. 4d. As, however, prices were rising, all parties agreed that the embargo was in itself a justifiable measure. It was, however, objected that the ministers should have summoned parliament to meet at an earlier date, and have acted with its authority. When parliament met on November 11, the opposition insisted that the ministers needed a bill of indemnity for having set aside the law by a proclamation of council. Chatham defended their action on the constitutional ground of necessity. His colleagues and supporters were not all equally wise. Northington declared that the proclamation was legally, as well as morally, justifiable; and the chancellor, Camden, the assertor of popular liberties, that "it was at most a forty days' tyranny". His foolish speech was severely handled by Mansfield. In the commons Alderman Beckford, a hot-headed admirer of Chatham, said that "if the public was in danger the king had a dispensing power," and was forced by Grenville to retract his words. The debates on this matter injured the reputation of the ministry though they did not endanger its stability.


When parliament rose in December Chatham went to Bath for the sake of his health. In February, 1767, he had a severe attack of gout, and in March the disease began to affect his mental powers. For the next two years he was unable to take any part in politics. His effacement left the ministry without a head. Before his retirement a difference arose in the cabinet on the affairs of the East India Company. From a simple trading company it had been raised by the victories of Clive and his generals to the position of a territorial power. Its affairs were managed by a court of directors elected annually, and consequently under the control of the court of proprietors in which every holder of £500 stock had a vote. It proved itself unequal to its new position. Clive returned to England in 1760, the possessor of a princely fortune, and in 1762 was created Baron Clive of Plassey in the Irish peerage. He was[Pg 77] opposed in the court of directors by a party headed by Sullivan. In India he was succeeded by Vansittart, and there troubles soon arose, chiefly from the greed of the company's servants. Mír Jafar, the Nawáb of Bengal, a self-indulgent and unpopular ruler, was deposed by the council in 1761, and his son-in-law, Mír Kásim, was made nawáb in his place. It was a profitable business, for Mír Kásim spent £200,000 in presents to the council and ceded to the company the revenues of three districts, amounting to some £500,000 a year. Yet the exchange of nawábs proved an unwise step, for Mír Kásim was able and active. He moved his court from Murshidábád to Monghyr, at a greater distance from Calcutta, organised an army, and showed that he was ready to resist oppression.

The revenues of the Indian princes were largely derived from tolls on the transit of merchandise. The company, which had the right of free exportation and importation, passed its goods free inland under the certificate of the head of a factory. The system was abused. The company paid its servants insufficient salaries, and they made up for it by engaging in private inland trade, using the company's passes to cover their goods. Armed with its power, they forced the natives to deal with their native agents, to buy dear and sell cheap; they monopolised the trade in the necessaries of life, and grew rich upon the miseries of the helpless people. Private trade and extorted presents enabled many a man who as a mere youth had obtained a writer's place to return to England after a few years with a handsome income. Mír Kásim saw his people starving, his officers ill-treated, and his treasury robbed, and prepared for revolt. Conscious of the impending danger, Vansittart made an agreement with him as to tolls. The council at Calcutta indignantly repudiated the agreement, and Mír Kásim was furious. Open hostilities began in June, 1763. One of the council, who was sent on an embassy to Kásim, was killed by his troops. Patná was seized by the English; it was retaken, and some 200 English were made prisoners. A little army under Major Adams, routed the nawáb's forces, and on October 11 Monghyr was taken. Mír Kásim caused all his prisoners, save five, to be massacred, and fled for refuge to Shujá-ud-Daulá the nawáb wazír of Oudh. Patná was taken by storm and Bengal was completely subdued.[Pg 78]

Mír Jafar was again made nawáb, and paid large sums both to the company and its servants as compensation for their losses. The war, however, was not over, for the nawáb wazír espoused the cause of Mír Kásim, and, in conjunction with the Mughal emperor, Sháh Alam, threatened Bengal. Major Hector Munro took command of the British army, and found it in a mutinous condition; desertions to the enemy were frequent. He captured a large body of deserters, caused twenty-four of the ringleaders to be blown from guns, and by his dauntless conduct restored discipline among the troops. With about 7,000 men, of whom only some 1,000 were Europeans, he inflicted a crushing defeat on the allied forces, 50,000 strong, at Baxár on October 23, 1764. The enemy lost 6,000 men and 167 guns. Oudh lay at the disposal of the English, and Sháh Alam sought refuge with the conquerors. Early in 1765 Mír Jafar died, and the council at Calcutta, without consulting the emperor, appointed his son to succeed him, receiving in presents from him £139,357, besides money unaccounted for. These revolutions and wars cost the company much money, and, while its servants were enriching themselves, it incurred heavy debts. Clive was called upon to put an end to the maladministration of Bengal. He refused to return to India while Sullivan was chairman of the court of directors. After a sharp contest, in which large sums were spent, the proprietors put his party in power. He was invested with full authority as commander-in-chief and governor of Bengal to act in conjunction with a select committee.

He landed in India in May, 1765. During his administration of about eighteen months he secured for the company the virtual sovereignty over its conquests without dispossessing the nominal rulers, and he took measures for the reformation of the company's service. Averse from a forward policy of conquest, he restored Oudh to the nawáb wazír on payment of £500,000. Allahábád and Kora were assigned to the emperor, together with a tribute from Bengal, and in return Sháh Alam granted to the company the right of levying and administering the revenues of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, together with jurisdiction in the Northern Circars. The nawáb of Bengal received an annual pension of £600,000, and surrendered all his power to the company, except the right of criminal jurisdiction. Clive[Pg 79] reorganised the army, and stopped the double batta, or allowance, granted by Mír Jafar after the battle of Plassey. He forbade illicit trade and the receipt of presents, and secured the company's servants increased salaries. These reforms were effected in the face of violent opposition, both in civil and military quarters. Two hundred officers conspired to resign their commissions on the same day. Clive faced the mutiny successfully; he cashiered the leaders and accepted the submission of the younger men. Ill-health obliged him to return to England in January, 1767.


The enormous private fortunes made in India led people to believe that the company was far richer than it really was. During the late wars the dividend was 6 per cent. In 1766 the proprietors urged an increase. To this the directors objected that the debts of the company were heavy, and that a premature increase would raise the price of stock to a point at which it could not be maintained, and might end in a disaster like that of the South Sea Company. The ministers sent a message of warning, announcing that the affairs of the company would probably be considered in parliament. They concerned the public, for the company enjoyed protection and privileges granted by the nation. Nevertheless the proprietors carried their point, and a dividend of 10 per cent. was declared. Chatham held that the time had come for parliament to inquire by what right the company administered its territorial revenues. He considered that it had no right to its new position of a virtually sovereign power, that the sovereignty of the crown should be asserted, and that in return for the privileges which it enjoyed it should contribute a portion of its revenues to the national treasury. The company should apply to parliament to make good its defective title, and parliament should then settle what portion of its revenues should be assigned to it by way of favour. His ideas were based on an imperial policy. As early as 1759 he held that the territorial acquisitions of the company should be claimed for the nation. With him it was a matter not merely of revenue but of government, and though his ideas are indistinctly indicated, and were perhaps vaguely formed, it is probable that he had in his mind some idea of making the government of India an imperial matter. Yet, sharing as he did the general belief as to the wealth of the company, he certainly attached[Pg 80] much importance to the possibility of obtaining from it an increase of the public revenue.

A special reason may be discerned for his desire to obtain such an increase at the end of 1766. The government wanted money; there was a heavy debt on the civil list, and the navy needed a large grant. An increase of taxation was inadvisable, for corn was dear. Various schemes for the increase of revenue were in the air. Many members of parliament, the court party, the country interest, and the Grenville and Bedford connexions were regretting the repeal of the stamp act. "We must look to the East and not to the West," wrote Beckford to Chatham,[75] and he spoke the mind of his leader. The cabinet was divided. Grafton and Shelburne agreed with Chatham that the question of the company's rights should be decided by parliament. Townshend declared that it would be "absurd" to force the company to share its power with the crown, and both he and Conway desired that the question of right should be waived and that its relations with the government should be settled by amicable arrangement. In May, 1767, the proprietors insisted on a dividend at the rate of 12½ per cent. A motion was carried to bring the affairs of the company before parliament. Townshend, as Chatham said, "marred the business"; he managed to open the door for negotiation, and to make it a mere matter of money. In June, 1767, a bill was passed, based on an agreement with the company, which in return for the confirmation of its territorial revenues, bound itself to pay the government £400,000 a year for two years; and parliament prohibited a higher dividend than 10 per cent. The bill was violently opposed, specially by the Rockingham party, on the ground that it was an unjustifiable interference with the rights of property. In 1769 the agreement with the company was renewed, and permission was given for a dividend of 12½ per cent, on certain conditions. The company was then in debt over £6,000,000.


A new and formidable enemy had arisen in Southern India. In 1767 Haidar (Hyder) Alí, the ruler of Mysore, made war upon the English in conjunction with the Nizám of Haidarábád.[Pg 81] The allies were defeated, and the nizám made peace. Haidar, however, continued the war. He had a large force of cavalry which he brought to great perfection, and, as the English were deficient in that arm, he was able to do much mischief in the Karnatic. In April, 1769, having previously drawn the English army away from Madras by skilful manœuvres, he suddenly appeared in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. The English were forced to make a treaty with him on his own terms. The news sent the company's stock down 60 per cent. The same year the crops failed in Bengal, and in 1770 there was a grievous famine which is said to have carried off a third of the inhabitants. Yet in spite of the decreasing revenue and the heavy debts of the company, the proprietors were receiving dividends of 12 and 12½ per cent.


[68] Newcastle's Narrative, p. 11.

[69] Annual Register, viii. (1765), 92.

[70] Bedford Correspondence, iii., 281; Walpole, Letters, iv., 365-66.

[71] Annual Register, xxi. (1778), 256.

[72] Lord Charlemont to Flood, Jan. 8, 1766, Letters to Flood, p. 5.

[73] Conway to Lord Hertford, Feb. 12, 1766, in a MS. collection of Conway's letters, to which Messrs. Sotheran kindly gave me access.

[74] Conway to Hertford, April 29, 1766, MS. Sotheran, u.s.

[75] Beckford to Chatham, Oct. 15, 1766, MS. Pitt Papers, 19; Grenville Papers, iii., 336.



While Chatham was suffering from gout and Conway from indecision, Townshend had opportunities for mischief. His brilliant wit and oratory gave him extraordinary influence in the house of commons, which he used merely for his own ends, for he was unprincipled and greedy for popularity. Whatever it might be that the majority in the house wished to have done, he was anxious to be the doer of it. This desire to lead the house by carrying out its wishes was probably the true reason of his opposition to Chatham's Indian policy. It led him to take a more disastrous line with reference to America. The colonies were irritated and suspicious. Massachusetts was encroaching on the royal prerogative by passing an amnesty bill, and was quarrelling over it with its governor, Bernard, and the New York assembly was defying the authority of parliament by refusing to provide the troops with certain articles specified in the mutiny act. An equally unconciliatory spirit prevailed in England, where the repeal of the stamp act had become unpopular. It was necessary to keep a permanent force in America, and the colonists should have been willing to contribute to the defence of the empire by paying for it. Their refusal was attributed to a desire to save their pockets, which to some extent was the case, and Englishmen were angry at the prospect of being called upon to meet expenses which should have been borne by others. Even warm friends of the colonies held that a military establishment should be paid for out of colonial revenues, and Shelburne was considering how a fund might be raised without taxation.[76] Unfortunately, Townshend chose to pander to the feelings of the majority of the commons.[Pg 83] In a debate on the army supplies on January 26, 1767, he boasted, without any previous consultation with his fellow-ministers, that he could raise a revenue from America nearly sufficient to maintain the troops there. The house received his words with applause, his colleagues with dumb dismay. Grenville and Lord George Sackville took them up and forced him to pledge himself to make them good.


Money was wanted for the service of the country, and specially for the maintenance of the navy, and a month later Townshend proposed that the land tax should be continued at four shillings in the pound. A strong opposition was expected, for the country gentlemen reasonably contended that the tax had been raised from three to four shillings as a war-tax, that it was time to lower it, and that if the stamp act had not been repealed it might be reduced to its normal amount.[77] The whigs, whose economic policy was directed by their desire to increase the wealth and power of the nation by promoting trade, held that the larger share of taxation should be drawn from the land, and fostered the agricultural interest in order to enable it to bear the disproportionate burden they laid upon it. Nevertheless, the Rockingham and Grenville parties took advantage of the dissatisfaction of the landed gentry, acted together in a factious spirit, and defeated the government proposal by 206 votes to 188. This was a serious blow to the government, and was the first occasion on which a minister had been defeated on a money-bill since the revolution. The defeat was due to Townshend's neglect. Chatham would no longer bear with him, and one of his last acts before his retirement was to invite Lord North, the eldest son of the Earl of Guilford, to take his place as chancellor of the exchequer. North refused, and Townshend remained in office. He had to raise money somehow, and he was kept in mind of his pledge with regard to America; for parliament was indignant at the conduct of the New York assembly, and the court party urged him on by representing that the king was humiliated by the repeal of the stamp act. In June he carried two bills affecting the colonies, one providing for the execution of the trade laws, the other imposing duties on the importation of glass, paper, paints, and[Pg 84] tea. The produce of these duties was to be applied, first, to the cost of administering justice and of the civil government, and the surplus was to be paid into the exchequer and appropriated by parliament to the defence of the colonies. The bills passed without opposition and the acts came into operation on November 20. A bill was also passed suspending the legislative power of the New York assembly, until it should comply with the mutiny act.

The new duties were external taxes, taxes on trade, such as the colonists had professed themselves prepared to pay, and they were trifling in amount, their produce being estimated at less than £40,000. But they were imposed for purposes of revenue, not for the regulation of trade, which would in Chatham's eyes have rendered them a rightful imposition. And the colonists' position had changed. They demanded to be taxed only by their own assemblies, and regarded the new acts as laying the foundation of a fiscal system which would probably be as liable to abuse as the Irish civil list. A renewal of the rumour concerning a colonial episcopate increased their suspicion as to the height to which demands on their purse might grow. Their discontent was originally founded on their impatience of control and on the restraints placed upon their industry and commerce; their resistance was roused by the fear of future ill-government rather than by actual grievances. The quarrel became embittered by faults on both sides. By denying the authority of parliament and contemning the prerogative, the Americans took up a position which could not be conceded to them without national humiliation; they irritated the English by violent words and actions, and treated the loyalists with injustice and cruelty. On the other hand, England, besides imposing restrictions on their industry and commerce, made demands upon them which, though just, were galling to their spirit. As they had representative assemblies, they argued that they should be taxed only by their authority. The king and the nation generally had no sympathy with their complaints and were unconciliatory.


Yet while there were faults on both sides, both alike showed a spirit worthy of their common stock, the colonists by their insistence on self-government, the mother-country by its steadfast adherence to the imperial idea as it then existed. Massachusetts[Pg 85] again took the lead in resistance; the merchants renewed the non-importation agreements, and the assembly sent a petition to the king, and on February 11, 1768, a circular letter to the other provincial assemblies condemning the late acts and inviting co-operation. This letter, the work of Samuel Adams, did much to remove the jealousies between the provinces and to arouse a spirit of union. It evoked expressions of sympathy from Virginia and other colonies, and the merchants of New York at once joined the Bostonians in a system of non-importation. Of almost equal importance were The Farmer's Letters by Dickinson, which appeared in a Pennsylvania paper in 1767-68, and contained an able statement of the claims of colonies, recommending a firm but peaceable attitude of resistance. Meanwhile the condition of the ministry was unfavourable alike to any chance of conciliation or to a consistently vigorous policy.

George was grievously disappointed by Chatham's illness. Between them they had put together an administration which Burke aptly compared to a piece of mosaic, formed of men of various parties; and with it George not unreasonably hoped to be able to carry out his ideal system of government, to destroy party distinctions and establish his rule over his people for their benefit and with their good-will.[78] In Chatham's absence, Grafton became his principal minister, though he had no authority in the cabinet. For a time Chatham's speedy recovery was expected, and both the king and Grafton made constant appeals to him at least to express his opinion on public affairs. No help was to be had from him; he would only entreat Grafton to remain in office. The disorganised ministry was confronted by a strong opposition composed of the Rockingham, Bedford, and Grenville connexions. Chatham became incapable of transacting any business; and when it was evident that his illness would be prolonged, Grafton advised the king to enter into negotiations with them. In July, 1767, George invited Rockingham to draw up a plan for an administration. He did not intend to admit the Rockinghams to office; he wanted a ministry, formed on non-party lines, which would be strong enough to hold its ground in parliament, and all he wished Rockingham to do was to submit a scheme of such a ministry for his approval, including in it[Pg 86] some of the present ministers. Rockingham, however, held the modern doctrine that a prime minister should form his own administration, and assumed that the existing ministry was at an end.

He yielded to the king's wish, but was determined not to take office except with a comprehensive ministry united on the basis of opposition to that court influence which had wrecked his former government. With this idea he attempted to form a union with the Bedford party. The negotiation failed, for Grenville and Temple, who were then united to the Bedfords, represented to their allies that no union was possible without agreement as to American policy. This ended the matter, for the Grenville and Bedford parties were strongly in favour of American taxation. Rockingham therefore told the king that he was unable to act upon his invitation. Grafton remained in office. A man of pleasure and of culture, in some points a true descendant of Charles II., he was out of his proper element in political life. He grudged leaving his kennels at Wakefield Lodge or the heath at Newmarket to transact public business in London, and preferred reading a play of Euripides at Euston to being bored by a debate at Westminster. On no other English minister have the responsibilities of office had so little effect; he would put off a cabinet meeting for a race meeting, and even in the presence of the king and queen appeared at the opera by the side of his mistress, Nancy Dawson, afterwards Lady Maynard.


Yet, uncongenial as official work was to him, Grafton was unwilling to desert the king and disappoint Chatham. He fully intended to carry out Chatham's policy. He failed to do so, for he allowed himself to be swayed by the king; and he let things slide in a wrong direction, because he would not take the trouble to make any strenuous effort to check their course. In Chatham's absence the king gradually gained complete control of the ministry, and on every important question the ministers followed a line wholly contrary to that which Chatham would have adopted. Townshend died in September and North became chancellor of the exchequer. North was an able financier, personally popular, and a successful leader of the house of commons. He was a strong tory and was prepared to uphold the king's policy whether he approved it or not. At the end of the year an agreement[Pg 87] was made with the Bedford party. The duke, whose sight was failing and who was mourning the loss of his only surviving son, would not himself take office, but bade his followers do as they pleased. Lord Gower became president of the council in place of Northington; Conway resigned the seals of secretary, though he remained in the cabinet, and Lord Weymouth was made secretary of state for the northern department. Lord Hillsborough was appointed as a third secretary of state for the colonies which, in consequence of the increase of colonial business, were removed from Shelburne's department, and other members of the "Bloomsbury gang" received minor offices. These changes were held to amount to the formation of a fresh administration. George did not at first like the junction with the Bedfords, which seemed contrary to his policy of destroying connexions, but the new ministers were so ready to carry out all his wishes that he was soon delighted with them.

The ministry showed its bias by its action with reference to a dispute between the two chief magnates in Cumberland and Westmorland, the Duke of Portland, a prominent member of the Rockingham party, and Sir James Lowther, Bute's son-in-law, who commanded nine seats in the house of commons. The duke's estate in the north came to him by a grant from William III. to the first Earl of Portland, in virtue of which he held the forest of Inglewood and the socage of Carlisle, valued at about £30,000, as appurtenances to the estate expressly granted. Lowther contended that the grant did not convey these appurtenances and applied to the treasury for a lease of them. Without officially informing the duke of his claim, the treasury granted the lease. As between subject and subject the duke's title would have been indisputable, for his house had had undisturbed possession for over sixty years, but as regards claims of the crown there was an ancient maxim: Nullum tempus occurrit regi—"Time does not bar the king's rights". The attempt of the treasury to revive this maxim was considered oppressive, and was generally attributed to the influence of Bute and the court, and to a desire to injure a political opponent and gratify a powerful supporter. The feeling was strengthened by the characters of the two disputants, for Portland was a man of high reputation, Lowther a cynical tyrant. On February 17, 1768, Sir George Savile, a great[Pg 88] Yorkshire landowner and a member of the Rockingham party, whose integrity and wealth gave him weight in the house, brought in a bill called the Nullum tempus bill, to make sixty years' possession a bar to claims of the crown. It was opposed by the ministry, and North succeeded in adjourning the motion, though only by 134 to 114. Parliament was dissolved in March, and the new parliament passed the bill.

The union with the Bedford party lessened any chance of American conciliation. Hillsborough ordered the Massachusetts assembly to rescind its circular letter. It refused, and, acting on Hillsborough's instructions, Bernard dissolved the assembly. Other colonies rejected the command to disregard the letter; they would stand or fall with Massachusetts. In New York, however, the "whig party" was defeated at the elections, the assembly complied with the mutiny act, and its legislative authority was restored. Bernard sent home disquieting reports; the revenue laws were openly defied, and the officers forcibly prevented from executing them; he was himself insulted by the mob, and had not, he wrote, "the shadow of authority". There were no troops nearer than New York. Bernard, an upright and fairly able man, though too apt to dispute with his disputatious opponents, was extremely unpopular, for it was known that he advised the ministers to take strong measures. It was his duty to represent the royal authority and to maintain the laws, and he told them that he could do nothing unless he was supported. He was right. Between a frank surrender and a vigorous and consistent policy there should have been no middle way. The ministers found one. They irritated the Americans without attempting to crush the fomenters of disturbance; they threatened and retreated, made a demonstration of force and shrank from employing it; their threats made the British government hated, their lenity brought it into contempt.[79] Bernard, of course, wrote as a partisan, but with this allowance his reports may be accepted as trustworthy.

Acting on these reports, Hillsborough, early in June, 1768, ordered Gage to send troops to Boston to protect the king's officers. It was full time. On the 10th a sloop belonging to Hancock, a merchant of Boston, arrived in the harbour[Pg 89] laden with wine from Madeira. The tide-waiter who boarded her was forcibly detained, and an attempt was made to defraud the revenue by a false declaration. On this the commissioners seized the sloop and laid her under the stem of the Romney, a man-of-war, in the harbour. A riot ensued; the revenue officers were mobbed, one of their boats was burned, and they were forced to take refuge in the castle. On September 29 seven ships carrying the 14th and 29th regiments, and a company of artillery, in all about 1,000 men, arrived in the harbour. The Bostonians refused to assign quarters for the troops, and they suffered some hardships. On receiving the news of the riot in June the ministers despatched the 64th and 65th regiments to Boston. These reinforcements arrived in January, 1769. The people were indignant; but in the face of so large a force remained quiet.


On American, as well as on other measures, Shelburne, who desired conciliation, differed from his colleagues. In the autumn of 1768 the king and the Bedford party urged his dismissal, and Grafton acquiesced. Chatham was annoyed by this decision, and still more by the dismissal of Sir Jeffrey Amherst, governor of Virginia. He resigned the privy seal in October, and Grafton was thenceforward considered as head of the ministry. A few days later Shelburne resigned. He was generally disliked and distrusted. He had acted as a go-between in the early days of his career, and while in office was believed to be false to his colleagues; his face answered to the popular idea of a Jesuit, and his manners were artificial. He was given the nickname of Malagrida, a Portuguese Jesuit who had been executed for conspiracy in 1761. Weymouth took his place in the southern, and Lord Rochford became secretary of state for the northern department. When parliament met in December, Bedford moved a petition to the crown to apply to Massachusetts an act of 35 Henry VIII., by which offenders outside the kingdom were liable to be brought to England for trial. This motion and eight resolutions on American affairs moved by Hillsborough passed both houses without a division, though not without opposition, the cause of the colonists being advocated in the commons by Pownall, an ex-governor of Massachusetts, Burke, and others.

To recommend the revival of an obsolete statute, made in a[Pg 90] tyrannical reign and to meet different circumstances, in order to enable a government to deport offenders from a distant colony and try them by juries certain to be prejudiced against them, was so contrary to the spirit of the constitution as to be defensible only on the ground of necessity. That it would have been impossible to secure a verdict in the province against a rioter can scarcely be doubted. The government, however, advocated this measure, not because it was necessary, but merely to frighten the colonists. This became known in America, and the colonists learned that England had made an empty threat, and was about to adopt a conciliatory policy. The only effect of the threat was to excite Virginia and North Carolina to non-importation. The non-importation agreements, which were enforced by advertising the names of offending tradesmen, caused heavy loss to British trade. Between Christmas 1767 and 1769 the value of exports to America decreased by about £700,000. The cabinet inclined to conciliatory measures, and the Massachusetts assembly was again summoned, though it professed no regret for its past conduct. On May 1, 1769, the cabinet resolved to bring in a bill during the next session for taking off all the new duties except that on tea. Grafton proposed to give them all up, and was supported by Camden, Conway, and Granby. North was inclined to a total repeal, but yielded to the king's influence, and declared for retaining the tea duty as a manifestation of right; Gower, Hillsborough, Weymouth and Rochford voted with him. Grafton, though outvoted in the cabinet, remained in office; he desired to resign, but found no "good ground for retirement," for though the king henceforward dictated his orders to him rather than asked his advice, he did not, so Grafton writes, withdraw his personal favour. So completely was the position of a prime minister of our own day unknown at that time.

Hillsborough informed the colonies of the partial repeal of the duties, and of the intention of the government not to lay any further taxes on America for the purpose of revenue. In its amount, namely, threepence on the pound, the tea duty was not a grievance, for the duty of one shilling paid in England was returned on re-exportation, so that the Americans could buy their tea ninepence per pound cheaper than in England. The colonial agitators, however, denied the right of taxation[Pg 91] and the authority of parliament, and these the king and the English people generally were determined to maintain. Hillsborough's letter was ungracious, but its tone was probably of no consequence; the quarrel was not of a sort to be allayed by smooth words. Further attempts at conciliation were made. In compliance with a petition from Massachusetts, Bernard was recalled, and his place was taken by Hutchinson. Boston complained bitterly of the presence of the troops, and half of them were moved away. So long as the British force was strong the town was fairly quiet. When it was reduced the people began to abuse and irritate the soldiers, until the insults heaped upon them led, as we shall see, to an untoward encounter. Thus did the ministry strengthen the spirit of resistance and bring contempt upon Great Britain. For its refusal to make its concessions complete, the king is mainly responsible. A complete surrender would have humiliated him and his realm in the eyes of the world. Whether such humiliation, surely not tamely to be accepted by a great nation, would in the end have prevented the Americans from finding cause for quarrel and separation may possibly be matter for discussion. It is certainly not so with the policy of the ministers, that, if it can be called a policy at all, was clearly the worst they could have adopted.


In Irish, not less than in American, affairs the policy of the ministry was decided by the king. Ireland was governed as a subject country. Shut out from the benefits of the navigation laws, she was only allowed such commerce as would not bring her into rivalry with England. Since the beginning of the century the condition of her people had slightly improved, but in Munster and Connaught there was much terrible misery. Though the severest provisions of the penal code were obsolete, the protestants still remained a dominant caste. Roman catholics were shut out from the bar and the army, and the sons of catholic squires for the most part either spent their youth in idleness or served in foreign armies. The great landowners were generally absentees and their estates were rented by middle-men; the lands were let three or four deep, and the peasants were crushed by exorbitant rents and unjust dealing. Their burdens were increased by the tithe paid to an alien Church which was still rather a secular than a religious power and, though more Irishmen held preferments in it than formerly,[Pg 92] had no place in the affections of the people and neglected its duty, while the catholic priests, mostly poor and ignorant men, were active, were adored by their flocks, and ruled them with benevolent despotism. The tithe was specially burdensome to the poor, both because the rich pasture-lands of the wealthy were exempt from payment, while it was levied on little plots worked by the plough or spade of the peasant, and because it was constantly farmed out to men who made their bargains profitable by oppressing the needy with unfair exactions. Chief among the causes of the misery of the peasants was the extent to which arable land was converted into pasture. Commons were unjustly enclosed, villages were depopulated, the starving peasants were forced to flee to the mountains, and black cattle roamed at will round the ruins of their deserted dwellings.

The despair of the wretched found expression in violence. In 1761 a secret society called the Whiteboys was organised in Munster and parts of Leinster to resist, or exact vengeance for, the enclosure of commons, and unjust rents or tithe. The movement was agrarian, not religious, though the Whiteboys were catholics, nor political. It was formidable, for there was no Irish constabulary or militia. The Whiteboys would gather in obedience to some secret mandate, march by night in large and ordered companies, some to the land of one offender, others to that of another, and, making the darkness hideous with their white smocks, fall to houghing cattle, destroying fences, and spoiling pastures. Many cruel deeds were done, though the murders were few. Stern acts were passed against Whiteboyism; volunteers put themselves at the disposal of the magistrates, and the rising was at last crushed, not without cruelty and an unfair administration of the criminal law. The outbreak is a notable event in Irish history, for from that time until now secret societies which have attempted to gain their objects by lawless and bloody means have constantly existed in Ireland. In protestant Ulster the Oakboys, as they called themselves, rose in 1763 against an increase in the demands for tithe and the burdens laid upon them for making and repairing roads. Their rising was not accompanied by the cruelties which disgraced Whiteboyism, and was speedily pacified. Some years later the greediness of Lord Donegal, who for the sake of gain evicted over 6,000 protestant families and replaced them by new[Pg 93] tenants, many of them catholics, caused a rising in Antrim and Down. Already numerous presbyterians of Ulster, men of Scottish and English descent, had been driven by the destruction of the woollen trade and the disabilities imposed by the test act to emigrate to America, and many of Donegal's evicted tenantry followed their example. Ireland lost men who should have defended British interests, and America gained some of her best soldiers in the revolutionary war. The feud between the protestants and catholics of Ulster arising out of Donegal's evictions bore bitter fruit in later troubles.


The Irish house of commons was composed exclusively of protestants, elected exclusively by protestants. Of its 300 members sixty-four were returned for counties and were in some measure elected by the people. Two were returned for Trinity College, Dublin. The remainder sat for cities and boroughs, and of these 172 were nominated by borough-owners. The duration of parliament was only terminated by the demise of the crown. The house was the representative of the protestant aristocracy and was completely out of touch with the mass of the people. It had little control of finance, for the Irish establishments were large. The civil list was burdened with pensions and sinecures, distributed either as a means of parliamentary corruption, or among the supporters of the castle policy and the hangers-on of the English court. By Poyning's law the Irish parliament was subordinated to the English privy council, and could not be summoned until the bills which it was called upon to pass had received the assent of the council. A desire for greater independence was growing up in parliament, and a patriotic party eagerly pressed for reforms, for the extension of the habeas corpus act to Ireland, for securing the judges in office, and for shorter parliaments. The government was in the hands of a party called the "Irish interest" which worked harmoniously with the English ministers. Its chiefs, the "undertakers," undertook the king's business in parliament, administered the country, and dispensed patronage, for the lord-lieutenant only resided in Ireland during the session of parliament, that is for six months every other year. They answered roughly to the whig oligarchy in England at the beginning of the reign, and in spite of some extravagance and corruption used their power not altogether ill.[Pg 94]

George, who was sincerely anxious for the good government of the country, desired, as a matter of general policy, to break down the power of the undertakers, as he had broken down the power of the whigs in England. He also had a special point to carry; he wanted to obtain the consent of parliament to an augmentation of the Irish army from 12,000 to 15,000 men. As the peace establishment of Great Britain was only about 17,000 men, the crown certainly needed a larger force, but it was unfair to lay the burden of providing it on Ireland. With these objects the ministry sent the Marquis Townshend, Charles Townshend's brother, to Ireland as viceroy in 1767, ordering him to reside there throughout his term of office. After much difficulty Townshend obtained the augmentation, with the proviso that 12,000 troops should be kept in the country, and the patriotic party, Lord Charlemont, Lucas, Flood, and others, were gratified by the octennial act limiting the duration of parliament to eight years. When the new parliament met, the commons acting under the influence of the undertakers, renewed an attempt made at the beginning of the reign to establish their authority over supply by rejecting a money bill which, according to custom, had been prepared by the government and returned by the English privy council. Townshend prorogued parliament; and before its next meeting secured a majority by wholesale corruption, such as had been employed in England by Fox and Bute, and overthrew the power of the undertakers. His want of tact and his indecorous conduct rendered his victory fruitless, and he was recalled in 1772.

The general election of 1768 was even more corrupt than that of 1761. Again both the court and the nabobs came well to the front. Borough-mongers did a business in seats much as house-agents did in houses. One of them laughed when Lord Chesterfield offered £2,500 for a seat for his son; the nabobs, he said, had raised prices to at least £3,000; some seats had fetched £4,000, two as much as £5,000. George Selwyn took £9,000 for the two seats for Ludgershall. The city of Oxford offered to return its two sitting members if they would pay the city's debts, £5,670. They informed the house of commons of the offer, and ten of the leading citizens were confined for five days in Newgate, and afterwards knelt at the bar of the house and were reprimanded by the speaker—a solemn farce, for they[Pg 95] sold the seats to two neighbouring magnates, and are said to have arranged the transaction while they were in prison. Holland bought a seat for his second son, Charles James Fox, then a youth of nineteen. As was natural in his father's son, Fox supported the ministers, and was soon distinguished in parliament by his opposition to all liberal measures, and outside it by reckless gambling and extravagance.


Wilkes, who made a short visit to England in 1766, when he remained quiet and was not disturbed, was brought back again by the election. He stood for the city of London, was at the bottom of the poll, and announced that he would stand for Middlesex. His proceedings caused much excitement, for the country was discontented and disturbed. The price of bread was high, and during the early part of the year there were many strikes and much rioting, especially in London. The Spitalfields weavers made several riots and broke the looms of those who refused to join in their demands. The sailors struck, and detained all outward-bound vessels in the Thames. The coal-heavers also struck, and fought fierce battles with the sailors in which many lives were lost. Though some of these riots broke out a little later, they explain the excitement and enthusiasm with which Wilkes was received by the London mob. He was returned for Middlesex by a large majority. The mob which had passed out from London to Brentford, the polling-place, came back in triumph, forced people to illuminate their houses, and smashed many windows. If on Wilkes's return to England George had granted him a free pardon, the demagogue would probably have subsided into a peaceable member of parliament. Unfortunately he could not overlook Wilkes's insults to himself and to his mother. Grafton came to London as seldom as possible, but George found a willing instrument in Weymouth. On April 17 Wilkes surrendered to his outlawry. In anticipation of disturbances Weymouth wrote to the Lambeth magistrates, bidding them, if need arose, to be prompt in calling in the aid of the military.

On the 26th Wilkes was committed to the king's bench prison. The populace drew him along in a coach to Spitalfields, where he escaped their further attentions and voluntarily went to the prison. An excited crowd daily assembled outside the prison, and the riots of the sailors, coal-heavers, and sawyers[Pg 96] grew formidable. Parliament was to meet on May 10, and the king, believing that a serious riot would probably take place on that day, recommended firmness and a prompt employment of troops. The tone of his letters at this crisis is unpleasant and shows personal animosity; yet neither he nor Weymouth can justly be blamed for urging prompt and decided measures, for they were necessary for the preservation of order and for the protection of life and property. As George had foreseen, a riot broke out on the 10th. A vast mob gathered round the king's bench prison and in St. George's Fields, and demanded that Wilkes should be liberated in order to take his place in parliament. The riot act was read, the troops were severely pelted, and some soldiers killed a young man named Allen, whom they mistook for a ringleader of the rioters. The order to fire was given; five of the mob were killed and several wounded. Though for the moment the mob was mastered, this untoward event exasperated the malcontents, and much indignation was excited by an order signed by Barrington, which assured the troops that they would be protected if "any disagreeable circumstance" should arise in the execution of their duty. On June 8 Lord Mansfield, the lord chief-justice, reversed Wilkes's outlawry and sentenced him on the verdicts brought against him in 1764 to fines of £1,000, and twenty-two months further imprisonment.

While in prison Wilkes obtained Weymouth's letter of April 17, and published it with libellous comments, charging him with having deliberately planned "the massacre" of St. George's Fields. These comments were voted a seditious libel by the commons. Wilkes's petition for redress of grievances was rejected; he was brought to the bar of the house and avowed the authorship of the comments on Weymouth's "bloody scroll," as he called it. On the next day, February 3, 1769, Barrington proposed his expulsion from the house, and supported his motion by recapitulating his various misdeeds. Grenville, Burke, and others urged that it was unfair to go back to past offences and accumulate the charges against him, and Grenville warned the house that the course on which it was embarking would probably lead it into a violation of the rights of the electorate. Nevertheless, the house lent itself to the wishes of the king and voted the expulsion by 219 to 137. Grenville's warning[Pg 97] was justified. Wilkes was re-elected on the 16th, and the next day the house annulled the election and declared him incapable of being elected to serve in the present parliament. That the house, whether acting justly or not, has a right to expel any member whom it judges unworthy to sit, is indisputable, but to declare an incapacity unknown to the law was an unconstitutional and arbitrary proceeding. In spite of this declaration Wilkes was again returned on March 16. The election was again annulled. An address in support of the king was prepared by the court party in the city, and on the 22nd hundreds set out in coaches for St. James's to deliver it. They were pelted by a vast mob, and only a third of them reached the palace. Meanwhile another mob gathered at St. James's and tried to force a hearse bearing a picture of Allen's death into the court-yard. They were foiled by the courage of Talbot, the lord-steward, and were dispersed after some scuffling. Throughout the whole day the king exhibited perfect composure, though the riot was serious and might easily have become formidable.


A new writ was issued for Middlesex, and Colonel Luttrell, one of the court party, resigned his Cornish seat in order to oppose Wilkes. In the previous December at the election of Serjeant Glynn, Wilkes's counsel, to the other seat for the county, one of his supporters lost his life. Two men were found guilty of murdering him, and received a royal pardon, for, though they assaulted him, the man's death was due to natural causes. Luttrell was believed to be risking his life, and bets were freely made as to his probable fate. The election, however, passed off quietly on April 13, when Wilkes polled 1,143 votes and Luttrell 296. On the 15th, the house, after a hot debate, carried by 197 to 143 a motion that Luttrell "ought to have been returned". This decision, which set at nought the rights of electors, was the inevitable outcome of the vote of expulsion. The king was victorious, and was delighted at his victory. His satisfaction was soon alloyed, for the means which he had employed to gain his end roused widespread indignation. He had brought himself into conflict with his people and had blunted his weapons. He had gradually got together a set of ministers through whom he could rule; for some of them were his willing instruments, and the rest, though uneasy[Pg 98] at their position, forbore to oppose him. At great cost to himself and the nation he had secured a majority in the house of commons, and he had strengthened his cause by enlisting on his side the jealousy with which the house regarded all matters of privilege. Neither his ministers nor the house failed him, not even when called upon to violate the constitution, but his policy rendered both alike odious to the nation. Wilkes was a gainer by his own defeat. Thousands who had little or no sympathy with him personally espoused his cause when they found it justly associated with liberty. A large subscription was made for him: £17,000 was spent in paying his debts; his long-deferred suit against Halifax was at last heard, and he obtained £4,000 damages; he was again enabled to live in comfort, and while still in prison was elected an alderman of London.

Other causes contributed to the unpopularity of the ministers, among them the French annexation of Corsica. The island rebelled against the Genoese; and they, finding themselves unable to subdue it, agreed to sell it to France. The bravery of the insurgents excited sympathy in England; and there was a strong feeling that the acquisition of the island by France would increase her naval strength, which was reasonably regarded with jealousy. "Corsica," said Burke, "as a province of France is terrible to me;" and Sir Charles Saunders, who had commanded in the Mediterranean, held that to prevent the proposed annexation would be well worth a war. There was, however, something to be said on the other side. The ministers might have pursued either one of two courses. They might have given France to understand that they would make the annexation of the island a cause of war, and in that case France would probably have drawn back; or they might, without loss of dignity, have passed the matter by as no concern of theirs. Unfortunately, a decided course was impossible to the divided cabinet. They remonstrated vigorously, and France wavered. Then the Bedford section made it known that England would not in any case go to war, and France despised their remonstrance. Grafton allowed the Corsicans to hope for British help, and secretly sent them arms. This was worse than useless. The Corsican general, Paoli, was forced to flee; the island was annexed to France in 1769, and, as Burke said, "British policy was brought into derision".[Pg 99]


Again, in the midst of the struggle with the Middlesex electorate, parliament was asked for £513,500 to pay the debts on the civil list. The civil list was sufficient to meet the legitimate expenses of the crown; the king was personally frugal; how had the deficiency arisen? Beyond all question the money had been spent in augmenting the influence of the crown by multiplying offices and pensions, by the purchase of votes at elections, and other corrupt means. The ministers were responsible to the nation for the way in which the public money had been spent. The opposition, and specially Grenville, Burke, and Dowdeswell, urged that before the house made the grant, it should inquire into the causes which rendered it necessary. Their demand was resisted: the house decided not to consider the causes of the debts, and the ministers carried the grant without inquiry. By this evil precedent the commons abandoned the constitutional means of checking the expenditure of the public money by the crown, and proved themselves unfaithful to their duty towards the nation.

Violent attacks were made on the ministers by the press. The most famous of these are the letters signed "Junius," and others attributed, some of them with little probability, to the same author, which appeared first in the Public Advertizer, a London daily paper. Their fame is partly due to the mystery of their authorship. For that doubtful honour more than thirty names have been suggested. On strong, if not perfectly convincing grounds, Junius is now generally believed to have been Philip Francis, then a clerk in the war office and later a member of the East India council and a knight, though, if he was the author, he probably received help from some one of higher social position, possibly from Temple.[80] As literature the letters are remarkable for clearness of expression and for a polish of style so high as to be artificial and monotonous; their chief literary defect is violence of language. Occupied almost exclusively with personal vituperation, they deal with events as opportunities[Pg 100] for abuse rather than for thoughtful comment, with constitutional doctrines as weapons of attack rather than as bulwarks of liberty. The writer's political opinions are based on narrow grounds; he exhibits no power of generalisation or philosophic thought. Sheltered by his carefully guarded anonymity, he exercised a vile ingenuity in devising how he might wound most deeply persons whom he dared not attack in his own name. Without regard to decency or truth he mocks with devilish glee at the vices, failings, and misfortunes of the objects of his hatred. His attacks on the chief ministers of the crown, on Grafton, Bedford, North, Weymouth, and Sandwich, on Mansfield, and on the king himself, excited intense curiosity. Before long their violence defeated their purpose and the disgraceful "Letter to the King," published in December, 1769, excited general disgust.

The anger caused by the issue of the struggle with the Middlesex electors found voice in petitions to the throne. Middlesex sent up a manifesto, which was virtually adopted by London, accusing the ministers of treason; Westminster prayed for a dissolution of parliament, and some counties and boroughs followed its example, arguing that the presence of Luttrell, who had not been duly elected, invalidated every act of the existing parliament. London further declared itself against the court party by electing Beckford, a prime mover in promoting the Surrey petition, as lord mayor. The country, however, was not all on the same side; the petitions were not, as a rule, signed by many of the larger freeholders, and by the end of the year the movement seemed at a stand.[81] In July Chatham appeared at court restored to health. The king received him kindly, but must have been vexed to hear that he disapproved of the policy of the ministers, specially with regard to the Middlesex election. He treated Grafton with extreme coldness, and Camden, who had sneered at him in his absence, at once followed his lead. He allied himself with the opposition, with Temple, Grenville, and their following, and with the Rockingham party, so far as measures were concerned. With the Rockinghams, however, he was never wholly at one; his violence, and habit of looking beyond parliament to the people itself, and of seeking political strength in popular good-will, separated him[Pg 101] from them in feeling and methods of action. Yet his alliance with them was never formally broken. He entered into it because, he said, former differences should be forgotten when the struggle was pro aris et focis. He was eager for the fray. Parliament, said he, "must, it shall, be dissolved". With him as leader and with a united opposition, backed by a large part of the nation, victory seemed almost certain. He reckoned without the king. An ostensible minister might be forced to resign; but the king was a permanent official, and George was hard to beat.


Parliament met on January 9, 1770. It was a critical time: at home discontent was widespread; the American colonies were disaffected; war with France and Spain seemed not far off. The king's speech recommended attention to American affairs and hinted at the unfriendly attitude of foreign courts, but took no notice of domestic discontents, and gave prominence to an outbreak of distemper among "horned cattle". The cattle plague was a matter of serious national concern; yet the speech was insufficient for the occasion; it was, Junius declared, the speech of "a ruined grazier". It showed that the ministers intended to ignore the signs of popular indignation. Chatham moved, as an amendment to the address, that the lords would inquire into the causes of the prevailing discontents and specially into the matter of the Middlesex election. "The people," he said, "demand redress, and depend upon it, my lords, that one way or other they will have redress;" and he attributed their discontent to the action of the commons in Wilkes's case. Camden followed, and declared that he had beheld the arbitrary acts of the ministry with silent indignation, that he would no longer keep silence, and was of the same opinion as Chatham. Mansfield opposed the amendment on the ground that it infringed upon the right of the commons to be sole judges of elections and might lead to a quarrel between the two houses. Chatham said that he reverenced the constitutional authority of the commons, but they had gone beyond it, they had betrayed their constituents and violated the constitution. He ended with a declamation exhorting the peers to act as became descendants of the barons of Magna Charta (how many of them could trace descent from so noble a source?) and like "those iron barons, for so," said he, "I may call them when compared[Pg 102] with the silken barons of modern days," to defend the rights of the people at large. His amendment was negatived. The address was carried in the lords by 203 to 36, and in the commons after a hot debate by 254 to 138.

Camden's conduct was discreditable. It is true that the maxim that a member of the cabinet should either acquiesce in the decision of the majority or resign his seat in it, was not then universally accepted, and that Camden had made it plain that he disapproved of the policy of his colleagues with respect to the vote of incapacity. He had not, however, opposed it with any show of determination. His alliance with Chatham made it certain that he could not retain the chancellorship, yet he would not resign it, because he could inflict a harder blow on the ministry as a member of it than he could when out of office. Decency demanded that he should resign before he appealed to the lords against a decision made by the cabinet in which he sat. He was dismissed from office on the 17th. Granby at once threw up the ordnance and the command of the army, and Dunning, the solicitor-general, and some others also resigned. It was difficult to find a new chancellor, for the ministry was believed to be moribund. Grafton offered the great seal to Charles Yorke, the second son of the famous chancellor, Hardwicke, who died in 1764. He had twice been attorney-general, and was an ambitious man. His brother, Lord Hardwicke, and Rockingham, to whose party he had attached himself, urged him not to accept the offer, and he declined it. On the 17th, George told him that if he did not accept the great seal then, it should never be offered to him again. He yielded, and his brother and Rockingham reproached him bitterly for his compliance. He was in ill-health and his malady may well have been increased by his agitation. In any case, he died on the 20th, perhaps by his own hand. His death defeated Grafton's one hope of strengthening the administration; he had no one in the cabinet on whose support he could rely except Conway; for Weymouth and the rest constantly acted contrary to his opinions. He resigned office on the 28th.


George was undaunted; he turned to the one man of eminence among his remaining ministers and appointed North to the treasury, to be held along with the chancellorship of the exchequer. Few changes were made in the ministry; the great[Pg 103] seal was put in commission, and Mansfield, who remained in the cabinet, took the speakership of the house of lords. Conway retired from the cabinet. Thurlow, a strong advocate of prerogative, coarse, blunt, yet insincere, became solicitor-general, and the other vacant places were filled. Yet these changes mark an important epoch. During Grafton's administration the king became master of the government, but was forced to employ unsatisfactory instruments for the exercise of his power. Though differences of opinion still arose in the cabinet, the ministry gained in solidarity and strength by the loss of its dissentient members. Above all, George at last found a first minister after his own heart. North had ability, tact, knowledge, and an unfailing good temper; he was well educated and of high moral character. Though ungainly in appearance and with no oratorical talent, he was witty and formidable in debate. In intellect he was the king's superior, but he allowed George's prejudices to override his convictions. He would never be called prime minister. George was his own prime minister, and he merely his manager and representative. His submission to the king at the cost of his duty to the country did not proceed from selfish motives; it was the result partly of personal attachment and partly of the action of the stronger upon the weaker will. George repaid his devotion by giving him his full confidence and constant support. North was lazy, yet this defect added strength to the combination of king and minister. Behind the scenes George was active and anxious, while in parliament the weapons of indignation and sarcasm with which North was assailed failed to pierce the impenetrable wall of his amiable insouciance. The king's policy was triumphant. The combination between the obedient responsible minister and the imperious irresponsible king lasted for twelve years, during which George ruled as well as reigned.

Again, the point we have reached marks an epoch, because the rise of modern radicalism has with fair reason been traced to the struggle over the Middlesex election in 1769, though in accepting this judgment we must not forget that the radicalism of 1819 was affected by events of later dates. In 1769, however, as in 1819, the representatives of the people were opposed to the will of the people. Where was sovereignty to reside? In the nation as represented in parliament, or in the nation[Pg 104] external to it? When this question arises it can only be set at rest by making parliament truly representative of the nation. Accordingly popular discontent in 1769 was not merely directed against ministers and measures, it demanded radical changes in the constitutional machinery, and its demands were expressed by means which, though not unconstitutional, were not recognised by the constitution, such as public meetings and associations. Meetings to express discontent and urge reforms were constantly held, and an association for promoting the popular demands, called the Bill of Rights Society, was formed by a clerical demagogue named Horne (afterwards Horne Tooke), Wilkes, Glynn, and others. Among the changes which they demanded as remedies for the unsatisfactory state of the representation were annual parliaments, the exaction of an oath against bribery, and the exclusion from parliament of holders of places and pensions. At this time, too, constituencies began to assert a right to control their representatives by sending them instructions as to their conduct in parliament.


The movement found support in parliament. A few of the minority were among its leaders; and others, though not disposed to go so far, maintained the necessity for constitutional reforms. Whig tactics were changed since the beginning of the reign. Beaten by the king and his friends at the game of corruption, the whigs had become the advocates of purity of election. The fact need not reflect on personal characters. Some of the whigs of 1769 were consistent in their opposition to corruption. As regards others, it must be remembered that abuses seldom shock a man who gains by them; they become intolerable if they are turned against him. Chatham himself once sat for Old Sarum, was elected for Seaford apparently through bribery, and as minister was content that Newcastle should gain him support by corruption. Chief among the abuses which prevented the house of commons from representing the people were the defects in its constitution. While the elections in counties and some large boroughs were comparatively pure, the representation of the smaller boroughs was a matter of nomination or corruption. Out of the 513 members for England and Wales, 254 sat for constituencies which, taken together, numbered only 11,500 voters, and fifty-six boroughs had each less than forty voters. Forty-four members sat for Cornish seats; Middle[Pg 105]sex, London and Westminster together only returned eight. Chatham at one time seemed to think that the corrupt boroughs might be got rid of, but finally feared that such a change would cause a "public convulsion," and proposed to counteract their effects by adding one member to each of the county constituencies. After much hesitation he also advocated a return to triennial parliaments.

Burke, on the other hand, and the Rockingham party generally were opposed to any change in the constitutional machinery. The constitution was altogether admirable in Burke's eyes; all that was wanted was the removal of abuses, which hindered it from working well. Shorter parliaments would, he argued, only lead to more frequent disorders and increase the opportunities for corruption; he would have no change in the system of representation, and held that a place bill would lower the character of parliament by excluding from it many men of wealth, weight, and talent. He strongly objected to the growing custom of sending instructions to members, pointing out that members of parliament should not be regarded as mere local delegates, but as representatives of the nation, chosen by various constituent bodies. While he was opposed to changes in the constitution, he laboured to bring parliament into a sound state by reforms which allowed the publication of its proceedings, improved the system of deciding the lawfulness of elections, and checked the multiplication of places and pensions, as well as by other measures of a like tendency. The opposition then differed amongst themselves: Chatham and his followers held that some organic changes in the constitution were necessary, and more or less sympathised with what (though the name was not yet invented) may be called the radical party; Burke and those under his influence railed at the bill of rights men, deprecated organic changes, and advocated conservative reforms.


[76] Lord E. Fitzmaurice, Life of Shelburne, ii., 31-37.

[77] James Grenville to Lady Chatham, Feb. 23, 1767, MS. Pitt Papers, 35.

[78] Chatham Corr., iii., 21, 134, 229-30.

[79] Burke's speeches on Jan. 9 and May 8, 1770, Parl. Hist., xvii., 674, 1004-5.

[80] The ablest advocacy of the Franciscan authorship is in Sir L. Stephen's article on "Francis" in the Dictionary of National Biography; see also English Historical Review, iii. (1888), 233 sq. A claim is advanced for Temple in the Grenville Papers, iii.; his co-operation is suggested by Sir W. Anson, Grafton Memoirs, Introd. xxxi.-xxxiii. It may be noted that Temple's letters in the Pitt Papers show that he had a peculiarly coarse mind.

[81] Annual Register, xiii. (1770), 58.



It was generally thought that North's administration would be short-lived. The opposition was strong and apparently united, and it had a large part of the people at its back. The public expectation was ill-grounded. The king's influence in parliament was not to be overborne; as many as 192 members of the house of commons held office under government.[82] North was a first-rate leader and the king was industrious and determined. Yet the strength of the ministry was largely derived from the conduct of their opponents. The violence of the extreme section of the popular party led to a revulsion of feeling in the country. In parliament Chatham was not effective, for his declamatory speeches and dictatorial manner were out of place in the lords; and in the commons Burke was apt to weary the house, and lost ground through constant breaches of good taste. Above all, the two parties in the opposition, the extreme section, with which Chatham had much sympathy, and the Rockingham whigs, did not work well together. In the spring of 1770 Burke published his Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents, a masterly exposition of the existing political abuses and of the remedies appropriate to them. Its rejection of proposals for organic changes in the constitution annoyed Chatham, who declared that it had done much harm to the cause. He was soon irritated with the whigs generally. "Moderation, moderation," said he, "is the burthen of their song;" he would be "a scarecrow of violence to the gentle warblers of the grove, the moderate whigs and temperate statesmen". He tried to force the whigs to follow his lead, but Rockingham had no mind to court Chatham's loud-voiced supporters in the city, or[Pg 107] to adopt violent measures in order to assure the people that he was true to their cause. Chatham thought it possible that it might be expedient to separate himself from "so unorthodox a congregation" as the whig party, and accused Burke and the Rockinghams of a spirit of connexion. So bitter were his feelings, that he and his friends rejoiced when Dowdeswell and Burke, "those positive gentlemen," were defeated in an attempt to vindicate the rights of juries, because they adopted a method of procedure of which he did not approve; they were, his friend Calcraft wrote to him, "completely disgraced," and Chatham styled their bill "a compound of connexion, tyranny and absurdity".[83] While the opposition was in this distracted state the ministerial party was united. In three years' time at most opposition in parliament was practically dead, and the ministry was thoroughly popular in the country.[84]


During the remainder of the session of 1769-70 the opposition made a good fight. In the lords Chatham and Rockingham co-operated in attempts to persuade the house to condemn the action of the commons with reference to the Middlesex election, and in debates on American affairs; but Rockingham refused to join in moving an address to the king to dissolve parliament. Chatham's motion was avowedly made in order to stimulate popularity out of doors, and Rockingham, who disliked his demagogic arts, thought it uncalled for and refused "to be sworn every day to keep his word" to the people. Chatham persevered, and the motion received little support. In the commons George Grenville, Dowdeswell, who as Grenville's health declined became virtually leader of the opposition, Burke, Barré, Wedderburn, an able and ambitious Scottish lawyer, and others, aided by the extreme section of which Beckford and Alderman Sawbridge were conspicuous members, caused the ministry much trouble. North was the chief speaker on the ministerial side. The court party, or king's friends, so far as they may in any degree be regarded as distinct from the rest of his supporters, seem to have been headed by Rigby, who since 1768 had lived in luxury on the vast profits of the paymaster's[Pg 108] office. Dowdeswell's motion that in matters of election the house is bound to judge according to the law of the land was so threatening an attack that North met it by tacking to it an amendment to the effect that the declaration of Wilkes's incapacity was agreeable to that law, and the minority reached 180 against 244. The king, anxiously watching all that passed in parliament, felt that even this majority was satisfactory. "A little spirit," he wrote to North, "will soon restore order in my service."

The opposition were encouraged, and proceeded to attack two of the sources from which the crown derived its influence. As the expenses of the customs, amounting to nearly £600,000 a year, gave ministers a large amount of patronage which was used for political purposes, Dowdeswell proposed to disqualify the inferior revenue officers from voting at elections. Again, Grenville urged that parliament had paid the debts of the civil list without receiving any assurance that further demands of the same kind would not be made upon the country, and moved for the accounts of the past year as the only means of preventing the revenues of the crown from being spent on corruption. On both these motions the ministerial majority was substantially larger than on the Middlesex question. Nevertheless, the opposition succeeded in carrying one measure which removed an abuse of the representative system and raised the character of the house of commons. The custom, which had lately become usual, of trying the validity of controverted elections by the whole house, and determining it by vote, placed the rights of electors in the hands of the minister who commanded a majority. During the hearing of an election petition the house would be thin, for the evidence was of little consequence; the decision was a trial of strength between political parties, each side would muster its full force, and a seat would be secured or taken away merely in order to swell a triumphant majority. Grenville proposed to transfer the right of hearing and determining these cases from the whole house to a committee of fifteen members, thirteen of whom were to be chosen by ballot, and the other two nominated by the two candidates. The fifteen were to be sworn to decide impartially, and to have power to examine witnesses on oath. An effort to postpone the bill, though supported by North, was defeated by 185 to 123, the country[Pg 109] gentlemen on this occasion voting with the opposition; the bill was carried, passed the lords, and became law on April 12. The measure reflects lustre on the memory of Grenville, who devised it and carried it through when suffering from mortal sickness. The act, which was limited in committee to seven years, was found so useful that it was made perpetual in 1774.


The decision to abandon all the new duties levied in America, except that on tea, was brought before the house of commons by North on March 6, 1770. The idea of making the Americans pay for their own defence was dropped, and the tax, which brought in only a trifling sum, was to be maintained as an assertion of right. Grenville pointed out that a partial repeal would not conciliate the colonists, that the troubles in America had been caused by vacillation, and that what was wanted was a plan of government steadily pursued and enforced. The opposition desired complete repeal, and the ministerial majority was only 62. On the evening before this debate an event took place at Boston which strengthened the spirit of resistance. The cowardly insults to which the soldiers were exposed after the reduction of their number led to various scuffles; but their discipline prevented them from effectually retaliating on their persecutors, and baiting the soldiers became a popular pastime. On the evening of the 5th Captain Preston of the 29th regiment and about a dozen soldiers went to the rescue of a sentinel who was being ill-treated by the mob. After some provocation his men fired without orders, three of the mob were killed on the spot, two others were mortally and several more slightly wounded. The next day the townspeople, led by Samuel Adams, insisted on the removal of the troops. Hutchinson yielded to their demand, and both regiments were withdrawn to Castle William. Preston and his men were brought to trial, and were treated with remarkable fairness. All were acquitted except two soldiers, who were slightly punished. The decision of parliament with reference to the new duties reached the colonies when the temper of the people was excited by this untoward event, the "Boston massacre" as it was called, and was regarded rather as a partial acknowledgment of defeat than as an attempt at conciliation. Disputes, however, arose over the non-importation agreements. Self-interest proved stronger than political feeling: the agreements were constantly broken;[Pg 110] indeed, the imports to New England and Pennsylvania increased to one-half more than their usual amount. In October the agreements were everywhere definitely abandoned, and new agreements were made against the importation of tea only. With that exception, commerce with England again revived.

Outside parliament a strong party in the city, led by Beckford and supported by Chatham, was clamorous against the government. In spite of the disapproval of nearly all the aldermen, Beckford held a meeting of the livery to complain that the petition of the city with reference to the Middlesex election had not been answered. The meeting adopted an arrogantly worded remonstrance to the king, declaring that "a secret and malign influence" deprived the people of their dearest rights, and desiring the dissolution of parliament and the removal of evil ministers. In accordance with a prescriptive right, this remonstrance was received by the king in person on March 14. George replied to it with a severe rebuke; the remonstrance was, he said, disrespectful to himself, injurious to his parliament, and irreconcilable with the principles of the constitution. The court party was much excited, and at the Cocoa-tree Tavern, the meeting-place or club of the supporters of the ministry, talked loudly of impeachments. North wisely held them back.[85] The house of commons could not allow the insult to itself to pass unnoticed, and a copy of the remonstrance was moved for. Beckford and his friends in the house defended it, and Burke passionately urged the folly and injustice of quarrelling with the city for exercising the right of petition and remonstrance. North calmed down the heat of the debate, and pointed out the unconstitutional character of the remonstrance, which virtually denied the authority of the existing parliament. The motion was carried, and further debates took place. The whigs, though firm in asserting the right of petition, disliked the tone that had been adopted by the city, and an address to the king condemning the remonstrance was carried by 248 to 94. Chatham was furious. With his warm approval a remonstrance to the king was sent from Westminster, and Middlesex and Kent followed suit; but Rockingham's refusal to support his motion in favour of a dissolution plainly[Pg 111] showed him that he could not force the whigs to adopt violent measures.


The city would not endure the king's rebuke in silence, and another remonstrance was adopted to the same effect as the former, though it addressed the king in more dutiful language. George received it on May 23, and replied that his sentiments on the subject of the first address were unchanged. As soon as he ceased speaking, Beckford made a harangue to which the king returned no answer. The words attributed to Beckford, and afterwards inscribed in gilt letters in the Guildhall, were that whoever alienated the king's mind from his people in general and the city of London in particular was his majesty's enemy and "a betrayer of our happy constitution as it was established at the glorious and necessary revolution". Brave words which, as there is reason to believe, were invented for him and never spoken.[86] Beckford's friends believed that he had got the better of the king, and Chatham in a grandiose letter to him declared that "the spirit of old England spoke that never-to-be-forgotten day". Nevertheless, Beckford's conduct was highly indecorous. The sovereign never performs a public act on his own responsibility, and accordingly all addresses on public affairs which are to be answered in person are sent beforehand to the proper officer that the king may receive the advice of his ministers as to his reply. Beckford tried to entrap the king into entering into a personal altercation and replying without consultation with his constitutional advisers. George, who in public never fell short of his kingly part, defeated his purpose by silence and afterwards ordered that his unexpected speech was not to be looked upon as precedent.

He prorogued parliament a few days before this incident. For some months his mind had been tried severely. His power, which he loved so well and conscientiously believed himself bound to maintain, was at stake in the political conflict. His letters to North prove how eagerly and anxiously he watched the progress of that conflict in which he was really, though not ostensibly, engaged in person. If Chatham and the city had succeeded in forcing him to dissolve parliament on the ground[Pg 112] that its authority was vitiated by the nomination of Luttrell as a member for Middlesex, he would have suffered a defeat which even his dogged perseverance would have failed to retrieve. Rather than that, "I will," he said to Conway, "have recourse to this," and he laid his hand on his sword. The opposition had a good cause, but, as we have seen, they played their part badly. Among the reasons of their failure a conspicuous place must be assigned to the displeasure excited by the attacks made on the king by the more violent section, the vile letter of Junius, the rudeness of the city, and the like. The constant references which were made to some secret influence, presumably that of his mother or Bute, which was supposed to guide him were as foolish as they were rude, for George's policy was his own. His anxieties and troubles were almost more than he could bear. "At the [royal] gardening (sic) party" on June 2 he burst into tears and talked somewhat strangely; he had, it was believed, "for some time been much agitated and lived (as usual when he is so) on vegetables and fruit".[87] The symptoms happily passed away. He had, indeed, cause for cheerfulness, for the ministry was in a far stronger position at the end of the session than when North took office.


The next session began early, on November 13, for a war with Spain seemed imminent. Choiseul was anxious to make the Family Compact the means of humbling England and of regaining for France the territories she had lost. He patiently built up a new navy, until France had afloat sixty-four ships of the line and fifty frigates; and he organised the naval artillery. Grimaldi, the foreign minister of Spain, shared his hopes and followed his example; the Spanish navy was increased, and the dockyards well stocked, though as usual the seamen were few. For some time both powers showed an inclination to treat England with contempt; they believed her to be enfeebled by domestic discord, and her conduct with reference to the Manila ransom, the annexation of Corsica, and some other matters, strengthened this opinion. In 1770 the ministers of the two Bourbon courts went a step too far. The Falkland islands, to the east of the straits of Magellan, though in reality only fit for sheep-farming, were generally believed to be fertile.[Pg 113] Acting on this belief, France took possession of the eastern island in 1764, and shortly afterwards handed it over to Spain. Meanwhile, in 1765, England took possession of the western island and formed a settlement on it, which was named Port Egmont, after the first lord of the admiralty. In November, 1769, Captain Hunt of the Tamar, sloop of war, observed a Spanish schooner hovering off this settlement and warned her to depart. The Spanish captain asserted that the island belonged to his master, and two Spanish frigates arrived soon afterwards and repeated the claim. Hunt gave them a decided answer, and as it was agreed that both parties should refer the claim of right to their governments, sailed for England leaving a small garrison in Port Egmont. During his absence Buccarelli, the governor of Buenos Ayres, took forcible possession of the island, and, in order to ensure being the first to send the news to Spain, had the impudence to remove the rudder of a British ship of war, and detained her for twenty days.

Harris, afterwards first Earl of Malmesbury, the British chargé d'affaires at Madrid, at once made a suitable remonstrance, but, as Grimaldi expected support from France, received no satisfaction. The British government, which had not bestirred itself on receiving Hunt's report in June, at once prepared for war, and the king's speech declared that proper reparation would be required. The navy in that year numbered 337 ships, only forty-two less than in 1763, of which three were first-rates, fifteen second-rates, and 100 third-rates, besides forty-four sloops.[88] Some of these, however, were thoroughly rotten, and many more in bad repair, and the dockyards were short of seasoned timber. For some years the navy had been neglected, and, though the votes for the service had been large, much money had been eaten up by abuses. Hawke, however, had done something in breaking-up worn-out vessels, repairing, and building. Forty ships of the line besides frigates were soon nearly ready for sea. There was some difficulty in manning them, for the peace establishment was only 16,000 men. North said that 9,000 additional seamen were wanted at once, and raised the land tax to four shillings. Bounties were offered and press-gangs were busy. The new lord mayor, Trecothick, one of the violent party in the[Pg 114] city, refused to sign the press-warrants. Chatham praised his "firmness," but disapproved his action, for impressment was, he said, constitutional and in times of emergency necessary. Grimaldi looked to France in vain. Louis, who was then under the influence of Madame du Barri, was determined not to go to war; "my minister," he wrote to Charles of Spain, "would have war, but I will not". Choiseul was dismissed in disgrace, and was succeeded by the Duc d'Aiguillon. Spain had no choice but to yield to the demands of Great Britain, and on January 22, 1771, disowned Buccarelli's action, and agreed to deliver up Port Egmont as it was before it was seized. Throughout the whole progress of the affair the opposition attacked the government, alleging that it was careless of the honour of England, had exhibited a lack of promptitude, and had made a secret agreement with Spain to abandon the island; they even insinuated that the minister had truckled to France in order to prevent her from taking part with Spain. Their attacks were factious. The government had no desire to rush needlessly into war, but it acted with vigour and decision, and carried the matter through with a sufficiently high hand. The islands were soon afterwards deserted as unprofitable, but the British right to them was not abandoned.

The dispute with Spain caused a temporary increase in the manning of the navy, and in 1771 the number mustered was 25,836. Though the condition of the navy was unsatisfactory, the sea-power of Great Britain was an important factor in European politics. With regard to them the guiding principle of England was the maintenance of a good understanding with Russia. Commercially this was of first-rate importance, while politically it counterbalanced the alliance of the Bourbon courts. During the war between Catherine of Russia and the Turks which began in 1769, Russia owed much to the good-will of England; a Russian fleet was allowed to refit at Spithead and soldiers to land for refreshment, an English admiral and other officers were employed by the empress, and one of her ships of war was docked and altered at Portsmouth. A Russian fleet for the first time appeared in the Levant and inflicted a severe defeat on the Turks. France was anxious to interfere on the side of the Turks, but was held back by the declaration that the appearance of French ships in the Archipelago would bring British[Pg 115] ships thither also. A revolution effected in Sweden by Gustavus III. in 1772 opened the way for the increase of French influence in that kingdom. This displeased Russia, and D'Aiguillon made naval preparations for the defence of Sweden against any attack from Russia and Denmark. Lord Stormont, the nephew and afterwards successor of the Earl of Mansfield, who was then ambassador at Paris, insisted that if a French fleet sailed for the Baltic, so too would a British fleet. The government was ready to support his words. In view of the increasing signs of the desire of France to push her interests in Europe, North in December, 1772, obtained a vote for 20,000 men for the navy. In the end France discontinued her preparations. Her attitude was closely connected with the arrangement by which, in 1772, Austria, Russia, and Prussia divided a large part of Poland between themselves. This act of spoliation, the first partition of Poland, drew forth no remonstrance from England; in itself it did not concern us, and its effect on the balance of power in Europe was regarded with complacency as lowering to France and as an aggrandisement of powers which would act as a counterpoise to the Bourbon alliance.


During the winter of 1770-71 some changes took place in the ministry. Weymouth, finding himself unequal to meet the Spanish crisis, resigned the seals, and Rochford took the southern and Halifax the northern department. Hawke was succeeded at the admiralty by Sandwich, who worked hard, though he appears to have applied his industry and abilities too largely to personal arrangements. Bathurst, an insignificant person, became lord chancellor, Thurlow attorney-general, and Wedderburn, hitherto a bitter opponent of the ministry, solicitor-general; he ratted disgracefully, and was perhaps insincere from the first. Determined to attain the chancellorship, he may have intended to force North to give him office, by showing himself dangerous in opposition. George Grenville died in November, 1770, and several of his friends, headed by the Earl of Suffolk, a man of small ability, went over to the ministerial side. Suffolk was made privy seal and, on the death of Halifax in the following June, became secretary of state. He was succeeded as privy seal by Grafton, who, in accepting the office, showed his lack of confidence in his colleagues by stipulating that he should not be summoned to cabinet meetings. Besides the serious blow which the oppo[Pg 116]sition at large sustained in the death of Grenville, Beckford's death, soon after his egregious performance at St. James's, deprived Chatham of an eager follower and the city party of its leader. Later in the year, too, died Granby, who a few months before repented of the support he had given to the ministry and had joined the opposition.

The violent language employed by the newspapers on the opposition side laid them open to reprisals. Constant resort to indictments by the attorney-general, and the exception of seditious libels from privilege of parliament, indicate the desire of the king's party to treat press offences in a special way. They were gratified by a ruling of Chief-justice Mansfield in the case of Almon, a bookseller, who was tried on an ex officio indictment for selling Junius's Letter to the King. Mansfield laid down that in cases of libel the jury could only deal with the facts of printing and publishing; it belonged to the judge to decide the character of the statement. This was not a new doctrine; it had been declared and acted upon by many earlier judges. The newspaper press, however, had by this time become important, and Mansfield's ruling infringed on the liberties of those engaged upon it, for, while that was the law, a man after being indicted by the attorney-general, who held office by, and at the pleasure of the crown, was deprived of his right to be judged by his peers on the substantial point at issue. Indignant juries refused to convict in libel cases, and Mansfield's ruling was attacked by the opposition in parliament. Chatham and Camden denied its legality. In the commons, though a proposal to abolish ex officio informations received little support, a motion for a committee of inquiry into the rights of juries was only defeated by 184 to 176. Dowdeswell and Burke believed that the question of law was likely to hinder a satisfactory settlement, and in March, 1771, Dowdeswell moved for an act to give juries the powers denied to them. A section of the opposition, however, held with Chatham and Camden that the matter should be settled by a bill declaring that the law gave them these powers. They would not support the motion, which was lost by an overwhelming majority; and Mansfield's ruling was received as law until 1792.


Another matter connected with the press engaged the house of commons for the most part of the remainder of the session[Pg 117] of 1771. Parliament, as we have seen, was so constituted that occasions might and did arise on which the will of the people was not fairly represented. This constitutional difficulty was increased by the secrecy in which parliament shrouded its proceedings. Once useful as a means of securing freedom of debate, this secrecy was maintained as a matter of privilege after it had become useless and, indeed, pernicious. It was carried to an extreme point by the present parliament, the "unreported parliament" as it was called. Strangers were constantly made to withdraw from both houses, specially when a popular member of the opposition rose to speak. This caused a silly quarrel between the two houses in 1770, and either shut its doors against the members of the other. The publication of reports, forbidden by a standing order of 1762, had for some time been carried on under various disguises, and the reports, which were founded on scanty information, were often unfair and scurrilous. In February, 1771, Colonel Onslow complained of two newspapers which misrepresented his conduct in the house, and held him up to contempt by describing him as "little cocking George". Disregarding a warning from Burke as to the folly of entering into a quarrel with the press and attempting to keep its proceedings from the public, the house ordered the printers, Wheble and Thompson, to attend at the bar. The serjeant-at-arms failed to find them, and was jeered at by their workmen. A proclamation was then issued for their arrest. While this affair was pending several newspapers commented on the proceedings of the house, and attacked various members, and specially Onslow, describing him as "a paltry insignificant insect" and so on. On March 12 he moved to proceed against six other printers. The opposition, led by Dowdeswell, Burke, and Barré, made a determined stand. They divided the house twenty-three times, and it sat till 5 a.m. "Posterity," said Burke, "will bless the pertinaciousness of that day." Onslow's motion was carried; some of the printers were reprimanded, one, Miller, refused to attend.

The city reformers seized the opportunity of renewing their quarrel with the house. Wheble and Thompson were collusively arrested and were discharged, Wheble by alderman Wilkes and Thompson by alderman Oliver, as not being accused of any crime. Worse was to come. Miller was arrested by a messenger[Pg 118] of the house, and gave the messenger in charge for assaulting him. Both were brought before Brass Crosby, the lord mayor, Wilkes, and Oliver; Miller was discharged, the messenger held to bail. The house ordered Crosby and Oliver, who were both members of it, to attend in their places, and Wilkes, who was at the bottom of the affair, at the bar. Wilkes refused to attend unless as member for Middlesex, and the house, with more discretion than valour, shrank from another conflict with him. The king, who was deeply interested in the quarrel, approved; he would, he said, "have nothing more to do with that devil Wilkes". Crosby and Oliver defended their conduct, and were committed to the Tower. During the proceedings an angry crowd interrupted the business of the house, pelted several members, roughly handled North and Charles Fox, who was conspicuous as a defender of privilege, and broke their carriages. The lord mayor and Oliver were visited in the Tower by Rockingham, Burke, and other members of the opposition. On their release, at the end of the session, on May 8, they were saluted by the cannon of the artillery company and by vociferous applause, and the city was illuminated. Proceedings against the messenger were stopped by the attorney-general. Though the house was victorious, its dignity suffered so greatly in the conflict that it forbore to follow up its victory. Burke's words proved true; for though the publication of debates was still held to be a breach of privilege, no further attempt was made to punish it. Soon after this dispute with the house of commons the city reformers quarrelled amongst themselves, and the party was split up.


Though political disputes dulled the interest excited by theological questions in the earlier half of the century, the house of commons was invited on February 6, 1772, to abolish the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles which was demanded of all clergymen and of all students matriculating at Oxford and Cambridge. The movement was connected with a tendency towards unitarianism, which, besides attracting many dissenters, exercised an influence within the Church. Some churchmen seceded; others, less decided, sought to be relieved of an unwelcome obligation. An association which met at the Feathers Tavern, in the Strand, sent a petition to the house signed by about two hundred and fifty men, clergy, doctors, and lawyers, praying to be relieved of subscription. The king was hostile to[Pg 119] the petition, and North opposed it in moderate terms. Burke spoke against it with remarkable ability, pointing out that a standard of faith was necessary to insure order in the Church, and that subscription to the Bible would not, as the petitioners maintained, afford any criterion of belief. The petition was rejected by a large majority, though several members on both sides expressed a dislike to requiring subscription at the universities from youths who were not of an age to judge of such matters. The house, though it refused to allow clergymen to evade the formularies of their Church, was not averse from toleration. A bill to relieve dissenting ministers and teachers from subscription to certain of the articles, which was indeed rarely exacted, was carried in the commons with little opposition, but the king and the bishops were strongly opposed to it; the royal influence was used against it in the house of lords, which threw out the bill both in 1772 and 1773, and it did not become law until six years later.

The opposition was moribund. An annual motion was made for shortening the duration of parliaments; but it attracted little attention, and other questions which had lately agitated men's minds fell equally out of date. A momentary revival of political excitement was caused by a bill which affected the king personally. George had family troubles. His sister Caroline, Queen of Denmark, was accused of adultery and imprisoned; she was allowed to retire to Hanover, and remained there until her death. Soon after hearing of her daughter's disgrace the king's mother died of cancer. She had long ceased to have any political influence and was eminently charitable, yet the sufferings of her last days were exulted over by scribblers opposed to the court, and her funeral was hailed with the cheers of the city mob. About the same time one of George's brothers, the Duke of Cumberland, after disgracing him by his flagrant immorality, married Mrs. Horton, the widowed daughter of Lord Irnham, and sister of Luttrell, the Middlesex member; and the private marriage of another brother, the Duke of Gloucester, to the widow of Lord Waldegrave, a bastard daughter of Horace Walpole's brother, was publicly announced. George was deeply annoyed by these marriages and forbade the offenders to appear at court. At his wish the royal marriage bill was laid before parliament. By this act no descendant of George II. under the[Pg 120] age of twenty-six can enter into a valid marriage without the sovereign's consent; nor above that age, should the sovereign's consent be withheld, except by giving a year's notice to the privy council, so that parliament may, if it chooses, forbid the marriage. The doctrine implied in this act, that the whole royal family forms a class apart from the rest of the nation, was foreign to English ideas and smacked rather of German than English royalty. Yet, whatever the effects of the act may have been on those most nearly concerned, they have been beneficial to the nation.

The bill excited much disapproval and was vigorously opposed in parliament. In the commons the preamble, which acknowledged the prerogative asserted by the crown, was passed only by a majority of thirty-six, and the bill was finally carried by 165 to 115. Among its opponents were Burke and Charles Fox, by that time a power in the house. No man probably has ever enjoyed greater popularity than Fox. His disposition was amiable and generous, his good nature inexhaustible, his heart full of warm and humane feelings. As a mere lad he had been initiated into vice by his father's folly; he drank, lived loosely, dressed extravagantly, and was an inveterate and most unlucky gambler; his losses were indeed too constant to be wholly due to ill-luck. At twenty-five he owed £140,000, which his father paid for him. He was a keen sportsman, and he cared for higher things than sport. He was accomplished, a lover of learning and art, and found unfailing pleasure in the masterpieces of Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, and, in later days, Spanish literature. In parliament he had hitherto opposed all popular measures, sometimes with insolent flippancy. He was appointed a lord of the admiralty in 1770. He gradually came under Burke's influence and showed signs of remarkable talents in debate. His speeches were unprepared, his statement of a case was often made confusedly, but he was splendid in reply. His career as a statesman was marred, like his private character, by an utter lack of principle. His opposition to the royal marriage bill seems to have been a matter of private feeling. His father had united the plebeian family of Fox with a house descended from a royal bastard by a runaway marriage with Lady Caroline Lennox; and Charles was hot against a bill which annulled a marriage made without legal consent, and must have derived[Pg 121] special satisfaction in opposing the wish to preserve the royal family from derogatory marriages on the part of the faithless lover of his favourite aunt, Lady Sarah. He resigned office, but re-entered the ministry the following December.


The strength of the ministry caused a stagnation in matters of domestic policy, and parliament turned its attention towards a settlement of the government of India. In 1772 the East India Company was on the verge of bankruptcy, owing chiefly to expensive wars, large pensions to native rulers, and the greed of the proprietors. The successes of Haidar in the Karnatic and the famine in Bengal sent down the price of stock, as we have seen, 60 per cent. The company applied to government for a loan of at least £1,000,000. North, with statesmanlike decision, seized the opportunity of asserting the right of the crown to the territorial revenue and of placing the government under the control of its ministers. The king upheld his policy. Select and secret committees were appointed by the commons to inquire into the condition of the company and of the British affairs in India. Acting on the recommendation of the secret committee, North foiled an attempt of the company to keep its affairs in its own hands by carrying a bill to restrain it from appointing supervisors in India. Burke violently opposed this and every step by which the territorial power of the company was brought into subjection to parliament. It was, indeed, with some justice that he urged that the violation of the royal charter held by the company was a dangerous precedent, that the claim to the territorial revenue was arbitrary, and that parliament had increased the company's distress by extorting from it the payment of £400,000 a year, and had done nothing for it in return. The case for the company was supported in both houses by the Rockingham party generally.

North was supreme in both houses, and, in June 1773, carried his regulating bill. The company received from government a loan of £1,400,000 at 4 per cent., its annual payment of £400,000 was remitted until the loan was repaid; its future dividends were restricted in amount, and its authority in accepting bills from India curtailed; it was to submit its accounts to the treasury, and to export British goods to a certain yearly value. In order to assist the company which had a large stock of tea on hand, it was agreed that it might export this tea direct and[Pg 122] duty free to America, a decision which proved of momentous import. A court of supreme jurisdiction was created, consisting of a chief justice and three puisne judges, appointed by the crown and with fixed salaries. The governor of Bengal was made governor-general of British India and was to act with a council of four. The first governor-general, Warren Hastings, then governor of Bengal, and his council were appointed by the act; their successors were to be appointed by the directors and approved by the crown. All military and civil matters which came before the directors were to be submitted to the crown. No officer of the crown or of the company was to accept any presents. The act transferred the government of India from a trading company to the crown. Constitutionally, its weakest point was the appointment of executive officers in parliament; for all officers should be appointed by the crown, and its action should be subject to parliamentary check. As regards the arrangement of government, the act should have defined the relations between the supreme court and the council, and between the governor-general, the directors, and the crown, and should not have left the governor-general in a position to be overruled by his council.

During the debates on these measures the publication of the report of the select committee excited public feeling against the "nabobs," and specially against Clive, and a parliamentary inquiry was held into his conduct. Before the select committee he admitted and defended the deceit which he had practised on Omichand in 1757, and declared that he was justified in accepting enormous sums from Mír Jafar. They were as nothing compared to what he might have had; "Mr. Chairman," said he, "at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation". Resolutions condemning his conduct were moved by Burgoyne. He defended himself with force and dignity. Finally, after many debates, the house voted that he had through the power entrusted to him possessed himself of £234,000, refused to vote that he had abused his power, and voted instead that "he did at the same time render great and meritorious services to this country". The matter was not made a party question, and the decision was worthy of the assembly which pronounced it. The king, while fully acknowledging Clive's services, thought him guilty of "rapine," and disapproved of his virtual acquittal. Thurlow[Pg 123] attacked, Wedderburn zealously defended him. The court party voted different ways. Physical suffering together with the strain of these proceedings affected Clive's mind, and he died by his own hand on November 22, 1774.


In 1773 the king's political predominance was firmly established. His will was law to his ministers, and they commanded overwhelming majorities in both houses of parliament. The country was satisfied that it should be so, for the quarrel between the people and parliament had died out. It was a time of political apathy. The balance of power, which during Walpole's administration had shifted from the lords to the commons, was shifting from parliament to the crown. The house of commons was losing its spirit of independence, and the control which it should have exercised on the executive was endangered by the growth of the king's personal authority. So long as George ruled the country successfully this danger was likely to increase. He had so skilfully strengthened his position that he had triumphed over domestic agitation. The just working of the constitution was finally restored through national calamity. American discontents were to lead to a revolt which the enemies of England used as an opportunity for attacking her. Their attacks were formidable in themselves, and had the humiliating result of forcing Great Britain to give up the struggle with her revolted colonies and acknowledge their independence. George had chosen to be his own prime minister, and his policy was to suffer defeat. A period of storm was ahead, and as the ship of state passed through it, the king's personal rule, and much else besides, went overboard. All this was still far off. From 1770 to 1774 the affairs of the American colonies excited little attention in England, though, as we shall see in the next chapter, they were tending towards open revolt.


[82] Annual Register, xiii. (1770), 72.

[83] Life of Shelburne, ii., 221; Calcraft to Chatham, March 8, 1771, MS. Pitt Papers, 25.

[84] Speeches of Barré, March 23, and Burke, April 6, 1773, Parl. Hist., xvii., 826, 836.

[85] Calcraft to Chatham, March 12, 1770, MS. Pitt Papers, 25.

[86] Letters of H. Walpole, v., 238-39 n.; Mitford, Gray and Mason Correspondence, pp. 438-39; Stephens, Memoirs of J. H. Tooke, i., 157.

[87] Calcraft to Chatham, June 10, 1770, MS. Pitt Papers, 25.

[88] The State of the Navy, MS. Admiralty Miscell., 567, R.O.



The failure of the non-importation agreements in 1770 led Englishmen to expect a peaceable end to the quarrel with America, and the colonists were for the most part inclined to let it die out. Samuel Adams had no such inclination, and did all in his power to fan the smouldering embers of strife. For some time longer he and his friends professed loyalty, but he at least was consciously working for separation. A rising in North Carolina, called the regulators' war, because the insurgents claimed to regulate their own police affairs, was smartly quelled by the governor, Tryon, in 1771; it need not detain us, for it had no connexion with the quarrel with England. There was much lawlessness elsewhere. Mobs tyrannised over their more loyal neighbours, tarring and feathering some of those who would not comply with their demands, and using other barbarous modes of advancing the cause of liberty. In Boston the revenue officers were exposed to insult and violence. Hutchinson held the assembly of the province at Cambridge, and further disgusted his opponents by informing them that he was no longer dependent on their votes for his salary; it would thenceforward be paid by the king. The more peaceable Americans were gratified in 1772 by the appointment of the Earl of Dartmouth to succeed Hillsborough as secretary for the colonies, for Dartmouth, a pious and amiable person of no political ability, was known to be anxious for conciliation. Fresh cause of offence, however, was found in a decision of the ministers that the salaries of the Massachusetts judges should be paid by the crown instead of by the colony. This change, which was designed to render the judges independent of popular feeling, was resented as an attempt to make them subservient to the crown, for they held office during the king's pleasure.[Pg 125]


Meanwhile the contempt with which the authority of the crown was regarded, and the necessity for restraining the provincial judges from political partisanship, were forcibly illustrated. Smuggling was carried on freely, especially in Rhode Island. The duty of preventing it in Narragansett Bay was discharged by Lieutenant Duddingston, in command of the Gaspee schooner. He was zealous, and, according to American accounts, was guilty of illegal and oppressive acts. On June 9, while engaged in a chase, the Gaspee ran aground, and on the night of the 10th was boarded by eight boat-loads of men. Duddingston was treacherously shot at and wounded; he and his men were set on shore, and the schooner was burnt. This destruction of one of the king's ships, an act alike of rebellion and piracy, and, as Thurlow said, "an event five times the magnitude of the stamp act," was unpunished. A law, enacted in the previous April, and evoked by a fire in an English dockyard, provided that the setting on fire of a public dockyard or a king's ship should be felony, and that those accused of such an offence should be tried in England. Commissioners were appointed by the crown to inquire into the destruction of the Gaspee, and send those concerned in it to England for trial. On their applying for warrants to the chief justice of the province, he declared that he would allow no one to be arrested with a view to deportation, and the commission was fruitless. The colonists were angered by this attempt to enforce the law; and in 1773 took an important step towards union and a future congress by establishing committees of correspondence between the provinces.

Samuel Adams unexpectedly found an opportunity of rousing fresh excitement in Massachusetts. A number of private letters written by Hutchinson and Oliver, the deputy governor, to a gentleman of England, named Whately, and stolen after his death, were sent over by Franklin to the committee of correspondence at Boston, were read by Adams to the assembly, and were subsequently published. Hutchinson, a patriotic American, was a faithful servant of the crown and believed in the supremacy of parliament. His letters contained no statements that were not true and no comments discreditable to a man of honour, holding the opinions on which he had consistently acted. They were declared to be evidences of malice and bad faith; he and Oliver were, John Adams said, "cool-thinking,[Pg 126] deliberate villains," and the assembly sent a petition to the king for their removal. The letters were industriously circulated throughout the province, and were denounced by preachers in their Sunday sermons. Such was the state of affairs when, in accordance with the act of parliament authorising the East India Company to export its surplus stock of tea direct to America, three ships laden with tea appeared in Boston harbour. Other ships with like cargoes had also been despatched to New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. At Boston, on the night of December 16, a large body of men, disguised as Indians and encouraged by Samuel Adams and his friends, boarded the ships and emptied their cargoes, 340 chests of tea valued at £18,000, into the sea. The ships for Philadelphia and New York returned to London without discharging their cargoes. At Charleston the tea was landed, but the consignees were forced to renounce their engagement, and the tea rotted in the cellars of the custom-house.

In England the Boston riot caused much irritation. The news came when the publication of Hutchinson's letters was exciting strong feelings. Who was responsible for their abstraction from Whately's correspondence was for some time a mystery. Franklin kept his counsel, and a duel took place between Whately's brother and a Bostonian who was suspected of stealing them. Then Franklin declared that he alone had obtained them and sent them to Boston. As agent for Massachusetts he appeared before a committee of the privy council on January 29, 1774, in support of the petition against Hutchinson and Oliver. Both sides were heard by counsel. Wedderburn, who spoke against the petition, made a violent attack on Franklin; he described him as a thief and accused him of acting from the meanest motives. The temper of his audience was irritated by the news from Boston, and his speech was received with manifestations of delight, indecent on the part of men sitting as judges in that august court. The petition was rejected as groundless and scandalous, and men went away "almost ready to throw up their hats for joy," as though a lawyer's bitter tongue had given England a victory. Franklin was at once dismissed from his office of deputy postmaster. Wedderburn's speech and the spirit in which it was received were impolitic as well as discreditable. While strongly opposed to the ministerial policy in[Pg 127] America, Franklin had shown himself anxious to maintain the tie between Great Britain and her colonies. This attack upon his character made him one of England's enemies, and, as it proved, one of the most dangerous of them. His conduct is not palliated by the indecency of his opponents. It has been urged in his defence that, as Whately had shown the letters to certain English politicians, it was fair that Boston politicians should also see them, that as agent he was bound to do the best for his province, and that governments did intercept and use correspondence which was believed to contain important political information.[89] Conduct befitting a man of honour needs no defence.


The general opinion in England was that Boston should be punished, and that if the government made an example of that rebellious town, the Americans would learn a wholesome lesson. The king held this opinion, and was delighted when General Gage told him that the Americans "would be lions whilst we are lambs, but if we take the resolute part they will undoubtedly prove very meek". He determined to force Boston to submission, and his ministers were at his command. A junior lord of the treasury was insubordinate, and was promptly dismissed. It seemed a small matter, but it had important consequences, for the rebel was Charles Fox. He had more than one grudge against the king, and he was perhaps growing impatient of serving under a minister who was virtually the king's representative, though his actual revolt may have been an unpremeditated ebullition of youthful vanity. A libel on the speaker, of which the turbulent parson, Horne, was the author, gave him an opportunity for self-display; he usurped the functions of leader of the house, persuaded it to enter on proceedings which might have ended in another awkward quarrel with a printer, and placed North in a most embarrassing position. The king, whom he had already offended by his opposition to the royal marriage bill, heartily disliked him, and urged North to get rid of him. He was curtly dismissed from office on February 24. He at once went into opposition, and acted generally with the Rockingham party, though he did not distinctly join it until a later period. He was already intimate with Burke, who soon gained much influence over him. On almost every question he combated the[Pg 128] opinions which he had previously supported, and constantly attacked his former chief with great bitterness. In debate the opposition gained enormously by his alliance, but it was in the end injurious to their cause. His sympathy with the enemies of his country in time of war strengthened the king and his ministers in their efforts to maintain the honour of England by persevering in the struggle, for it revolted the patriotic feelings of the nation and kept it steadfast in its support of the government.


On March 14 North began to lay before the commons the measures by which the government hoped to bring the Americans to submission. By the first of these penal laws, as they are called, Boston was to be punished by the transference of the seat of government to Salem, and by the closing of its harbour, which entailed the suspension of its trade, until the town had made good the loss inflicted on the East India Company, and the king was satisfied that the laws would be observed. North spoke with remarkable moderation. Both he and Dartmouth disliked violent measures, and their tone with regard to America was so different from that of their colleagues, that it indicated a division in the cabinet.[90] The bill met with little opposition in the commons, though Dowdeswell and Burke spoke against it. In the lords, Rockingham and Shelburne opposed it, Chatham was absent through ill-health, and Mansfield strongly advocated it, declaring that Boston had committed "the last overt act of treason," and that it was a lucky event, for if the bill passed we should have crossed the Rubicon, the Americans would see that we would temporise no longer, and if it passed unanimously, Boston would submit without bloodshed. The bill passed both houses without a division. The next bill, "for regulating the government of Massachusetts Bay," overthrew the charter of the colony; it increased the power of the governor, vested the nomination of the council in the crown, altered the system by which juries were chosen, and prohibited town meetings, the principal engine of democratic rule, from being held without the consent of the governor. The abrogation of chartered rights excited strong, though ineffectual, opposition; the bill was passed in the commons by 239 to 64, and in the lords by 92 to 20, eleven peers signing a protest against it.[Pg 129]

This measure was calculated to alarm and irritate the colonies generally, for the alteration of the charter of one of them would be taken as a menace to the constitutional liberties of all. In the hope of counteracting this effect, the opposition wished the house of commons, before it passed the bill, to conciliate the Americans by repealing the tax on tea.[91] A motion was made for the repeal on April 19, and was supported by Burke in a speech of remarkable power. He maintained that the concession would be well received, and entreated the house to resort to its old principles, to be content to bind the colonies by laws of trade, to disregard the question of its right, and to refrain from taxation. Only forty-nine voted for the motion. A third bill ordered that any one accused of a capital offence should, if the act was done in the execution of the law in Massachusetts, be tried in Nova Scotia or Great Britain; and a fourth provided for the quartering of troops. When the quartering bill was before the lords, Chatham returned to parliament. He opposed the bill, declared his dislike of the Boston port bill, which, he said, punished a whole town for the crime of a few; and while he condemned the turbulence of the Americans, declared that their discontent was due to the irritating treatment they had received, and urged that England should act towards them as a fond and forgiving parent, for the time was at hand when she would "need the help of her most distant friends". On all these bills the numbers of the minority were very low, and the king declared himself "infinitely pleased" with the reception they met with. Meanwhile Hutchinson was recalled, and Gage was appointed governor of Massachusetts as well as commander-in-chief.


Another bill, closely connected with the state of affairs in America, though not devised merely with reference to it, provided for the government of Canada, which had remained as it had been settled temporarily by royal proclamation in 1763. The province of Quebec, as it was called, only extended eastward to the St. John's river on the north of the St. Lawrence, the territory beyond being annexed to the jurisdiction of Newfoundland, while on the south the islands of Cape Breton and St. John (Prince Edward's island) belonged to Nova Scotia. No[Pg 130] settlement was made as to the country west of the Appalachian range, which was claimed by the old colonies, nor as to the vast tract between Lake Nipissing and the Mississippi, the boundary of the Spanish land. The government of Canada was in the hands of a military governor-general and a council. In 1764 the English-speaking and protestant population was a mere handful; in 1774 it numbered about 360, while the French Roman catholics were at the least 80,000. In accordance with the treaty of Paris the catholics had full liberty of worship. English was, however, the only official language, and all offices were held by men of British nationality. The administration of the law was confused, and, though the king's proclamation held out a prospect that an assembly might be called, it required oaths and declarations which would have shut Roman catholics out from it. The French disliked the English law with reference to land, and as far as possible evaded it. Constant difficulties arose, and, in 1766, Charles Yorke, then attorney-general, advised that English should cease to be the only official language, and that French law should be recognised in cases which concerned land. On the other hand the British minority, largely consisting of immigrants from New England, pressed for an assembly, which would have strengthened and perpetuated their supremacy over their French neighbours.

The discontent in the American colonies made the ministers specially anxious to conciliate the French Canadians, and with the advice of Sir Guy Carleton, the governor, they brought in a bill for the government of the province. The Quebec act of 1774 included in Canada the territory previously annexed to Newfoundland, and extended its boundaries to the Ohio and the Mississippi. It confirmed freedom of worship to the Roman catholics and secured to their priests, with the exception of the religious orders, their former tithes and dues, so far as concerned their own people only, for protestants were exempted from such payments. Civil cases were to be decided according to the French law, criminal cases according to the English law, by juries. It was declared inexpedient to call an assembly; a legislative council was nominated by the crown, and taxation was reserved to the parliament of Great Britain. The bill was strenuously opposed, Chatham in the lords, and Burke and Barré in the commons speaking strongly against it. The[Pg 131] government, it was urged, was setting up a despotism and was depressing the British population to please the French noblesse, and the trial of civil cases without juries and the withholding of the habeas corpus were represented as intolerable grievances.

The conflict was hottest on the religious question. The whigs, who secured the support of the dissenters by posing as the protestant party, had a hereditary claim to the popular cry of No popery. They denounced the bill as establishing popery, while it merely permitted protestantism. It was, Chatham declared, a breach of the reformation, of the revolution, and of the king's coronation oath. The City petitioned against the bill, and when, on June 22, the king went to give his assent to it and to prorogue parliament, he was received in the streets with angry cries of "No popery". The agitation soon died out, for the government was popular. In America the act caused much irritation; New York, Virginia, and other colonies complained that it deprived them of the right to extend their territories; the revolutionary party saw with uneasiness the establishment of the power of the crown over a vast district on their borders, and religious prejudices were aroused by the favour shown to the catholics. Strong protestant as he was, the king was thoroughly in favour of the bill. It was a wise and a just measure. It gave the French Canadians all that they really needed: they thought it absurd that rights to land should be decided by juries; they had no political ambitions, and only desired to enjoy in peace the ministrations of their own priests and the right to deal with their lands according to their ancient customs. They rejoiced that their priests were satisfied, and in the coming struggle between Great Britain and her colonies the priests were mindful of the justice with which they were treated and used their boundless influence with good effect on the British side.

The Rubicon, as Mansfield said, was passed, but the event was to be different from the expectation of the king and the nation at large. When Gage went out to enforce the repressive acts neither he nor those who sent him thought that his task would be hard. Four regiments, he believed, would be enough to settle the business. The Americans, Sandwich said, were cowardly and undisciplined; they would not stand a cannon-shot. That they would not fight was the firm opinion of all[Pg 132] but a very few. More than this, it was generally expected that Massachusetts would not be supported by the other colonies, and no special military preparation was thought necessary. On June 1, Boston harbour was closed. The busy little town lay desolate, its wharfs were deserted, its warehouses shut up, its streets silent; its merchants were threatened with ruin, its seamen, shipwrights, and labourers and their families with starvation. The act was enforced to the utmost, and small as Gage's force was, it was sufficient to keep the town in subjection. Its punishment was heavy, but surely not heavier than its offences. Be this as it may, it was worse than ineffectual. The penal acts irritated the Americans and did not intimidate them. Boston was regarded as suffering for the common cause. Supplies poured in from the towns and villages of New England, from the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland; and a continental congress was decided on. Encouraged by the prospect of support, the revolutionary party in Massachusetts defied Gage's authority; gatherings of armed men took place, and warlike preparations were set on foot. Gage began to fortify Boston Neck and brought in some guns which might otherwise have been seized by the people.

On September 5 the continental congress met at Philadelphia. Of the thirteen colonies only Georgia was unrepresented. Yet the delegates came with different instructions and different intentions, and even among delegates from the same province there was much difference of opinion. As a body the congress did not meet with any predetermined revolutionary purpose. Many loyalists and indeed moderate men of both parties believed that it would be a means of arranging a reconciliation with Great Britain, and though the most decided loyalists would have nothing to do with it, even they hoped for a good result:[92] one-third of the delegates, John Adams said, were whigs, one-third tories (loyalists), and the rest mongrel. A proposal for a new constitution with a president over all the colonies to be appointed by the crown, and a grand council to be elected by the several assemblies and to act in connexion with parliament, was only negatived by the votes of six colonies to five. Yet the revolu[Pg 133]tionists gained a decided preponderance, largely through the skilful management of Samuel Adams, who persuaded the congress to approve the "resolves" passed at a meeting of Suffolk county, Massachusetts. These "resolves" rejected the act for the government of the province, required tax collectors not to pay money into the governor's treasury, and advised towns to appoint their own officers of militia. Besides endorsing a policy of armed resistance to government, congress further demanded the revocation of a series of acts of parliament, including the Quebec act and the late penal legislation, drew up a declaration of rights, agreed on non-exportation and non-importation, sent a petition to the king, and published an address to the English people. It arranged that a new congress should meet the following May, and invited the Canadians to join in it, suggesting grounds of discontent with the English government and pretending a zeal for religious equality. But the Canadians were not to be caught.


Congress separated without having laid down any basis for conciliation save complete surrender on the part of parliament, which was clearly impossible. It professed loyalty to the crown, and it is probable that certain eminent Americans, who, like George Washington, declared that they knew of no wish for independence, really desired to maintain the connexion with England, if they could bring affairs back to their condition before 1763, and actually believed that by cutting off commercial relations with her, they could compel her to assent to their demands without an appeal to arms. Like the vast majority of Englishmen, who did not believe that the Americans would fight, they failed to understand the situation. In the case of others, like Patrick Henry and the Adamses, it is useless to attach any weight to loyal expressions. Too much, indeed, has been made of the American professions of loyalty, for men's loyalty is better judged by their actions than by their words. Thousands of Americans proved their loyalty by tremendous sacrifices. Loyalism on its religious side was connected with the teaching of the English Church; politically it was the outcome of attachment to law, monarchy, and the unity of the empire as against revolution, democracy, and separation.[93] The loyalists, however,[Pg 134] included men of various religious persuasions and of different shades of political opinion. As Americans, they felt the British colonial system burdensome, and only the more extreme among them approved of the stamp act and the Townshend duties. Many took the American view of the rights of the colonies; they desired reforms and redress of grievances, and some of them were not averse from the milder forms of resistance. Yet all were loyal to the crown and acknowledged the supremacy of parliament. The hopes of the moderate section were disappointed by the congress of 1774; in common with the more extreme loyalists they held that it exceeded its powers, and their denial of its authority united the loyalist party.

The loyalists, or tories as they were called, comprised, in addition to the royal officers, many of the best and most cultivated people in the colonies, a majority of the larger landowners, by far the greater number of the episcopal clergy together with some other religious teachers, very many physicians, fewer lawyers, though some of the most eminent among them, and many of the wealthier merchants, who disliked the interruption of trade and believed that its prosperity depended on British commerce. Among the lower classes some farmers, mechanics, and labourers were loyalists. They were weakest in New England, though fairly numerous in Connecticut. New York was throughout the loyalist stronghold, and, of the other middle colonies, Pennsylvania was disinclined to revolution and New Jersey contained a strong loyalist minority. In the southern colonies they were about as numerous as the whigs, and in South Carolina and Georgia perhaps outnumbered them. John Adams, who would be inclined to underestimate their number, thought that they were a third of the population of the thirteen colonies. The number on each side fluctuated from time to time; the loyalists claimed to be in a majority, and it is probable that at least half of the most respected part of the population were throughout the struggle either avowedly or secretly averse from revolution.[94] At the lowest computation 20,000 loyalists joined the British army, and some thirty regiments or battalions of them were regularly organised and paid. Most of them were peaceable men, not more inclined for fight[Pg 135]ing than the mass of their opponents who were forced into war by an active minority. Through the skilful management of this minority the loyalists were disarmed everywhere at the beginning of the struggle. They suffered terrible persecution. A man suspected of loyalism would be summoned to a meeting of the "sons of liberty," and ordered to take an oath to them. If he refused he was tarred and feathered, or set to ride upon a rail, and his house was defiled with filth. Loyalists were declared liable to imprisonment, exile, and confiscation. These men were not less patriotic than the revolutionists; they believed that the welfare of their country depended on its remaining part of the British empire; and holding this belief they suffered, fought, and died for their country's sake.


Although parliament had not lasted its full term of seven years, it was dissolved on September 30. The king was probably anxious that a new parliament should be elected before any event took place which might suggest doubt as to the success of his American policy. Besides, he was anxious to secure more men of landed property as members, and reckoned that a sudden dissolution would foil "the nabobs, planters, and other volunteers," who would not be ready for the battle.[95] His design was successful, and the election as a whole was marked by the predominance of the country gentlemen, at that period the best element in a house of commons. Much to George's annoyance the Grenville election act had been made perpetual during the last session. Its good effects were apparent in the election of 1774; it made the bribery of borough electors dangerous, and there was far less of it than before. Bargains, however, could still be made with the owners and patrons of boroughs, and the king made himself responsible for the money North expended. North offered Lord Falmouth £2,500 a piece for three Cornish seats and had "to make it guineas". Other bargains of the same kind were made. George, who was great at electioneering manœuvres, took much interest in the proceedings. He was unable to find a candidate to stand against Wilkes, then lord mayor elect, and Wilkes and Glynn were returned for Middlesex without opposition. Wilkes took his seat without encountering any difficulties and his political importance virtually ended with[Pg 136] his exclusion. Bristol returned Burke, who was recommended to that great commercial city by his desire for conciliation with America, and his knowledge of mercantile affairs. At the declaration of the poll he dwelt on the relations which should exist between a member and his constituents: he should, he said, as their representative in all cases prefer their interests to his own, but he should not sacrifice his mature judgment to their opinion, or be subservient to their mandates. As a whole the election satisfied the king, for the ministers had a large and indeed an increased majority.

"I am not sorry," George wrote on hearing of the proceedings of congress, "that the line of conduct seems now chalked out; the New England colonies are in a state of rebellion, blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country or independent." He expressed the feeling of by far the larger part of his people. Not of all, for his ministers North and Dartmouth and a few of their party, were averse from violent measures; the merchants who traded with America were anxious for conciliation; and the whigs as a body were opposed to the king's policy. Chatham exulted in "the manly wisdom and calm resolution of congress". The experience and sentiments of his great days led him to foresee that, in case of war France and Spain would seize the opportunity of attacking England. Unfortunately his theory that the colonies owed only a limited obedience to the crown, that while parliament had a right to crush disobedience and to pass acts regulating trade, it had no right to impose taxes, his violence, his inveterate habit of "talking fustian,"[96] and his friendship with Franklin, who was commonly regarded as a rebel, deprived his warnings of the weight which they deserved. The Rockingham party did not act cordially with him. It was inspired by Burke who urged that parliament should disregard the question of right, should act in accordance with the spirit rather than the letter of the constitution, should respect a desire for free institutions, and should be guided by what was practicable and what was advisable, specially with reference to England's trade. His influence was somewhat injured by the fact that since 1771 he had been the paid agent of the province of New York. Equally with Chatham, he considered that colonial[Pg 137] trade and industry should be restrained in order to bring wealth to the mother-country, nor does either of them seem to have perceived that the root of American discontent lay in these restrictions.


It was not until 1776 that Adam Smith in his famous Wealth of Nations showed that such restrictions were actually injurious to the prosperity of the country which imposed them, and combated the theories on which the relations of England with her colonies had been built up. He desired that the colonies should be represented in parliament, a proposal which found some advocates both here and in America, but was condemned by Burke and did not enter into practical politics. Meanwhile a pamphleteer of originality and genius, Tucker, Dean of Gloucester, maintained that separation was inevitable and advisable, that the Americans were a turbulent and ill-conditioned people, a source of expense to which they would not contribute, and that England would be better off without them. She would not, he contended, lose commercially; for, like Adam Smith, he pointed out that trade goes to the best market, and that so long as England remained superior to other countries in capital and industry, she would keep the American trade, and, as war was destructive of trade, he would have had her separate herself peacefully from her rebellious colonies. His proposal was denounced by Burke and found no acceptance with either party in England.

Numerically weak as the opposition in parliament was, it made a vigorous fight over American affairs. Parliament opened on November 30, and the king's speech took note of the resistance to the law which prevailed in Massachusetts, and the "unwarrantable combinations for the obstruction" of trade. In both houses an amendment to the address was proposed. The divisions illustrate the strength of the two parties; in the lords it was defeated by 63 to 13, and in the commons by 264 to 73. The ministers asserted that the force already in America was sufficient to bring the colonies to obedience; the naval establishment was reduced to a peace footing, and no extra soldiers were voted. Gage, however, who had only some 3,000 troops, asked for a large reinforcement, and wrote that, if matters came to an extremity, 20,000 men would be needed for the conquest of New England, a number which, Dartmouth said, "the nation[Pg 138] would not be able to furnish in a twelvemonth".[97] The ministers resolved to send a small reinforcement from Ireland, they were encouraged to believe that the Americans would yield by tidings that the New York assembly had rejected the decisions of congress and by more hopeful news from Gage. After the recess the campaign opened in earnest. On January 20, 1775, Chatham moved for the recall of the troops from Boston, and declared that, if the ministers persisted in their policy, they would mislead the king and the kingdom would be undone. He was defeated by a large majority. Petitions against coercion were presented from London, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, and other trading towns, and were virtually shelved. Meanwhile Lord Howe, encouraged by the dislike of North and Dartmouth to coercive measures, made ineffectual attempts to arrange terms of conciliation through Franklin.


On February 1 Chatham, who was in constant communication with Franklin, brought in a conciliation bill. It was a strange composition, florid in terms, embracing a multiplicity of subjects, and depending for its operation on the good-will of the Americans. He proposed to assert the supremacy of parliament, specially in matters of trade, to confine taxation to the provincial assemblies, and to legalise the coming congress in order that it might make a perpetual free grant to the crown, which was to be appropriated by parliament to the reduction of the national debt. Having obtained this grant, parliament was to reduce the power of the admiralty courts, which checked illicit trading, and to suspend all the acts, including the Quebec act, of which the Americans complained. The bill was not allowed a second reading. Soon after its ignominious rejection the gout laid hold on Chatham, and he did not appear in parliament again for two years. Franklin returned to America about this time; he disclaimed responsibility for Chatham's proposals, which, he considered, would only have been useful as a basis for future arrangement. North at last informed parliament of the threatening state of affairs. Massachusetts was declared in rebellion; votes were passed for 2,000 additional seamen and about 4,400 soldiers; it was resolved to increase the force at Boston to 10,000 men; and a bill was passed confining the commerce of[Pg 139] the New England provinces to Great Britain and the West Indies, and shutting them out from the Newfoundland fishery. These restraints, which were evoked by the American non-intercourse agreements, were soon extended to five other provinces.

While George promoted these strong measures, he willingly fell in with North's desire to "hold out the olive-branch"; and on the 20th North moved a resolution to the effect that if any colony provided what parliament considered its fair proportion towards the common defence and the expenses of its civil administration, no duty or tax should be imposed upon it, except for the regulation of trade. His proposal excited the indignation of the high prerogative party, who thought themselves betrayed; his followers rose in revolt; "the treasury bench seemed to totter". The storm was stilled at last, and then Barré, Burke, and Dunning fell upon the bill, describing it as a mean attempt to divide the Americans, and a plan for coercing each province separately. The motion was, however, carried. As the opposition scorned North's plan, which Burke called "a project of ransom by auction," it behoved them to bring forward a plan of their own which would be acceptable to the Americans. Accordingly, on March 22, Burke propounded a series of conciliatory resolutions which he enforced in one of his most famous speeches. He urged the house to return to its old policy, to respect the Americans' love of freedom, to look to the colonial assemblies to supply the expenses of their government and defence, to abandon the futile attempt to impose taxation, and to extend to Americans the privileges of Englishmen. His proposal was defeated. Nevertheless, by accepting North's resolution parliament showed a desire for pacification. The resolution proposed a compromise; while it maintained the authority of parliament, it offered the Americans self-taxation. It was made with a sincere desire to end the quarrel. At one time it might have led to pacification, but it came too late.

Gage found the fortification of Boston Neck no easy matter; the people would not sell him materials, and somehow his barges sank, his waggons were bogged, and their loads caught fire. The work was finished at last, and with his small force he could do little else. In Rhode Island the people seized the cannon mounted for the defence of the harbour, and in New Hampshire they surprised a small fort, and carried off ordnance and stores.[Pg 140] Manufactories of arms and powder-mills were set up in different places. In February, 1775, the Massachusetts provincial congress met, and urged the militia, and specially the "minute-men"—militiamen ready to serve on the shortest notice—to perfect their discipline. Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas were astir with warlike preparations; in Massachusetts men were practising the use of arms on every village green, a number of Stockbridge Indians were enlisted as minute-men, and efforts were made to induce the Six Nations to "whet the hatchet" against the English.[98] Express-riders kept the country people well supplied with intelligence, in order that they might anticipate any projected movement of the British troops. On the 26th Gage sent a detachment to Salem to bring in some guns, but the people removed them in time. Some opposition was offered to the troops, but they were kept well in hand and no blood was shed.


He determined to be beforehand at Concord, where the provincials had gathered a quantity of military stores, and on April 18 sent some companies of grenadiers and light infantry under Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn to destroy them. They went by night up the Charles river in boats, landed, and began their march. The alarm had been given and the country was aroused. When they arrived at Lexington at 5 in the morning of the 19th they found a body of militia on the green. "Disperse, you rebels!" shouted Pitcairn, and the troops advanced with a cheer. As the militia dispersed some shots were fired. From which side the first shot came is not clear. A soldier was hit and Pitcairn's horse was wounded. The troops fired a volley, a few militiamen were killed and others wounded, and the soldiers marched on. While the grenadiers were destroying the stores at Concord a sharp engagement took place with the militia, and several on both sides were killed and wounded. The troops, having accomplished their purpose as far as was possible, for part of the stores had already been removed, set out to return to Boston. As they marched back, tired and impeded by their wounded, militiamen and volunteers fired upon them from every hedge, and wall, and house, and the shots told heavily on their[Pg 141] close ranks. Forced on by the ceaseless fire, like a driven flock of sheep, thick together and helpless, they staggered back to Lexington, where they arrived completely exhausted. There they were met by a large detachment under Lord Percy, which had been sent to their relief. After a rest the whole body marched back, harassed all the way by an incessant fire from cover, which they were for the most part unable to return. The British loss was sixty-five killed, about 157 wounded, and a few missing; the American casualties are stated as ninety-three in all. Not, unhappily, for the last time did our soldiers find that farmers and the like, who know their country, are accustomed to shoot, and understand the importance of taking cover, may be more than a match for brave and disciplined soldiers with no knowledge of war save the drill of a parade ground. It was evident that there was fighting stuff in the Americans, that they had some good marksmen, and that, undisciplined as they were, like the Boers of our own day, they knew how to use such advantages as they possessed.

Thus was the first blood shed in this long quarrel. The revolution was begun. Sooner or later it must have come, though the date of its coming and the violent means by which it was accomplished were decided by individual action. The spirit which underlay it can be traced with growing distinctness since 1690; it was a spirit of independence, puritan in religion and republican in politics, impatient of control, self-assertive, and disposed to opposition. It was irritated by restraints on industry and commerce, and found opportunities for expression in a system which gave the colonies representative assemblies while it withheld rights of self-government. Great Britain has since then adopted a more enlightened colonial policy; yet the statesmen of past times are not to be condemned because they were men of their own days and lacked the experience of a future age. And it is to be remembered that England's colonial policy was then, as it is now, the most liberal in the world. American discontent existed before the reign of George III.; it was kept in check by the fear of French invasion. It was when that fear was removed that England began to enforce the restraints on commerce. This change in policy fell most heavily on the New England provinces, where whig tendencies were strongest, and specially on Massachusetts. A small and violent party in the[Pg 142] province fanned the flame of discontent, and the attempts at taxation, which added to the grievances of the colonists, afforded a respectable cry to the fomenters of resistance. Their work was aided by the apprehension aroused in the minds of their fellow-countrymen, by the increase in the part played by the prerogative, and by the predominance of the tories in England. While men in other provinces, as Patrick Henry in Virginia, worked in sympathy with Samuel Adams and his associates, the revolution was at its outset engineered at Boston, and was immediately determined by the quarrel between Great Britain and Massachusetts. In the events which led to the revolution the British government appears to have shown a short-sighted insistence on legal rights and a contemptuous disregard of the sentiments and opinions of the colonists; the revolutionists generally a turbulent, insolent, and unreasonable temper.


[89] Franklin, Works, v., 189-90, 205-7, 305-14, ed. Bigelow.

[90] Chatham Corr., iv. 339.

[91] Parl. Hist., xvii., 1197.

[92] Jones, History of New York, i., 34-35, 449, sq.; Flick, Loyalism in New York, pp. 24-25.

[93] Flick, Loyalism in New York, pp. 9-12.

[94] Sabine, The American Loyalists, pp. 51-55, 65.

[95] Corr. with North, i., 201.

[96] Burke to Flood, May 18, 1765, Works, i., 41.

[97] Dartmouth Papers, America, Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep., xiv., App. x., 251.

[98] The Border Warfare of the Revolution, in Narr. and Crit. Hist., vi., 612-14.



Scarcely had the night passed after the skirmish at Lexington before the whole of Massachusetts was in arms. The provincial assembly voted that an army of 30,000 men should be raised in New England, fixed on Cambridge as its headquarters and sent to their neighbours for support. From New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island the answer was prompt. Numerous bands of volunteers marched to join the forces of Massachusetts, and an army of 16,000 men soon invested Boston from the Mystic river to Roxbury. It was an army without unity, for the troops of each colony acted under their own leaders; and its numbers varied from day to day, the Massachusetts volunteers, who formed its principal part, taking leave of absence whenever they chose. Many of the provincials had seen service against the French, and understood a soldier's work, and many more had received some training in the militia, but the mass of the volunteers had no military experience or discipline. Yet they were men well used to shoot and to handle the spade and axe, implements of first-rate importance in war; they belonged as a whole to a higher class than the privates of the British army, they were more resourceful and intelligent, and were able to obtain provisions and other supplies without difficulty. Such as they were, Gage judged them too formidable in number for him to attack. The neck of land which joins Boston to the continent had been fortified so strongly that the provincials could not hope to storm it, and he decided to remain behind it and await the arrival of the reinforcements which were already on their way. He made no effort to prevent the insurgents from shutting up his army on the landward side, and early in May they began to form entrenchments. At the same[Pg 144] time they took measures to distress the beleaguered force by clearing off the live-stock, hay, and other supplies from the islands in the harbour. Gage tried in vain to stop them, and there were several skirmishes in the harbour, in which the British suffered more heavily than the provincials.

The insurgents were not content with fighting on their own ground. The command of the line of the Hudson would prevent the British from cutting off New England from the middle colonies, would secure New York from attack from the north, and would open a way for an invasion of Canada. On the north the approaches to the river were dominated by the forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which had played a conspicuous part in the great war with France; and in them were laid up some 200 cannon, small arms, and other military stores. Important as these forts were, no adequate garrisons were maintained in them. Benedict Arnold, the leader of a band of volunteers from New Haven, Connecticut, a druggist and West India trader, was informed of their defenceless condition, and made an offer to the Massachusetts committee of safety to capture them. His offer was accepted, and he was authorised to raise a force. The same plan had been formed in Connecticut; and Ethan Allen, the leader of an association in Vermont, was sent with his followers to carry it out. Arnold met him on the march; he refused to yield the command, and Arnold joined his force, which included a body of Indians. At dawn on May 10 they surprised the garrison of Ticonderoga, consisting of less than fifty men, and compelled the governor to surrender without striking a blow. A detachment from the force seized Crown Point, and a few days later Arnold sailed down Lake Champlain and captured St. John's, which was recovered by the British in the course of the summer and garrisoned.


In England the news of the fighting at Lexington and Concord was received with astonishment. People were by no means distressed, for they believed that Gage would soon take his revenge. Military men were puzzled and provoked at the state of affairs at Boston. "How often," said a general at the war office to one who had held command in America, "have I heard you American colonels boast that with four battalions you would march through America, and now you think that Gage with 4,000 men and forty pieces of cannon mayn't venture out[Pg 145] of Boston."[99] However, things would, it was expected, soon wear a different face, for about 5,500 men were on their way to Boston, and three new generals had embarked on April 21 to serve under Gage. They were Howe, a younger brother of Lord Howe, the admiral, a fine gentleman and a gallant soldier, reputed to be a left-handed cousin of the king through his mother, a daughter of the Countess of Darlington, a mistress of George I., kindly, careless, and frivolous, who had distinguished himself at the taking of Quebec; Clinton, who had served in Germany; and Burgoyne, who had made a successful campaign in Portugal under Lippe Bückeburg, a man of fashion, a dramatist, a politician, and a keen soldier, eager for employment and promotion. North and Dartmouth were vexed at the news of the encounter, for they had entertained strong hopes, expressed by the king in closing parliament on May 26, that the conciliation bill would lead to a pacification. Gage's attempt at Concord was, Dartmouth said, fatal.

The whigs were dismayed, for they did not share the confidence of the nation at large. Though Burke expected that the Americans would suffer "some heavy blows," he did not believe that a war with them would be ended quickly; and Richmond thought it probable that America would be lost and "with it our trade and opulence".[100] In England every war gives an opportunity to some vain and foolish persons for condemning their own country and showing sympathy with its enemies. So it was in 1775. Wilkes, then lord mayor, and the livery of the city tried to force the king to receive on the throne a petition which declared that an attempt was being made to establish arbitrary power in America. They were foiled by the king and adopted an address expressed in more decent terms, to which he returned answer that so long as constitutional authority was resisted he would continue to maintain it by force. The constitutional society, of which Horne was the leading spirit, sent Franklin £100 for, as Horne wrote in the Evening Post, "the widows and orphans of our beloved American fellow-subjects inhumanly murdered by the king's troops at or near Lexington and Concord". Horne was indicted for this libel in 1777, and was sentenced to a year's imprisonment and a fine of £200.[Pg 146]

In America the news of the affair at Lexington called forth in every colony a spirit of union, a determination to stand by their New England brethren. No answers were sent to North's conciliatory proposals; all alike agreed in referring them to the continental congress. This was equivalent to a rejection of them, for it was well known that the British government would hold no communication with that body. The congress met for the second time at Philadelphia on May 10. It rejected North's proposals and agreed that garrisons should be maintained at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, a decision which implied an approval of the offensive war levied against the king in the expedition against those forts. As, however, it was expedient to lull the suspicions of the French Canadians, who were not likely to have forgotten the religious bitterness exhibited by the Americans with reference to the Quebec act, it declared that no invasion of Canada would be made. The congress assumed executive powers; in the name of the "United Colonies" it adopted the army of New England then before Boston as the continental army, took measures for its organisation and payment, authorised a loan, and on June 15 chose George Washington, the colonel of the Virginia militia, as commander-in-chief.

No wiser choice could have been made. Washington was a gentleman of Virginia, of independent fortune, descended from an English family of good position; he had served with distinction against the French, and as aide-de-camp to Braddock had behaved with remarkable intrepidity in the battle on the Monongahela river in 1755. Thoroughly unselfish, he devoted himself with all his heart to public duty; his integrity was above suspicion; he was free from personal ambition, and was never swayed by jealousy. His education had been neglected, but his intellect was clear and his judgment sound. He was naturally hot-tempered, and when his anger was roused he was a terror to evil-doers, to the officer who disobeyed his orders and to the rascally contractor who supplied his army with inferior stores. Yet he habitually kept his temper under control. Steadfast in purpose, he was never overwhelmed by misfortune and never yielded to factious opposition. And strong as his will was, it did not degenerate into obstinacy; he would gladly listen to the advice of others, and in military matters was sometimes too ready to act upon it. At first he made mistakes in[Pg 147] generalship, but his military skill grew with his experience. In army administration he was excellent; his industry was unwearying; the smallest details received his personal attention. He was conscious of the difficulties of the task which lay before him; he believed, so he told Patrick Henry, that from the day of his appointment his reputation would begin to decline. The congress was an unorganised body without any constitutional status, conducting its business by means of constantly changing and irresponsible committees, and was utterly unfit to exercise executive functions; it had no means of enforcing its decrees, no revenue, and no munitions of war. The army which it adopted was little better than an assembly of armed men; many were volunteers, and it was decided to enlist men only for seven months. There was little discipline; the officers were for the most part ignorant of their duties and were of the same social standing as their men; and the New England privates, self-opiniated and obstinate, showed little respect for their orders. Washington had not merely to command an army in the field, he had to create one and, what was harder still, to keep it together.


Inside Boston life was by no means pleasant. All marketing from the country was at an end, for the town was closely beset by land and the islands were cleared of provisions; no fresh meat was to be had, and the besieged lived alternately on salt beef and salt pork. Attacks from fire-rafts and whale-boats were daily threatened, and fears were entertained that the inhabitants might set fire to the town in order to force the British to leave it.[101] On May 25 the three new generals landed, and the arrival of the reinforcements raised the number of Gage's army to about 10,000 men. Believing that the rebellion would soon be quelled, he issued a foolish proclamation, offering pardon to all rebels who laid down their arms, except Samuel Adams and Hancock, then president of the congress, and threatening those who continued in arms with punishment as traitors. As the insurgents had no ships, while the British had floating batteries and ships of war in the harbour, they could not hope to destroy Gage's army, or reduce it to surrender through famine. Their object was to compel him to evacuate the place and sail off. The peninsula on which the town stands was commanded[Pg 148] by hills both on the north and south-east. On the north were the hills of the Charlestown peninsula, which was separated from Boston by the Charles river; it had the Mystic river on its northern side, and was joined to the mainland by a narrow neck. On the south-east it was commanded by the hills of another peninsula called Dorchester Neck. A battery on either the Charlestown hills or the Dorchester heights would have rendered Gage's position untenable; for, independently of any loss which his troops might sustain from bombardment, the British shipping would be drawn from its anchorage, and if he remained he would be practically imprisoned in the town and cut off from supplies. It should therefore have been Gage's first care to shut the insurgents out from those positions.

Hitherto he had not attempted to occupy the hills on either side, but after the arrival of the new generals it was decided to include them within the lines. On June 13 the insurgents heard that the British were about to occupy Dorchester heights. They determined to frustrate this move by occupying the ridge stretching along the Charlestown peninsula, and called by the general name of Bunker hill. Accordingly on the evening of the 16th a detachment of 1,200 men, with six field-pieces, was sent from Cambridge for that purpose. When they arrived at the summit their leaders determined to advance farther and to fortify a lower eminence of the ridge nearer Boston, which was distinguished by the name of Breeds hill. There during the night they formed a redoubt and breastwork. At daybreak on the 17th they were discovered from the sloop Lively, and her guns roused the British army. Before long a battery in Boston and the guns of other ships opened fire, but did little mischief. The insurgents received a small reinforcement, and formed a line of defence, protected by a low wall and rail, from their redoubt northward to the Mystic, in order to secure themselves from a flank attack. If Gage had placed a floating battery on the Mystic, which would have taken them on the left flank, and had landed troops to the rear of the redoubt, held the neck, and so cut them off from their main body, he would have had them at his mercy. This would have been easy, for by taking up a more advanced position than was laid down in their orders, they left their rear exposed to attack. He decided, however, to storm their works.[Pg 149]


Not till midday did a detachment of British troops, grenadiers and light infantry, begin to land on the peninsula under the command of Howe and Pigot. They waited for reinforcements, which brought their number up to over 2,000 men, with artillery. Hot as the weather was, the men were burdened with knapsacks containing provisions for three days. At 3 p.m. they advanced in two divisions, the light infantry under Howe against the line of defence, the grenadiers under Pigot against the redoubt. At first their advance was covered by their artillery, but the guns stuck in the mire, and it is said that a fresh supply of ball sent from Boston was too large for the cannon. Even if this was the case, it could have made no difference, for the supply taken with the guns was not exhausted.[102] Up the steep hill, through long tangled grass, the red-coats toiled on towards the redoubt, each burdened with a weight of some 125 pounds. With admirable coolness the Americans held their fire until the enemy was about fifty yards from them, and then poured a volley into their ranks. For a few minutes the men stood steady and returned the fire, then they turned and retreated in disorder. The attack on the fence was equally unsuccessful. While the officers were rallying their men, the battery on Cops hill burnt the wooden houses of the almost deserted village of Charlestown, from which the troops had been fired upon as they advanced. Then a second attack was made, and again the British were sent staggering back by the enemy's fire. At this crisis Clinton came over from Boston, took command of two battalions, a body of marines, and the 47th, and did good service in helping to rally the troops. With fine persistency they made ready for a third attack. More rational orders were given; the force was not divided, and only a feint was made against the line of defence, the men laid aside their knapsacks, advanced in column against the redoubt, and attacked with the bayonet. The Americans, who had received little support of any kind from headquarters, were weary, and their ammunition was almost exhausted; they were driven from their works and retreated across the neck. Their retreat was covered with bravery and military skill[103] by the body stationed along the line of defence on[Pg 150] their left, but as they passed over the neck they suffered severely from the guns of the Glasgow sloop of war. Howe would not pursue them, and at once began to fortify the peninsula.

The victory was decisive, for it gave the English the ground for which they fought, and enabled them to hold Boston for nine months longer. It was dearly purchased by the loss of 19 officers and 207 men killed, and 70 officers and 758 men wounded, making a total of 1,054 casualties, an extraordinarily large proportion of the number engaged, apparently about 2,500. This was the natural result of sending troops up a hill to deliver a frontal attack on an earthwork held by a body of men well used to shoot. It will be observed that the loss of officers was extremely heavy; they fearlessly exposed themselves, as the British officer always does, in order to encourage their men. The Americans, who for the most part fought behind cover, stated their loss at 449. After Bunker hill, no one whose judgment was not warped by prejudice could believe that the Americans were cowards. They were not, so Gage wrote, the disorderly rabble too many have supposed; he had seen enough to convince him that the conquest of the country could only be effected by perseverance and strong armies.[104] The behaviour of the insurgent troops greatly encouraged their party. When Washington heard how they had fought he declared that the liberties of the country were safe.


Already some colonies were making temporary arrangements for popular government and issuing bills for the expenses of defence, and in July Georgia expressed its adherence to the general policy of armed resistance. For a while, however, royal governors still remained, and government was everywhere in a chaotic state. In New York the mob committed many outrages on the persons and property of loyalists, and hostilities took place with crews of the king's ships in the bay. Yet the town was not prepared to take a decided part; and it received Tryon, the royal governor, and Washington with the same tokens of respect. A like incongruity marked the proceedings of congress. Besides adopting addresses to the people of Great Britain and Ireland, it sent a petition to the king on whom it was levying war from his "faithful subjects," expressing attach[Pg 151]ment to his "person, family, and government" and beseeching him to "settle peace". At the same time, in spite of its declaration to the contrary, it ordered an invasion of Canada. The Americans flattered themselves that the Canadians would rise against the British, and Allen, puffed up by his recent success, made a dash at Montreal with only 150 men. He was defeated and taken prisoner. Meanwhile Montgomery started from Ticonderoga in August with over 2,000 men, captured Chamblée, where he found a good supply of military stores, and laid siege to St. John's. Canada was practically defenceless, for Carleton had only 900 regular troops; the English-speaking Canadians were disaffected, the French for the most part either apathetic or hostile. He sent to Gage for reinforcements, but the admiral, Samuel Graves, declined to transport troops to Quebec, for as it was then late in October the voyage from Boston would have been dangerous. Carleton's efforts to relieve St. John's were unsuccessful, and after a stout resistance the garrison surrendered on November 13. The fall of St. John's involved the surrender of Montreal, which was defenceless, and Carleton hastened to the defence of Quebec.

His presence was needed there, for on September 13 a detachment of about 1,500 men under the command of Arnold was sent from the army at Cambridge to surprise and capture the city. It was to proceed by land and water up the Kennebec, and down the Chaudière to the St. Lawrence. The route, though used by trappers and Indians, was dimly traced, and the equipment of the expedition was too cumbersome for the rough work which lay before it.[105] Soon after leaving their transports at Fort Western, where, fifty-eight miles from its mouth, the Kennebec ceased to be navigable except by bateaux, the troops began to suffer great hardships. Their stores were conveyed in bateaux, which they were constantly forced to haul against currents and carry over land. Many of them leaked, some were abandoned, and provisions ran short. The weather became cold and rainy. The whole rear division, with its officers, lost heart and turned back, taking with them a large share of food and ammunition. The rest toiled on through swamps and mire, half-starved and benumbed with cold. Many[Pg 152] perished, some lost their way, and the men of one company were reduced to eating their dogs and gnawing the leather of their shoes. It was not until November 9 that Arnold's troops, a ragged and shivering crowd of about 600 men, with some Indians who had joined them, reached Point Levi. Montgomery, who was to have met them, was not there; they crossed the St. Lawrence, and Arnold sent an absurd summons to the garrison of Quebec. He then retreated to Pointe-aux-Trembles to wait for Montgomery.

The defences of Quebec were in bad condition, the garrison was small, and there was much disaffection among the inhabitants. The whole country was in the power of the invaders, the people were on their side, and it seemed as though the hopes of the Americans would be fulfilled. But while Quebec remained untaken, Canada would still be unconquered, and the defence was in good hands. The garrison was commanded by Colonel Maclean of the 84th, or Royal Highland Emigrants, a regiment largely raised by him from Frazer's Highlanders who had done good service under Wolfe. Carleton soon entered the place, and while Arnold was waiting for Montgomery, took vigorous measures for securing its safety. Montgomery arrived at Pointe-aux-Trembles on December 1, and on the night of the 31st the rebels attempted to carry Quebec by storm. They were repulsed with heavy loss, Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded. They continued the siege, but were too weak either to invest the city completely or make any offensive movement. Carleton waited quietly until the breaking up of the ice should allow reinforcements to come up the river. Before long the French Canadians began to transfer their sympathies to the British. Their priests were too well satisfied with the Quebec act to desire change. Bishop Briand published a mandement, reminding his people of the benefits they received from English rule and calling upon them to defend their province. His exhortation had a powerful effect, for priests refused to confess men who joined the rebels.


The victory of Bunker hill made no change in the position of Gage's army, which suffered from the want of wholesome food and from other privations. As England had command of the sea the troops could have been removed, and the generals wrote to the government suggesting that Boston should be[Pg 153] evacuated and the royal forces concentrated at New York, which was more open to communication by sea, and in every respect a better base for future operations. The government, however, was unwilling to give up the town, and things remained as they were, for the generals considered that nothing was to be gained by an attack on the enemy's lines, because their army was not supplied with the materials necessary to move at a distance. Plans were indeed proposed for embarrassing the enemy by sending out a detachment to make a descent on Rhode Island;[106] but Gage did nothing, and the government, convinced of his incapacity, recalled him to England. He sailed from Boston in October, and Howe was appointed to the chief command. By sea there was as little done as by land, for the naval force under Graves was so inefficient that he was unable even to prevent the whale-boats of the rebels from intercepting supplies and destroying lighthouses. He was unjustly blamed for inaction, both by the army in Boston and the government. His removal was, the king thought, "as necessary as the mild general's".[107] This and every other matter connected with the war was directed by the king. His industry and his knowledge of details, military and naval, were extraordinary, and North, Dartmouth, and Barrington, whatever their own opinions were, had no choice but to carry out his orders.

On the outbreak of the war the army of Great Britain was on its normal peace establishment of about 17,000 men, besides the Irish army of 15,235, the garrison of Gibraltar 3,500, and of Minorca 2,500. It was an amazingly small number, considering the accessions made to the empire by the late war. George always wished for a larger permanent force; but his ministers shrank from raising a storm by increasing the estimates or provoking the popular jealousy of a standing army. Men were wanted at once. The first reinforcements were obtained from Ireland, and the Irish parliament agreed that 4,000 men should be drafted out of the country beyond the number allowed by statute. It soon became evident that the war required the immediate supply of a far greater number of men than could be spared from the present establishment or could be raised[Pg 154] quickly. Parliament was not in session, and the king determined to obtain the services of foreign troops. As Elector of Hanover he lent 2,355 Hanoverians to garrison Gibraltar and Minorca, and so set a corresponding number of the British garrisons free to be employed in the war. He sought to hire men from other sovereigns. A proposal made to Catherine of Russia for the hire of 20,000 men was scornfully declined, and the States-General refused to sell him their Scots brigade. With the petty princes of Germany he was more lucky; the Duke of Brunswick, the Landgrave and the hereditary Prince of Hesse Cassel, and the Prince of Waldeck were happy to sell their subjects, and agreed to supply 17,742 in return for a liberal payment. These arrangements enraged the Americans, who spoke of them as though the king was delivering a loyal people to be massacred by foreign mercenaries. As a matter of fact they were making war on the king, and he had as good a right to buy troops to fight in his quarrel as he had to buy cannon. It is on the princes who sold the blood of their subjects that the disgrace of these transactions must rest. Frederick of Prussia expressed his disgust at their greediness in bitter terms, and is said to have jeeringly declared that when any of the unfortunate men whose lives they were selling passed through his dominions he would levy toll on them at so much a head as though they were cattle.


Nothing was gained by the recall of Gage, for Howe was equally incompetent. Privateers were fitted out in great number in the New England ports, which did mischief to English commerce and intercepted the supplies sent out to the army. In order to check this privateering business two ships-of-war sailed from Boston in October, under a lieutenant named Mowat, with orders to burn the shipping along the coast. Mowat exceeded his orders and destroyed the town of Falmouth. This useless act of barbarity, which excited violent indignation among the Americans, was reprehended by the British government. In Boston sickness continued rife among the troops, and in November there was an outbreak of small-pox. Washington, however, was not in a position to attack; he had great difficulty in obtaining ammunition and not less in raising men. The revolutionary spirit was spreading, but there was little military ardour. In December the period of enlistment ended; his army[Pg 155] was disbanded, and he could not obtain quite 10,000 men to take its place. Though Howe's army was weakened by sickness, such effective troops as he had were well-trained soldiers. Yet he made no attempt to force the American lines. By the beginning of March Washington was able to take the offensive, and on the night of the 4th occupied Dorchester heights and began to plant cannon there. It is amazing that Howe should have neglected this important position. A storm prevented him from sending a force across the bay to attack the Americans' works before they were completed; their batteries rendered Boston untenable and endangered the ships in the harbour. Howe was forced to abandon the town, and on the 17th the British troops, about 7,600 in number, together with nearly 1,000 loyalists, embarked for Halifax, where Howe waited for reinforcements which would enable him to strike at New York.

If the English had abandoned Boston after the battle of Bunker hill, the evacuation would have merely been a military movement, adopted for the purpose of obtaining a more convenient base for future operations. The government decided that the place should be held, and its enforced evacuation was a moral defeat and a legitimate cause of triumph to the Americans. Their exultation was dashed by the failure of their attempt on Canada. Fresh troops were sent to support the invasion, but the feelings of the people, English as well as French, were turning strongly against the Americans. After the evacuation of Boston, congress ordered Washington to send nearly half his effective force into Canada, and despatched Franklin and other commissioners thither to allure the people with promises. The Canadians turned a deaf ear to their offers. The moment for which Carleton waited so patiently came at last. On May 6, before the river was fully cleared of ice, three British ships made their way to Quebec with reinforcements. He at once sallied out, and the Americans fled in confusion, leaving their cannon and baggage behind, and even their pots boiling, so that the king's troops sat down and ate their dinners from them. Further reinforcements arrived from Halifax and from Ireland, and in June Burgoyne, who had spent the winter at home, brought over the Hessian and Brunswick troops, raising Carleton's army to about 12,000 men. The Americans, under Sullivan, retreated from the neighbourhood of Quebec to Sorel.[Pg 156] A large detachment was routed at Three Rivers, and Sullivan retreated to St. John's, leisurely pursued by Burgoyne. There he was joined by Arnold, and the remnants of the army of Canada, some 5,000 men, suffering severely from sickness and privation, escaped to Isle-aux-Noix, and thence to Crown Point. Canada was evacuated in June. Left almost defenceless by England, it was preserved to her by Carleton's firmness and intrepidity.

By the beginning of 1776 the idea of separation from Great Britain was daily gaining ground in the revolted colonies. It was strengthened by the publication of a pamphlet entitled Common Sense by Thomas Paine. This Paine, a staymaker by trade, after he had failed in business in England, and had been dismissed from employment as an exciseman for neglect of duty, emigrated to America in 1774, and came into notice through introductions given him by Franklin. He was bitterly hostile to his own country, a violent advocate of revolutionary ideas, ignorant and conceited; yet he had much shrewdness, and expressed his rude opinions with a force and vivacity which appealed strongly to readers prepared to assent to them. Common Sense taught thousands of Americans to recognise for the first time their own thoughts and wishes, and encouraged others, who already knew what they wanted, to cease from disguising their hopes by empty professions. Separation would, it was expected in England, be opposed most vigorously in the southern colonies. In them its cause was forwarded by violence. Lord Dunmore, the governor of Virginia, took refuge on board a man-of-war in June, 1775, manned a small flotilla, and attempted to reduce his province by making descents upon the coast. He enraged the people by offering freedom to slaves who would enlist under him, and by destroying the town of Norfolk through setting fire to some wharfs from which his men had been shot at while landing for water. He further engaged in a scheme for invading the southern colonies from inland with the help of the Indians. It failed, and the result of his proceedings was that Virginia was foremost in urging congress to a declaration of independence.


The governors of the two Carolinas assured the king that if a force were sent to their provinces the loyalists would rise; the Carolinas might be secured, Virginia coerced, and all the[Pg 157] south recovered for the crown. Both George and Dartmouth believed them, and, against the advice of military men, an expedition was prepared to sail to Cape Fear. The troops were conveyed in a squadron under Sir Peter Parker and were under the command of Lord Cornwallis. Clinton left Boston in December to take the command, but the expedition was long a-preparing: it did not leave Cork until February 12, 1776; the ships met with storms; none arrived at Cape Fear before May 3, some were even later. Meanwhile Martin, the governor of North Carolina, stirred up the loyalist Scots settled in the province to take arms; they marched towards the coast, expecting to meet the royal troops, were intercepted, and utterly routed. When at last Clinton's force was gathered together, his time for action was short, for he was under orders to meet Howe at New York at an early date. He and Parker decided to make an attempt on the harbour of Charleston, the chief town of South Carolina, for the trade carried on there was an important source of the insurgents' funds. It was not until June 4 that the British force, about 2,000 troops, with Parker's squadron arrived at Charleston harbour.

The entrance was commanded by Sullivan's island and there the insurgents under Moultrie had erected a fort and mounted guns. Clinton landed his troops on Long island, intending that at low tide they should wade across to Sullivan's island and attack the garrison on their rear, while the ships bombarded them in front. The attempt was made on the 28th. The tide did not run out sufficiently to allow the troops to ford the shoals and the engagement was simply an artillery duel. The British ships suffered severely; one frigate which went aground was set on fire to prevent the enemy from taking it, Parker's flagship the Bristol and the Experiment, both of fifty guns, were much knocked about, and some 200 men were killed or wounded. The attack failed, and on July 21 Clinton's force sailed for New York under convoy of a single frigate, the rest of Parker's ships being forced to refit. The expedition strengthened the party of separation and bound the south closely together. Its failure depressed the loyalists, and for three years freed the southern colonies from invasion, and enabled them to send help to other quarters. Less than a week after the unsuccessful attempt on Charleston, on July 4, the congress at Philadelphia, in which[Pg 158] all the thirteen colonies were represented, put forth a declaration of independence; the colonies renounced their allegiance, and declared themselves free and independent states, the United States of America.

The progress of the revolt during the summer of 1775 strengthened the king's determination to subdue it by force. A proclamation was issued in August against traitorous correspondence with the Americans, and in September Penn, who brought over the petition of congress to the king, was informed that no answer would be made to it. George could not have received it without recognising congress, an unauthorised assemblage of his subjects engaged in levying war against him. The government was powerful in parliament, and the great majority of the nation warmly approved the royal policy, of which the ministers were scarcely more than the agents. Little doubt was felt as to the successful issue of the war; public spirit was aroused, and the cause of England was generally held to be just. The landed gentry and the professions of the Church, the army, and the law were strongly on the king's side. Self-interest largely decided the attitude of the mercantile class: some of its members were opposed to the war because it injured their trade; others were in favour of it; for trade generally was brisk and was increased by the demands brought by war. In London and Bristol the opposition had many supporters, but in both cities there was a strong party in favour of the government. Among the labouring classes the war was not popular and recruiting was difficult, for service in America entailed a long voyage full of discomfort, and the prospect of fighting with men of the same race and language was repellent. The evangelicals and methodists sided with the government; the dissenters generally were against the war and their preachers were active in encouraging their dislike to it. Addresses approving of the king's policy were numerous and unsolicited; they poured in from all quarters, from tory Oxford and whiggish Cambridge, from country towns and great commercial centres like Liverpool and Manchester. Rockingham observed that violent measures were countenanced by a majority of persons "of all ranks, professions, or occupations in this country". Scotland almost to a man was of the same persuasion. In Ireland the nobles and the gentry generally upheld the court, but with the majority of protestants,[Pg 159] and specially with the presbyterians of the north, the war was highly unpopular.[108]


The opponents of the government were not less resolute than the king. Lord Effingham resigned his commission in the army lest he should be called upon to serve against the Americans, and Chatham's eldest son took the same course in obedience to the wishes of his parents. Grafton wrote to North in August, 1775, expressing his desire for conciliation. On October 20 North sent him a draft of the king's speech which showed him that the government was determined to reduce the rebellion by force of arms. He resigned the privy seal and went into opposition. The changes which followed proved that a vigorous policy would be carried out. Dartmouth took Grafton's place and was succeeded as secretary of state for the colonies by Lord George Germain, previously known as Lord George Sackville. Germain was at this time one of North's followers, and was appointed in order that he might help him in the commons. Violent in his feelings against the Americans, he was acceptable to the king and acquired influence over him. His appointment was unpopular. He had fair ability, but as minister allowed himself to be swayed by personal motives, and he pursued a system already adopted by the king of directing military operations in America from London which had disastrous consequences. Rochford retired with a pension of £2,500 and was succeeded by Weymouth as secretary of the southern department.

The king's speech at the opening of parliament on October 26, 1775, stated that the Americans were in rebellion and were seeking to "establish an independent empire". Eight months had yet to pass before the colonies declared their independence, and the effect of events which hastened their decision, such as the employment of German troops and the refusal to answer the petition of congress, was not yet known in England. It will, however, scarcely be denied that between the proceedings of congress and a formal declaration of independence the distance was not great. The strength of the king's position lay in his recognition of this fact and of the course which alone might have quelled the growing spirit of rebellion without humiliation to[Pg 160] Great Britain. The opposition did not see facts as they really were, and called for remedies which were either vague, of various import, insufficient, or such as would have placed the crown in a humiliating position. In the lords' debate on the address, Rockingham urged a vague undertaking to adopt measures of conciliation, Grafton the repeal of the acts relating to America since 1763, and Shelburne that the petition of congress proved that the colonies were not "planning independence". In the commons Burke taunted the ministers with failure; and Fox, who was coming to the front, praised the spirit of the Americans, denied that they were aiming at independence, and bitterly attacked North, who, said he, had lost more in one campaign than Chatham, Frederick of Prussia, or Alexander the Great had ever gained—he had lost a whole continent. The address was carried in the lords by 76 to 33, and in the commons by 176 to 72.

Motions were made in both houses declaring that the employment of Hanoverian troops within the king's dominions, at Gibraltar and Minorca, without previous consent of parliament was unconstitutional. It was, the opposition maintained, a violation of the bill of rights, which declared that "the keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of parliament, is against law". On the government side it was pointed out that it was not a time of peace and that the clause did not apply to the dependencies of the kingdom. North, however, consented to a bill of indemnity which was thrown out by the lords, the opposition objecting to it on the ground that it asserted the legality of the measure, the government that it was totally unnecessary. Numerically weak as the opposition was, it maintained the fight with spirit. Motions more or less directly aimed at the war policy of the government were made in the lords by Grafton and Richmond, and in the commons by Luttrell, Fox, Burke, Oliver, Hartley, Lowther, and Sawbridge. On none of these did the minority vote stronger than 33 in the lords and 105 in the commons. Burke, in bringing in a bill on November 16 for composing the troubles in America, urged that the right way was by concessions to be followed by treaty. He would maintain the declaratory act of 1766 as necessary to the authority of parliament, and certain acts passed since 1763 as necessary to British trade; and he desired that parliament should enact that no tax should be levied on the[Pg 161] colonies other than by their voluntary grant, and should repeal coercive acts such as that closing Boston harbour. These concessions, while greater than the government would make, would not, it was pointed out, have satisfied the Americans; they did not go to the root of American discontent, which lay in the revenue laws, and dated not from the year 1766, but reached back to 1672. After a long debate, of which we have virtually no record, for strangers were excluded from the house, the bill was lost by 210 votes to 105.


The government was successful in its proposals for the maintenance of the war. Only 15,230 seamen were in pay in 1775; for 1776 the number voted was 28,000. In the debate serious charges were brought against the administration of the navy. Sandwich was diligent; he constantly inspected the dockyards, an excellent custom which he instituted when first lord in 1749, and he kept the navy board to its duties.[109] At his office early in the morning he got through an amount of work surprising in the case of a man who habitually spent the later part of his day and his nights in drinking, gambling, and debauchery. The effect of his diligence was spoilt by corrupt practices. Many abuses prevailed in the administration of the navy before his time; money voted for repairs was applied to other purposes, stores were paid for which were used for private gain, sea-pay was drawn for men who existed only on paper. Under Sandwich abuses of all kinds seem to have been carried further than before. The navy in 1776 consisted of 317 ships of various sizes and 49 sloops.[110] Of these 123 ships were "of the line of battle," a term then generally restricted to the first three rates, ships of sixty-four guns and upwards. In spite of the large sums voted for repairs, many of the king's ships were utterly unseaworthy, and it was alleged with truth that ships, perfectly capable of repair, were sold as useless, while others, for which much money had been voted, had not had a penny spent upon them. On this matter more must be said later.

A bill enabling the king to embody the militia in times of rebellion met with strong opposition on the ground that it would place a dangerous power in the hands of the crown, and was subversive of the constitutional idea of the militia as a purely local[Pg 162] force to be used only for domestic defence; it was, however, finally carried by large majorities. On the other hand, North's proposal to extend the militia to Scotland was defeated by 112 to 95, for the country gentlemen, who regarded the militia system with extreme jealousy, voted against it. For the army a vote was obtained for 55,000 men, of which 25,000 were to be employed in America. It was easier to vote the money than to find the men. The difficulty of recruiting was alleged by government to be a result of the briskness of trade and such like causes. Already the Irish army was reduced by drafts to less than the 12,000 men that by statute were to be kept in that kingdom, and the government excited the indignation of an independent section in the Irish parliament and of the protestants of Ulster by obtaining leave to withdraw 4,000 men more. The conduct of the government in this matter and in that of the hiring of German troops was strenuously though ineffectually attacked in the British parliament. The supplies voted for the year 1776 amounted to £9,097,000. The land tax was raised to four shillings in the pound, and that with other ordinary ways and means would, North calculated, bring in £7,143,000. He proposed to make up the deficiency by borrowing £2,000,000; the loan was to be funded, and the interest of the new stock was provided for by new taxes on carriages and stage coaches, dice and cards, by an additional stamp duty, and by raising the penny stamp on newspapers to three-halfpence.


Acting on the ground taken up by the king's speech that the colonies were waging a rebellious war, North, on November 20, 1775, brought in a "prohibitory" bill, which forbade all trade and intercourse with the Americans, provided that American ships and goods taken at sea should be forfeited to the captors, being officers and crews of the king's ships, and repealed certain acts as no longer appropriate in the present state of war. It also empowered the crown to appoint commissioners to inquire into grievances, to grant pardons to individuals, and to receive into the king's peace any districts or colonies which would return to obedience. North declared himself ready to repeal the tea duty and to suspend all exercise of the right of taxation if the Americans would bear their share of the burden of national defence. The bill was carried after violent opposition in both houses. Fox described the war as unjust and impractic[Pg 163]able, and said that the bill exhibited the folly of the ministers. It was, the opposition urged, cruel and indiscriminate in its scope; it excited our seamen to "promiscuous rapine," and provided that American sailors who were taken prisoners might be compelled to serve in the British navy against their own people. Such severity, they said, would drive the Americans to a permanent separation and would eventually land us in a war with European powers. On the other hand it was reasonably maintained that, as the Americans were already at war with us, the war must be carried on as if against alien enemies. In April, 1776, the king appointed Admiral Richard Lord Howe, then about to take the command in American waters, and his brother, General Howe, as commissioners in pursuance of the act. Their appointment testifies to the sincerity of the king's desire for peace, for the Howes were friendly to the Americans and had already made efforts to bring the quarrel to a peaceful ending; the admiral, indeed, declared in the lords that if he were ordered to take part in the war, it would be painful to him as a man, though he should obey as an officer. George, however, was determined not to sacrifice any of the rights of his crown. Submission would be rewarded with pardon, obstinacy in rebellion met by war. He feared lest Lord Howe should concede too much, and wished that he would decline the commission.[111] He did not decline, and sailed for America with offers of pardon. The king's speech at the close of the session on May 23 expressed the earnest hope that his rebellious subjects would "voluntarily return to their duty". Peace was only to be obtained by obedience.


[99] P. O. Hutchinson, Hutchinson's Diary and Letters, i., 461.

[100] Burke's Correspondence, i., 272, 274, 276.

[101] Hutchinson's Diary and Letters, i., 459, 469.

[102] Cp. Stedman, History of the American War, i., 129, and Duncan, History Of the Royal Artillery, i., 303.

[103] Burgoyne to Rochfort, Fonblanque, Burgoyne, p. 147.

[104] Gage to Dartmouth, June 25, 1775, Dartmouth Papers, ii., 320.

[105] Codman, Arnold's Expedition to Quebec, pp. 22-25, 141.

[106] Fonblanque, Burgoyne, p. 195; Dartmouth Papers, ii., 357.

[107] The King to North, July 28, 1775, Correspondence with North, i., 256.

[108] On national feeling generally see Annual Reg., xix. (1776), 38-39; Burke to Champion, Jan. 10, 1775, and Rockingham to Burke, Sept. 24, Burke's Works, i., 259 sq., 291-92; Lecky, History, iii., 528-34.

[109] Barrow, Life of Anson, pp. 214-16.

[110] Progress of the Navy, MS. Admiralty, Miscell., 567, R.O.

[111] George to North, April 13, 1776, Corr. with North, ii., 18.



On June 11, 1776, Howe sailed from Halifax with his army of 9,000 men, and on July 3 occupied Staten Island without opposition. There he was joined by the reinforcements from England, conveyed by Lord Howe, and by Clinton and his troops, so that in August he had with him some 25,000 men, English and German. Washington's army at New York numbered about 19,000 effectives.[112] Mindful of his commission to restore tranquillity, Lord Howe wrote to him enclosing a copy of the king's offers. Washington would not receive the letter because the address did not acknowledge his military rank, and observed that the powers of the commissioners extended only to granting pardons, and that his people had done nothing for which they needed pardon. The pacific mission of the Howes having so far failed, the general on August 22-25 landed an army on Long Island, which is separated from New York by the East river. Brooklyn heights on Long Island, opposite New York, were strongly fortified and held by the Americans. Washington, believing that a larger British force was left in Staten Island than was really the case, thought it necessary to keep a numerous garrison in New York to meet a direct attack on the place, and detached only some 9,000 men under Putnam to Long Island. They were for the most part posted so as to hold a belt of wooded hills lying between their lines and the royal army. During the night of the 26th Howe outflanked them and brought his main body to a position on their rear. The next day an attack was made on their front; they were caught between two divisions of the king's troops and were defeated. Howe put their loss at 3,300, which is certainly an[Pg 165] overestimate, though he made nearly 1,100 prisoners, among them the generals Sullivan and Lord Stirling, as the Americans called him, an unsuccessful claimant of that earldom.[113] The British casualties were 377. The Americans retreated within their inner lines. If Howe had allowed his troops to storm their entrenchments he would probably have destroyed or taken the whole force on the island. He considered, however, that the lines could in a few days be taken "at a very cheap rate" by regular approaches, and decided not to risk the loss of any more men.[114] He let his opportunity slip, and on the night of the 29th Washington, helped by a fog, cleverly withdrew his troops across the river.


Lord Howe took advantage of the American defeat to invite congress to send some of its members to confer with him unofficially as to possible terms of peace. Congress, though it refused to sanction any unofficial negotiations, sent commissioners from its own body to confer with him. Nothing came of the conference, for the American commissioners would not treat except on the basis of independence. On September 15 the British army descended on Manhattan Island, on which New York stands, and the American militia fled in disorder. The British took possession of New York and of sixty-six of the enemy's guns. If Howe's movements had been more prompt he might have cut off a large number of the enemy; he is said to have wasted time by lingering over luncheon at the house of the mother of Lindley Murray, the grammar-writer, who detained him by her crafty hospitality. Washington drew off his troops to Haarlem heights, in the northern part of the island. The next day there was some skirmishing in which the Americans held their ground. The loyalists of New York had been shamefully treated by the dominant faction, and the British were received with joy.[115] A few days later a large part of the city was destroyed by fires evidently kindled by incendiaries. Washington and other generals had wished for military reasons to burn the place. They were prevented by congress, but the idea was[Pg 166] taken up by some violent revolutionists. The Americans were disheartened by their ill-success; Washington's troops deserted in large numbers, and the greatest disorder prevailed in his army. In England the news of Howe's victory and his occupation of New York was received with delight, and the king rewarded him with the Order of the Bath.

The acquisition of New York gave the army an excellent base for operations either in the northern or southern provinces; it was easily accessible by sea, and lay in the midst of a district where loyalism was strong. According to the ministerial plan, Howe should have been joined by Carleton's army, which was to have taken Crown Point and Ticonderoga, gained possession of the upper Hudson, and invaded the province of New York from the north. After the Americans were chased out of Canada, Carleton's operations were stopped by the lack of a fleet to wrest the command of Lake Champlain from the rebels. During the summer he devoted himself with extraordinary energy to collecting and building vessels. Ships sent out from England were taken to pieces, carried overland to St. John's and put together again, little gunboats and transports were built, and by the beginning of October a larger and better fleet than that of the Americans was afloat on the lake. It engaged the enemy's fleet, under Arnold, off Valcour island, on the 11th and again on the 13th, and utterly destroyed it; only three of their vessels escaped.[116] Carleton occupied Crown Point, but as the season was so far advanced did not attack Ticonderoga, or stay long enough to put Crown Point in a defensible condition; he placed his army in winter quarters and returned to Quebec. He might have done more. His decision disappointed the king, and was represented to him in an unfavourable light, for Germain had a personal grudge against Carleton, and had already, in August, sent an order, which failed to reach him, that beyond his province the command was to be taken by Burgoyne. George, conscious of Carleton's signal services, at first declared himself satisfied that he had good reason for his decision; but Germain had the royal ear, and when the news came that Carleton had actually closed the campaign, the king accused him of slackness.[Pg 167]


An example of real slackness was being given by Howe at New York. He should with the aid of the fleet have made a prompt effort to prevent Washington from retreating from Manhattan island, and to cut off his communications with Connecticut whence he was drawing supplies. Even before occupying New York he might have conveyed his army by water to a point from which White Plains, where the land begins to broaden out rapidly, might have been reached with ease. He wasted four weeks of precious time at New York, and did not embark his troops till October 12. Washington left his narrow position on Haarlem heights, gained White Plains before him, and fortified his camp. Howe attacked him on the 28th with the object of outflanking him. Although part of his army by a frontal attack drove the American right from a strong position, this success was fruitless as well as costly. The insurgents' centre was weak, and if he had attacked it in force he might have crushed them completely. He made no further attempt in that direction, and Washington retreated to a good position behind Croton river. Howe returned to New York. There, however, he dealt the Americans a serious blow. Fort Washington, on Manhattan island, and Fort Lee, opposite to it on the Jersey shore, were intended to bar the Hudson and so secure communications with the country to the west of it. Congress, which often interfered in military matters, ordered that Fort Washington should be held, though in fact the forts did not prevent our ships from passing up the river. On November 16 a well-planned attack was made upon the fort; it was forced to surrender, and 2,858 prisoners, forty-three cannon, and a large quantity of small arms were taken by the British.

Two days later Cornwallis took possession of Fort Lee, together with 140 cannon and stores of various kinds. He rapidly overran New Jersey. Washington had been drawn down thither, and Lee, whom he left at the Croton, failed to support him. He retreated hastily through New Jersey with a force daily diminished by desertion. Cornwallis pressed upon him, but was detained by Howe's orders for a week at Brunswick; and Washington, who left Princeton only an hour before Cornwallis entered it, had just time to convey his army, then reduced to some 3,300 men,[117] across the Delaware on December 8[Pg 168] before the British came up. They were unable to follow him at once for no boats were left on the eastern bank. Howe, who had joined Cornwallis, decided that no more could be done and placed the army in winter quarters. He divided it into small detachments, and for the sake of protecting and encouraging the loyalists, extended his line of communication for eighty miles. The fortunes of the insurgents were at low ebb. Not only were the loyalists strong in New Jersey, but crowds of the rebel party, many of them men of high standing, took advantage of the amnesty which Howe was empowered to offer. The Delaware would soon be frozen over, and, if the British crossed it, Washington had not a sufficient force to hinder them from marching on Philadelphia. The town was panic-stricken, and congress removed to Baltimore. Washington's army dwindled. The period for which his regular troops were enlisted would end on January 1, and as for the militia, that "destructive, expensive, and disorderly mob" as he called them, they came and went as they pleased. "The game," he thought, "was pretty well played out."[118] The Americans' distress was heightened by the capture of Lee, who was on his way to join Washington. They reckoned him their ablest general, though his insubordination and self-seeking rendered the loss of him an actual gain. About the same time Clinton sailed to Rhode Island with Sir Peter Parker, and occupied Newport without opposition.

Washington's only chance lay in immediate action. The foolish disposition of the British army gave him an opportunity. Their central cantonments, nearest to the enemy, were weak. Trenton was held by only 1,200 Hessians; their discipline was relaxed, they were hindered by difference of language from gaining intelligence, and they lived in careless security. Washington was reinforced by Lee's troops and by three regiments from Ticonderoga, which Carleton's inaction had rendered available for service in the south. On the night of December 25 he crossed the Delaware, and before daybreak took Trenton by surprise. The startled garrison could make no resistance; about 200 escaped and 918 were taken prisoners. Of the Americans only two were killed and six wounded. Cornwallis, who was on the point of embarking for England, hastened back to the Jersey army. Washington avoided a general engagement, de[Pg 169]feated two regiments employed in an operation for the defence of Princeton, and before the middle of January, 1777, compelled the British by a series of well-conducted movements to evacuate West Jersey and withdraw to Brunswick and Amboy, where they went into quarters. The king's troops, British and German, committed many excesses, plundering friends and foes alike; and the inhabitants, indignant at their conduct, took advantage of Washington's success and turned against them. Many joined Washington's army. The British were in the midst of a hostile population, and though they had communication with New York by water, were almost besieged by land, for their supplies were constantly intercepted. The Jersey loyalists were left to the vengeance of their neighbours and were mercilessly plundered. Many of them fled to New York where several thousand provincial troops were embodied. Howe remained inactive at New York until the spring, and Washington also stayed quietly at his headquarters at Morristown.


Parliament was opened on October 31, 1776. An amendment to the address referring to American affairs was defeated in the lords by 91 to 26 and in the commons by 242 to 87. The news of the victory at Brooklyn—"the terrible news," as Fox indecently called it—and of the occupation of New York strengthened the ministers; and on a motion to revise the acts by which the Americans considered themselves aggrieved, the minority in the commons sank to 47. Depressed by the exhibition of their weakness, the Rockingham section ceased to attend parliament except on the occasion of private bills in which they were interested. Petulance and a false notion of dignity led them to neglect their duty to their country and their party. Their conduct was blamed by other whigs, and their secession, though it occasioned discord in the opposition, did not paralyse its efforts. Fox, by that time its most effective orator, went off to Paris, and the king advised North to proceed with as much business as possible in his absence.

The split in the opposition was specially manifested on the introduction of a government bill in February, 1777, for a partial suspension of the habeas corpus act, in order to secure the detention of persons charged with high treason in America or on the high seas; Rockingham, Burke, and others adhered to their secession, while Dunning and Fox headed the minority in[Pg 170] the commons. Fox warned the house not to be deceived by the amicable professions of the French ministers, who, he said, were holding conferences with delegates from congress while he was in Paris, and were only delaying to take part against England until the French navy was in good order. He declared that our losses were far greater and our successes far smaller than they were represented by government, and inveighed against the inhumanity with which he asserted the war was conducted on our side. He attacked the solicitor-general, who in answering him pointed out that if, as he asserted, France was secretly intriguing against us the bill was specially necessary. In a personal encounter Wedderburn was a dangerous antagonist, and Fox met more than his match. Dunning urged an amendment to prevent any abuse of the act; and North, always averse from violent measures, accepted his proposal. The bill was carried by 112 to 33. Public feeling had lately been excited on the subject of treason by incendiary fires which did much damage in the Portsmouth dockyard and destroyed some buildings on Bristol quay. They were found to have been the work of one James Aitken, commonly called John the painter, who had lately returned from America, and who stated in his confession that he had acted at the instigation of Silas Deane, one of the emissaries of congress in Paris.[119] He was hanged at Portsmouth on March 10.

The expenses of the war were growing. For 1777 parliament voted 45,000 seamen, including 1,000 marines. The difficulty was to get them. A seaman's service was not continuous; when his ship was paid off he could go whither he would. The peace establishment of the navy was ridiculously small, and when a war broke out it was always difficult to get men in a hurry. Many of the best seamen would have taken service on board merchant ships and would, perhaps, be at sea; and life on the king's ships in time of war was often so rough that it is not surprising that men should have avoided it. The usual difficulty of manning the fleet at the beginning of a war was increased at the present time, for it was calculated that the revolt of the colonies deprived England of 1,800 seamen. The navy in time of war was recruited by impressment, a system which, though[Pg 171] recognised by common law, entailed much hardship. Seamen were kidnapped, often after a bloody struggle, and if caught inland were sent to the ports ironed like criminals. Men who had been at sea for years were liable, as soon as their ships neared home, to be taken out of them, put into a press tender and sent to sea again. Merchant ships were stripped of their best men, and were left to be brought into port by the master and a few lads. The press gangs looked for trained seamen, though when a war lasted for some years they took what they could get; landsmen were impressed, and the press was sometimes abused as a means of getting rid of a personal enemy, a rival in love, or an inconvenient claimant. The system was expensive; it was stated that from 4,000 to 5,000 seamen were employed on the business, and that every pressed man who was found to be fit for sea cost the nation £30. High bounties were offered, but they failed to entice men to enter a service which the press might make practically continuous, and a proposal for a limited term of service was rejected by the commons. The supplies for the year amounted to £12,592,534. New taxes calculated to yield £237,000 were laid on male servants, a guinea on each, stamps, imported glass, auctioneers, and sales by auction; and the deficiency of £5,500,000 was met by a loan, raised at 4 per cent., with a premium of ½ per cent. to meet the state of the stocks.


While war was thus increasing the burden of the nation, the king again applied to parliament for payment of the arrears of the civil list, amounting to £618,000. The ministers exhibited accounts which failed to satisfy the opposition. Wilkes pointed out that payments since 1769 of £171,000 and £114,000 for secret service were each noted in a single line, and that there was a general charge of £438,000 for pensions. As in 1769, the arrears must be traced to an expenditure which increased the king's influence. Wilkes said this plainly, Burke in less broad terms, and Fox taunted North with the pledge given when he was in office in 1769 that no such demand should be made again. Besides money deliberately spent in corruption, vast sums were wasted on abuses in the royal household, on sinecures, and on other useless places of profit. One of the king's turnspits was a member of the house of commons, and paid £5 a year to a humble deputy, and no fewer than twenty-[Pg 172]three separate tables were kept up, eleven for the nurses. For such abuses George was only partially responsible. Though he lived with a frugality which was almost meanness, he was in dire distress for money; the wages of his menial servants were six quarters in arrear, and he owed his coal-merchant £6,000.[120] After much discussion the money was voted, and the civil list was increased to £900,000 a year. In presenting the bill to the king the speaker, Sir Fletcher Norton, dwelt on the magnificence of the gift, and added that the commons were confident that he would apply wisely what they had granted liberally. Though the court party in the commons declared that he had not expressed the feeling of the house, he received a vote of thanks for his speech. Towards the close of the session Chatham was sufficiently recovered from his long illness again to attend parliament, and moved an address to the crown to put an end to the war. He pointed out the danger of foreign intervention, and declared that France was already destroying our commerce. The idea of conquering America was absurd; America would not be conquered by the loss of ten pitched battles. He was against American independence, but this country, he said, was the aggressor, and "instead of exacting unconditional submission from the colonies, we should grant them unconditional redress". His motion was negatived by 99 votes to 28.


A fresh plan for obtaining the mastery of the line of the Hudson was already in course of preparation. Burgoyne, who returned home in December, obtained the command of the northern army, and, on February 28, laid a project of campaign before the government. He proposed to secure Ticonderoga and the lakes, and march down the Hudson to Albany, where he was to effect a junction with Howe, previously detaching a small force to create a diversion by advancing from Oswego and down the Mohawk river to Albany. The object of this plan was to open communication between New York and Canada, cut off New England from the southern provinces, and enable Howe to operate in the south with an overwhelming force. He pointed out the difficulties of the proposed march and suggested alternative schemes; but his first project was chosen by the king, and he was ordered to carry it out. The projected campaign, if[Pg 173] successful, would have been disastrous to the Americans. Its success depended on Howe's co-operation. An invasion by distinct armies, such as Burgoyne proposed, with bases far apart and acting on converging lines, can only be undertaken with safety when intercommunication is secure and co-operation assured. Otherwise one of the invading armies is liable to be crushed before it can receive help from another, specially when, as was the case here, the enemy can act on lines interior to those on which the invaders move. Burgoyne fell into the error, common throughout the war, of trusting too much to loyalist help. Apart from that, however, his project assumed that Howe would be advancing up the Hudson in time to get between him and any large force which might advance against him, and it failed miserably, because Howe did not co-operate with him. Germain informed Carleton of the plan and ordered him to resign the command of the northern army to Burgoyne; he was to command only within his own province, keeping 3,700 men with him, and was to forward Burgoyne's expedition. Germain reproached him for his retirement from Ticonderoga, which, he said, gave Washington the means of breaking the British line at Trenton. Carleton was indignant at this unworthy treatment, and though he did what he could to help Burgoyne, he resigned the governor-generalship.[121]

During the winter Howe formed a plan for taking Philadelphia, and on December 20, 1776, expounded it by letter to Germain, observing that the northern army would not reach Albany before September. Germain wrote on March 8 approving of his plan,[122] which might have been executed without preventing the junction contemplated by the minister. After some unimportant operations Howe took the field in June, and on the 5th received a copy of Carleton's instructions relating to Burgoyne's campaign. Washington's difficulties were then somewhat relieved; he encamped at Middlebrook in a position too strong to be forced; he would not be enticed to a general engagement, and Howe could not leave him in his rear and push on to Philadelphia. Time was passing, yet Howe was still set[Pg 174] on prosecuting his design on Philadelphia. Finally he embarked an army of 14,000 men at Sandy Hook, and instead of remaining to be in readiness to co-operate with Burgoyne, left Clinton with 8,500 men to garrison New York and "act as circumstances may direct," and on July 23 sailed for the Delaware, where he considered he would be sufficiently near to New York to act with Burgoyne, if necessary, and yet could carry out his own main design. The naval officers were unwilling to risk disembarkation in the Delaware, and Howe, determined not to give up his design, sailed for Chesapeake bay. The fleet met with contrary winds, and it was not until August 25 that his army landed at the head of Elk river. Washington with about an equal force marched to the north of the Brandywine to defend Philadelphia. The two armies met on September 11. Howe, who well knew how to handle an army in the field, out-manœuvred him, and after some sharp fighting the American army was defeated with a loss of over 1,400 men, killed, wounded, and taken, and eleven guns. Congress again decamped, and on the 27th Cornwallis took possession of Philadelphia amid the acclamations of a large part of the inhabitants, while Howe and the main army encamped at Germantown, five miles to the north.


In order to secure communication with New York and to supply the army, it was all-important that the fleet should be able to pass up the Delaware, which was strongly defended by forts, a bar, and a fleet of little vessels; and Howe detached troops to act against the forts. Washington lay a few miles to the north; he was joined by strong reinforcements, and determined to take advantage of the division of the British troops. He formed a plan for surprising and driving in their advanced posts, cutting their force in two, crushing their right wing, and then doubling the whole army back on the Schuylkill river where it would be at his mercy. He attacked at daybreak on October 4 under cover of a fog. The head of the British position was insufficiently guarded and the 40th regiment was driven back. At this critical moment its commander, Musgrave, and a party of his men stopped the enemy's advance by seizing a house which stood in their way and holding it against them until the army had time to form. His gallant conduct saved the army. The Americans fought well until, misled by the fog, one of their brigades fired on another. This threw them into[Pg 175] disorder, which was increased by the drunkenness of some of their officers and men. Cornwallis came up from Philadelphia in hot haste and pressed upon them. They retreated with a loss of 673 killed and wounded, and 400 taken; on the British side the casualties were 551. Both in this action and in the battle on the Brandywine the Americans showed that they had learned to fight with resolution and to retreat in good order. The two engagements proved that though they might be defeated in the field, the war would not come to a speedy end, and this enlisted foreign sympathy and encouraged France to intervene on their side.

For a month Howe was engaged in opening the passage of the Delaware. He sent for 4,000 men from New York. This reduction of the garrison was most unfortunate, for, as we shall see, it put an end to Clinton's attempt to co-operate with Burgoyne.[123] At last the defences of the river were destroyed, and communication was established between the army and the fleet. Washington retreated to Valley Forge, about twenty-five miles from Philadelphia, and there put his army into quarters. During the winter his troops suffered terribly from lack of clothing and provisions. By Christmas nearly 3,000 were unfit for duty because they were "barefoot or otherwise naked". They deserted in parties, a large number came to the British quarters, and scarcely a day passed without the resignation of an officer. In February, 1778, there was almost a famine in the camp, and Washington feared a general mutiny and dispersion.[124]

Meanwhile the British were in comfortable quarters in Philadelphia. Howe's object was attained; but though the capture of their capital discouraged the Americans, the loss of Philadelphia is not to be compared with the loss of a capital of an organised state; it did not paralyse an administrative machinery or lessen the means of resistance. Howe's anxiety for its capture largely proceeded from his expectation that it would be followed by a rising of the loyalists; he placed too high a value on professions of loyalty and on loyalist support. In itself the place was important; it was the largest of the American towns, and it opened communication between the northern and southern provinces, though so long as an insurgent army existed in[Pg 176] Pennsylvania, an invader could not safely take advantage of its position. British officers marvelled that Howe did not attack Washington while his army was in so miserable a state. His inactivity cannot be defended satisfactorily. He was looking forward to be relieved of his command; he was disgusted by the inadequate response made by the government to his repeated demands for large reinforcements; he informed Germain that without 10,000 more troops the war would not be ended in the next campaign, and on October 22 wrote resigning his command. He allowed the discipline of his army to become lax. The winter was spent in idleness and dissipation. A bank at faro was opened, and many officers were ruined by gambling. All ranks were demoralised, and sober townspeople who had welcomed the arrival of the troops were disgusted by their disorderly behaviour. The only fruit of Howe's victories during the campaign of 1777 was the acquisition of good winter quarters at Philadelphia, and that he purchased at the price of an appalling disaster to a British army.[125]

Burgoyne took the field in June with 7,251 rank and file of regular troops, of which 3,116 were Germans, 148 militia, and 503 Indians, in all 7,902. Shortly before he left Canada a small force set out under Colonel St. Leger to march from Lake Ontario, take Fort Stanwix, and form a junction with him by an advance through the Mohawk valley. Burgoyne's army was in fine order, but the arrangements for the carriage of supplies and the making of roads were insufficient. His troops were carried up Lake Champlain and landed at Crown Point, where he made a speech to his Indian allies, commanding them to observe the customs of civilised warfare and to behave with humanity. He was to find that such orders could not be enforced. On July 6, almost as soon as he arrived at Ticonderoga, the Americans hastily abandoned it, leaving their guns behind them. They were promptly pursued and suffered heavy losses. The fugitives joined Schuyler, the commander of the army in the north, at Fort Edward; he evacuated the place and retreated southwards in the direction of Albany. The news of Burgoyne's success caused much rejoicing in England. George is said to have rushed into the queen's room as soon as he heard of it crying,[Pg 177] "I have beat them! beat all the Americans!" For the moment the Americans were panic-struck. Men said angrily that their troops would never hold a place until a general had been shot, and Schuyler was superseded by Gates.


On July 10 Burgoyne set out to march from Skenesborough to Fort Edward, sending his artillery and stores by water to Fort George. His route, though not more than twenty miles, was extremely difficult; it was obstructed by trees felled by the enemy and lay through swamps and forests, and at least forty bridges had to be constructed in its course. He might have avoided these difficulties by returning to Ticonderoga and conveying his army by water up Lake George; but he rejected that route because he thought that a retrograde movement would discourage his troops and abate the panic of the enemy. His army did not reach the Hudson until the 30th. At Fort Edward his supplies ran short and he had to wait there, for his means of transport were not sufficient to bring his stores from Fort George. Garrisons had to be found for Ticonderoga and for posts of communication, and this diminished his army. Meanwhile the enemy was increasing in force. While at Ticonderoga he published a foolish proclamation reminding those who persisted in rebellion that he had it in his power to let loose the Indians upon them. Nothing would have induced him to commit so hideous a crime, and his proclamation only served to enrage the Americans and swell the number of their troops. The Indians were offended by his efforts to restrain them, and deserted him; they were no loss, for they caused more trouble than they were worth, and some excesses which they committed, and specially the murder of a Miss McCrae by an Indian who, it is said, was sent by her betrothed to bring her into the British lines, excited widespread indignation. Burgoyne was in sore need of supplies and made an attempt to seize the insurgents' stores and horses collected at Bennington. He sent only some 500 men on this service, for he was assured that the district was friendly. It was far otherwise. The party was surrounded on August 16, and another detachment formed of German troops which was despatched to help them marched so slowly that it did not come up in time. Both bodies were defeated with a loss, perhaps, of about 500 men.

News came of the failure of St. Leger's expedition. On[Pg 178] his arrival at Oswego he was joined by Sir John Johnson and Butler with their loyalist regiments, and by a force of Indians whom Johnson, one of their superintendents, and the Mohawk leader, Brant, persuaded to march with them. He besieged Fort Stanwix, and, on August 6, defeated a force sent to relieve it. But his guns were too light for siege operations; the garrison held out, and his Indians forced him to raise the siege. During his retreat they mutinied; he was barely able to bring off his regular troops, and lost his guns and stores. Burgoyne was in a dangerous position; the country swarmed with enemies; "wherever the king's troops point," he wrote, "militia to the number of three or four thousand assemble in a few hours". He might have retreated to Fort Edward, where he would have had communication with Lake George; but he held that he was bound by his orders to advance, and on September 15, after collecting provisions for about a month, he conveyed his force to the western bank of the Hudson and cut himself off from communication with the lakes. Besides artillery, he had then with him only 5,000 men under arms.[126] On the 19th his force was partially engaged by Arnold at Freeman's Farm. The British held their ground but lost over 500 men, and Gates, the American commander, with 11,000 men, who did not take part in the fight, occupied a strong position in front of them. A message came from Clinton that he was about to attack the forts on the Hudson below Albany, and Burgoyne sent answer that he hoped to be able to hold his ground until October 20. He fortified his position and waited for further news. None came to him. The insurgent forces grew to at least 16,000 men; Burgoyne's provisions were becoming exhausted and on October 3 he put his little army on half rations. Despite the overwhelming number of the enemy, he moved forward on the 7th to ascertain whether he could force a passage through their lines. He was defeated with heavy loss and fell back on Saratoga.


A council of war held on the 12th decided on a retreat to Fort Edward. It was too late; the Americans held the fords and had a strong force encamped between Fort George and Fort Edward. Only 3,500 fighting men were left with Burgoyne; he was completely surrounded, and on the 14th he opened[Pg 179] negotiations with Gates. Even then he refused to surrender unconditionally, and the convention of Saratoga was concluded on the 17th. His troops marched out with the honours of war, and were to be allowed to return to England on condition of not serving again in the war. The whole number which surrendered, including camp-followers, labourers, and detachments, was 5,762. Gates's behaviour at the surrender was such as became an officer and a gentleman. Congress shamefully broke the engagement. The captive troops were marched to Boston, but when the transports called for them, they were not allowed to embark. The paltry subterfuges by which congress defended its conduct only throw a specially odious light on its sacrifice of honour to policy. From the beginning of the war both sides made frequent complaints as to the treatment of prisoners, and both apparently with justice. Burgoyne's men were shamefully treated. He and his staff were allowed to return home in the spring of 1778; others were exchanged from time to time, but the mass of the army never came back. Clinton, who was then unaware of Burgoyne's distress, did what he could to render his position secure in case he arrived at Albany. As soon as he received reinforcements from England, he pushed up the Hudson and on October 6 destroyed the forts which barred the passage of our ships. He could do no more, for he was forced to send 4,000 men to Howe and could not leave New York without a sufficient garrison. A messenger from Burgoyne at last reached him. The way being cleared, the ships ascended the river and burnt the batteries and town at Esopus creek. The news of Clinton's activity doubtless secured Burgoyne more favourable terms than Gates was at first inclined to grant.

The chief blame for this disaster must rest on Howe. His assertion that Philadelphia was the prime object of his campaign made Germain uneasy, and he wrote to him on May 18 that whatever he might meditate, he was not to neglect to co-operate with the northern army.[127] This despatch did not reach Howe until August 16, when he had made co-operation with Burgoyne impossible. A few days later Germain wrote again; the despatch was not ready for his signature at the time at which he[Pg 180] wished to go into the country, and when he came back it was forgotten. It was a piece of gross carelessness, but an undue importance has been attached to it.[128] Howe was well aware of Burgoyne's expedition. On June 5 he had received a copy of a despatch from Germain which told him that Burgoyne was ordered to "force his way to Albany" and join him with the utmost speed.[129] Nevertheless, he persisted in pursuing his own plan. He must have hesitated whether to reach Philadelphia by land or water. When in June he at last made up his mind to move, he evidently tried to reach Philadelphia by land. If he had succeeded and had swept Washington before him, he might have kept in communication with Burgoyne and have co-operated with him. Failing in this, he decided to go by sea, and when he was told that he could not safely land in the Delaware, went on to Chesapeake bay. When he gained his object by taking Philadelphia he did so by a course which made it impossible for him to co-operate with Burgoyne, and put Washington's army between them.

According to the government plan the chief object of his campaign should have been his junction with Burgoyne. The government, that is Germain, certainly erred in not giving him precise orders, while Burgoyne had virtually no discretionary power. Yet it was for Howe, as commander-in-chief on the spot, to judge of the situation without explicit instructions. According to his own statements, his view of the situation was that Burgoyne would march through a friendly country and encounter no enemy except the army of 4,000 men under Schuyler, that Clinton would be able to give him any assistance which he might require, that his own expedition to Philadelphia would divert the enemy from Burgoyne, that he would be able to "account for" Washington, and that if Washington gave him the slip, he would be able to follow him up and prevent him from annoying Burgoyne.[130] These considerations may be supposed to have satisfied him that no direct co-operation with[Pg 181] Burgoyne was required of him. Burgoyne had to encounter foes whom neither he nor Howe reckoned upon, and it was Howe's duty to be at hand to prevent their crushing him. Burgoyne made some mistakes in preparing for and prosecuting his campaign, but he and his men exhibited splendid courage, and he is not to be blamed for trying his fortune to the utmost. In view of his orders, and of the risk of leaving a co-operating force unsupported, he was bound to ascertain whether he could force his way through the enemy. The irregular character of the American force rendered success possible, and justified his gallant attempt of October 7. He was a fine soldier, and was regarded with confidence and affection by his subordinates. Clinton seems to have done all that was in his power considering the small force left with him in New York.[131]


The surrender of Burgoyne's army could not in itself affect the issue of the war. Its importance lies in its effect on the policy of foreign nations and specially of France. So far as the Americans alone were concerned, England had good reason to expect ultimate success. They would neither enlist in sufficient numbers to keep up a regular army nor provide for such troops as they had. The meddlesomeness and incapacity of congress were destroying its army; generals were intriguing against one another, soldiers were perishing for lack of necessaries, stores were wasted. Money was scarce and public credit bad. Early in 1778 congress had 5,500,000 paper dollars in circulation, and the value of its paper dollar was from half to a quarter of the silver dollar. Above all, the Americans had no fleet, and were consequently unable to protect their sea-board. Their alliance with France and subsequently with Spain brought them, along with other help, the sea-power without which the issue of the struggle might well have been adverse to them. France and Spain hoped to recoup themselves for former losses, France by conquests in the West Indies, Spain by regaining Gibraltar, Minorca, and Jamaica. In 1775 an agent of the French court went over to America with offers of help, and early in 1776 the Count de Vergennes, foreign minister of Louis XVI., proposed as a system of policy that the Bourbon kings should give secret aid to the Americans and strengthen their own forces, taking[Pg 182] care, however, to persuade England that their intentions were pacific. About the same time congress sent Deane to France as a secret agent.

In accordance with the proposal of Vergennes the French and Spanish courts provided money for the Americans; and Beaumarchais, the dramatist, who masqueraded as a firm of merchants in order to conceal the participation of his government, spent it in purchasing military stores for them. The young Marquis de Lafayette and other Frenchmen entered their army. So too did the Poles, Kosciusko and Pulaski, and the Germans, Kalb and Steuben. In December Franklin went over to Paris. The philosophic movement was then at its height in France. The philosophes desired freedom of thought in religion, constitutional liberty, and the abolition of privilege of all kinds. They speculated as to the origins of political and social institutions and the laws of human progress. The works of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu were eagerly studied by the nobles and fine ladies of the court with whom philosophisme was fashionable. America they regarded as a land of freedom and primitive simplicity; and they hailed the crude assertions of the Declaration of Independence, issued by a body largely composed of slave-owners, that all men are created equal and with an inalienable right to liberty, as bringing their theories within the range of practical politics. Franklin was received with ludicrous adulation as an embodiment of republican virtue and philosophic thought. He busied himself in stirring up hostility to England. Another American envoy sought help from Prussia. Frederick showed his hatred of England by forbidding some German troops which George had hired to pass through his dominions; but his quarrel with Austria with reference to the Bavarian succession rendered him unwilling to provoke Great Britain: he had no sympathy with the Americans and would not receive their envoy.


Besides the stores sent by Beaumarchais and 1,000 livres in cash, France helped the Americans by neglecting to prevent the violation of her neutrality by their ships. Although the Americans could not dispute with Great Britain on the sea, they had a few ships built by congress, more belonging to the maritime provinces, and a vast number of privateers. These ships did much damage to British trade. Already they hovered[Pg 183] about the coasts of England and Ireland, and were so dangerous to our merchant vessels that merchants embarked their goods on foreign ships to avoid the risk of capture. By the end of 1778 nearly 1,000 merchant ships were taken by American privateers. Some of these privateers were fitted out in French ports, brought their prizes into them, and sailed from them again on fresh expeditions. Our ambassador, Lord Stormont, complained vigorously of these open breaches of neutrality, and at last the French government took some measures to stop them. The opposition in parliament constantly insisted that, if the war went on, France and Spain would certainly take part with the Americans. The government could no longer ignore, though it still strove to discredit, the danger of foreign intervention. The king's speech at the opening of parliament on October 20, 1777, took note of the naval preparations of the two powers and recommended an augmentation of the navy. Tidings of Burgoyne's disaster reached Europe on December 2. Vergennes at once informed the American agents that his master would make a treaty with them. The alliance was concluded on February 6, 1778; it was agreed that, in the event of war between France and England, neither of the contracting parties should make peace without the consent of the other or until the independence of the United States should be assured by treaty. France renounced all claim to Canada. If taken from England, it was to belong to the United States, while all conquests in the West Indies were to belong to France. Spain at this time declined to join in the alliance. That a treaty was signed was soon generally believed in England; it was officially declared by France on March 13. War between Great Britain and France began in the summer.

With the intervention of France the war enters on a new phase. Thenceforward England had to deal with more powerful enemies than the Americans. The war had lasted for three years and the rebellion was not crushed. Was it too much for England to expect that she would subdue a people of her own stock, as the Americans were then, separated from her by 3,000 miles of sea, and spread over a vast and difficult country? Had she trusted to her navy, as Barrington and others desired, shut the American ports, and held the towns on the coast and the navigable rivers, the insurgents might possibly have been driven[Pg 184] to submission without any severe struggle. Conquest by land was decided on. Was Chatham right in declaring in May, 1777, that England could not conquer the Americans? Six months later a capable French officer serving in their army wrote to the French minister of war that, unless his country declared war against England, the Americans would fail to obtain independence; so little enthusiasm for the cause was there among them, so keenly did they feel the privations of the war.[132] In our war in South Africa of 1899-1902 the Boers showed themselves better soldiers than the Americans, and were not less brave; they were akin to us in race, and their country was at least as difficult as America. In both wars our well-drilled troops constantly found their previous training useless or worse; in both we received loyal support from numerous colonials on the spot. While improved means of transport brought South Africa far nearer to us than America was in the eighteenth century, the Boers were better prepared for war than the Americans, and were a more martial people. Yet England conquered them. So far, then, as the Americans alone were concerned, Chatham's assertion must be denied.


Why then had England done so little in those three years? There was much active loyalty on our side: thousands of colonials fought for the crown during the course of the war; in the central provinces at least half the population was for us. Everything depended on the vigour and judgment with which force was applied. In these respects there was failure both at home and on the spot. In the first place the effort required was underestimated. In February, 1774, Gage thought four regiments would keep things quiet; in 1775 it was believed that 10,000 men would be enough; in January, 1776, Howe asked for 20,000, in November his estimate for the next year was 35,000. Germain promised to raise his army to that number, yet instead of 10,000 men he offered him only 7,800 rank and file. On March 26 he confessed that he could only send 2,900, and on April 19 that he had to subtract 400 of these for Canada.[133] The country was strong for coercion, but recruits were hard to raise; it willed the end but not the means. The king and[Pg 185] Germain interfered too much with the plans of operations. To direct a war from the other side of the Atlantic in days when letters between the secretary at war and the commander-in-chief seem often to have been nearly two months on their way, was to court failure.

At the outset of the war the enemy was unduly despised both by ministers at home and soldiers in the field. As the British general in command at Belmont is said to have rejected a proposal for turning the Boers' position, declaring that he would "put the fear of God into them," so Howe at Bunker hill delivered a frontal attack on the enemy's entrenchments which cost him over 1,000 men. Then he went to the opposite extreme of over-caution. It is needless to recapitulate the occasions on which either from over-caution or supineness he allowed great opportunities to slip, as notably on Long Island. He, indeed, in a greater degree than any one else is responsible for the British failure to bring the war to an end. Every month improved the fighting qualities of the Americans, under the judicious handling of Washington, and at last France and the other enemies of England saw that they might take them seriously and might turn the war to their own profit.[134]


[112] Johnston, Campaign of 1776, p. 125.

[113] Mr. Johnston contends that the American casualties were about 1,000 (op. cit., pp. 202-6); they were probably about double that number (Fortescue, History of the British Army, iii., 185).

[114] Howe, Narrative of Conduct, pp. 4-5.

[115] Johnston, Campaign of 1776, Documents, p. 117.

[116] Carleton to Douglas, Oct. 14, 1776, Add. MS. 21,699 (Haldimand Papers), ff. 52-53.

[117] Examination of Joseph Galloway, p. 14.

[118] Washington, Works, iv., 203, 223, 231.

[119] State Trials, xx., 1365.

[120] Parl. Hist., xix., 103-86.

[121] Germain to Carleton, March 26, 1777, Add. MS. 21,697, f. 158; for Carleton's reply (May 20) and Germain's rejoinder (July 25) see Report on Canadian Archives for 1885, pp. 132-37.

[122] Hist. MSS. Comm., App. to Report, vi. (Strachey Papers), p. 402.

[123] Jones, History of New York, i., 193, 219.

[124] Washington, Works, v., 193 sqq., 239; Galloway's Evidence, pp. 21, 29.

[125] Stedman, i., 309-11, 317.

[126] Lieut. Hadden, Journal and Orderly Books, p. 153.

[127] Howe to Germain, Jan. 20; Germain to Howe, May 18, 1777; Howe's Narrative, pp. 12-24.

[128] Life of Shelburne, i., 358-59.

[129] Germain to Carleton, March 26, 1777, Add. MS. 21,697, f. 161; Howe's Narrative, p. 15.

[130] Howe to Carlton, April 2 and June 16, 1777, printed in Fugitive Pieces, p. 126; Howe to Burgoyne, July 17, in Evidence Concerning the War (1779), pp. 77-78; Howe's Narrative, pp. 21-23; Howe's Observations on Letters, etc., p. 61; Fonblanque's Burgoyne, pp. 280-81.

[131] Clinton to Burgoyne, Dec. 16, 1777, Fonblanque's Burgoyne, pp. 324-25; Parl. Hist., xix., 611.

[132] Du Portail to the Comte de St. Germain, Nov. 12, 1777, Stedman, i., 386.

[133] Correspondence between Germain and Howe, Hist. MSS. Comm. Report, vi., App., p. 402.

[134] Here, and in other passages treating of the American revolutionary war, much valuable help has been given me by Colonel E. M. Lloyd, late R.E.



The surrender of Burgoyne's army was eagerly used by the opposition as an opportunity for harassing the government. The nation at large showed a worthier spirit by seeking to repair its loss. Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow each raised a regiment; and other regiments and companies were raised in the Highlands and in Wales. In London and Bristol the corporations refused to join the movement, but large sums were subscribed by private persons for raising troops. The opposition absurdly maintained that these levies were unconstitutional, and Fox accounted for the zeal displayed by Manchester and Scotland by observing that they were "accustomed to disgrace". The ministers were bitterly reproached for employing Germans and Indians. "If," said Chatham, "I were an American, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I would never lay down my arms—never—never—never." He condemned the employment of Indians in the war in words of fiery eloquence. It was certainly deplorable that they should have been employed. In that matter, however, England had no choice. They would have taken part in the war on one side or the other. They had fought in every war between the English and French in America, and while Pitt himself was conducting the war in 1760 Amherst used them with the authority of government.[135] In the present war the Americans were the first to employ them, and in 1776 congress resolved that it was expedient to do so and authorised Washington to enlist 2,000 of them. They were more ready to fight for the king than for the Americans, who had treated them badly; and as they caused the insurgents trouble and committed many shocking acts of barbarity, the[Pg 187] Americans inveighed against us for employing them. If we had not done so they would have fought for the Americans, as some of them did. Otherwise we should have been better without them, for no dependence could be placed upon them.


Energetic as the opposition was in attack, it was not united in policy. Chatham, zealous for England's imperial position, declared that he would never consent to American independence. There was yet time to make peace with the people of our own blood and so be ready to meet our foreign foes. He proposed a cessation of hostilities and an immediate offer of terms. All that the Americans could demand as subjects should be granted, and overtures made to them on the basis of political dependence and the navigation act; that is, their trade should still be regulated by duties. They would, he was sure, accept these terms. If not, they must be compelled to obedience. The Americans would certainly not have treated on his basis. Chatham had repeatedly declared that it was impossible for us to conquer them; yet he proposed that if his basis were rejected we should use coercion after putting ourselves at a disadvantage by withdrawing our army. Still, as there were many Americans besides the loyalists who would have welcomed conciliation, and as the proposed French alliance was unpopular, it is just possible that had Chatham himself been prime minister some way might have been found which, while securing to America virtual independence such as England's self-governing colonies now enjoy, might have prevented the severance of the bond. On the other hand, the Rockingham party held that we should prevent the alliance between France and America by acknowledging American independence. This division between the two sections of the opposition set them in hostile camps.

When people were convinced that the alliance was certain the nation became uneasy, and a strong feeling prevailed, which was shared by some of Chatham's opponents, that at such a crisis England needed him at the head of affairs. In February, 1778, it was believed that he and Bute were engaged on some scheme of coalition which might again put him in power. The report was merely the outcome of the officious meddling of his physician, Addington, and one of Bute's friends.[136] No one[Pg 188] was more anxious than North for a change of ministry. He begged the king in vain to accept his resignation. On the 17th he brought in two bills for a scheme of conciliation to which George had at last given his sanction. He proposed an express repeal of the tea duty, the surrender of all taxation except for the regulation of trade, and the appointment of commissioners to be sent to America with full powers to put an end to hostilities, grant pardons, and treat with congress on any terms short of independence. His proposals did not materially differ from those made by Burke three years before. He declared that he was not responsible for American taxation, that it was the work of his predecessors, and that he had always desired conciliation. He was heard with general consternation: his own party felt that he was turning his back on the policy which they had supported under his leadership; the opposition, that he was, as it were, stealing their thunder. The bills were carried and the king appointed the commissioners. They arrived in America in June. Congress refused to listen to any offers short of independence; the commissioners appealed to the American people, and their manifesto was treated with contempt.


When the Franco-American alliance was announced, North was urging the king to invite Chatham to take office and to allow him to retire, and Shelburne was sounded as to the terms on which Chatham would come in. He replied that he would insist on "an entire new cabinet". George, who had unwillingly agreed to this negotiation, was prepared to accept any men of talent with a view of strengthening the existing ministry, but not of forming another in its place, or of changing its measures. He would not commission Chatham or any opposition leader to form a new ministry: "no advantage to this country nor personal danger to himself" would, he wrote to North, induce him to do so; he would rather "lose his crown". "No consideration in life," he wrote again, "shall make me stoop to the opposition;" he would not give himself up "to bondage". His determination has been pronounced equally criminal with the acts which brought Charles I. to the scaffold.[137] According to our present ideas he should certainly have been guided by the assurance of his first minister that the government was unequal[Pg 189] to the situation, have accepted his resignation, and allowed his new ministers to act as they thought best. These duties, however, were not, as we have seen, so clearly settled in those days. The prime minister of our time was not then fully invented, and George's plan of personal government through ministers was not yet rejected by the country. He could still rely on the support of parliament. A proposal to request the king to dismiss his ministers was defeated at that very time by 263 to 113 in the commons and by 100 to 36 in the lords. Chatham's return to office would doubtless have been hailed with satisfaction by the nation. Yet, though a change in public sentiment with regard to the American war was beginning, and was soon to spread rapidly, the king's policy was still popular with the larger part of his subjects.[138] When therefore his conduct in March, 1778, is compared with that of Charles I. it should be remembered that George had parliament and the mass of the nation at his back.

The personal light in which he regarded the question is inexcusable. He had been disappointed and deeply offended by Chatham's political conduct, and he had cause to fear that a whig government would rob him of the power which he loved. As a king he had no right to allow his private feelings to affect his public action. That he did so was the result partly of his system of personal rule, partly of serious defects in his character, his implacability of temper, and his habit of regarding all things as they affected himself. North struggled in vain against his determination, and gave way before it. It is a mistake, however, to regard the king as solely responsible for the continuance of the war. If he is to be blamed because, rather than submit to the loss of the colonies, which nearly all men believed would be the end of England's greatness and prosperity, he determined to carry on the struggle, the blame must be shared by others. Had North been true to his convictions George could not have formed another administration willing to act on the same system. Had the majority of the commons refused to support the king, the constitution afforded the means of over-ruling his will.[139][Pg 190]

Questions as to Chatham's return to power were soon to be brought to an end. On April 7 he appeared in the lords after a severe attack of illness, and, in faltering sentences, though with some remains of his peculiar fire, protested against the surrender of the sovereignty of America, "the dismemberment of this ancient and most glorious monarchy". He urged that England should refuse to bow before the house of Bourbon; "if we fall let us fall like men". Richmond answered him by dwelling on the expediency of acknowledging American independence; otherwise, said he, "instead of Great Britain and America against France and Spain, as in the last war, it will now be France, Spain, and America against Great Britain". Chatham rose to reply and fell back in a fit. He died on May 11. Parliament voted him a public funeral, the stately statue which stands in Westminster Abbey, £20,000 for the payment of his debts, and a perpetual pension of £4,000 a year annexed to the earldom of Chatham. Throughout his long career he was invariably courageous and self-reliant; his genius was bold, his conceptions magnificent, his political purity unsullied. His rhetoric was sublime. He did not excel in debate or in prepared speeches. His spirit burned like fire, and his speeches were the outpourings of his heart in words which, while they owed something to art, came spontaneously to his lips, and were not less lofty than his thoughts. As a statesman he had serious defects; he was haughty, vain, and overbearing, his opinions were unsettled, his far-reaching views often nebulous; his passion was stronger than his judgment, and he was immoderately given to bombast. In spite of his true greatness he lacked simplicity, and he imported the arts of a charlatan into political life. Yet Englishmen must ever reverence his memory, for he loved England with all the ardour of his soul, and, as Richmond said as he praised him to his face on the day that he was stricken for death, "he raised the glory of the nation to a higher pitch than had been known at any former period".

In 1778 the losses and expenses of the war and disappointment at its results began to work a change in the feeling of the country. In parliament tories sometimes voted with the opposition. North continued to strive in vain to be released from office. He made some overtures to the opposition. Fox, in spite of the violence of his attacks, was anxious for a coalition, which[Pg 191] would have given him office, though he held first that Germain only, and in 1779 that North himself and Sandwich, must be excluded.[140] He was restrained by Rockingham, and North's efforts failed. The death of Chatham, though it united the opposition, on the whole strengthened the ministry, and in June, 1778, it gained in ability by the appointment of Thurlow as chancellor and Wedderburn as attorney-general. Burgoyne, who was unfairly treated by Germain, was defended by Fox, and on his return joined the opposition. The struggle in parliament had a constitutional importance not overlooked by either party. On the issue of the American war, "the king's war" as it was called, depended the question whether George would be able to establish his system of government by influence. The opposition reckoned on failure in America, and hoped that, by exposing the errors and corrupt practices of the government, they would so rouse public feeling that, when the war ended in national humiliation, the king would be forced to accept a minister imposed on him by his people. No party can reckon on national humiliation as a means of attaining its ends, however praiseworthy they may be, without serious consequences to its own character. When England was in extreme peril, the opposition, and Fox above all, magnified her losses, encouraged her enemies by exposing her weakness, and, not content with insisting on the maladministration of the government, cavilled at every measure proposed for the defence of her empire. Their conduct irritated their fellow-countrymen, for the spirit of the nation was roused by the intervention of France in the war with the colonies.


Ample grounds existed for dissatisfaction with the government. Unfortunately, this was specially the case with respect to the navy. Its expenses had greatly increased. During the eight years of the late war, 1755 to 1762, the money spent upon it, exclusive of ordnance and votes for men, amounted to no more than £3,390,000; during eight years of Sandwich's administration, 1771 to 1778, it was stated in parliament to have been £6,472,000.[141] During the latter period there had been voted for repairing and building ships £2,900,000, and for extra stores[Pg 192] for them £600,000, in all £3,500,000, enough, it was said, to build 100 men-of-war and as many frigates. Nothing is so destructive to efficiency as corruption. Under Sandwich abuses of all kinds flourished. Many existed before his time, and things grew worse under him. When in 1778 the naval estimates for the year were laid before the commons, it was stated that though £27,000 had been voted between 1771 and 1775 for the repair of the Dragon (74), and £10,273 for her stores, the ship was lying untouched and rotting at Portsmouth, and so in various degrees with other ships. In reply, Welbore Ellis, the treasurer of the navy, said that though estimates were the usual way of raising money, the money once raised was spent at the discretion of the admiralty. Indignant at this amazing statement, Burke flung the smart book of estimates at the treasury bench. Ships were built of foreign oak of an inferior kind and needed constant repair; contracts were jobbed; stores were wasted, stolen, and sold. The country paid for many more seamen than it got; for example, in September, 1777, the number returned as victualled was 51,715, though the seamen actually serving were only 47,407. Greenwich hospital, with a revenue of £70,000, was a hot-bed of abuses.

What was the result of this corrupt system? How did our navy stand in 1778 in comparison with the navies of France, then at war with us, and Spain, which was on the eve of joining against us? Choiseul's policy of naval reform was steadily pursued, and in 1778 France had eighty ships of the line in good order and 67,000 seamen. Spain followed the lead of France and, when she entered the war in 1779, had about sixty ships of the line. In 1778 we had 119 first, second, and third rates; of this number there were, on Sandwich's showing, in November, 1777, excluding ships on foreign service, only thirty-five manned and ready for sea, and seven which he said were nearly ready, but some of the thirty-five were short of their full complement of men, and there was a great scarcity of frigates. By July, 1778, the number ready was stated as forty-five. But when Keppel put to sea in June, it was with difficulty that twenty-one could be got ready to sail with him.[142][Pg 193]


Keppel, though an opponent of the government, was appointed to command the "grand," or, as it was called later, the channel fleet, apparently at the king's wish. On July 27 he engaged the French fleet from Brest under Count d'Orvilliers, westward of Ushant, both having thirty ships of the line. An indecisive action took place, the two fleets passing each other on opposite tacks and exchanging broadsides. Sir Hugh Palliser, the third in command and one of the lords of the admiralty, was blamed for the resultless issue of the engagement. A quarrel ensued between him and Keppel, which was made a matter of party politics; the government upheld Palliser, the opposition Keppel, and violent speeches were made in parliament. A court-martial in 1779 honourably acquitted Keppel of the charges which Palliser brought against him, and he received the thanks of parliament. London was on his side; the mob gutted Palliser's house and broke the windows of the admiralty and of some official residences. Another court-martial acquitted Palliser though with a slight censure. Keppel was annoyed by the position taken up by the admiralty, notified his wish not to serve again under the present ministry, and struck his flag. The rot of faction, which was infecting political life, laid some hold on the navy. Other naval officers declared that they would not serve under Sandwich; the spirit of insubordination affected the seamen and symptoms of mutiny appeared in the channel fleet.

The intervention of France forced England to contract her operations in America. The project of isolating the northern provinces was dropped, and thenceforward her efforts were mainly directed towards the recovery of the southern colonies, in order to secure their trade, and the suppression of privateering expeditions from the New England coast. Howe was recalled at his own request, and the chief command was given to Clinton, who was ordered to withdraw from Philadelphia and concentrate upon New York, where a French attack was expected. Philadelphia was evacuated on June 18, 1778. Of its loyalist citizens 3,000 embarked for New York; those who remained behind were harshly treated and two quaker gentlemen were hanged for adhering to the enemy. As Clinton's army was marching through New Jersey, the Americans tried to cut off his rear-guard near Monmouth, but after an indecisive engagement failed in their attempt. Clinton reached New York without further[Pg 194] molestation, and soon afterwards Washington encamped at White Plains. The Toulon fleet under Count d'Estaing arrived off Sandy Hook on July 11, and Lord Howe with a far inferior force prepared to defend the entrance to the port. While D'Estaing lay outside, the wind rose; he was afraid to risk his ships by an attempt to cross the bar, and sailed away southwards, for Washington persuaded him to attack Newport in conjunction with an army under Sullivan. Lord Howe followed him, and arrived at Point Judith on August 9, the day after the French ships passed the batteries. D'Estaing stood out to sea to meet him. Howe's fleet, though reinforced, was still much the weaker, but "Black Dick," as the sailors called him, was master of his profession and out-manœuvred D'Estaing who was a cavalry officer turned admiral. A storm dispersed both fleets and D'Estaing, after collecting his ships, sailed off to Boston to refit. Sullivan retreated and got away from Rhode Island a day before Clinton arrived with 4,000 men. Lord Howe soon afterwards resigned his command, declaring that he would not serve again under the present ministers. D'Estaing sailed from Boston to the West Indies, leaving the American populace furious at his departure from Rhode Island.

Clinton was called upon to send 5,000 men to the West Indies, Washington was badly supported by congress, and neither was in a position to act against the other. Successful expeditions were made in the autumn against the privateering haunts of the insurgents, Buzzard's bay, Martha's Vineyard, and on the New Jersey coast; many ships were taken and much damage was done. The western frontiers were raided by the tory troops of Johnson and Butler and by our Indian allies. Shocking barbarities were committed, specially in the Wyoming valley, where the prisoners were massacred by the Indians, though there the women and children were spared, and at Cherry Valley, where there was a general massacre during the attack. In 1779 the Americans retaliated on the Indians with fearful severity, and cruelly wasted the lands of the Senecas and Cayugas and the settlements in the Alleghany.


Neither the operations on the coast nor the border fighting had any material influence on the progress of the war. By the end of 1778, however, the war entered on a new and, as it proved, decisive phase; it became a struggle for the southern provinces.[Pg 195] In November Clinton sent a small force by sea under Colonel Campbell to invade Georgia. Campbell routed the Americans and took Savannah; and General Prevost, who joined him from Florida, easily obtained possession of the province. Lincoln's attempt to regain it was defeated at Briar creek on March 3, 1779, and Prevost penetrated into South Carolina. He finally retired to Georgia, leaving a garrison at Port Royal, which secured his access to the sea and gave him a footing in South Carolina, as well as a base for covering Georgia. The campaign was a promising opening of operations in the south.

When news of the outbreak of the war reached the West Indies, the French governor of Martinique seized Dominica, while Admiral Barrington, in command of a small squadron at Barbadoes, was waiting for orders. As soon as Barrington received the reinforcements sent by Clinton, he attacked St. Lucia. D'Estaing came over from America with a fleet of twice the size, but failed to engage our ships closely, and, after some fighting on the island, in which the French lost heavily, sailed off to Martinique. St. Lucia was surrendered on December 29. Nothing further of importance took place in those parts until the summer of 1779, when D'Estaing seized St. Vincent while Byron, who was then in command, was engaged in guarding a convoy. D'Estaing then sailed with all his fleet to Grenada and forced the garrison to surrender. Byron, though encumbered by a number of transports and with a smaller fleet, engaged him in the hope of relieving the island. Some of Byron's ships suffered badly, and when he found that the garrison had surrendered, he sailed off. D'Estaing did not press his advantage, for his sole object was to secure his conquest, and only one transport ship was taken. England was no longer supreme by sea. The fault lay not with her admirals, who were still skilful, nor with her seamen, who were as bold as ever. Her weakness was due to her government, which first allowed the navy to fall into an inefficient condition and then adopted a wrong system of naval warfare. She began the contest unprepared, and instead of preventing the fleets of the enemy from reaching the ocean, had to fight in distant parts with inferior forces. As the war went on strenuous efforts brought her navy to a higher pitch; yet she still neglected her first line of defence, did not concentrate her forces off the ports of the enemy, and strove to[Pg 196] defend the distant parts of her empire with fleets of inadequate strength.[143]

After much hesitation Spain made alliance with France against England on April 12. The treaty, which did not include the Americans, provided that Spain should recognise their independence and that the two contracting powers should invade England; and the reconquest of Gibraltar and Minorca, the acquisition of the coast of Florida, and the expulsion of the English from Honduras were mentioned among the objects which Spain desired to effect. She did not declare war until June 16, in order that the two fleets might have time to prepare for united action. England received the news of the combination with spirit; volunteers enlisted for defence and large sums were subscribed for raising troops, equipping privateers, and other patriotic purposes. The Spaniards at once blockaded Gibraltar, then under the command of General Eliott, and began that three years' siege which is one of the most honourable incidents in our military history. Though the home fleet, under the command of Sir Charles Hardy, lay in the Bay of Biscay on the look out for the allied fleets, they effected a junction, got between him and Plymouth, and in August sixty French and Spanish ships of the line and a crowd of smaller vessels paraded before the town. English pride was deeply wounded, and the landing of the enemy was daily expected. But the vast fleet accomplished nothing save the capture of one ship of the line. Its crews were wasted by sickness, and when a change of wind enabled Hardy to enter the Channel, the enemy did not follow him into its narrower waters and early in September left our shores.


The war was carried on in many parts of the world, and was full of incidents which, as they had little or no effect on its issue, must only be noticed briefly. In October, 1778, Pondicherry was taken by the East India Company's troops, and the French lost all their settlements in India. One of them, Mahé, was claimed by Haidar as tributary to him, and its capture afforded him a pretext for making war on us. He overran the Karnatic in 1780, defeated a British force, took Arcot, and reduced Madras to great straits. In the spring of 1779 the French made a feeble attack on Jersey, and were repulsed by the 78th regiment and[Pg 197] the militia of the island. The British factories at Senegal were seized by the French, and Goree by the English. The Spaniards expelled our logwood cutters from Honduras in August, and about the same time the Spanish governor of Louisiana reduced West Florida, which was thinly inhabited and almost undefended. The enemies of England hoped to break her power by destroying her commerce, but it was too large and various to be ruined by casual losses, and too carefully protected to incur a series of them. While the trade of France with the West Indies was almost ruined, the English Jamaica fleet reached home in safety a few days after the enemy left the Channel. Privateers and king's ships did so much damage to the commerce of France and Spain in 1779 that it was held to counterbalance the loss of St. Vincent and Grenada. American cruisers were still troublesome. Paul Jones, a Scottish sailor, who held a commission from congress, infested the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and in 1779 received a ship from the French government, which he called the Bonhomme Richard. With her and four smaller vessels he sailed from Brest, and fell in with the homeward-bound Baltic fleet convoyed by the Serapis, Captain Pearson, and a sloop of war. Pearson engaged the Bonhomme Richard, and after a desperate fight the two English ships were forced to strike. His gallant conduct saved the convoy, and the Bonhomme Richard was so severely mauled that she sank the next day. The Americans suffered at least as heavily as the English from this desultory warfare, and their privateering ventures were checked by operations on their coast.

While Washington was encamped in the high lands north of New York, guarding his position by forts on the Hudson, and specially by the fortification of West Point, Clinton took two posts which commanded the passage of the river, and, in conjunction with Admiral Sir George Collier, distressed the enemy by various expeditions. The New England coast was thoroughly scoured by Collier's squadron, some towns on the Chesapeake were invaded, a great quantity of stores seized, and about a hundred and twenty vessels taken or destroyed. Partly in the vain hope of drawing Washington down from his position, and partly in order to cut off one of the main sources of his supply, a force from New York was landed in Connecticut, some towns on the coast were destroyed, and stores and shipping burnt or[Pg 198] carried off. Further operations there were stopped by an expedition from Boston against a British post established in Penobscot bay, to check the incursions of the enemy into Nova Scotia. As soon as Collier appeared in the Penobscot river the Americans burnt most of their ships; he captured the rest, and the whole naval force of Massachusetts was destroyed.

In the autumn Lincoln persuaded D'Estaing to bring his fleet from the West Indies and join him in driving the British out of Georgia. The French and Americans, about 10,000 strong, laid siege to Savannah, which was defended by Prevost with a force of only 2,500 men. An assault was made on the place on October 9, and was repulsed with heavy loss. The siege was abandoned; D'Estaing with most of his ships sailed for France, and the American army retreated into South Carolina. D'Estaing's arrival on the coast warned Clinton of the necessity for concentration, and he ordered the evacuation of Rhode Island. When the French fleet had departed he prepared to attack Charleston, and on February 11, 1780, landed his army on the coast of South Carolina. The town, which was defended by Lincoln, was besieged on April 1, and surrendered on May 12. More than 5,000 prisoners were taken, including seven general officers, besides about 1,000 French and American seamen, 400 guns, and the whole naval force in the harbour. Cornwallis obtained further successes in the province; South Carolina was cleared of the enemy, and the inhabitants generally professed submission. After striking this great blow Clinton was forced to return to New York, for a French fleet was bringing over troops to act with Washington, and Cornwallis was left with only 4,000 regulars, besides provincials, to carry on the war in the south.


By the end of 1779 the garrison of Gibraltar was reduced to great straits. The West India command had lately been given to Rodney, already a distinguished officer and destined to take a high place among England's sea-captains. Before he proceeded to his station he sailed with a large convoy for Gibraltar and Minorca. On his way he captured a Spanish convoy, sent the sixty-four-gun ship which protected it to England with the merchandise, and carried the provisions destined for the besiegers off Gibraltar to the besieged garrison. Off Cape St. Vincent he came on a Spanish squadron of inferior strength[Pg 199] under the command of Don Juan de Lángara, cut the Spaniards off from Cadiz, took six of their ships, and destroyed another. He carried out the relief of Gibraltar and on February 13 sailed for the West Indies, where Count de Guichen was commanding in place of D'Estaing. Down to this time the naval battles of the century had generally been inconclusive, except when one fleet was much stronger than the other. Admirals kept strictly to the formation known as the line of battle in which one ship followed another in regular order. If both the admirals of opposing fleets were willing to bring matters to a decided issue, the fleet to windward would attack, and the ships go at one another at close quarters all along the line. English admirals, with sufficient force, always hoped to bring this about. They were seldom successful, for the French admirals were unwilling to fight at close quarters, not because they were afraid to meet the British, but partly because they generally had some other object in view than the destruction of the enemy's fleet, some conquest to make or some place to protect, and partly because the French having fewer ships were indisposed to make free use of them in battle. Accordingly a French admiral preferred the leeward position. This enabled him to avoid a decisive action, for when a British fleet bore down on him, he could cripple our leading ships in their rigging, and then break off the action by running before the wind.

Rodney made the destruction of the enemy's fleet his first aim. There was only one way of accomplishing it. That was by deserting the old system of fighting in line, van to van, centre to centre, rear to rear. He sighted Guichen's fleet on April 16 as it was sailing northwards and well to leeward of Dominica. Guichen was convoying merchantmen, and intended ultimately to attack Barbadoes. The two fleets were nearly of equal strength. Rodney gained the windward position, and engaged the next morning. He planned to bring the whole of his force to bear on the French centre and rear. After much manœuvring the opportunity came. Unfortunately his captains, accustomed to the old routine, did not understand his signal. His well-devised plan was defeated and the battle was as inconclusive as its predecessors. Rodney was bitterly disappointed, for a decisive victory seemed within his grasp.[144] He considered[Pg 200] that some of his captains did not behave with sufficient promptitude and set himself to bring his fleet to a high pitch of efficiency. Guichen was joined by a Spanish fleet which gave him a great numerical superiority. It was no profit to him; the Spanish ships were hot-beds of disease and he had to convoy them to San Domingo. Then he sailed off for France with the larger part of his force. By that time the hurricane season was at hand and Rodney divided his fleet, leaving about half in the West Indies, and sailing with the remainder to New York, where he arrived on September 12. England had full command of the sea in the American waters, and Rodney did little there and, unfortunately, as we shall see in our next chapter, less than he might have done. At New York his squadron escaped the hurricane which swept over the West Indies on October 10. As Rodney was a tory his distinguished services were peculiarly gratifying to the king and the government. He was created a Knight of the Bath and received a pension with remainder to his children.


The war brought Ireland an opportunity for insisting on a redress of grievances. By 1773 the prodigality of government raised the national expenditure far above the revenue. Lord Harcourt, the viceroy, recommended a tax of 10 per cent. on the rents of absentees. The proposal was popular in Ireland, and North was willing to agree to it. The great Irish landlords of the Rockingham party were strongly opposed to the tax, and Burke argued that it would hinder Irishmen from taking part in the political life of Great Britain and would imply that England was a foreign land. A strong feeling against the tax was excited in England. North gave way and, in obedience to instructions, Harcourt procured the rejection of the bill. The grievances of the country increased. The American war was unpopular with the presbyterians, the peace and safety of the land were imperilled by the withdrawal of its troops, its finances were burdened by pensions and by grants for the war, and the public debt which in 1770 was £669,230, entailing a charge of £26,631, stood in 1778 at £939,323, with a charge of £82,711. The restrictions on Irish trade were rendered specially grievous by the war. An embargo laid on the export of provisions from Ireland ruined her trade in cattle. Debarred from the woollen manufacture in the interest of English industry, she had been[Pg 201] encouraged to manufacture linen, and her trade in linen prospered. The war with America deprived her of her principal market. The restraints placed upon her commerce with England brought her into close commercial connexion with France, and that source of profit was also cut off in 1778. Many of her people were driven abroad by want; and the poor who remained were only kept alive by charity.

In 1778 proposals were made in the English parliament to relax the restrictions on Irish trade. North approved of the proposals, and they were powerfully supported by Burke. Liverpool, Bristol, and other English manufacturing towns protested loudly against admitting Ireland to compete with them. North yielded to pressure, and the supporters of the bills were forced to accept a measure which was wholly insufficient to satisfy the needs of the Irish. The disappointment in Ireland was bitter. Something, however, was gained; the system of restriction was no longer intact. The same year saw the beginning of a relaxation of the penal code. Common wrongs and common aspirations helped to subdue religious animosity. The cause of the catholics was urged in the Irish Parliament by the splendid oratory of Henry Grattan. A bill was passed enabling them to take leases for 999 years and, except in the case of converts, to inherit land as freely as protestants. The law was no longer to offer an inducement to a man to abandon his father's faith for the sake of gain; it was no longer to put the estate of a catholic father under the power of a professedly protestant son.

The failure of the attempt to obtain relief from commercial restrictions taught the Irish that England would not sacrifice her own interests to relieve their distress, and that they must help themselves. Following the example of the Americans, they formed associations for non-importation. These associations showed the English manufacturers that Ireland could retaliate upon them. England was, however, forced to concession by another means. The assent of the Irish parliament to England's proposal that drafts should be sent to the war from the 12,000 men who should have been kept for the defence of the country, reduced the number of troops in Ireland to less than 5,000. The coasts were infested by privateers and a French invasion was expected. England had no troops to spare and her fleets[Pg 202] were fully engaged. Abandoned by government, the Irish protestants took up arms to defend their own country. The Duke of Leinster and Lord Charlemont threw themselves eagerly into the movement, which was supported by the majority of the Irish gentry, catholics as well as protestants; though for some time the catholics did not volunteer because they were disqualified from bearing arms. Before long 42,000 volunteers were learning military discipline, arms were purchased and officers chosen. The Irish government regarded the movement with uneasiness, but took advantage of it as a protection against invasion, and distributed 16,000 stands of arms among the corps. The volunteers, while thoroughly loyal, adopted a distinctly national policy. England was in difficulties and could not withstand the demands of so powerful a body. In the session of 1779-80 parliament, at North's instance, abandoned the system of restriction on Ireland's trade; threw open to her trade with the colonies and repealed the acts restraining the exportation of her woollens and glass. About the same time the influence of the volunteers procured the assent of government to a bill releasing Irish dissenters from the sacramental test. Great as these gains were, Irish aspirations reached further. On April 19, 1780, Grattan proposed a declaration of legislative independence. For that the Irish parliament was not ready. Lord Buckinghamshire, the viceroy, secured support by lavish promises of recommendations for peerages and other good things, and parliament deserted the popular cause. In December, Buckinghamshire was succeeded by Lord Carlisle.


During 1779 North's government lost ground; the ministers were known to be divided in opinion, and various parliamentary inquiries into the conduct of the war revealed much maladministration. Even the king said that Germain was "of no use in his department," and Fox's vote of censure on the admiralty was supported by a minority of 170. Some changes in the ministry failed to strengthen it. In 1778 Jenkinson succeeded Barrington as secretary at war; he lived to prove himself a man of ability, but in his new office he, like his predecessor, had merely to carry out the orders of others. Gower, a strong advocate of American coercion in 1775, changed his opinions, resigned the presidentship of the council in November, 1779, and made a violent attack on the government. He was[Pg 203] succeeded by Lord Bathurst the ex-chancellor. Suffolk died and was succeeded as southern secretary by Lord Stormont, and Weymouth, the northern secretary, by Hillsborough. North still urged the king to accept his resignation. George, conscious of the shortcomings of the ministry, gave Thurlow authority to treat with Shelburne, as head of the Chatham party, with a view to the formation of a strong administration, composed of men of different parties, to be formed without North, and independently of the existing ministry. Grafton persuaded Shelburne not to act apart from the Rockingham whigs. The united opposition would have insisted on a complete change of measures as well as of men, which would have implied the surrender of America. To this George would not consent, and North was again persuaded to remain in office. On the meeting of parliament in November, 1779, the ministers carried the address by 233 to 134, a majority which bore out the assertion of the king's speech that parliament was with him, and the speech added "my people at large".

Yet though the declaration of war by Spain called forth a loyal address, unanimously voted by the commons, assuring the king of their help against the Americans, many held that it would be well to withdraw the troops from America and use the whole strength of the country against its foreign enemies. The expenses of the war were heavy; additions were made to the public debt of £6,000,000 in 1778, of £7,000,000 in 1779, and of £12,000,000 in 1780, and many new taxes were imposed. At the same time large sums were expended on maintaining useless offices, a crowd of pensioners, and other abuses, the means by which the king kept his hold on parliament. The whigs determined to take advantage of the demands made on the nation to strike at the root of that corrupt influence by insisting on public economy. The attack was begun unsuccessfully in the lords by Richmond and Shelburne, and in December Burke gave notice that he would lay a plan of economical reform before the commons. The whigs sought to bring pressure to bear on parliament by an appeal to the people and met with a ready response. A county meeting at York, presided over by Sir George Savile, sent a petition to the commons for public economy, and formed an association to promote that object and the restoration of the independence of parliament. Twenty-five[Pg 204] other counties and some cities and towns sent similar petitions and most of them formed associations. On February 11, 1780, Burke introduced his plan in a speech of remarkable ability. He proposed a reform of the king's civil establishment, the abolition of a crowd of court offices, a reform of certain public departments, the limitation of pensions, the sale of the crown lands, and the abolition of the jurisdictions of Wales, Cornwall, Chester, and Lancaster. His bills were destroyed piecemeal in committee, and the only result of his scheme which, if fully carried out, would, he calculated, have saved the nation over £1,000,000 a year, was the abolition of the board of trade.

Meanwhile a sharp struggle went on in the commons. A proposal for an account of patent places was agreed to, but another for submitting a list of pensions was lost by two votes. A crowded meeting was held at Westminster on April 5 and was addressed by Fox who, with vehement eloquence, recommended annual parliaments and an addition of 100 county members as a means of freeing parliament from the influence of the crown. Government apprehended an attempt to overawe parliament and stationed soldiers in the neighbourhood of Westminster Hall. This step enraged the opposition, and on the 6th Dunning proposed a resolution in the commons that "the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished". This resolution was carried, with a trifling addition, by 233 to 215, and another that the house was competent to correct abuses in the civil list was adopted without a division. On the 10th, however, a resolution that certain officers of the household should be disqualified from sitting in the house of commons was carried by two only. So far did pressure from without combined with the near prospect of a general election carry the commons, but the majority did not desire reform and would go no further than general resolutions. An address to the king, praying that he would not dissolve nor prorogue parliament until measures had been taken to diminish the influence of the crown, was rejected by a majority of fifty-one. The struggle was over, and Fox vented his rage and disappointment in a speech of unmeasured invective. Throughout the session much heated language was used in parliament, and both Shelburne and Fox fought duels in consequence of words uttered by them in debate. On June 2 Richmond, ultra-democratic as a democratic noble is[Pg 205] wont to be, specially on questions not affecting his own order, was urging annual parliaments and manhood suffrage on the lords when he was interrupted by an outbreak of mob violence, a bitter answer to his arguments.


The earlier half of the reign saw an increase in religious tolerance. Though the whig movement for relieving dissenting ministers from subscription to the articles was defeated by the lords in 1772 and 1773, a bill supported by both parties granted them relief in 1779, the year in which the Irish dissenters were relieved from the test act. The whigs, as we have seen with reference to the Quebec act, were opposed to any measure of relief being granted to Roman catholics, who were by law liable to cruel oppression. The judges, indeed, and specially the great chief-justice, Mansfield, did all they could to mitigate the rigour of the law, yet catholics lived in insecurity, and so late as 1767 a priest was condemned to imprisonment for life, and was actually imprisoned for four years, for exercising his office. Whig prejudices gave way, and in 1778 Sir George Savile brought in a bill enabling catholics who abjured the temporal jurisdiction of the pope to purchase and inherit land, and freeing their priests from liability to imprisonment. The bill, which only affected England, was passed without a division in either house, and the government proposed to bring in a like bill for Scotland the next year. Violent protestant riots took place in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and such strong feeling was generally manifested in Scotland against the proposed measure that it was abandoned. The relief act excited discontent in England, and protestant fanatics, encouraged by the success of their party in Scotland, agitated for its repeal. A protestant association was formed, a crack-brained member of parliament, Lord George Gordon, was made president, and a petition for the repeal of the act was signed by nearly 120,000 persons.

On June 2, 1780, some 60,000 persons marched under Gordon's leadership to Westminster with their monster petition. They violently assaulted many peers and compelled members of both houses to cry No popery! and to put blue cockades in their hats. Gordon addressed them, and named Burke and other members as specially hostile to their cause. The commons refused to give the petition immediate consideration; the lobbies were thronged by the mob, and North sent for the lifeguards to[Pg 206] protect parliament. On their arrival the mob left palace-yard and partially destroyed the chapels of the Sardinian embassy in Duke street, Lincoln's inn Fields and the Bavarian embassy in Warwick street, Golden square. The next day was fairly quiet, but on Sunday, the 4th, finding that no measures were taken to enforce order, they sacked other catholic chapels and some houses. By Monday the riots assumed a more dangerous character; the mob passed out of the leadership of religious fanatics and was bent on plunder and destruction. East of Charing Cross London was almost at its mercy. There was no efficient police force; military officers and soldiers had learnt the risk they would incur by firing on a mob without the order of the civil power, and the magistrates were for the most part timid and inactive. Wilkes was an honourable exception, and showed courage and firmness in dealing with the rioters. Virtually unchecked, the mob sacked chapels and houses, plundered shops, and burnt Savile's furniture before his door. During the next two days Newgate was partly burnt and the prison broken open, the other principal prisons either destroyed or damaged and the prisoners set at liberty. Some magistrates' houses were plundered and burnt. Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury square was sacked and his splendid library, pictures, plate, and furniture destroyed. By Wednesday night thirty-six fires were blazing in different parts; volumes of flame were rising from the King's bench and Fleet prisons, the new Bridewell, and the toll gates on Blackfriars bridge, and the lower end of Holborn was burning fiercely. A great distillery in Holborn was wrecked; men and women killed themselves by drinking the unrectified spirits which were brought into the streets, and others who were drunk perished in the flames or were buried in the ruins. Attacks were made on the Bank of England and the Pay Office. Both were guarded by soldiers, and the rioters were repulsed with heavy loss.


By that time the general paralysis of authority was ended by the king's personal intervention. As his ministers seemed afraid of incurring responsibility, George summoned a meeting of the council by special command on Wednesday morning. Finding that the council hesitated to recommend the employment of troops, he said that if they would not give him advice he would act without it, and that he could answer for one[Pg 207] magistrate who would do his duty. He bade Wedderburn, the attorney-general, declare the law on the subject. Wedderburn replied that the king in council could order soldiers to suppress a riot without the authority of a magistrate. George at once ordered the military to act, and by Thursday morning the riots were quelled. Seventy-two houses and four gaols had been destroyed. Of the rioters, 285 were reported as killed and 173 wounded, but many more lost their lives during the riots. The trials of the rioters were conducted with moderation; of the 139 who were tried, fifty-nine were capitally convicted, and of these only twenty-one were executed. The Surrey prisoners were tried before Wedderburn, who was made chief-justice of the common pleas and created Lord Loughborough. Lord George Gordon was acquitted; he was imprisoned for a libel in 1787, and died in Newgate after having become a jew. When the lords, who adjourned on the 6th, again assembled, the great jurist Mansfield, who in his seventy-sixth year retained his mastery of constitutional law and his facility of expression, authoritatively declared that soldiers equally with civil persons might, and if required by a magistrate must, assist in suppressing riots and preventing acts of treason and felony, and that the red coat of a soldier neither disqualified him from performing the duty of a citizen nor would protect him if he transgressed it. The riots seem to have improved the position of the government, for the appeal to popular feeling and the formation of associations by which the whigs brought pressure on parliament were discredited by them, and for the moment common danger allayed political animosity.


[135] Parl. Hist., xix., 368-70, 409, 411, 509-12.

[136] The Bute Transaction, MSS. Pitt Papers 14; Stanhope, History, vi., 213.

[137] Lecky, History, iv., 83.

[138] Rockingham to Chatham, Jan. 21, 1778, Chatham Corr., iv., 488; Burke to Rockingham, Nov. 5, 1777, Works, ii., 357.

[139] Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 211-12; Sir G. C. Lewis, Administrations of Great Britain, p. 16.

[140] Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 180, 306-23.

[141] These figures present a difficulty. The votes 1771-78 appear to have been, for ordinary expenses £3,303,233, for 'extraordinaries' £2,232,694 = £5,535,927. Clowes, Royal Navy, iii., 327.

[142] On this subject generally see Parl. Hist., xix., 728-30, 818-34, 874-95, xx., 204-38, 372 sqq.; Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 337-41; MS. Admiralty Miscell., 567, R.O.; Keppel, Life of Keppel, ii., 15, 19, 21.

[143] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 421 sqq., 523 sqq.

[144] Hannay, Rodney, pp. 117-31; Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 378-81.



In 1780 England's enemies increased in number and her isolation was complete. From early times all belligerent nations subjected to capture the goods of an enemy in neutral ships. This usage was interrupted only by treaties. It was specially disliked by the Dutch, as great carriers by sea, and they made many treaties with different powers, stipulating that goods carried in their ships, not being contraband, should be free. In 1778 France, in order to injure England, declared its adoption of the principle that neutral ships made neutral goods. The lesser Baltic nations, which largely exported naval material, were anxious to protect their commerce from England, specially as she was rigorous in her view with regard to contraband goods; and they looked to Russia to help them. Frederick of Prussia, always eager to do England a bad turn, used his influence with the Empress Catherine in the cause of the freedom of commerce in neutral ships, and was supported by her minister, Panin. Catherine, though not unfriendly towards England, yielded to his representations, and in March, 1780, notified England, France, and Spain that, while in other respects she would maintain strict neutrality, she would enforce by her fleets four propositions: (1) that neutral ships may freely sail from port to port of a belligerent nation; (2) that goods carried by them, not being contraband, should be free from seizure; (3) that only certain specified goods were contraband; and (4) that no blockade should be recognised which was not effectual. France, Spain, and the Americans at once accepted these propositions; Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, and the Emperor joined the league of "armed neutrality" in the course of the year, and the accession of Holland was only prevented by its becoming a belligerent. England did not accept these new rules, which were detrimental to her[Pg 209] as a naval power. The alliance isolated her, threatened to increase the number of her enemies, and forced her to be cautious in her dealings with neutral ships. War with the Baltic powers would have ruined her, for since the American revolt she was dependent on these countries for timber and other naval stores. Happily, Catherine was by no means inclined to quarrel with her.


The Dutch complained that England violated a treaty made with them in 1674, which provided that either power should hold all goods conveyed in the ships of the other, not being contraband, as free from liability of seizure, and that either should be free to trade with the enemies of the other. Many Dutch ships were searched and their cargoes seized by English ships, in some cases lawfully, because they were carrying contraband of war, in others merely because they were carrying French goods or were trading with our enemies. England contended that the treaty of 1674 was superseded by the treaties of 1678 and 1716, which provided that, when either power was attacked, the other should come to its aid; and that, though the aid of the Dutch was not demanded, they were at least bound to abstain from helping her enemies. The Dutch, however, supplied the Americans with vast quantities of naval and military stores, supplied naval stores also to France and Spain, and allowed American privateers, and notably Paul Jones, to refit and equip their ships and to sell their prizes in Dutch ports. The British ambassador, Sir Joseph Yorke, remonstrated strongly against these unfriendly acts on the part of a nation in close alliance with his sovereign. He could gain no satisfaction; for though the party of the stadholder was anxious to keep on friendly terms, the pensionary and the city of Amsterdam were violently opposed to England, and the merchants generally were on their side. Late in 1779 a fleet of Dutch merchantmen, laden with timber and naval stores for France, and sailing under the convoy of an admiral, was met by an English squadron. The Dutch fired on the boats sent to search their ships; the English returned the fire, captured some of the ships, and brought them into Spithead. Bitter complaints were made on both sides, and the Dutch, encouraged by the declaration of the armed neutrality and the influence of France and Prussia, showed no inclination to yield to Yorke's remonstrances.[Pg 210]

At last England had an opportunity of putting an end to this course of unacknowledged hostility. In October, 1780, a British frigate captured an American packet which was carrying Laurens, lately president of congress, as ambassador to Holland. He threw his papers overboard, but a British seaman promptly went after them and brought them back. Among them was a draft of a proposed treaty of commerce and amity between Holland and the United States of America, signed by the pensionary of Amsterdam and Lee, an American envoy, in September, 1778, when Holland was bound by treaty to a close alliance with Great Britain. England demanded a disavowal of the treaty and the punishment of the pensionary. The states-general voted to join the armed neutrality and, while disavowing the treaty, did not proceed against the pensionary. England declared war on December 20. The opposition maintained that the government had behaved arrogantly and was actuated by a desire for plunder, and that it was unjust to found a war on a mere proposal emanating from the magistracy of a single city and not confirmed by the states-general. Yet, if the conduct of Holland is viewed as a whole, it will be found to justify the course pursued by the government. England, then, in addition to the war with her rebellious colonies, had to meet the forces of France, Spain, and Holland. Nevertheless, the new accession to the number of her foes was of no detriment to her, for the Dutch were no longer powerful: it was better to have them open enemies than treacherous friends; England's geographical position enabled her to prevent their fleet from joining those of her other enemies, and their commerce and colonies fell an easy prey to her ships.


The recovery of Gibraltar was the principal object for which Spain fought. During some negotiations for peace carried on by unaccredited British agents in 1780, the Spanish minister, Florida Blanca, avowed that for the sake of Gibraltar his master would "break the family compact and every other engagement with France". Germain was willing that the question should be discussed, but North forbade the British agents to let the word Gibraltar pass their lips, and Stormont declared that the map of Spain's empire contained no equivalent for it, so the negotiations were ineffectual.[145] The Spaniards made strenuous[Pg 211] efforts to take the fortress. On the night of June 6 they delivered a sudden attack on the small squadron in the harbour with fire-ships and a crowd of boats. They were foiled by the valour of the British seamen who, under a heavy fire, grappled the blazing ships and towed them ashore. Again Eliott found himself in urgent need of supplies; food and ammunition alike ran short, and early in 1781 it became evident that the place would have to be surrendered unless it was speedily relieved. Admiral Darby, then in command of the channel fleet, took out a convoy with supplies. The French were occupied with their own schemes of conquest, the Spanish fleet did not dare to meet him, and the relief was accomplished on April 12. The Spaniards then tried to reduce the place by a continuous bombardment, and between the 10th of that month and the end of June threw into it 75,000 shot and 25,000 shells. At first Eliott replied even more fiercely; but, always careful of his ammunition, he relaxed his fire on finding that the Spanish bombardment did him small harm, for though the town was virtually destroyed, the garrison lost only fifty-three killed and 260 wounded, and the fortifications were not seriously damaged. While Spain was thus foiled in her principal effort, she completed the reduction of West Florida, and her ships increased the risks which attended the commerce of England. In August, 1780, a fleet of East and West Indiamen, convoyed by Captain Moutray, was attacked by the combined fleets of France and Spain, under Don Luis de Córdova; fifty-five were taken and brought into Cadiz harbour, at a loss to Great Britain of about £2,000,000, besides 1,800 soldiers who were on their way to India.

Near home the enemies of England accomplished little. In January about 800 French soldiers landed in Jersey and surprised St. Heliers. The island was saved by Major Pierson of the 95th, gallantly supported by such troops and militia as he could gather at once. All the invaders were either killed or taken prisoners, but Pierson fell at the moment of victory. In July the combined fleets of France and Spain convoyed 14,000 troops on their way to Minorca, where they besieged Fort St. Philip, which held out until the next year. They then sailed, forty-nine ships of the line, into the mouth of the Channel and cruised about on the look-out for convoys. Darby lay in[Pg 212] Torbay with thirty ships of the line, and they did not dare to attack him; many of their ships were unseaworthy, and in September the fleets for a second time retreated from the Channel without accomplishing anything. Meanwhile the Dutch were rendered incapable of acting with them. As Admiral Hyde Parker, in command of a squadron, was convoying the Baltic trade homeward on August 5, he met with a Dutch squadron on the Dogger Bank convoying their trade to the north. The two squadrons were nominally nearly equal, but several of the English ships were in bad condition. There was no manœuvring; both sides went at it in the old fashion, fighting ship with ship all along the line. Both squadrons were desperately hammered, and at last parted without definite result. The Dutch loss in men was heavy; one of their best ships was sunk and two others totally ruined. They became little more than spectators of the war, and their possessions in the East, Sumatra, Negapatam, and Trincomali, fell into the hands of the English. Parker was furious with Sandwich for sending him out with an insufficient and badly found force. George went down to the Nore and visited his ship in the hope of appeasing him, but the old admiral insisted on resigning his command, and when pressed to remain, bluntly told the king that he wished him "younger men and newer ships".


The temporary success of the opposition in the spring of 1780 showed the king that he could no longer reckon with certainty on the support of the house of commons. On September 1 he suddenly dissolved the parliament elected in 1774, and writs were issued for a new parliament to meet on October 31. The suddenness of the dissolution and the shortness of the time allowed for the new elections were held to operate in favour of the court. Nor did George neglect other means of securing his authority, for he told North that the general election cost at least twice as much as any other since his accession.[146] Rodney headed the poll for Westminster, but Fox secured the second seat, defeating a ministerial candidate. Bristol, doubly offended by Burke's efforts on behalf of Irish trade and catholic relief, rejected him as its member, and he was provided with a seat by Rockingham. Windsor refused to re-elect Keppel, and[Pg 213] it is asserted that George so far forgot his position as to go into the shop of a silk-mercer of the borough, and say in his hurried way: "The queen wants a gown, wants a gown. No Keppel! No Keppel!"[147] Among the new members were Sheridan, the dramatist, and manager and part-owner of Drury lane theatre, one of Fox's friends, who became famous as an orator, and William Pitt, the second son of the great Chatham, who was returned for Appleby on Sir James Lowther's nomination in January, 1781, when he was in his twenty-second year. From early youth Pitt showed signs of a remarkable genius which was carefully cultivated by his father. Conscious of his ability, he was reserved in manner, though he was warmly attached to his intimate friends and talked freely with them. He lived wholly for the service of his country, and took no part in the pleasures or vices of his contemporaries, save that he habitually drank far too much port wine. He joined the opposition, and ranged himself with his father's old followers who acted under Shelburne's leadership. On all questions of importance he spoke with lofty eloquence, and his speeches, often splendid as oratory, had the surpassing excellence of appealing to his hearers by raising them to a higher level of thought and feeling than that from which they had previously regarded the matter in debate. His voice was rich, his words well chosen, and he was singularly happy in sarcasm.

The king's influence was strong in the new parliament. Sir Fletcher Norton, a bad-tempered and unprincipled man, who had deeply offended him by his speech with reference to the civil list in 1777, was again proposed as speaker by the opposition, and was rejected by 203 votes to 134 in favour of Cornwall, the ministerial candidate. The session opened languidly and the attendance of the opposition was scanty. After the Christmas recess the struggle with the government was carried on with more energy. Little ground was gained. Burke's bill for a reform of the civil list establishment was rejected by 233 to 190, and a like fate attended other efforts to destroy the means by which parliament was subjected to corrupt influences. Though the Dutch war was popular specially with the mercantile class, which expected to benefit by it, both the nation and the[Pg 214] parliament were thoroughly weary of the American war, and the opponents of it in the commons were strengthened by the accession of Pitt who pronounced it "a most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust, and diabolical war".[148] Yet the news of successes in the south, of a mutiny of the Pennsylvania troops in January, 1781, and of the distress and financial difficulties of the Americans encouraged the government party. Motions hostile to the war were feebly supported, and Fox's jeers at British victories, and his declarations that the money spent on the war was plundered from the nation, that the cause of the Americans was "the cause of freedom, of the constitution, and of whiggism, and that he had in its origin wished it success," excited justifiable indignation.

The most serious attack on the government was caused by North's disgraceful manipulation of a loan of £12,000,000. Though more than three times the amount was offered, the loan was arranged on terms so advantageous to the lenders that the price of the new stock rose at once from 9 per cent. to 11 per cent. above par. The profits were calculated by Fox to amount to £900,000, and, as in 1763, the loan was distributed among the supporters of the government, half of it, so it was said, going to members of the house of commons, whether as compensation for election expenses or generally as a means of maintaining a corrupt influence. North's conduct was severely reprehended in both chambers, and in two divisions on the question in the commons the opposition voted 106 to 137 and 163 to 209. The life of the government depended on the fortunes of the war in America; it was prolonged by gleams of success; it was soon to be terminated by an overwhelming disaster.

In the summer of 1780 the Americans were, perhaps, more disheartened than at any other period of the war. They were, as we shall see, losing in the south, and their hope of decisive help from France was again disappointed. Congress continued to issue paper money until its notes became of so little value that ten paper dollars were exchanged for a cent; there was no money and no credit, and Washington was forced to levy contributions on the surrounding country to supply his army. The people[Pg 215] generally were sick of the war. France was almost bankrupt; even Vergennes was weary of American demands for help, and suggested putting an end to the war by a long truce, the English surrendering New York and keeping Georgia and South Carolina. The idea was equally displeasing to the king and to the Americans. It was not without reason that George believed that "America was distressed to the greatest degree," and that if his ministers persevered in the war they would wear down its power of resistance.[149]


The depression of the Americans was deepened by the treachery of Arnold. Conspicuous among their generals for energy and dash, he was a vulgar-minded, irritable man, ruined in fortune by his own extravagance, and with many enemies. He had been treated badly by congress, and was finally maddened by receiving a public reprimand ordered by a court-martial which was held to examine charges affecting his probity. Washington felt kindly towards him, and gave him the command of West Point, a highland fortress which was the key of the line of the Hudson. He had for some time contemplated deserting to the British, and was in correspondence with Clinton, receiving replies through Major André, a gallant and popular young officer, Clinton's adjutant-general, who wrote under the name of John Anderson. Determined to avenge himself on congress, he offered to betray West Point to the British. An attack was to be made on September 25, and Arnold was to arrange the American troops in such a way as to ensure its success. Had the plot succeeded, the Americans would have lost communication between the northern and southern provinces, and would probably have been forced to give up the struggle. An interview was necessary, and André sailed up the river in the Vulture sloop, and met Arnold secretly on the night of the 21st. After the interview Arnold persuaded him to take shelter in a house which, though he was not aware of it, stood within the American lines, and gave him papers containing arrangements for the attack. The next day André could not find a boatman to take him to the Vulture, and was forced to set out for New York by land. He had a pass from Arnold made out for John Anderson, he changed his uniform for a civilian dress, and passed[Pg 216] the American lines in safety. On the 23rd he fell into the hands of some American cattle-stealers; Arnold's papers were found in his boots, and his captors handed him over to a militia officer. Arnold received tidings of his capture and made his escape on board the Vulture.

André was tried by a court-martial consisting of fourteen general officers, and was sentenced to death as a spy. Clinton made every effort to obtain his pardon; Washington was inexorable, and would not even grant André's request that he might die a soldier's death. He was hanged on October 2, and met his fate with dignity and courage. Inexpressibly sad as his end was, he was not treated unjustly; he entered the enemy's lines while attempting to assist their commander to betray his post, he was within their lines in disguise, and he was taken with papers upon him arranging the details of the betrayal. Washington would have been held to have acted with generosity if he had treated him as a prisoner of war, or even if he had granted his pathetic request that he might be spared the ignominy of the gallows. But an officer in command should not allow any consideration to hinder him from doing what he believes to be best for his army, provided it is not contrary to the usages of civilised warfare. That Washington was guided by this principle in sending André to the gallows may fairly be inferred from all we know of his character, and of the condition of the American army at the time. His conduct needs no other defence.[150] The traitor Arnold received £6,300 from the British government, and, it is painful to remember, a commission in the army, which he entered with a brevet of brigadier-general.


As soon as war was declared with the Dutch, orders were sent to Rodney, who returned from America to the Antilles at the end of 1780, to capture St. Eustatius. From a mass of barren rock this Dutch island had suddenly become a place of first-rate commercial importance. In order to supply our West India planters with food for their slaves, parliament allowed trade to be carried on there with the Americans. In St. Eustatius the goods of all nations were bought and sold; and British and French planters, American dealers and Dutch merchants traded with one another as in a time of peace. English planters[Pg 217] and merchants also used it as a place of deposit, believing that their goods would be safer there than in their own islands, which were open to attacks from the French. The wealth of the island was prodigious; the rents of the dwellings and warehouses hastily constructed on it amounted to a million a year; it had, as Burke said, risen from the waters like another Tyre to become the mart of the world. Like the British island of Nassau during the American civil war, it carried on along with legitimate commerce a brisk contraband trade, and its merchants supplied the Americans and French, their principal and most favoured customers, with vast quantities of naval stores and ammunition. It was practically undefended, and, together with its dependencies, St. Martin and Saba, was surrendered to Rodney without resistance on February 3, 1781. Over 150 vessels were taken in the bay, besides a richly laden convoy of Dutch ships which had lately put to sea. Rodney held that the island was a "nest of villains," and that its "infamous and deceitful inhabitants" owed their wealth to their support of the king's enemies by contraband trading; they "deserved scourging," and he vowed that they should get it. He confiscated all the property on the island, private as well as public, save what belonged to the French, who were open enemies. There was much truth in his indictment, but his indiscriminate confiscation was monstrously unjust.

The spoil of the island was estimated at £4,000,000. The king granted his rights over the booty to the captors. Rodney was a poor man, and was greedy for wealth; he seized more than the king could grant, or he could lawfully hold, for part of the booty belonged to English merchants. His conduct was severely and, though with some exaggeration, justly attacked by Burke in parliament, and in after years he was harassed by suits brought against him for unlawful spoliation. The booty sold on the spot fetched far less than its value, and much that was sent home fell into the hands of the French; for while Darby was engaged in the relief of Gibraltar, a French squadron intercepted the convoy which was bringing it to England, and carried off several ships laden with spoil. The capture of the island proved disastrous to England. A French fleet under Count de Grasse was unfortunately allowed to leave Brest in March, for England was embarrassed by naval conflicts all over the world.[Pg 218] Rodney expected its coming, and sent Sir Samuel Hood, as fine a seaman as himself, and with a more single eye to the king's service, to blockade Fort Royal, in Martinique, in order to prevent four French ships which lay there from joining Grasse. Hood wished to cruise to windward of the island, which would have enabled him to force Grasse either to fight or to give up his junction with the four ships. Rodney, who remained at St. Eustatius looking after the loot, would not consent to this, because, so Hood asserts, he was afraid that the ships would slip out and attack the island.[151] Hood was forced to keep to leeward; Grasse got between him and the island, was joined by the ships, and so gained the superiority in force. Some distant and indecisive fighting took place on April 29 and 30, and finally Hood, being the inferior in force, and no longer having any reason to risk his ships, sailed away from the enemy. The French, though failing in an attack on St. Lucia, took Tobago, and, what was of graver consequence, Grasse was enabled, apparently through Rodney's anxiety concerning his booty, to maintain a strong fleet in the West Indies, which before long helped to bring victory within reach of the Americans. Grasse sailed for the American coast in August. Rodney was obliged by ill-health to return to England, and left Hood with only fourteen ships to follow the French fleet, directing him to join Admiral Graves, then in command in the American waters, in the neighbourhood of the Chesapeake.


As the British forces were divided between New York and the southern provinces, it is obvious that the issue of the struggle depended on the command of the sea. So long as the British held the ocean way, the southern army would be able to receive reinforcements and supplies, and could be aided by diversions, the French alliance would be of little profit to the Americans, and the long land journey, expensive and open to attacks, would cut off the southern provinces from succours from the north. The navy, as both Clinton and Washington saw, "had the casting vote in the contest".[152] In July, 1780, soon after Clinton returned to New York from South Carolina, a French squadron brought nearly 6,000 men, commanded by Count de Rocham[Pg 219]beau, to Rhode Island. A few days after the arrival of Rochambeau, the British fleet under Arbuthnot received reinforcements which made it stronger than the French. Clinton took measures for attacking the French by land and sea, but was called back to New York by a movement on the part of Washington, and a renewal of the plan was defeated by a quarrel between him and Arbuthnot. The seven French ships remained at Newport, blocked up by the British fleet, and though Washington obtained some help from the land force, the greater part stayed to guard the ships. Rodney should have attacked these ships as soon as he arrived at New York in September. He probably thought them of little importance, as they were thoroughly blockaded, and did not care to risk his ships within reach of the French batteries on the shore. The destruction of the squadron was within his power and was well worth some risk. Great as he was on sea, he did not understand the wide aspects of operations of war. The presence of the French compelled the British to keep a large force in New York and so hindered their operations in the south.

Before Clinton left South Carolina, he issued a proclamation which put an end to all hopes of neutrality; those who would not fulfil the duties of loyal subjects would be held to be rebels. This step caused many who would willingly have remained neutral to join the revolutionists rather than fight against them. The country soon became disturbed; the British were forced to act with severity, and the Americans, both revolutionists and loyalists, behaved with great cruelty towards their fellow-countrymen of the opposite party.[153] Partisan leaders, among whom Sumter and Marion were conspicuous, raised bands on their own responsibility, and fought against the British, acting sometimes independently and sometimes in conjunction with the forces of congress. Cornwallis worked energetically at Charleston, enrolling militia and providing for the administration, while Lord Rawdon with the main body of the army kept the border at Camden. Anxious to press on, Cornwallis desired Clinton to send a force to Chesapeake bay, to divert the enemy while he invaded North Carolina; but before he could advance further he had to fight for the southern province. Gates was appointed to[Pg 220] the supreme command in the south and was threatening Camden. Cornwallis hastened thither with his staff and found Rawdon with 700 sick and less than 2,000 fit for duty. The enemy was greatly superior in number, without reckoning 1,000 men under Sumter, who was cutting the British off from their supplies on the west side of the Wateree river. Cornwallis met them on August 16, and began the engagement with a vigorous attack on the American left, formed by the Virginia and North Carolina militia who, as the British advanced, firing and cheering, threw down their arms and fled. The British victory was complete; the Americans lost about 1,000 killed and wounded, over 1,000 prisoners, and their artillery and stores; the British casualties were 324. Two days later Colonel Tarleton smartly surprised Sumter, and dispersed his band, retaking a convoy which had fallen into his hands shortly before the battle of Camden. The defeat of Gates's army drove the Americans almost to despair.

Cornwallis was encouraged to pursue his grand plan of "conquest from south to north". Clinton, though he did not approve of his forward policy,[154] sent General Leslie with 3,200 men to Chesapeake bay to co-operate with him, and Cornwallis entered North Carolina and advanced as far as Charlotte. In spite of his brilliant victory he was beset by difficulties. The loyalists did not give him the help which he expected; as soon as he left South Carolina it broke into a ferment of disaffection, and his troops were not suited for the guerilla warfare largely adopted by the enemy, who were, Rawdon wrote, "mostly mounted militia not to be overtaken by our infantry, nor to be safely pursued in this strong country by our cavalry".[155] In this as in many other respects, the experiences of the war were repeated in South Africa in our own day. Before Cornwallis left South Carolina he detached a force of 800 militia and 100 regulars under Major Ferguson to scour the border and keep the country quiet in the rear of the army. They were met by a partisan army of 3,000 men under different leaders at King's Mountain on October 7; Ferguson was killed and all his men were either slain or captured. So severe a loss, combined with the anxiety of Cornwallis lest the important post called Ninety-six should be taken,[Pg 221] put a stop to any further advance. Cornwallis fell back on Winnsborough, and bade Leslie convey his force to Charleston, which he was able to do as England had command of the sea, and reinforce him. The safety of the border was his first care. No sooner had Tarleton checked the inroads of Marion in the east than he was summoned westwards to protect Ninety-six from Sumter. He engaged Sumter's force at Blackstock on November 20, and claimed to have defeated him. Tarleton was a dashing cavalry officer, given to overrating his own achievements. His troops were few and weary, and at best he escaped defeat; but Sumter's band dispersed, for its leader was wounded and disabled for a while from further action.[156]


In December Greene, a general of far greater ability than Gates, took the chief command in the south. Cornwallis found the enemy on both his flanks. On the east Marion, then in common with Sumter holding a commission from congress, Henry Lee, and Greene himself endangered his communications with the coast, and penetrated as far as Georgetown, and on the west another division under Morgan threatened Ninety-six. Disaffection was spreading rapidly through the province. Believing that his one chance of conquering from south to north lay in pushing forward, he determined to march into North Carolina. Leslie joined him in January, 1781, and Clinton sent Arnold and Phillips with a large force to take Leslie's place in Virginia. On setting out for North Carolina, Cornwallis detached Tarleton to deal with Morgan. He brought him to bay at the Cowpens, near King's Mountain, on the 17th. Tarleton's force, numbering about 1,100, was slightly superior to that of the enemy, but he engaged while his men were weary after a hard night-march. Some of his troops behaved badly; he was utterly defeated, and lost nearly 800 men. This defeat was a severe blow to Cornwallis, for it deprived him of the best part of his light troops, which were specially necessary for his march through a wooded and thinly populated country where much foraging had to be done. He determined to advance, hoping to get between Greene and Virginia, and force him to fight before he received reinforcements. He burnt his superfluous baggage and crossed the Catawba river. The two divisions of the[Pg 222] American army retreated hastily through North Carolina, succeeded in forming a junction, and crossed the Dan into Virginia before the British could come up with them. Having thus cleared the province of the revolutionary troops, Cornwallis encamped at Hillsborough, and on February 20 summoned the loyalists to join him. Some were coming in when, on the 23rd, Greene, who had received reinforcements, recrossed the Dan. Any further loyalist movement was stopped by an act of revolting barbarity; 200 loyalists were caught by Lee's horse on their way to the British quarters; they made no resistance and asked for quarter, but were butchered by their fellow-countrymen.

Cornwallis, finding it difficult to support his troops and being anxious to encourage the loyalists by showing his superiority in the field, accepted Greene's offer of battle at Guilford courthouse on March 15. His force scarcely numbered 2,000, while the enemy, regulars and militia, were 4,300 strong. The battle was begun by the British left, consisting of the 22nd and 23rd regiments, supported by grenadiers and guards, which charged and routed the first line of the enemy with the bayonet. The second line, formed by Virginians, stood steady and was not driven back without a severe struggle; so too the First Maryland regiment, in the third line, repulsed the first attack upon it with heavy loss. The Second Marylanders fell back before a battalion of guards, who pressed heedlessly after them and were suddenly engaged by the American dragoons. The guards fought fiercely, but were broken. For a moment things looked awkward. Then the enemy was checked by the British artillery and the guards were rallied by their brigadier O'Hara, who, though severely wounded, was still able to do good service. The British fought magnificently and won a brilliant victory. Yet it was dearly bought, for the loss of over 500 rank and file, a full third of his infantry, left Cornwallis powerless. His little army was in need of supplies and he marched to Wilmington, where stores brought by sea were laid up for him.


Being too weak to do anything further without reinforcements, he decided to leave the Carolinas, effect a junction with Arnold in Virginia, and attempt the conquest of that province, reckoning that success there would check disaffection in South Carolina and ultimately tend to the conquest of North[Pg 223] Carolina.[157] He wished Clinton to prosecute the war in Virginia with all the strength at his command, even at the expense of giving up New York. Clinton, however, was throughout opposed to his forward policy; he would have had him attempt nothing beyond the power of the force which he left with him, "the defence of South, and most probably the reduction of North, Carolina," and he did not intend the troops sent to Virginia to engage in "solid" operations, which he judged to be inadvisable until he should himself take the field. The king and the cabinet approved Cornwallis's line of action.[158] He advanced into Virginia on his own responsibility. This step led to unfriendly relations between the two commanders, and after the war was the subject of a bitter controversy between them. Cornwallis effected a junction with Arnold's army on May 20, and in command of over 5,000 troops overran the province, Lafayette, with a far inferior force, retreating before him. Meantime Rawdon struggled gallantly, though unsuccessfully, against Greene in South Carolina. He defeated Greene at Hobskirk hill on April 25, but was forced to retire from Camden. The loyalists saw that the British could not protect them; the whole province was disaffected, and post after post was taken by Greene, Lee, Sumter, Marion, and other generals. At last, after Rawdon's return to England on account of ill-health, a hard-fought battle at Eutaw springs on September 8, which both sides claimed as a victory, so weakened the British force that it remained in and about Charleston until it was withdrawn at the end of the war.

To return to the spring of the year, Cornwallis's invasion of Virginia and the destruction of property there seemed likely to bring the war to a successful issue. Washington's army was in grievous want of supplies, the American marine was annihilated, their finances were in a ruinous state, and their resources generally almost exhausted. Powerful co-operation with Cornwallis on the part of Clinton was urgently needed. The issue of the struggle depended on the power of Great Britain to prevent a French fleet and army from undertaking a joint enterprise with the Americans. At this critical juncture England lost the superiority at sea. In May, Washington and[Pg 224] Rochambeau agreed that, as soon as Grasse brought his fleet over, they would join forces, and either attack New York or, perhaps, march into Virginia, as circumstances might direct. Clinton discovered their design, would not spare any troops from New York, and in June called on Cornwallis to send him part of the force under his command, and ordered him to take up a defensive position. Cornwallis retired down the James river to Portsmouth. Clinton withdrew his demand for troops and directed him to fortify a station on the Yorktown peninsula as a port for ships. He would there be able to take up a defensive position secured by access to the sea. Cornwallis concentrated all his forces, about 7,000 men, and fortified Yorktown and Gloucester. On July 6 Rochambeau, in expectation of the arrival of Grasse's fleet, brought his troops from Rhode Island (p. 219) and joined Washington at White Plains. It was agreed between Grasse and Washington that the united army, 4,000 French and 2,000 Americans, should march into Virginia and act in co-operation with the French fleet. Clinton, however, deceived by fictitious letters, written by Washington and designed to be intercepted, believed that it would attack New York, and remained quietly there while it marched half through New Jersey. Not until September 2 did he discover that it was on its way to join in a combined attack on Cornwallis. On the 5th it reached the head of Chesapeake bay.


By that time the inferiority of the British fleet rendered Cornwallis's situation extremely perilous. When Hood with the fourteen ships of the line left by Rodney (p. 218) arrived off Cape Henry on August 25, Graves was not there to meet him; he sailed to Sandy Hook and joined him. The fleet, nineteen ships of the line, sailed under Graves to Chesapeake bay, and found that during Hood's absence Grasse had entered the bay with twenty-eight ships of the line. Grasse at once stood out to sea, for he was anxious to secure a junction with the squadron from Newport, under Count de Barras, which Rodney had failed to attack in the previous September. Graves, who should have caught these ships instead of aiming at the main fleet, engaged him on September 5, handled his fleet badly, and got his ships knocked about. While he remained uselessly at sea the squadron of Barras slipped into the bay. On the 14th the British fleet returned to New York to refit, and Cornwallis was left[Pg 225] without succour. Lafayette with a large army of French and Americans was already blocking the neck of the peninsula. Clinton attempted a perfectly useless diversion in Connecticut under Arnold. Washington's army joined Lafayette on the 18th, and Cornwallis was soon besieged by a force of over 16,000 men. On October 19 he was forced to capitulate. Of the garrison which surrendered at Yorktown and Gloucester, 6,950 men, only 4,017 remained fit for duty. On the day of the surrender, naval reinforcements having arrived at New York and the fleet at last being refitted, Clinton sailed with 7,000 troops to the relief of Cornwallis. They found that they were too late and returned to New York.

With this disaster the war in America virtually ended. Cornwallis in his attempt to recover the southern provinces showed a vigour and capacity which might, perhaps, have brought matters to a different issue if he had held the chief command. But his means were inadequate to meet the wastage caused by battle and sickness; he found the loyalists a broken reed, and his troops not well suited to the kind of warfare in which they were engaged. "Had Lord Cornwallis staid in Carolina, as I had ordered him," wrote Clinton, "and I had even assembled my forces at New York, and remained there with my arms across without affront, negative victory would have insured American Dependence."[159] "Arms across" seems indeed to have been Clinton's favourite attitude.[160] Cornwallis's advance into Virginia was certainly a risky movement, but it was a choice of evils and did not in itself entail disaster. Clinton reckoned, not without reason, that the Americans were too exhausted to prolong the struggle; he was in favour of desultory operations on the Chesapeake, against Baltimore and Philadelphia, with the view of gaining loyalist support, and of waiting until he had received reinforcements large enough to enable him to undertake a "solid" campaign in Virginia, without leaving New York insufficiently defended. Cornwallis believed that the best chance of success lay in securing a firm hold on Virginia. Germain, who still persisted in directing operations in America from London, considered Cornwallis's plan more promising than that of Clinton.[Pg 226] He treated Cornwallis as though he had an entirely independent command, with the result that serious misunderstandings arose between Cornwallis and Clinton, the commander-in-chief, which hindered their co-operation; and while he approved of the plan adopted by Cornwallis he did not discountenance Clinton's proposals, with the result that neither course of action was vigorously pursued. It was by Clinton's order that Cornwallis retired to the York peninsula, where his safety depended on the continued command of the sea; the choice of Yorktown as his post was his own. It was not a good choice; but he had little reason to expect that he would have to hold it against an overwhelming force of French and Americans, with a French fleet in command of the sea. Clinton should not have been misled by Washington's simple trick into allowing the combined force to advance beyond his reach on its way to crush Cornwallis's army.

The true cause of the catastrophe, however, lay in naval mismanagement. The mistaken policy of employing the British fleet in various and distant enterprises instead of off the ports of the enemy enabled Grasse to sail from Brest unopposed. Rodney let slip a grand opportunity of baulking his plans off Fort Royal, and sent, perhaps was forced to send, Hood after him to America with an insufficient fleet. Partly through accident and partly through an error of judgment, Graves missed his junction with Hood. Grasse was consequently allowed quietly to enter Chesapeake bay, and Graves afterwards failed to use his ships to the best advantage. The loss of the command at sea was fatal to Cornwallis.


Tidings of the disaster reached London on November 25, two days before the meeting of parliament. On receiving them North's habitual calmness broke down; he threw up his arms as though he were shot, and repeatedly exclaimed, "O God! it is all over!" The king's fortitude was unshaken, and he showed no sign of agitation, save that, in acknowledging Germain's letter informing him of the surrender, he omitted to note the exact moment of his writing, as his custom was. The speech from the throne at the opening of parliament, while acknowledging disaster, contained no hint of giving way. Parliament for a while upheld the ministers, and the address was carried in the lords by 75 to 31, and in the commons by 218 to 129. Fox and Burke threatened the ministers with impeachment and the[Pg 227] scaffold; and Pitt condemned their policy in speeches not less effective for being more moderate in tone. North announced that the war would no longer be carried on with a design of conquest, but only for the possession of posts on the coast which would be useful in the war with France and Spain. Crowded meetings in London and Westminster condemned the government. It was evident that there was dissension in the cabinet; North was anxious for an acknowledgment of American independence, Germain declared that he would never agree to it. By Christmas the government lost many supporters in parliament.

Its position was further weakened by continued ill-success in war. The Marquis de Bouillé retook St. Eustatius on October 25. Grasse returned to Martinique, and in January, 1782, the two commanders landed a force on St. Kitts and besieged the garrison. Hood followed Grasse with twenty-two ships, out-manœuvred him brilliantly, beat him off on the 26th, and held his station against a fleet of thirty-three ships of the line until February 14, when, as he was unable to prevent the fall of the island, he sailed away. The capture of St. Kitts and Nevis reduced the British possessions in the West Indies to Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbadoes. A joint attack on Jamaica was planned by France and Spain. Rodney, however, again arrived at the Antilles with twelve ships, was joined by Hood, and, as we shall see in the next chapter, restored the British flag to its proper place at sea. Nearer home, Kempenfeldt, the admiral whose tragic end is famous in Cowper's verse, dealt the enemy a severe blow. He was sent, in December, 1781, with only twelve ships to intercept a French fleet consisting, as the admiralty knew, or ought to have known, of seventeen ships with a convoy bound for the West Indies. Kempenfeldt took at least twenty of the convoy with troops and stores, but, overmatched as he was, he was forced to let the fleet sail on. It was dispersed by a storm shortly afterwards, and many of the ships returned home. The loss of this convoy seriously crippled the French in the West Indies.[161] In the Mediterranean, the garrison of St. Philips, in Minorca, which had been besieged since August by a French and Spanish army, was forced to surrender on February 5, after being reduced by sickness and war from 2,692[Pg 228] to 600 men fit for duty, and eighty years after its conquest the island was lost to England.

During the recess the ministers, convinced of the folly of prolonging the war, arranged to go on without Germain. Carleton succeeded Clinton at New York, and Germain was succeeded as third secretary of state by the insignificant Welbore Ellis, and was created Viscount Sackville, much to the wrath of the whig peers, who tried in vain to obtain a vote that the presence of a cashiered officer was derogatory to the dignity of their house. The opposition gathered strength. A powerful attack by Fox on the administration of the navy failed by twenty-two votes, a motion by Conway for putting an end to the American war only by one, and a like motion was carried a few days later by a majority of nineteen. The government then introduced a bill to enable the king to make peace, and North sent envoys to Paris to sound Franklin as to terms. It was evident that the end was near, and the new government was eagerly discussed. Pitt, though acting with the opposition, took a somewhat independent line, and announced in the house that he would not accept a subordinate office. This from a young member not then twenty-three excited some amazement, but his assumption soon proved to be well founded. On March 11 George sent the chancellor, Thurlow, to negotiate with Rockingham, but would not accept his terms. Three days later the government escaped a vote of want of confidence only by nine votes, and on the 20th North announced the resignation of the ministry. George was in great distress, and talked of retiring to Hanover, for life would be unendurable to him if he fell into the hands of the Rockingham party.


The two parties in the opposition, though acting together against the government, held widely different views. The Rockinghams aimed at a homogeneous ministry; they represented the aristocratic whig faction, were the enemies of prerogative, and were strong advocates of American independence. Shelburne, like his old chief, Chatham, was opposed to government by party, held that the king should have an interest in the government, and so far "be his own minister," and like Chatham had been hostile to American independence.[162] For political[Pg 229] reasons, then, George was drawn to Shelburne, while personally he despised Rockingham and hated Fox. He invited Shelburne first, and then Gower, to form a ministry. Both declined. Shelburne could not afford to split with the Rockinghams; he knew that they could not stand without him, and he advised the king to send for Rockingham. George would not see Rockingham himself, and negotiated with him through Shelburne on the basis of freedom as regards men and measures, and as to the acknowledgment of American independence.[163] Rockingham formed his cabinet on the 24th. He took the treasury. Shelburne was secretary for home, Irish, and colonial affairs; Fox for foreign affairs, the third secretaryship being abolished; Keppel, who was created a viscount, first lord of the admiralty; Richmond, master-general of the ordnance; Lord John Cavendish, chancellor of the exchequer; Camden, president of the council; Grafton, privy seal; Conway, commander-in-chief; Dunning, who was created Baron Ashburton, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. To please the king Thurlow was retained as chancellor. Pitt was offered, and declined, a subordinate office. Burke was treated by his aristocratic friends as unworthy of cabinet office, and was made paymaster of the forces.

The king was defeated. His system of personal government through ministers supported by his influence in parliament received its death-blow from the ill-success of the American war. Before long he adopted a better system; he found a prime minister who could command the confidence of the nation, and he yielded himself, not always willingly, to his guidance. Meanwhile the whigs were victorious. How long they were to remain victors is yet to be seen. George was resolute, skilful in intrigue, and by that time well versed in politics. He was aided by the jealousies and mistakes of his opponents. Even in their hour of triumph they found that he gained an advantage over them. The cabinet was divided; its new members belonged half to the Rockingham and half to the Shelburne party, while Thurlow was the king's trusted friend. Rockingham acted unwisely in accepting office offered to him in a way which showed that he was not to have the king's[Pg 230] confidence. Though he was prime minister, George gave his apparent confidence to another member of the cabinet. Shelburne was not unreasonably believed to be ready to make himself useful to the king with an eye to his own advancement. The seeds of discord and distrust were at once sown among the new ministers. Even while the ministry was in process of formation Fox sharply remarked to Shelburne that he perceived that it "was to consist of two parts—one belonging to the king, the other to the public".[164]


[145] Coxe, Bourbon Kings of Spain, iii., 424-37.

[146] George III. to North, April 18, 1782, Corresp., ii., 423.

[147] Rockingham Memoirs, ii., 425.

[148] Parl. Hist., xxii., 488.

[149] George to North, Sept. 26, 1780, Corresp., ii., 336.

[150] For the contrary view see Engl. Hist. Rev., v. (1890), 31 sq.

[151] Letters of Sir S. Hood, Introd., xxxi.-xxxii., pp. 15-16, ed. Hannay.

[152] Washington to Jefferson, June 8, 1780, Works, viii., 71; Clinton to Germain, Oct. 29, 1780, Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 283.

[153] Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 238, 246, 261, 267.

[154] Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 104 n. 3a.

[155] Rawdon to Leslie, Oct. 24, 1780, ibid., p. 274; see also pp. 272, 278.

[156] Cornwallis to Clinton, Dec. 3, 1780, op. cit., pp. 304-7; Tarleton, Campaigns of 1780, 1781, pp. 179-80; Stedman, ii., 229-31.

[157] Cornwallis to Germain, April 18, 1781, Clinton-Cornwallis Controv., i., 417-18.

[158] Germain to Cornwallis, March 7, 1781, ibid., p. 338; see also ii., 10.

[159] Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy, i., 43, n. 1b.

[160] Rodney to Germain, Dec. 22, 1780, Hist. MSS. Comm. Rep., ix., App., pp. 108-9.

[161] Chevalier, Histoire de la Marine Française (l'Indép. Amer.), pp. 278, 280.

[162] Parl. Hist., xxii., 987, 1003.

[163] Life of Shelburne, iii., 125-32.

[164] Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 292; see also p. 316.



The new ministers at once attacked the sources from which the crown derived its corrupt influence over parliament. They carried bills preventing contractors from sitting in parliament and depriving revenue officers of the franchise. As these officers, who were dependent on the ministers of the crown, numbered according to one computation nearly 40,000, and to another 60,000, out of an electorate of about 300,000, their disfranchisement was an important step towards freedom of election. A message to parliament recommending economy was extorted from the king as an introduction to a plan of economical reform which was brought forward by Burke. It was not so drastic as his earlier plan, for the king acting in the cabinet through Shelburne and Thurlow objected to many of the proposed retrenchments. Nevertheless, in spite of mutilations, the bill, which became law, effected a saving of £72,000 a year, chiefly by abolishing useless offices. The act also again provided for the payment of arrears of the civil list, amounting this time to £296,000. Burke nobly continued his work by a bill for the reform of his own office, preventing the paymaster from gaining the enormous profits appropriated by nearly all his predecessors. Another declaration in favour of freedom of election was made by the commons, for they at last accepted Wilkes's annual motion for expunging from their journals the resolution of February, 1769, declaring him incapable of re-election. The corrupt influence of the crown would, Pitt declared, be checked most effectually by a reform of parliament. Acting on his own account, he proposed an inquiry into the state of the representation, without bringing forward any scheme of reform. He pointed out that some boroughs were in the hands[Pg 232] of the treasury, that others had no actual existence, and that many were merely the property of purchasers, the nawáb of Arcot, for example, returning seven or eight members. His motion, though supported by Fox, was rejected by 161 to 141.


Most memorable of the changes effected during the Rockingham administration is the establishment of the legislative independence of Ireland. When Carlisle went over as viceroy in December, 1780, he was instructed that the government would not oppose the demand for a habeas corpus act, but that he was to prevent parliament from declaring for legislative independence, or for a limitation of the perpetual mutiny act which kept the army beyond its control. The Irish parliament for a while steadily supported the government. The small party in opposition included Flood, who, after holding a lucrative office for six years, found himself unable to influence the government, adopted a hostile line, and was dismissed, and, above all, Grattan who had become leader of the party after Flood took office. But the force which was to enlist parliament on the national side was outside its walls. The volunteers grew in strength, and reviews of large bodies of them were held during the summer of 1781. They remained loyal, and when in September the fleets of France and Spain threatened the coast of Munster, they eagerly prepared to meet the enemy. At the same time the impending success of the American revolution encouraged them to demand independence for their own country, and as they were nearly 100,000 armed and disciplined men, while less than 5,000 regular troops were left in Ireland, their voice could not be disregarded. It soon made itself heard. On the invitation of Charlemont's regiment a meeting of delegates from the Ulster volunteers assembled in the church of Dungannon on February 15, 1782. They passed resolutions condemning the claim of the British parliament to legislate for Ireland, and the control which, in accordance with Poyning's act, the privy councils of England and Ireland exercised over Irish legislation, and they demanded the limitation of the mutiny act, and the independence of the judges.

Before the Irish parliament met after the Easter recess the Rockingham ministry came into office; Carlisle was abruptly removed, and the Duke of Portland was appointed to succeed him. Rockingham, Fox, and Burke were anxious to satisfy[Pg 233] Ireland, but the ministry seems not to have determined its exact line of policy. An attempt was made to embarrass the ministers by Eden, Carlisle's chief secretary, apparently in revenge for their discourteous treatment of Carlisle. Without consultation with them, he proposed the repeal of the act of 9 George I. which asserted the right of the king and parliament of Great Britain to legislate for Ireland. Fox opposed the motion and it was withdrawn. The next day, April 9, the ministers brought a royal message to parliament recommending to its consideration means of satisfying Irish discontent. The spirit manifested in the Dungannon meeting overcame the resistance of the Irish parliament, and the nation was united in its demands. Rockingham and Fox tried in vain to persuade Grattan to give them time for consideration.[165] On the 16th he moved an address to the king in the Irish parliament asserting independence, and it was carried unanimously. The ministers, misled by Portland, believed that the Irish demands might be modified, and proposed negotiation. Grattan refused, and they yielded everything. On May 17 resolutions, afterwards followed by statutes, were carried without division in both houses, conceding legislative independence to Ireland, restoring the appellate jurisdiction of the Irish house of lords, and limiting the mutiny act. Ireland thus became almost an independent state. It remained connected with Great Britain by the tie of the crown, it had no executive dependent on its parliament, and its legislation was subject to a ministerial veto. The revolution of 1782, pressed on by Grattan, set up relations between the two kingdoms which were anomalous and fraught with danger.


Negotiations for peace were in progress, but the war still went on, and its last great events were glorious. The navy was far stronger than in 1778; the dockyards were busy during the war, and the number of ships was much larger. Improvements of various kinds were adopted; ships were coppered, the rapidity and accuracy of their fire was increased by new inventions, and carronades—light guns with a large bore mounted on the upper deck, for use at close quarters—not yet adopted by the French, were added to their armament. The discipline and ardour of the personnel of the navy reached a high pitch. The British sailor was keen to fight the Frenchman, and 93,168 seamen and[Pg 234] marines are entered as borne during the present year. We left the French and Spanish fleets in the West Indies preparing to conquer Jamaica (p. 227). Grasse was at Fort Royal, and was to join the Spaniards on the coast of San Domingo, and Rodney, whose fleet was raised by his junction with Hood and the arrival of reinforcements to thirty-seven ships of the line, lay on the watch at St. Lucia. On April 8 the French stood out to sea, and the next day Rodney found them off Dominica. An indecisive action took place in which, owing to baffling calms, only the British van was engaged. Grasse then beat to windward between Dominica and the Iles des Saintes, but in consequence of various accidents made little way. The British followed him, and early on the 12th Sir Charles Douglas, the captain of the fleet, awakened Rodney with the stirring tidings that "God had given him the enemy on the lee-bow".

The English fleet was numerically the stronger, but the French had finer ships and heavier batteries. The action began about 7.30 A.M. At first it seemed likely to be as indecisive as usual, the two fleets passing each other on opposite tacks and cannonading, the French being to windward. As they sailed slowly with a light breeze, and at a short distance from each other, the British guns and especially the carronades were highly effective, for the enemy's ships were crowded with soldiers for the attack on Jamaica. Before long the battle took a form which rendered it memorable in the annals of naval warfare, for Rodney, without previous design, practised the manœuvre known as breaking the enemy's line, and by that means was enabled to bring the engagement to a decisive issue, such as he hoped for in the battle of April 17, 1780. This manœuvre, afterwards deliberately adopted with triumphant success by Howe, Nelson, and other great captains, though often practised in the naval battles between the English and the Dutch in the seventeenth century,[166] had fallen into complete oblivion, so firmly did admirals believe in the necessity of keeping their line of battle. By cutting through the enemy's line an admiral could concentrate his attack on any portion of it which could least easily receive help from the rest, and could throw the line into confusion; the ships to the rear of the point of penetration would be stopped, massed up, and might be caught together,[Pg 235] while those ahead pursued their course. This mode of attack was worked out by a landsman, Clerk of Eldin, and though his Essay was not fully printed until 1782, parts of it were privately circulated in 1780.

As Rodney's flagship, the Formidable (98), which was half way down the British line, was coming up with the Glorieux (74), the fourth from Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris (104), a slight change in the wind opened a gap between the Glorieux and the ship next astern of her. Douglas urged Rodney to steer through the gap. He refused, then yielded; and as the Formidable, firing right and left from every gun at the ships on either side of her, passed round the stern of the Glorieux, and within pistol-shot of her, the French canonniers could be seen throwing down their sponges and handspikes and running below to escape the storm of shot which she poured upon them. This time Rodney's captains were quick to understand what he was at. The next five ships followed the Formidable, and like her engaged on the windward side of the enemy. Almost at the same time the ship sixth astern of her also cut the enemy's line, passing through a gap abreast of her. The French line was thus cut into three divisions, and its central portion, consisting of five ships, was thrown together and exposed to a deadly attack. By noon the enemy was scattered in various groups, the English, who had gained the wind, attacking at will and without any order. Grasse fought his ship, the splendid offering of the city of Paris to its king, with conspicuous gallantry, and the slaughter on board her was awful. At last, about 6 P.M., he hauled down the flag of France with his own hands, and surrendered himself to Hood on the Barfleur (90). Rodney then stopped the fight. Four other prizes were taken. Twenty more, Hood declared, might have been taken if Rodney had followed up his victory. He certainly lost a fine opportunity, probably because disease and suffering had robbed him of some of his former vigour. As it was, the "Battle of the Saints" saved Jamaica from invasion, seriously damaged the French fleet, and shed glory on the navy of Britain.[167][Pg 236]

The concluding scenes of the siege of Gibraltar were not less glorious. Vast preparations were made to take the fortress, which in September was besieged on the land side by nearly 40,000 men, under the Duke de Crillon. The combined fleets, forty-nine ships of the line, lay at Algeciras, and ten floating batteries were constructed which, it was believed, could neither be sunk nor burned. The garrison consisted of 7,000 men fit for duty. Lord Howe, who on the change of ministry was appointed to command the channel fleet, sailed to its relief on the 11th with thirty-four ships of the line and many store-ships and transports. On the 8th, when the enemy's works were not completed, Eliott opened fire upon them and did them much damage by using red-hot balls. During the next four days the enemy replied by a terrific bombardment from their heavy ordnance and gunboats. Early on the 13th a general attack was made by land-batteries and sea-batteries, and a perpetual fire was poured upon the fortress from over 300 pieces of the heaviest artillery. Eliott directed his red-hot shot chiefly against the battering ships, and at last during the night two of them caught fire. In the confusion which ensued Captain Curtis, commanding a small naval brigade, brought out his gunboats and completed the enemy's discomfiture. Nine of the battering-ships blew up, and the tenth was burnt by Curtis's boats. Some 1,500 of the enemy perished, and 400 were saved from death by the British seamen. After the failure of their great attempt, the enemy could only hope to reduce the place by blockade. Howe's fleet had a troublesome voyage, and did not come in sight until October 11. He effected the relief of the garrison with admirable skill. As he repassed the straits the combined fleet followed him, and on the 20th engaged him at a distance, but he brought his fleet off with little damage. The siege was raised on February 6, 1783, when the war had ceased. Eliott, to whom the successful issue of the defence, one of the finest feats of the British arms, was principally due, was created Baron Heathfield.


In India the outbreak of war with France encouraged the Maráthás, who dominated the country from Mysore to the Ganges, in the hope of expelling the British, by acting in conjunction with Haidar Alí. Hastings found that a French agent was intriguing with them, and took prompt measures against them. An expedition from Bombay failed miserably, but[Pg 237] Colonel Goddard, who was sent by Hastings from Bengal, captured Ahmadábád, and drove Sindhia over the Narbadá. His fortress, Gwalior, was stormed by Major Popham in August, 1780. Nevertheless, the war strained Hastings's resources. His difficulties were terribly increased by the invasion of the Karnatic. Haidar and his son, Tipú, practically took the English by surprise, overran the country with an army of some 75,000 cavalry and 15,000 infantry, instructed by 400 Frenchmen; defeated the Madras troops, captured Arcot, and threatened Madras. Sir Eyre Coote, who had come out to conduct the Maráthá war, was despatched to Madras, and in 1781 negotiations were opened with Sindhia, and his former possessions were restored to him. Peace was made with the Maráthá confederacy in May, 1782, by the treaty of Salbái, which was ratified seven months later. While Coote was forcing Haidar to raise the siege of various British fortresses in January, 1781, a French fleet appeared at Pondicherry. Haidar called upon it to help him, for his own fleet had been destroyed by Admiral Hughes; but Coote prevented the French from obtaining supplies, and they sailed away without effecting anything. He gained a splendid victory over Haidar at Porto Novo on July 1, met him with doubtful success at Pollilúr, completely routed him at Sholinghar, and, in January, 1782, though suffering from serious illness, skilfully relieved Vellore.

Hughes had already taken the Dutch settlements, Negapatam and Trincomali, when in February a French fleet appeared off Madras to protect them. It was commanded by M. de Suffren, an admiral of remarkable ability. Suffren sailed from France in March, 1781. He fell on an English squadron, on its way to seize the Dutch colony at the Cape, in the neutral water of Porto Praya harbour in the Cape de Verde islands. The fight was indecisive, but he arrived first at the Cape and prevented the projected attack. His fleet was superior to that of Hughes, whose principal object was to prevent him from gaining a port as a place of supply and for landing troops. Hughes fought four indecisive battles with him, and was unable either to prevent the French from acting with Haidar, or from taking Cuddalore, which gave them a good naval and military station, or from reducing Trincomali. In this long and famous naval duel Hughes, though a capable and gallant captain, showed[Pg 238] himself far inferior to Suffren in strategical and tactical skill. The French admiral, however, was constantly thwarted by the misconduct of his subordinates, while the English captains gave Hughes loyal support.[168] Coote carried on the war with vigour, but his victory over Haidar and his French allies at Arni was rendered fruitless by his lack of cavalry and supplies. Haidar died in December, leaving a message bidding his son make peace with the English, which Tipú did not obey. Coote died in April, 1783. The peace with the Maráthás enabled the English to invade Tipú's country on the Malabar side, where they met with some success and one signal disaster. Meanwhile Coote's successor, Stuart, was attacking the French in Cuddalore. A fifth indecisive battle with Suffren on June 20 compelled Hughes to withdraw his fleet to Madras to refit. Stuart's army, weakened by disease and in sore need of supplies, was saved from probable disaster by the news of the treaty of Versailles. Deprived of his French allies, Tipú was at last, March 11, 1784, persuaded by Lord Macartney, the governor of Madras, to make peace. By this treaty, which Macartney made against the commands of Hastings, both parties surrendered their conquests. A renewal of war was certain, for Tipú's arrogance was unabated.


Although the government carried some highly beneficial measures it was not free from the usual whig failings. Led astray by party spirit, the ministers sent Admiral Pigot, a mere nonentity, to supersede Rodney. Scarcely had they done so when the news of Rodney's victory reached them. A messenger was at once despatched to stop Pigot, but it was too late. Rodney was created a baron, a rank which some thought unequal to his deserts. While the ministers virtuously curtailed the expenditure of the civil list, they burdened the country with pensions of £4,000 a year to Dunning and £3,200 to Barré, both members of Shelburne's party. And they quarrelled amongst themselves. That was the inevitable result of the existence of two parties in the cabinet. Between Shelburne and Fox there was much ill-feeling, which came to a head over the negotiations for peace. Until the independence of the American colonies was acknowledged, negotiations with them belonged to Shel[Pg 239]burne's department. The arrangement of a peace with foreign enemies was Fox's business, and he would also be responsible for negotiations with the Americans as soon as the colonies were recognised as forming an independent state. In addition to the difficulties naturally arising from this division of responsibility, the two secretaries differed on policy. Fox desired an immediate recognition of American independence, in the hope of detaching the Americans from the French alliance, and so putting England in a better position for dealing with her other enemies; Shelburne agreed with the king that the acknowledgment should be a condition of a joint treaty with France and America, for England would then have a claim to receive some return for it.

Shelburne with, it is said,[169] the consent of the cabinet, sent one Oswald to Paris to open informal negotiations with Franklin. Oswald, who was wholly unfit for diplomatic work, favourably received Franklin's monstrous proposition that England should cede Canada to the Americans, though they had been driven out of the country, and the Canadians themselves desired to remain attached to England. He gave Shelburne a paper containing this proposition. Shelburne, who would certainly not have assented to it, treated the paper as confidential and did not show it to his colleagues. The cabinet agreed that Oswald should return to treat with Franklin, and that Thomas Grenville, the second son of George Grenville, who was nominated by Fox, should negotiate with Vergennes. Rodney's victory gave the ministers ground for believing that, if they could separate America from France, they would be in a good position to resist French demands; and they therefore instructed Grenville to propose to Vergennes that England should acknowledge American independence directly, and not through France. This Fox held gave him the whole conduct of the negotiations. As, however, Franklin was anxious not to lose so pliant a negotiator as Oswald, the cabinet agreed that Oswald should continue to confer with him. On June 4, Grenville complained to Fox that the separate negotiation between Oswald and Franklin rendered it impossible for him to make any progress, and further told him that he had learned from Oswald that Shelburne had seen the paper containing Franklin's proposition[Pg 240] with respect to Canada. Fox was indignant, for he considered that Shelburne was carrying on a clandestine negotiation, and that the concealment of the Canada paper was a proof of his duplicity. On the 30th he proposed in the cabinet that the independence of America should be acknowledged without a treaty, which would have given him the entire charge of the negotiations. He was outvoted and declared that he would resign office. In this matter Shelburne does not appear to have been guilty of intrigue. The two secretaries mistrusted and were jealous of one another, and Fox was too ready to believe that Shelburne was secretly working in league with the king to counteract his negotiations, which was not the case. In concealing the Canada paper from his colleagues, Shelburne behaved with characteristic lack of openness, but as Franklin's proposition was informal and required no answer, the matter was trivial, and did not warrant the indignation which was expressed by Fox and his friends.[170]


On July 1, the day after Fox declared his intention to resign, Rockingham died. His death delivered George from the domination of the whigs. He at once bade Shelburne propose a plan for a ministry. The Rockingham party in the cabinet objected, declaring that they had a right to advise the king as to his choice, and pressed him to send for Portland, whose position as a whig magnate constituted his chief claim to office. George refused to yield to their dictation. Fox would not serve with Shelburne and resigned the seals. He was followed by only one member of the cabinet, Lord John Cavendish, by Portland, Burke, Sheridan, and a few more. Richmond, Keppel, and the rest of the party remained in office. Shelburne took the treasury, Pitt became chancellor of the exchequer, and Thomas Townshend succeeded Shelburne, and Lord Grantham Fox, as secretaries of state. Barré was made paymaster of the forces, and Lord Temple, afterwards Marquis of Buckingham, the eldest son of George Grenville, lord-lieutenant of Ireland. Fox was disappointed to find that so few followed him. Distrusting Shelburne as he did, he could not do otherwise than resign rather than serve with him. As, however, the new ministry[Pg 241] was a whig ministry, as Shelburne professed many of the Rockingham principles, and as Pitt, who virtually had the leadership of the lower house, was at that time a whig, he should have taken up a neutral position, supporting the government when he approved of its measures and opposing it when he disapproved of them. He took another course; at once went into opposition, declared the new ministers could not be bound either by promises or honour, and prophesied—after events make his words worth remembering—that they would soon "be joined by those men whom the house had precipitated from their seats".[171] Parliament was prorogued on July 11.

The chief business before the new ministry was to arrange terms of peace. England wished to free the Americans from French influence and to establish good relations with them by a separate negotiation. Vergennes hoped to delay the acknowledgment of independence until a general peace, intending that France should compensate Spain for her disappointment with respect to Gibraltar by securing for her the sole navigation of the Mississippi and that the United States should be enclosed by the Alleghanies. The American commissioners found that France regarded the success of the revolution, the result of her own work, with jealousy, and wished to shut them out from the Newfoundland fishery and from extension on the west and north. On the other hand, England acknowledged American independence on September 27, and showed herself inclined to meet their demands in a friendly spirit. Accordingly, without consulting the French ministers, they signed preliminaries of peace on November 30, the treaty to be concluded when terms were arranged between England and France. England acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States; the Mississippi was recognised as their boundary on the west, and on the north a line passing through the great lakes; and they secured a right to fish on the banks of Newfoundland and in the gulf of St. Lawrence. The American revolution was accomplished. Englishmen of all parties believed that the day of England's greatness was over. Yet the separation, bitter and humiliating as it was, taught her a lesson in colonial government which has rendered her empire strong as well as vast, while in place[Pg 242] of discontented colonies with cramped energies, it laid the foundation of a mighty power bound to her by bonds which will grow in strength so long as the affairs of both Great Britain and the United States are wisely directed. It was a happy beginning of the relations between the two powers that it was through England, and not through their foreign allies, that the Americans obtained the gratification of their legitimate ambitions, and that from the peace with the United States England gained some advantage in treating with her continental foes.

The treaty did not protect the loyalists. Shelburne did his best for them, but Franklin was bitter against them, and his feelings were those of the victorious party generally. The American commissioners would only agree that there should be no further confiscations and prosecutions, and that congress should recommend the several states to revise their laws concerning them. These articles were nugatory. Nothing short of a renewal of the war could have induced the Americans to forego their revenge, and if the war had gone on longer, the loyalists' fate would have been no better. Everywhere, with the exception of South Carolina, they were treated with barbarity. Some 60,000 persons left the country before Carleton evacuated New York, taking refuge either in Great Britain or her colonies. At least 25,000 of both sexes settled in the British maritime provinces of North America, and helped to establish the province of New Brunswick which received representative institutions in 1784; 10,000 others, United Empire Loyalists as they were afterwards called, in the valley of the St. Lawrence. England did what she could for her unfortunate friends; liberal grants of land were made to them, some had half-pay as military officers, and between 1783 and 1790 £3,112,455 was distributed among them, besides £25,785 granted in pensions.[172] Relief, however, was slow in coming, and many, reduced from wealth to penury, died in the utmost distress.


Preliminaries of peace with France and Spain were signed on January 20, 1783, and were followed by the definitive treaty of Versailles concluded on September 3. The war brought France into financial difficulties, and for that reason England,[Pg 243] though forced to cede some of her conquests in the last war, obtained as good terms as she had a right to expect. In the West Indies she restored St. Lucia to France, ceded Tobago, and received back Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. In Africa Senegal and Goree went to France, and Gambia and Fort St. James were guaranteed to England. France received back her commercial establishments in India; her right to participate in the Newfoundland fishery was clearly defined; England ceded to her the islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre in sovereignty, and the old stipulation for the demolition of the fortifications of Dunkirk was given up. France and Spain pressed the government to agree to some exchange for Gibraltar. The king, Shelburne, and the majority of the cabinet would have let it go if a sufficient compensation had been offered; Richmond and Keppel objected to its cession on any terms. The signature of the American preliminaries strengthened the position of Great Britain and the question was dropped.[173] Spain retained Minorca and West Florida, and England ceded East Florida to her. On the other hand, Spain restored by treaty Providence and the Bahama isles, which were surrendered without bloodshed in 1782, and had already been recovered not less easily by England; and she guaranteed the right of the English to cut logwood in the bay of Honduras. A truce with Holland led to a treaty providing for a mutual restoration of conquests, with the exception of Negapatam which was retained by England.

When parliament met on December 5, it was evident that the terms of peace would be sharply criticised by both the parties in opposition, the followers of North and of Fox. Shelburne was disliked and distrusted by his colleagues, who considered him secretive and inclined to act alone, and the government soon showed signs of dissolution. Richmond retired from the cabinet in January, 1783, though he kept his office; the next day Keppel resigned the admiralty because he was dissatisfied with the preliminaries, and Carlisle, the lord steward, also resigned for the same reason. Shelburne was prevented by his colleagues from making overtures to North, and Pitt, who stood by him, tried to persuade Fox to re-enter the ministry. Fox[Pg 244] asked if Shelburne would remain, and Pitt having answered that he would, at once declined. On this Pitt closed the interview with, it is said, the words: "I did not come here to betray Lord Shelburne". From that time Pitt and Fox were political enemies. The Duke of Rutland having succeeded Carlisle as lord steward with a seat in the cabinet, Grafton declared that Shelburne had no right to make an addition to the cabinet without consulting its members, and that he was making himself a "prime minister," and he too resigned the privy seal. According to the whigs the cabinet was to dictate to the king whom he should direct to form a cabinet, and was then to control its own composition. Their constitutional ideas were warped by their desire to perpetuate their own power.

The government was not in a case to speak with its enemies in the gate. In the commons 140 members were known to be supporters of Shelburne, 120 were followers of North, and 90 of Fox; the intentions of the rest were unknown or uncertain. With this division of parties and with the government in a state of dissolution, Fox, if he had exercised a little patience, might soon have formed a strong and united whig party. He chose another course, and, on February 14, formed an alliance with North on the basis of "mutual good-will and confidence"; they agreed that enough had been done to reduce the influence of the crown, that though the king should be treated with respect, he should have only "the appearance of power," and that on the question of parliamentary reform each should act as he chose. This coalition decided the fate of the government. The preliminaries of peace were discussed in parliament on the 17th, and almost every article was adversely criticised. In the lords the government address was carried by 13; in the commons it was rejected by 224 to 208. Fox was reproached for his "unnatural junction" with North, and his answer showed that he was prepared to act with him further than in that night's debate. On the 21st a vote of censure on the terms of the peace was carried by 207 to 190. The coalition was avowed. Fox defended it with ability on the ground that the country needed a broad and stable administration, and declared himself a candidate for office in the future ministry. Pitt, in a speech of great dignity, taunted "the self-made minister," contended that the objections to the peace were simply an attack on Shel[Pg 245]burne, and in a fine peroration spoke of himself as caring more for his own honour than for the emoluments of office. Shelburne resigned on the 24th.


The coalition was triumphant. It was condemned by the public, and the verdict has been endorsed by posterity. Though it is true that North carried on the war with America only to please the king, that was not then known, and his conduct in that, and almost every important matter, was utterly opposed to the principles which Fox professed. What ground was there for mutual confidence? For eight years Fox had reviled North with extraordinary bitterness. If his words were just he had no business to ally himself with him. "My friendships," he said, with a Latin quotation, "are perpetual, my enmities are not so," a good reason for reconciliation with a private enemy; but political quarrels should be founded on differences of principle. Fox's words illustrate his adherence to the whig notion that the politics of the nation might be treated by the members of a few great families as their personal concerns. Of the two, North was at first more blamed than Fox, for it seemed pusillanimous in him to forgive Fox's treatment, but neither escaped censure. The king was furious. He had no love for Shelburne, but he hated Fox, and determined if possible to avoid falling into the hands of the coalition. He offered the treasury to Pitt, who with admirable discernment saw that his time was not yet come, and refused it. He tried Gower; he tried to detach North from the coalition; he even offered terms to the coalition; then again he pressed Pitt to take the treasury, and failing in all these attempts, sought help from Chatham's nephew, Thomas Pitt, and failed to obtain it. From February 24 to April 2 the country was without an organised government. George was almost in despair, talked of retiring to Hanover, and spoke bitterly of the ingratitude of North, whose past subservience to him had been largely rewarded. At last he was forced to accept the coalition ministry, to give Portland the treasury, and to submit to the exclusion of Thurlow, who had been chancellor since 1778 in the ministries of North, Rockingham, and Shelburne.

The new cabinet consisted of Portland, who was little more than a figure-head; North and Fox, secretaries of state; Stormont, president of the council; Carlisle, privy seal; Lord John[Pg 246] Cavendish, chancellor of the exchequer; and Keppel, first lord of the admiralty. All except Stormont belonged to the party of Fox, the dominant partner in the coalition. The great seal was placed in commission. Burke again became paymaster, and Sheridan was secretary to the treasury. George was determined not to give his confidence to the ministers who had thus thrust themselves upon him, and to get rid of them as soon as possible. Fox applied himself assiduously to the duties of office, as indeed he did during the Rockingham administration, and strove in vain to overcome the king's dislike by deferential behaviour. George's hostility was strengthened by the friendship between Fox and the Prince of Wales. The prince's habits were dissolute and extravagant; he was an undutiful son, and the king a somewhat unforgiving father. He violently espoused the cause of the coalition, and George is said to have called the government "my son's ministry". It was time to provide him with a separate establishment, and Fox promised him that he would ask parliament for £100,000 a year. The majority of the cabinet thought the sum too large. The king was of the same opinion, and did not wish his son to be independent of all parental control. He therefore offered him an allowance of £50,000 from the civil list. Fox was unwilling to disappoint the prince, and the dismissal of the ministers seemed certain. They were saved by the prince's acceptance of the king's offer, in addition to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall which amounted to £12,000 a year; and parliament had only to vote him £60,000 for his debts and present expenses. The question of parliamentary reform was again brought forward by Pitt. As before, he urged that reform would prevent the crown from again exercising corrupt influence in parliament. He proposed as resolutions that the number of county and metropolitan members should be increased, suggesting an increase of at least a hundred, and that for the future any borough which was found by a committee of the house to be grossly corrupt should be disfranchised. This, he believed, would gradually reduce the number of members to what it then was, and would purify elections. North opposed the motion, Fox spoke in favour of it, though he wished that it had gone further. It was lost by 293 to 149. The public was no longer so eager for reform as[Pg 247] in 1780.[174] Sawbridge's annual motion for shortening the duration of parliament was lost by 121 to 56.


Indian affairs demanded immediate legislation. The company's charter was renewed in 1781; a new arrangement was made as to its dividends and its payments to the state, and its political transactions were placed more completely under ministerial control. Two committees were also appointed by the house of commons to inquire into its administration. Of one of these Burke was the most active member, and Dundas, then holding office under North, was chairman of the other. In 1782 Dundas moved resolutions condemning the company's administration; the Rockingham ministry took the matter up, and the house voted that Warren Hastings, the governor-general, should be recalled. The directors agreed, but on Rockingham's death the proprietors refused their assent. North's regulating act of 1773 worked badly. From 1774 to 1780 Hastings was thwarted in council by three of the four councillors sent out by the ministers, and specially by Francis, the reputed author of the Junius letters, who opposed him with extreme rancour. Hastings fought a duel with him in 1779 and wounded him; he returned to England, and Hastings gained a majority in the council. The Madras council also quarrelled with their governor, Lord Pigot; he was arrested by their order and died in confinement. Other difficulties arose from the independent action of the minor governments of Bombay and Madras, and from the indefinite character of the powers of the supreme court of judicature. Administrative abuses existed, and the extreme financial difficulties caused by the wars with the Maráthás, Haidar Alí, and the French, drove Hastings to adopt some high-handed measures. The Rockingham whigs were adverse to him, and Burke, whose generous emotions were roused by any tale of oppression, applied himself to collecting evidence against him, which his fervid imagination magnified and distorted.

Hastings guided the affairs of India through a period of extreme danger; preserved the empire, brought order out of anarchy in every branch of the administration, and won the esteem and confidence of the subject people, the army, and the[Pg 248] civil service. His task was not merely to govern well, but to provide dividends out of revenue, and his work was criticised by the company with reference to its pecuniary results as well as its political wisdom. In Bengal he abolished Clive's mischievous dual system, and administered the province through English officials; he reformed the collection of the revenue, and he effected large economies by reducing the enormous pension of the nawáb, who under his new system was spared the expenses of government, and by withholding the tribute to the emperor, who was a mere puppet in the hands of the Maráthás. While governor of Bengal he allied himself with the Muhammadan states on the frontier, and specially with Oudh, which he wished to make a barrier against Maráthá invasion. He took Allahábád and Kora from the emperor, or rather from the Maráthás, and made them over to Shujá-ud-Daulá, the wazír of Oudh, and partly to raise money for the company, and partly as a matter of policy he accepted the wazír's offer of forty lakhs of rupees for the loan of British troops to help him conquer the Rohillás, an Afghan tribe which had lately settled in those districts and was intriguing with the Maráthás. The conquest was carried out in Eastern fashion in 1774, and the wazír's cruelties, which were grossly exaggerated, were laid to Hastings's charge. The overthrow of the Rohillás was advantageous to the British rule; but though the council at Calcutta thought the bargain highly profitable to the company, the hiring out of British troops to serve as subsidiaries to an Asiatic potentate was a deplorable mistake. Another charge brought against Hastings concerned the execution of Nanda-Kumár (Nuncomar), a rascally Bráhman, who, after Hastings was appointed governor-general, helped his opponents in the council by bringing charges against him. Nanda-Kumár was hanged for a private forgery, after a patient trial in the supreme court. His death was highly convenient to Hastings, but there is no evidence that he had anything to do with the prosecution or sentence.[175]


During the Maráthá war, a tributary chief, Chait Singh, rájá of Benares, neglected to perform the demands made upon him, and showed a dangerously independent spirit. In 1781[Pg 249] Hastings imposed an enormous fine upon him; he revolted and was defeated, and his estates were confiscated and given to a kinsman. Though the rájá's conduct was contumacious, Hastings seems to have acted with undue severity. He was pressed for money, and left the rájá no choice between paying a very large sum and losing his estates. Difficulties increased, and he called on Asaf-ud-Daulá, then nawáb wazír of Oudh, to pay his heavy arrears of debt to the company. The begams, the mother and widow of the late nawáb, had a vast treasure which should have belonged to the state. Hastings was informed that these powerful ladies were helping Chait Singh; it was necessary to get money from the wazír, and he bade him force the ladies to give up their treasure. The resident at Lucknow brought up some troops; the begams' palace at Faizábád was blockaded, and their eunuch-ministers imprisoned and maltreated until the resident obtained enough to liquidate the wazír's debt. The wazír threw the odium of this transaction on the English. Hastings defended his conduct as just and politic. He was not directly responsible for the severe measures adopted by the wazír, but it was certainly not a matter in which the British governor-general and his officers should have taken any part. His conduct in this matter as well as towards the Benares rájá was misrepresented and used against him in England.

The refusal of the proprietors to recall Hastings was highly displeasing to the commons, and a petition from the company for relief from some obligations imposed in 1781 gave occasion to parliament again to interfere in its affairs. In April, 1783, Dundas, who was then in opposition to the coalition ministry, proposed a bill for the government of India. His plan was to render the governor-general more independent of his council, to subordinate more completely the inferior governments to the government of Bengal, to change the uncertain tenure of the zamíndárs into hereditary possession, to recall Hastings, and to appoint some noble, like Cornwallis, as his successor. As the government promised to bring in an India bill the next session, he allowed his bill to drop. When parliament reassembled in November, Fox brought in two bills, which were largely prepared by Burke, one affecting the constitution of the company, the other its administration in India. The first vested the management of the territories, revenue, and commerce of[Pg 250] the company in seven commissioners, named in the bill, for four years, with power to appoint and remove all officers of the company. After that term Fox suggested that the crown should nominate the commissioners, and meanwhile was to appoint to vacancies. Commercial transactions were to be managed by a subordinate board chosen by parliament from among the larger proprietors. The second bill abolished all monopolies in India, prohibited the acceptance of presents, and gave native landlords an hereditary estate. The objections urged against the first bill by the opposition, and chiefly by Pitt, Grenville, and Dundas, were grounded on its violation of the company's charter, and its tendency to vest the patronage of India in the existing ministry. Fox ably defended the bill, and Burke, in an eloquent speech, depicted, with much exaggeration, the injustice which, he maintained, the millions of India had suffered during Hastings's administration, and argued that the delinquencies of the company justified the violation of its charter.

It was, however, the political side of the bill which chiefly roused opposition. All seven commissioners belonged to Fox's party. For four years it vested in his nominees "all the patronage of the East". Pitt declared that it created "a new and enormous influence"; Grenville that "the treasures of India like a flood would sweep away our liberties". Fox was accused of making himself "King of Bengal," and a caricature represents him as Carlo Khan entering Leadenhall street on an elephant which has the face of North and is led by Burke. All this was party exaggeration; the bill was a genuine attempt to benefit the natives of India, and would not probably have had any really serious consequences in England, though the control of the Indian patronage for four years would have strengthened Fox's party, and, if it had afterwards been vested in the crown, would have given some opportunity for the exercise of corrupt influence by ministers. The king was waiting for an opportunity to get rid of the coalition ministry, and Thurlow and Temple easily excited his jealousy for the prerogative by telling him that the bill would deprive him of half his power and disable him for the rest of his life. His influence in the commons was diminished by recent legislation, and there the bill was carried by two to one. Before the second reading in the lords[Pg 251] he gave Temple a card authorising him to say that, whoever voted for the bill "would be considered by him as an enemy". This soon became known, and, on December 17, the commons voted by 153 to 80 that it was now necessary to declare that to report the king's opinion on any question pending in parliament with a view to influence votes is a high crime and misdemeanour. Nevertheless the king's unconstitutional move was successful; the lords rejected the bill. The next night George ordered the secretaries of state to send back their seals, for he would not receive them personally, and the coalition ministry was dismissed. Pitt at once accepted the offices of first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer.


He was then in his twenty-fifth year. Extraordinary difficulties faced him: the opposition of a large majority of the commons, led by Fox, a master of debate, and strong in men of ability and experience, and the discredit attaching to the king's unconstitutional action to which he owed his position. He found it difficult to form a ministry, for few were willing to join him in a struggle in which victory seemed hopeless. Shelburne, his former leader, he would not invite, for he could not endure his habitually enigmatic conduct. Temple, an instigator and the agent of the king's action, became secretary of state, but immediately resigned owing apparently to a personal offence. The new cabinet consisted only of Lords Sydney (Thomas Townshend) and Carmarthen, secretaries for the home and foreign departments; Gower, president of the council; Rutland, privy seal; Thurlow, chancellor; and Howe, first lord of the admiralty; besides Pitt who alone among them sat in the commons. Richmond again became master of the ordnance and a little later re-entered the cabinet. Dundas was treasurer of the navy. Pitt's acceptance of office was regarded by the opposition as a "boyish freak"; his ministry was "a mince-pie administration which would end with the Christmas holidays".[176]

Pitt had a majority of the commons against him; but in those days the cabinet was not so wholly dependent on the commons as it became after 1832.[177] Supported by the king and the lords, Pitt determined to do battle with the majority in the[Pg 252] hope that he would overcome their opposition, discredit his enemies, and win the confidence of the country before he appealed to it. Fox should have urged an immediate dissolution. If Pitt had tried to avoid it, he would have incurred the odium of hesitating to accept the will of the nation. Fox, however, used every effort to prevent a dissolution. The will of the commons had been thwarted by the king's unconstitutional interference, and he was determined to vindicate the authority of the house. Besides, he had a substantial majority, and though it might have been maintained by a general election, he knew that his coalition with North was unpopular, and that his India bill had aroused the hostility of some powerful corporations which felt that their privileges were endangered by his attack upon the company's charter. The affairs of India were at once made a pretext for an address to the crown deprecating a dissolution; the house was engaged upon them, and a dissolution would frustrate its endeavours. The king replied that he would not interfere with its work either by dissolution or prorogation.


The house reassembled after the Christmas recess on January 12. Fox relying on the authority of Lord Somers, one of the leading statesmen of the revolution, questioned the right of the crown to dissolve parliament during the business of a session; James II., he said, had done so and put an end to his reign. His contention was unsound; the will of a house of commons is not conclusive: the crown has a right to dissolve in order to ascertain the will of the nation. Pitt replied that he "would not compromise the royal prerogative or bargain it away in the house of commons". He was in a minority of 193 to 232. On the 14th, he brought in his India bill, which proposed to place the political concerns of the company under a board of control in England to be appointed by the crown, and to leave to the company its commerce and patronage. Fox attacked it as incomplete, and it was negatived though only by eight votes. A fierce struggle followed, a struggle, Dr. Johnson called it, "between George the Third's sceptre and Mr. Fox's tongue". Fox tried every means to force the ministers to resign; he put forth all his wonderful powers of debate and attacked Pitt with great bitterness; addresses to the crown and resolutions hostile to the ministers were adopted, and the sup[Pg 253]plies and the mutiny act were postponed. Through it all Pitt exhibited wonderful courage, sagacity, and self-control. A body of independent members proposed a compromise, and the king reluctantly assented. Fox declared himself willing to work with Pitt, but, determined to assert the authority of the house, insisted that the ministers should resign before arrangements were discussed. To this Pitt haughtily refused to assent. George upheld him: during the late administration he would not create any peers; on Pitt's recommendation he created four, and almost daily sent his young minister encouraging little notes. The lords too were on his side; they condemned as unconstitutional a resolution of the commons suspending certain statutory powers of the treasury, which was adopted in order to embarrass the ministry, and sent an address to the king assuring him of their support in the just exercise of the prerogative.

Pitt won general admiration by granting the valuable sinecure office of clerk of the pells to Barré in exchange for the pension secured to him by the whigs. His private means were only £300 a year, and, as such matters were then regarded, he might have taken the office himself without scandal; but uncertain as his position seemed to be, he preferred saving the country £3,200 a year to putting it into his own pocket. Feeling outside the house ran strongly in his favour; addresses were sent up thanking the king for dismissing the late ministry, and Pitt was presented with the freedom of the city of London. As on his return from the city on February 27 his carriage was being drawn by workmen in triumph up St. James's street, it was attacked opposite Brooks's, the meeting-place of Fox's party; he was assaulted and escaped with difficulty into White's club. Members of Brooks's were believed to be concerned in the outrage, which increased Pitt's growing popularity. The opposition began to waver. On March 1 a fresh address to the king for the removal of the ministers was carried by only twelve votes. George again refused his assent. Fox shrank from attempting the extreme measure of refusing supplies; it would, indeed, have been useless, for his suggestion that the house should pass a mutiny bill for a brief period met with no encouragement. He made one more effort; on the 8th he moved a representation to the king, drawn up by Burke, which was carried only by[Pg 254] one vote. The struggle was over; the next day the usual mutiny bill passed without a division; the supplies were voted, and on the 23rd Pitt saw that the time had come for a dissolution. A difficulty suddenly arose, for the great seal was stolen from Thurlow's house. A new one was promptly made, and on the 25th parliament was dissolved.

Of his coalition with North, Fox said that it could be justified only by success. For a second time he put his political fate to the touch. He attempted to give absolute authority to one branch of the legislature, to enable an existing house of commons to restrain the constitutional exercise of the prerogative, to prolong its own existence, and to hinder an appeal to the will of the nation. Both moves were disastrous to him. The coalition was condemned as unprincipled; whigs were offended at his alliance with North, whom they held responsible for the American war, tories by the alliance of North with the opponent of prerogative. His attempt to hinder the expression of the national will by a general election perplexed the whigs, his attack on the prerogative disgusted the tories. His India bill alarmed chartered bodies, and was held, unjustly it is true, but with some show of reason, to be inspired by the wish to perpetuate the power of the whig oligarchy through corrupt influence. Feelings of personal loyalty and of admiration for the youthful minister who dared to fight, and was able to win, the king's battle against such tremendous odds, combined to destroy the effect of George's unconstitutional proceeding and to rouse enthusiasm for Pitt. The opposition candidates were defeated in almost all the larger constituencies; 160 of them—"Fox's martyrs" they were called—lost their seats. The rout was complete; even Yorkshire, so long faithful to the great houses, returned Pitt's friend, Wilberforce, the son of a banker. One consolation they had. After an exciting struggle Fox was re-elected for Westminster, though only as second member, and, as we shall see, even this triumph was disputed. Fox's conduct caused the overthrow of the whig party, and gave the government into the hands of a minister whose high principles, not less than his supreme ability, commanded and preserved the confidence of the nation.


[165] H. Grattan, Life of Grattan, ii., 216-20.

[166] Hoste, Naval Tactics, i., 153-55, ed. Boswall.

[167] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 480-500; Hannay, Rodney, pp. 179-213, and Hood's Letters, pp. 101-21, 123-30; Mundy, Life of Rodney, ii., 222-50; Ann. Reg., xxv. (1782), 252-57.

[168] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 420-56.

[169] Life of Shelburne, iii., 175.

[170] Life of Shelburne, iii., 174-221; Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 330-87, 468-80; Lewis, Administrations of Great Britain, pp. 31-49; Lecky, History, iv., 226-35.

[171] Parl. Hist., xxiii., 163, 177.

[172] Jones, Hist. of New York, ii., 241-55, 497-509, 645-63; Sabine, American Loyalists, pp. 70, 86, 107-12.

[173] Life of Shelburne, iii., 305, 312-14; Anson, Grafton, pp. 346-50.

[174] Ann. Reg., xxvi. (1783), 176.

[175] Forrest, State Papers, India, i., Introd., xxxiii-xlviii; ii., 298-414; Sir A. Lyell, Warren Hastings, pp. 60-74; Sir J. F. Stephen, Story of Nuncomar.

[176] Lady Minto, Life of Lord Minto, i., 90; Wilberforce, Life of Wilberforce, i., 48.

[177] Anson, Law of the Constitution, ii., 129.




The first forty-one years of the reign are marked by important social and economic changes, some of which began earlier, and some were not fully carried out till later. Though the cursory review of them attempted in this chapter will extend beyond the date which we have already reached, it seems time to say something of such matters, and a look ahead will make the later narrative more complete and intelligible. With the painful exception of a deterioration in the condition of the poor, these changes were for the better. Manners became more decent, pity was more easily evoked by human suffering, and culture more widely diffused. Moral improvement may be traced to a revival of practical religion and to a general reaction from the artificial cast of thought of earlier days, while as forces on the same side may be reckoned the influence of the king and, in a greater degree, that exercised by a number of distinguished men such as Johnson and Burke. Ideas elaborated and propounded by French philosophers shook the smug satisfaction of the world in what was hard, shallow, and insincere, and combined with the stress of a great war to complete the slow progress of a change in English taste. After long hesitation literature and art finally turned from unreality and convention, and drew inspiration direct from nature. As regards material progress, manufactures and commerce were enormously increased by the use of mechanical inventions, and the productive power of the soil by improvements in agriculture. The conditions of industry changed and, as must ever be the case, industrial revolution brought suffering on the poor.[Pg 256]

The highest class still formed a small and close society; there was no doubt as to who belonged to it and no chance for an outsider to push his way into it. The members of it were so thoroughly acquainted with one another's doings that invitations to dinner were often given only two days beforehand, and with even shorter notice. They had enormous authority, both political and social. Entirely independent of public opinion, those of them who loved vice or frivolity indulged their tastes without shame or measure. Gambling, the fashionable folly, was carried to an extraordinary height, especially between 1772 and 1776. At Brooks's the stakes at quinze were not less than £50, and there was often £10,000 on the table. Gamesters exchanged their rich clothes for frieze coats, covered their lace ruffles with leather cuffs, and shielded their eyes by high-crowned hats with broad brims. Fox squandered £140,000, chiefly at play, by the time he was twenty-five, and his brother Stephen lost £20,000 at a sitting. Among the older gamesters were Lord Masham, too poor for such folly, the wicked Lowther, witty George Selwyn, and his associate, Lord March, afterwards Duke of Queensberry, Fox's instructor in vice, the "old Q." who in the next century as he sat in his favourite place above the porch of his house in Piccadilly presented to the passers-by the embodiment of the iniquities of an older generation. Ladies were not less given to play than men. Duchesses at Bath, the "paradise of doctors and gamesters," set an example which the vice-regal court at Dublin professed to imitate by spending whole nights at unlimited half-guinea loo.

There was no redeeming side to this gambling; it was a sordid struggle for money. At Brooks's in 1781 Fox, in partnership with some allies, kept the bank at faro as a regular business, one partner relieving another, and play going on continuously night and day. As the dealer and the partners could be seen at work through the open windows of the club, one can scarcely wonder that Fox's faro-bank was a sore point with the opposition. He won largely, then lost, and finally was £30,000 "worse than nothing". Idlers in St. James's street were amused by watching the Jews as they packed his clothes and books and carted them off from his lodgings. The next year the king was forced to make him a secretary of state. Though gambling continued common, it became less extravagant and[Pg 257] was more widely condemned. In 1796, when the war with France was sobering people, some ladies of rank created a scandal by keeping a faro-bank at their houses. Chief-justice Kenyon threatened the pillory, and Gillray expressed and stimulated public opinion by a caricature representing two of "Faro's daughters" in that position. One of them, Lady Buckinghamshire, and two of her associates, were fined the next year for unlawful gaming. Fox and other gamesters of the wild time supplemented the faro-bank by betting at Newmarket. It was a notable period in the history of the turf, for many great men, specially of the whig party, were eager and judicious breeders. Such were the king's uncle, Cumberland, the breeder of Eclipse, Grafton, Rockingham, Egremont, Richmond, and Sir Charles Bunbury, whose horse Diomed won the first Derby race in 1780. The professional bookmaker was not yet, and racing, though used for betting purposes, was free from some evils which grew up later. The sport was popular, and in 1784 as many as 500 plates were raced for annually.


Excessive drinking was common in society. Since the Methuen treaty of 1703 port was the wine most drunk. A genuine port cost about two shillings a bottle, but the wine was largely adulterated on importation, and one stingy lord is said to have recommended his guests to drink his port instead of a more expensive wine by assuring them that he knew that it was good as he made it himself.[178] Men would constantly drink two bottles of port apiece at a sitting, and sometimes three and even more, and would appear in parliament, in the theatre, or in a drawing-room in a state of drunkenness. A treaty with France in 1786 largely increased the consumption of French wines, but this change, which favoured sobriety, was ended by the war. Nevertheless, drunkenness was less general than earlier in the century, and, except in the Prince of Wales's set, seems to have decreased during the war with France. Duels were frequent, and, though towards the end of our period they were increasingly condemned by religious people, they were approved of by society at large. For some time men of fashion dressed in velvets and silks of various hues, but during the American war Fox, once the most extravagant of "macaronis,"[Pg 258] and his friends showed their political sympathies by carelessness in dress, and their example was largely followed. Men's dress, however, did not decline until about 1793 when the whigs imitated the severity affected by the French republicans. Wigs were discarded early in the reign, except by professional men, and hair-powder began to fall out of fashion by the end of the century. Then, too, ladies' dress became more simple, chiefly because improvements in the textile manufactures provided them with materials at once simple and pleasing.

Besides the ordinary amusements of society, fashionable people frequented public assemblies, of which those at Ranelagh were longest in vogue. The company at Vauxhall was more mixed. People of the shop-keeping and lower classes enjoyed themselves in the numerous pleasure resorts about London, such as Mary-le-bone gardens, Islington, and Sadler's Wells. Theatres were well attended and the increase of public decency is illustrated by the disappearance from the stage of the coarseness of earlier times. It was the golden age of the drama; for it saw the acting of Macklin and Garrick, of Mrs. Siddons, "the tragic muse," and her brother John Kemble, of Mrs. Abington, Miss Farren, "the comic muse," afterwards Countess of Derby, and Mrs. Jordan. As dramatists Home, Foote, Colman, and Cumberland deserve to be mentioned; and Goldsmith and Sheridan wrote comedies which, while belonging to acting drama, adorn English literature. Among less respectable amusements bull-baiting was confined to the lowest class. An attempt to render it illegal was defeated in parliament in 1800, chiefly through the opposition of Windham. Cock-fighting, though widely condemned, was practised even by gentlemen, chiefly as a means of betting. Exhibitions of combats with swords became extinct, and made way for the scarcely less dangerous prize-fights of bruisers which from about 1788 became extremely popular.

Foreign travel, which earlier was almost confined to the "grand tour" made by rich young men as part of their education, increased greatly before the revolutionary war, and travelling in England became more general as the means of communication were improved. In 1760 English roads were little better than they were a century before, mere trackways, which in parts were sloughs in winter and scored with deep ruts[Pg 259] in summer. Travelling over them was slow and often dangerous. The "flying-machine," or coach, between London and Sheffield was fully three days on its journey. During the first fourteen years of the reign 452 acts were passed for repairing roads, but for some time little progress was made. Many and bitter are the complaints made by Arthur Young, the eminent agriculturist, of the roads on which he travelled in 1769-70. One turnpike road was a bog with a few flints scattered on top, another full of holes and deep ruts, while "of all the cursed roads which ever disgraced this kingdom" that between Tilbury and Billericay was, he says, the worst, and so narrow that when he met a waggon, the waggoner had to crawl between the wheels to come to help him lift his chaise over a hedge. During the last quarter of the century a vast change was effected; good roads became general, and coaches with springs and otherwise well appointed ran between London and most considerable towns, and between one large town and another. From 1784 many of these coaches carried the mails, and letters posted in Bath were delivered in London seventeen hours later.


The wider outlook acquired by travel contributed to an increase of intellectual activity, and improved means of internal communication assisted the dissemination of books. People read more; many instructive books met with a large sale, and circulating libraries were established in the larger towns. In literature the period is marked by an advance in the transition from artificiality of thought, and still more of expression, to what was natural and spontaneous. Antiquity began to attract, and romanticism gradually gained ground. Thomson, who led the flight of poetry from the gilded house of bondage, wrote at an earlier time than ours. For us the new feeling is illustrated by the popularity of Ossian, Bishop Percy's Reliques, Gray's romantic lyrics, and the pseudo-antique poems of Chatterton, a Bristol lad who killed himself in 1770. Goldsmith's poetry belongs to the old school, for he was a follower of Johnson, a strenuous opponent of the new romanticism. The poetry of Cowper, an ardent lover of nature, whose first volume appeared in 1781, though usually conventional in expression, is always sincere and sometimes exquisite. Crabbe, a story-teller and preacher, wrote some true poetry, along with much that is prosaic: rarely moved by an inspiration drawn from nature to desert the[Pg 260] conventional couplet, he nevertheless had something of the spirit of the new movement. In 1783 the artist-poet Blake began to write verse which is absolutely untrammelled by convention, mystical, strange, and unequal. Three years later a volume by Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, contained the outpouring of a passionate soul in musical verse, and in 1798, two years after his death, the victory of the romantic school was secured by the publication of the Lyrical Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge, though its triumph was not confirmed until a few years later.

By 1760 Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett had established the English novel, though Smollett's master-piece, Humphrey Clinker, did not appear until 1771, the year of his death. Fiction developed in various directions. In The Vicar of Wakefield Goldsmith, in spite of his literary conservatism, portrayed manners and character with a perfectly natural grace, and with a delightful delicacy of touch. Laurence Sterne, the humorous and indecent prebendary of York, illustrates the prevalence of sensibility in contemporary society in his Tristram Shandy and the Sentimental Journey. It is a curious characteristic of the time that displays of emotion by men and women alike were reckoned as proofs of genuine fineness of feeling. Sterne's sentiment and discursiveness found several feeble imitators. The taste for antiquity was strong in Horace Walpole, and his admiration for "the gothick," expressed in the pointed windows and sham battlements of his house at Strawberry hill, inspired his romance, The Castle of Otranto (1764), which began the romantic movement in fiction. To this movement, destined to be adorned by the genius of Scott, belong Beckford's Vathek, Clara Reeve's Old English Baron, and the once widely popular tales of mystery of Mrs. Radcliffe and "Monk" Lewis, as he was called after his best-known romance (1795). The novel of manners was developed by Fanny Burney's (Madame d'Arblay) Evelina (1778), founded on acute observation, dealing almost wholly with every-day life, replete with satire, and written with extraordinary freshness and vivacity. Castle Rackrent, the first of Maria Edgeworth's Irish tales, appeared in the last year of the century. Before its close, too, Jane Austen was writing novels which as yet could find no publisher, though in their faultless execution, their delicate[Pg 261] humour, and their life-like representation of the society with which their author was familiar they remain unrivalled.


Of the writers of serious prose works, Johnson, as critic, moralist and author, enjoyed until his death in 1784 a kind of literary dictatorship. His greatest achievement, The Lives of the English Poets, belongs to his later days. This delightful work pronounces with unfaltering dogmatism judgments founded on canons of criticism which were accepted in the then expiring age of Augustan literature. His Life by his satellite Boswell holds the first place among biographies as a triumph of portraiture. The new interest in antiquity was fostered by the rise of English historical writing. In the earliest years of the reign Hume completed his History of England, which, though no longer regarded as of scientific importance, is a fine example of literary treatment as applied to history. A little later came Robertson's works, more scholarly in their design, and written in a philosophic spirit and in highly polished language. The work of one historian of the time is great alike as a monument of learning and of literary faculty. The first instalment of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire appeared in 1766, the last in 1788. The grandeur of its conception, the orderly method of its construction, the learning it displays, and the unflagging pomp with which the historian presents his narrative, invest this book with a pre-eminence in English historical literature which remains beyond dispute. Other famous books of the time are Paley's theological works, Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, and Adam Smith's Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith, while laying the foundations of political economy as a distinct science, treated theories in relation to actual facts; his book was at once accepted as a guide by statesmen, and largely inspired Pitt's economic policy. As a political writer Burke carried rhetoric to the sublimest heights in his Reflections on the French Revolution and some later works. Lord Chesterfield's Letters, many of them belonging to the early years of the reign, are admirable for their wit and elegance, but lack the special quality of the inimitable Letters of Horace Walpole, written on a countless number of topics, and treating them in a manner which, though somewhat affected, is easy and singularly appropriate to the writer's cast of mind. Of the[Pg 262] Junius Letters enough has been said; they are political articles, not parts of a correspondence. Lastly, it would be unbecoming to omit here a notice, however cursory, of Walpole's valuable though not always trustworthy historical Memoirs.

The ecclesiastical architecture of the time was deplorable. Towards the end of the century it was affected by the revolt from classicism in literature; and a desire was manifested to desert the corrupt following of classical models for Gothic art, but it was unaccompanied by taste or knowledge, and the elder Wyatt's sins of destruction at Salisbury and elsewhere have made his name a by-word. In secular architecture things were better; Chambers, the architect of Somerset House, Robert Adam and his brothers, architects of the Adelphi buildings, and the younger Wood at Bath have left us works of considerable merit. In art, however, our period is chiefly memorable as that of the development of the English school of painting. Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of the great portrait painters of the world, was in high repute in 1760, was the first president of the Royal Academy, founded in 1768, and independently of his work did much to raise the appreciation of art, for he was universally respected. He started the famous literary club of which his friends, Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, and other distinguished men, were members. Scarcely inferior to Reynolds as a portrait-painter, Gainsborough invested his subjects with wonderful grace, and Romney, though not attaining to the height of these two, may be reckoned with them as a master of his art. Before the end of our period Hoppner and Lawrence were working in London and Raeburn in Edinburgh. The heavy debt which English landscape painting owes to Wilson, who lived neglected, has been acknowledged since his death. In that line Gainsborough was unsurpassed; he was wholly free from classical tradition and, as in his portrait work, interpreted nature as it presented itself to his own artistic sense. By 1800 Girtin had laid the foundation of genuine painting in water-colours, and Turner was entering on his earlier style, working under the influence of old masters. Humble life and animals were depicted by Morland, who was true to nature and a fine colourist. In the treatment of historical subjects classical tradition long held an undisputed sway; and the chief claim of West, once a fashionable artist, on our remembrance is that he broke[Pg 263] away from it in his best picture, "The Death of Wolfe," painted in 1771, which represents his figures in the uniforms they wore instead of dressed as Romans, a revolt which caused no small stir.

Engraving on copper flourished, aided by the enterprise of Boydell, and wood-engraving was brought to perfection by the brothers Bewick. In sculpture, Flaxman, Nollekens, and Bacon did first-rate work. Music alone of the arts really interested the king. The public taste was stimulated by the establishment of Handel commemoration concerts; the opera was well attended, and church music was enriched by some distinguished composers. People of the upper and middle classes cared far more for art of all kinds than in the earlier half of the century: the rich bought the works of old Italian and French masters; exhibitions of art were thronged, and articles of virtu found a ready sale.


During the earlier years of the reign much interest in natural science was aroused, probably through French influence. England soon came to the front in scientific investigation. Among the principal contributors to this movement were Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, and Black, of latent heat; Cavendish, the investigator of air and water; Sir William Herschel, the astronomer, who spent most of his life in England; Hutton, the father of British geological science; Sir Joseph Banks, the naturalist; Hunter, the "founder of scientific surgery"; and Jenner, who in 1798 announced the protective power of vaccination against small-pox. Science was aided by voyages of discovery, some of them of the highest future importance in the history of the world, and in the extension of the British empire. Between 1764 and 1768 come Commodore Byron's fruitless voyage round the world, and the discovery of a large number of islands in the South Pacific by Captains Wallis and Carteret. Cook's three great voyages were made between 1768 and 1779. In the course of them he sailed round New Zealand, explored the east coast of Australia and the new Hebrides, discovered New Caledonia and the Sandwich islands, and attempted to find a passage from the North Pacific round the north of the American continent. In 1780 an expedition under Captain Bligh, sent to transport bread-fruit trees from Otaheite to the West Indies for acclimatisation, ended in the[Pg 264] famous mutiny on board his ship, the Bounty. To the last years of the century belong the voyages of Bass and Flinders in Australian waters. Meanwhile Mackenzie descended the river which bears his name to the Arctic ocean, and in 1770 Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller, reached the sources of the Blue Nile.

Between 1760 and 1801 the national Church, the proper instrument of national reformation, was passing through a period of transition. Its vitality was somewhat injured by its controversy with the deists, and still more by the action of the state. It was a powerful political engine and as such it was used by statesmen. Convocations remained silenced, and Church preferments were made to serve political ends and were regarded both by clergy and laity as little more than desirable offices. Clergymen begged bishoprics and deaneries of Newcastle with unblushing importunity, sometimes even before the men they aspired to succeed had breathed their last. Neither they, nor the ministers who treated Church patronage as a means of strengthening their party, were necessarily careless about religion. Newcastle and Hardwicke, for example, were religious men, and the personal piety of some preferment-seeking bishops is unquestioned. It was a matter in which the Church was neither better nor worse than the age. The ecclesiastical system was disorganised by plurality and non-residence; the dignified clergy as a whole were worldly minded, and the greater number of the rest were wretchedly poor. The Church was roused to a sense of its duty to society by methodism and evangelicalism, two movements for a time closely connected, though after 1784 methodism became a force outside the church. By 1760 the persecution to which John Wesley and his fellow-workers had sometimes been exposed was over, and methodism was gaining ground. It very slightly touched aristocratic society, chiefly through the efforts of the Countess of Huntingdon, who, in spite of her quarrel with Wesley's party, must be regarded as one of the leaders of the movement; its influence on the labouring class, specially in large towns and in the mining districts, was strong, and it gained a considerable hold on people of the middle class.


Within the Church rapid progress was made by the evangelical movement. Many of the earlier evangelical clergy were methodists, some workers with Wesley, others preachers of[Pg 265] Lady Huntingdon's "connexion" before her secession in 1781. During the last two decades of the century the evangelicals became distinct from the methodists and formed an increasing body inside the Church. Among its clerical chiefs were Romaine, Venn, Cecil, and Newton of Olney, the spiritual guide of many of its leading adherents; it owed much to Lord Dartmouth's patronage, Cowper's poetry presented its doctrine in a pleasing form, Hannah More furthered its cause by her writings, and Wilberforce brought it into connexion with political life. Only one of the avowed evangelical clergy, Isaac Milner, Dean of Carlisle, received dignified preferment before 1800, for the king was averse from "enthusiasm," and though Pitt's Church appointments were eminently respectable, he does not seem to have been guided in making them by any exalted consideration. Whatever the failings of the evangelical party may have been, it certainly exercised a strong and wholesome influence on the national life, which was aided by the effects of the war with France. Not only did the discipline of war sober the nation, but it also extended the revolt against unreality which took place in the domains of literature and art, to that of religion, and brought people to accept a teaching which appealed more strongly to the heart than that of the older school of clergy. While most of the work of the evangelicals lies outside our subject, the character of its influence on society may be gathered from their efforts for the suppression of the slave trade; from the stricter observance of Sunday which became general towards the end of our period; from their plans for bettering the condition, and their care for the education of the poor. The institution of Sunday schools was largely due to Robert Raikes, of Gloucester, who began his work in 1780. Six years later some 200,000 children attended these schools, and in many cases gained in them their only education. The work was encouraged by the king and queen, and along with other efforts for the education of the poor was helped forward by Hannah More, Wilberforce, and other evangelicals.

Apart from any religious movement, many laymen, among whom Burke holds a high place, strove to soften the hardness and cruelty of the age. There was need of their efforts. The criminal law was fearfully severe. Early in the reign as many as 160 crimes were capital felonies, and the number was constantly[Pg 266] augmented. A theft of more than the value of twelve pence by picking a pocket was punishable by death. This severity led to an increase of crime. The injured would not prosecute, juries would not convict on clear evidence, judges recommended to mercy, and criminals were emboldened by the chances of escape. The heavy punishments attached to light offences tended to multiply serious crimes; for a thief who knew that he might be hanged was tempted to commit murder rather than be caught. Though only about a fifth of the capital sentences were carried out, executions were terribly numerous, especially between 1781 and 1787. In 1783, at two consecutive executions, twenty persons were hanged together. Ninety-six were hanged at the Old Bailey in ten months in 1785, and at the Lent assizes of that year there were twenty-one capital sentences at Kingston, twelve at Lincoln and sixteen at Gloucester, and in each town nine persons were hanged. Executions were popular spectacles; 80,000 persons are said to have been present at one at Moorfields in 1767, and over 20,000 assembled at Tyburn in 1773 to see a woman burnt—she was previously strangled at the stake—for the murder of her husband. The ghastly procession to Tyburn was stopped in 1783, and executions were ordered to be carried out in front of the prison; and in 1790 the burning of women was abolished. Otherwise, in spite of Burke's efforts, the criminal law was not materially ameliorated till the next century. The punishment of the pillory was one of its worst abuses. When inflicted for some popular act, such as libelling a minister, the offender was treated as a hero, but if a man's crime outraged the moral sense of the mob, he was exposed to horrible barbarity. Two men were pelted to death, in 1763 and 1780, on the pillory in London. After the second of these murders Burke brought the matter before parliament; he was supported by Sir Charles Bunbury, who quoted a similar case at Bury, but the punishment was not abolished. Whipping was constantly inflicted, not merely on men but on women, and in public as well as privately. The poor were brutalised by cruel and indecent punishments, and were far too much under the power of magistrates, some of them vicious and ignorant men, who had summary jurisdiction in a large number of criminal cases.


The prisons were horrible dens in which felons and debtors,[Pg 267] men and women, old and young, were crowded together. Many of them had no water-supply and very little air; some had no sewers, and where sewers existed they were generally choked up. Great numbers died of gaol-fever and small-pox. In about half the county gaols debtors had no allowance of bread. Everywhere prisoners were exposed to extortion, and were sometimes detained in gaol after acquittal for non-payment of the gaolers' fees. Such was the state of things in 1773 when John Howard began to inquire into the condition of the prisons. He roused the attention of parliament and of the public to these abuses, and by 1779 some of the more flagrant of them were removed. He spent the remainder of his life in efforts to reform the prisons, and accomplished much, though much still remained to be done. After 1776 convicts could no more be transported to America, and male convicts were kept in hulks on the Thames and elsewhere. These hulks soon became overcrowded, and in 1784 the old system of assigning convicts to employers in different parts of the British dominions oversea was again adopted. The evils of this system were recognised, and it was decided to send criminals sentenced to transportation to New South Wales. A government was established; Captain Phillip, of the navy, was appointed governor, and in 1787 took out the "first fleet" with convicts. He established a settlement at Port Jackson, and founded a city which he called Sydney, after the then secretary for home affairs. Such was the unworthy beginning of the present magnificent colony of New South Wales.

The population outgrew the police system. Riots were frequent in times of scarcity or popular excitement, and often could only be quelled by soldiers. Throughout the whole of our period highwaymen infested the roads; in 1774 Horace Walpole at Twickenham declared that it was scarcely safe to venture out by day; Lady Hertford had been attacked on Hounslow Heath at three in the afternoon. Some daring robberies, two of them of mails, were effected in 1791. In the earlier years of the reign smuggling was carried on with amazing audacity, specially on the south and east coasts. It was calculated that 40,000 persons were engaged in it by sea and land, and that two-thirds of the tea and half the brandy consumed in England paid no duty. Bands of armed smugglers[Pg 268] rode up to London with their goods, and attempts to interfere with their trade were fiercely and often successfully resisted. Smuggling, however, was checked, as we shall see, by the wise policy of Pitt. The weakness of the police caused an alarming increase of crimes against property; footpads stopped carriages even in Grosvenor Square and Piccadilly, and in 1792 the streets are said on good authority to have been unsafe by night. With the exception of a few Bow street officers and some mounted patrols, the only police in London were parish constables and the watchmen, many of them old and decrepit. The magistracy of Middlesex had largely fallen into the hands of men described by Burke as "the scum of the earth," who used their office as a means of getting gain, and frightful abuses were common.[179] In 1792 parliament established stipendiary magistrates appointed by the crown for the London police courts, and a few police officers were attached to each court. This important reform would have been more effective if a larger number of police had been placed under the orders of the new magistrates, for after that date the police of London and its immediate neighbourhood consisted of not more than 2,044 watchmen and patrols and 1,000 constables and other officers, of whom only 147 received pay and gave their whole time to police work.[180]

The general belief that the trade of Great Britain would be ruined by the loss of the American colonies was not justified. Between 1783 and 1800 her foreign trade and manufactures were developed at an extraordinary rate. The official value of English exports in 1760 was £14,694,970, and of imports £9,832,802; in 1783, of exports £13,896,415, and of imports £11,651,281; in 1800 the exports of Great Britain were officially valued at £34,381,617, and the imports at £28,257,781.[181] Her foreign trade, which provided her with an extended market, was maintained through her naval supremacy. Before 1780 the war with the colonies had little effect on her trade; the declaration of the armed neutrality decreased its profits by increasing risks and raising the rate of insurance, but does not appear to have inflicted special injury on any particular[Pg 269] branch of it. The American shipping was destroyed and Dutch commerce suffered severely. At the end of the war England was far stronger by sea than she was before it began; her manufactures, specially of iron and cotton, began to develop rapidly, and she kept the American trade. During the revolutionary war the French believed that they could reduce England to impotence by ruining her commerce. They failed to understand the consequences of her power at sea and the firmness of the foundation on which her wealth rested. The ports of France and her allies were blockaded; England may be said to have carried the greatest part of the trade of Europe, her manufactures flourished exceedingly, and foreign nations could not afford to abstain from purchasing them.


Before entering on the expansion of manufactures and the industrial revolution which accompanied it, a word may be said as to the attitude of the state towards these changes. For some two centuries it had been held that it was the duty of the state to order trade with the object of increasing the wealth and power of the nation, and a policy was followed of interference with trade and its conditions by regulations, bounties, and restrictions, which is called the mercantile system. To this policy belong the navigation acts and the regulation of colonial trade and manufactures for the benefit of the mother-country. The American revolution dealt it a mortal blow. About the same time Adam Smith's work led to the idea that national wealth would increase if men were left to seek their own wealth without interference. While trade outgrew the old regulations which ordered its conditions, the system of state interference became discredited, a new economic policy of non-interference, called laissez-faire, took its place, and questions of trade, manufacture, wages, and other conditions of labour were increasingly left to settle themselves. This reversed the policy long and successfully pursued by the whigs, who fostered trade as the basis of national prosperity. The tories on the other hand held that national prosperity was based on land, and desired to lighten its burdens by taxing personal property, and we shall find Pitt distributing his taxation widely and so as to fall mainly on the moneyed class.[182] Laissez-faire reached its full development in[Pg 270] the establishment of free trade; it has already been modified in many respects, and may hereafter be subjected to further modification to suit altered circumstances.

The expansion of trade during our period was due to improved processes of manufacture and increased facilities of transport, and in a far higher degree to the substitution of machinery moved by the power of water or steam for manual labour. The north, hitherto the most backward part of England, became the chief seat of industrial life and commercial enterprise. Wealth was increased, industry became more dependent on capital, and changes were effected in its conditions which for a time pressed heavily on the poor. In 1760 there was no Black Country. Charcoal was employed in the manufacture of hardware, and the Sussex iron works produced a small quantity of pig-iron at a great cost. Fuel was giving out, and England, rich in iron, imported over 49,000 tons of iron a year from Russia and Sweden. The discovery that coal and coke could be used for smelting was made about 1750, and in 1760 a new era in the manufacture was ushered in by the foundation of the Carron ironworks, which had blast furnaces for coal. The improvements in Newcomen's steam engine, effected by Watt between 1765 and 1782, facilitated smelting by coal by providing the furnaces with a stronger blast. In 1783-4 Cort of Gosport invented processes for converting pig-iron into malleable by the use of coal, and for converting malleable iron into bars by rollers, instead of sledge-hammers. Iron became cheap and was used for purposes never dreamt of a few years before; the first iron bridge crossed the Severn at Coalbrookdale in 1779. By 1796 the use of charcoal had almost ceased, and the produce of blast furnaces had risen from 68,300 tons in 1788 to over 125,000 tons. Vast iron works were established in the coal districts, which soon ceased to be agricultural. Among the many other manufactures expanded by new processes was that of pottery. In 1760 Staffordshire stoneware was rough and badly glazed, and much ware was imported from France. A few years later Wedgwood succeeded in producing a ware at his works at Etruria which was superior to any brought from abroad; it was largely used in England, and five-sixths of the produce of his works was exported.


The increasing call for coal both for manufacture and for[Pg 271] fuel and the needs consequent on the growth of trade and the expansion of agriculture were met by greater facilities of transport. Roads, though they were gradually improved, could not have answered the demands for the conveyance of the ever-increasing bulk of heavy goods. A better method was found in the introduction of canals by the third Duke of Bridgewater. The canal between Worsley and Manchester, made by him and his engineer, Brindley, and opened in 1761, enabled the Manchester people to buy the duke's coal at 3½d. instead of 7d. a cwt.; its extension to Runcorn reduced the cost of carriage by water between Liverpool and Manchester from 12s. to 6s. a ton, while by road it was 40s.; and the Grand Trunk canal from Runcorn to the Trent brought the pottery of Etruria to Liverpool and carried other goods at a quarter of the old cost of transport. The success of these undertakings was so great that people went wild about canal-making, and between 1790 and 1794 eighty-one canal acts were obtained, many of them, of course, for superfluous projects.

The principal factor in the industrial revolution which began during the period under review was the substitution of machinery for hand labour in textile manufactures. In 1760 spinning and weaving were domestic industries, carried on, that is, in the homes of the workers. The women and children in farm-houses and cottages spent their spare time in spinning. The implements used in the cotton manufacture remained nearly as simple as those of the Homeric age, save that weaving had been facilitated by the use of the fly-shuttle. Since that invention the weaver found it difficult to obtain enough yarn for his loom, until, about 1767, a weaver named Hargreaves invented the spinning-jenny by which a child could work many spindles at once. Two years later Arkwright, who introduced many inventions into the textile manufacture, brought out a spinning machine worked by water-power. His water-frame spun automatically and produced a yarn strong enough for warp, so that for the first time pure cotton goods were manufactured in England, for until then the cotton weft was woven on a warp of linen. This machine was improved on by Crompton's mule, a cross between the jenny and the water-frame, which spun a finer yarn, and so started the manufacture of muslin in England; it was invented in 1775 and came into general use about ten years later. The[Pg 272] supply of cotton from India, the Bahamas, and later from the southern states of America, was large, and the effect of the new machinery on the manufacture can be gauged by the increase in the import of cotton-wool from an average of 4,764,589 lbs. between 1771 and 1775 to 56,010,732 lbs. in 1800. The new labour-saving inventions were at first regarded with jealousy by the workmen. Hargreaves had his house gutted and his loom destroyed, and in 1799 a violent riot broke out about Blackburn; Arkwright's works were burnt, and many machines in the neighbourhood were broken to pieces. In and around Lancashire, where the manufacture was chiefly carried on, the carding and spinning of wool ceased to be domestic industries. Capitalists set up factories where water-power was available, in which children were largely employed, and factory villages grew up round them. From about 1790 steam-power began gradually to take the place of water-power; the change was slow, and as it went on the manufacture became increasingly centred in populous towns.

Cotton weaving remained a domestic industry, for Cartwright's power-loom did not come into general use until after 1800. The output of yarn was enormous, and for a time the weavers' earnings were very large, but the money which could be earned at the loom and the failure of domestic spinning caused so many to take to weaving that by 1800 wages had begun to decline, and gradually a period of distress set in. A machine for calico-printing further increased the profits of the capitalist and had a bad effect on labour, for it threw the calico-printer out of employment. Wool spinning was far more generally carried on in rural districts than cotton spinning, and more widely spread misery was caused by changes in the manufacture. It came under the dominion of machinery somewhat later. Machines for carding and combing took the place of manual labour after 1790, and enabled one man and a few children to do the work of many men. Spinning with the wheel lasted longer than in the cotton manufacture. From 1785 jennies were used, and wool spinning was gradually transferred to factories and became a separate business, instead of a by-employment which helped the small farmer to pay his rent and eked out the scanty wages of the labourer. The change was accelerated by the scarcity of wool during the revolutionary[Pg 273] war, for by that time the trade had become largely dependent on importation from Spain, and it was not until about 1800 that sheep began to be bred for their wool in Australia. As in the cotton trade, the wages of weavers were high during the war, but the scarcity of material prevented all but the best workmen from finding employment and there was much distress among the rest. The failure of domestic spinning deeply affected all the rural districts of England.


It was specially disastrous because it was accompanied by times of scarceness and by changes connected with a revolution in agriculture which pressed heavily on many of the poorer classes. A rapid increase in population during the latter part of the century was consequent on the stimulus given to manufacture; in 1760 the population of England and Wales is estimated at 6,479,700, and of Scotland in 1755 at about 1,265,300; in 1800 the estimate for England and Wales is 9,187,176, and for Scotland about 1,599,000. This increase implies a demand for a larger supply of food. Early in the reign wages were low except near great towns, and the law of settlement prevented the labourer from moving freely from one parish to another in order to better himself. While in 1769-70 labourers in Surrey earned on an average from 8s. to 10s. a week, in Wiltshire they received only 6s. 2d. to 5s. 3d., and in one district in Lancashire as little as 4s. 11d.[183] Wages, however, were then eked out by home industries and commonable rights. Yet the margin between income and expenditure was so small that a rise in the price of bread soon caused distress, and was often followed by riots. Bread made from rye or barley was still eaten in poor districts, but wheaten bread was more generally used than earlier in the century, which proves that the condition of the poor was bettered. In 1769 it cost 2d. a pound near London, and at a distance of 150 miles 1½d. Meat was about 3d. to 4d. a pound, rent and clothing were cheap, firing and candles very dear.

In 1760 England was still a corn-exporting country; importation was restrained, exportation encouraged by a bounty, and in times of scarcity the trade was regulated by temporary enactments. After some bad harvests an act was made in 1773 with the object of keeping the price steady at about 48s. the[Pg 274] quarter; virtually free importation was allowed when it reached that limit, and exportation was forbidden when it reached 44s. Landowners and farmers were dissatisfied, and a general fear lest the country should become dependent on foreign corn led parliament in 1791 to adopt a policy of encouraging home production; it was enacted that for the future a bounty should be paid on exportation when the price was at 44s., that prohibitive duties should be placed on importation when it was below 50s., and virtually free importation only allowed above 54s. Nevertheless from about that date England definitely ceased to be able to feed her own people, except in good seasons. Her naval superiority during the revolutionary war prevented a stoppage in the supply of wheat from abroad; but it became uncertain, prices fluctuated violently with good or bad harvests; war acted as a protection to the corn-grower and bad harvests were followed by famine prices; in 1795 wheat averaged 81s. 6d. in Windsor market, and in 1800 reached 127s. Wages rose with the expansion of manufactures, but not in anything like proportion to the rise in prices.


Meanwhile efforts were made to meet the increased demand for food by improved agriculture. In 1760 about half the parishes in England were still in open fields; and the primitive two-field and three-field systems by which land was refreshed by lying fallow were, with some modifications, still in vogue. A new husbandry, however, had begun, and soon made rapid progress; it was promoted by many large landowners, such as Lord Townshend, the Dukes of Bedford and Grafton, and Lord Rockingham, and the king took a lively and practical interest in the movement. Its advantages were urged by Arthur Young, who did most valuable work as its apostle. Its leading feature was the introduction of a scientific rotation of crops founded on the use of clover and rye-grass and the more careful cultivation of turnips, which kept the land at once employed and in good heart, and afforded a supply of excellent fodder. Farmers, too, began to learn the profit to be derived from marling, manuring, and subsoil drainage, and to use better implements which did their work more thoroughly and with less labour of man and beast. The increased demand for meat caused sheep no longer to be valued chiefly for their wool, or oxen as beasts of draught. Improvements in the breeding and rearing of sheep and cattle were introduced by Bakewell, a[Pg 275] Lincolnshire grazier, and carried on by others. The scraggy animals of earlier days disappeared; the average weight of beeves sold at Smithfield in 1710 was 370 lbs., in 1795 it was 800 lbs., and that of sheep had risen from 28 lbs. to 80 lbs. Capital was freely invested in land; open fields were increasingly enclosed, and commons and wastes along with them, and land until then beyond the margin of cultivation was taken in and ploughed. From 1760 to 1797 as many as 1,539 private enclosure acts were passed, and a general act was passed in 1801.

The new agriculture vastly increased the produce of the land. During the first half of our period rents were low, and the farmers who carried out the new system as a rule made enormous profits. Arthur Young tells us of one Norfolk farmer who, on a farm of 1,500 acres, made enough in thirty years to buy an estate of £1,700 a year. The improved agriculture, however, could not be carried out without enclosure and, unless an award was made by agreement, that meant a large initial expense, which was followed by the expense of actually enclosing the land. These expenses were often borne by the landlords. The small squires and yeomen who farmed their own land had neither the intelligence of the large farmers nor the money to spend on improvements, and both classes virtually disappeared. Nor could the small farmer either keep his place or take advantage of the new system. If his holding was unaffected by enclosure, the loss of domestic industries rendered him less able to pay his rent: if it was to be enclosed, he found himself with a diminished income at the very time when he most needed money; and if he managed to keep his land for a while, he was ruined by some violent fluctuation in the price of corn. Sooner or later he sank into the labouring class. The enormous profits of the large farmers did not continue, for about 1780 rents began to rise. Still the cultivation of good arable land remained highly profitable, if the farmer had capital enough to meet fluctuations of price. But war prices and parliamentary encouragement led farmers to cultivate inferior land; their profits diminished in proportion to the cost of cultivation, and though the supply of food was increased, its price was kept up. A sudden fall in prices would send the land back to its original wild state and was likely enough to ruin the farmer.

Although enclosure was encouraged by parliament with the[Pg 276] view of benefiting the mass of the people by making bread cheaper, it was far more often than not injurious to the labourer. In many cases commons were enclosed without adequate compensation to the poorer commoners, who were deprived of the means of keeping a cow or geese or of the right of cutting turf for fuel. Some received no allotment because they failed to prove their claims, and others sold their allotments to wealthy farmers, either because they were too small to keep a cow or because they could not enclose them. Young, who strongly advocated enclosure, says that out of thirty-seven parishes he found only twelve in which the position of the poor had not been injured by the enclosure of commons, and laments the disastrous effect of the change on the general condition of the labouring class. The change was coincident with the decay not only of domestic spinning, but also of other industries practised in villages, for the large new-fashioned farmers had their implements, harness, and household utensils made and mended in towns rather than by rural workmen. Deprived of the profits of by-employments, and in many cases of their accustomed rights of common, labourers became solely dependent on farm wages at a time when prices were enormously high and a living-wage was not to be gained by agricultural work. They either migrated to seek work in a factory or came on the rates. In many districts villages presented a picture of desolation. Wiston and Foston in Leicestershire each before enclosure contained some thirty-five houses; in Wiston every house disappeared except that of the squire, and Foston was reduced to the parsonage and two herdsmen's cottages.[184]


The old system of regulating wages by statute was not wholly extinct in 1760. A few years later a statute made in the masters' interests fixed the maximum for the wages of the London journeymen tailors at 2s. 7½d. a day, except at a time of general mourning. On the other hand parliament, in 1773, under the pressure of a riot, passed an act empowering justices to fix the wages of the Spitalfields silk weavers and to enforce their ordinance. By 1776, however, Adam Smith declared that the custom of fixing wages "had gone entirely into disuse". England was adopting laissez-faire. The change of policy is[Pg 277] illustrated by the case of the framework knitters of Nottinghamshire. The employment of children and apprentices enabled the masters to oppress them; they were unable to earn more than 8s. to 9s. a week and their wages were diminished by shameful exactions. They formed a combination, petitioned the house of commons to regulate their wages in 1778, and were heard before a committee. A bill was brought in the next year to regulate the trade and prevent abuses, but was thrown out on the third reading. Wages were to be settled between the master and the men. Some rioting followed on the rejection of the bill, and the masters promised redress, but soon broke their word. Combinations of workmen to set aside statutory arrangements of wages were of course illegal, but when formed to secure their fulfilment do not seem to have been so regarded.[185] In 1799, however, when parliament was anxious to prevent seditious assemblies, a statute, amended in 1800, rendered it unlawful for workmen to combine for the purpose of obtaining higher wages. This grossly unjust law made the workmen powerless to protect themselves against the oppression of the capitalist employer. Parliament was more than once pressed to meet the high price of bread and the distress of the agricultural poor by fixing a minimum for wages. Pitt, a disciple of Adam Smith, would not consent to such a measure, and his opposition was fatal to it. He was deeply sensible of the distress of the poor, and, in 1795, brought in a bill for the amendment of the poor law. It contained some startling provisions of a socialistic character, was adversely criticised by Bentham and others, and was quietly dropped.

In 1760 the law of 1723, empowering overseers of the poor to refuse relief to those who would not enter the workhouse, was still in force. It seems to have been administered strictly, and it kept down the rates. As society became more humane, it revolted against so harsh a method of dealing with distress. A permissive act of 1783, called after its promoter, Gilbert's act, contained along with some wholesome provisions others that were foolish and harmful; it enabled parishes to form unions and adopt a system under which able-bodied men were not allowed to enter the workhouse; they were to work in the[Pg 278] district and have their wages supplemented from the rates. The administration of the act was committed to the magistrates and guardians in place of the overseers. A considerable relaxation of the law of settlement in 1795 was just and beneficial. In the same year the pernicious principle of supplementing wages from the rates was carried to its full extent. By that time the decay of domestic spinning and the rise in the price of food were causing much distress in Berkshire. At a meeting of justices at Speenhamland in that county it was resolved to grant allowances to all poor men and their families—so much a head according to the price of the gallon loaf. This system was generally adopted, and was strengthened by an act of 1795 abolishing the workhouse test. As a means of tiding over a merely temporary crisis, as indeed it was intended by its authors to be, it would have done no harm. Unfortunately, it lasted for many years and had disastrous consequences; it rapidly raised the rates, and helped to crush the small farmers who, though they employed no labour, were forced to pay towards the maintenance of the labourers employed by their richer neighbours; it kept wages from rising, encouraged thriftless marriages and dissolute living, discouraged industry and efficient work, destroyed self-respect, and pauperised the poor.


While then the last sixteen years of the century, of which the political history still lies before us, were, except at certain crises to be noted hereafter, marked by a rapid expansion of commerce and trade, and an increase in the wealth of the richer landowners, manufacturers, and merchants, they were, as we have seen, a period of change in the conditions of labour and, as such, brought much distress on the working class, which was aggravated by the high prices consequent on bad seasons and the risks of war. Of all the sufferings of the poor during this period none are so painful to remember as those of the children employed in factories, the helpless victims of laissez-faire for whose relief the state did nothing until a later date. The greater number of them were pauper apprentices bound by parochial authorities to mill-owners, others the children of very poor or callous parents. From little more than infancy, sometimes under seven years old, children were condemned to labour for long hours, thirteen or more in a day, at tasks which required unremitting attention, and in rooms badly ventilated[Pg 279] and otherwise injurious to health; they were half-starved and cruelly punished when their wearied little arms failed to keep up with the demands of the machinery. The smaller mills were the worst in this respect, and as the supply of water-power was not constant, the children in mills worked by water were often forced to labour far beyond their strength to make up for lost time. Such of them as survived the prolonged misery and torture of their early years often grew up more or less stunted and deformed men and women, physically unfit for parentage, morally debased, ignorant, and brutalised by ill-treatment.


[178] Walpole to Mann, April 29, 1784, Letters, viii., 473; Parl. Hist., xxv., 1434.

[179] Parl. Hist., xxi., 592; xxix., 1034.

[180] Colquhoun, Treatise on the Police, pp. 108, 110, 228, 364, 2nd edit., 1796.

[181] Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Modern Times, pt. ii., 931.

[182] Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Modern Times, pt. i., 583-608.

[183] Young, Southern Counties, p. 325; Northern Counties, iv., 453.

[184] Howlett, Enquiry into the Influence which Enclosure has had on Population, p. 10.

[185] Webb, History of Trade Unionism, p. 55.



The general election of 1784 which established Pitt in office was the expression of a strong national feeling. Humiliated by the loss of its colonies, irritated by the mismanagement of its affairs, and burdened with the expense of an unsuccessful war, which added £114,500,000 to the public debt, the nation listened with approval to Fox's denunciations and got rid of North. It was with unbounded disgust that it saw Fox enter into an alliance with the statesman whom he had denounced as the prime cause of its misfortunes. During the late conflict in parliament public feeling grew strong against him. The king's dismissal of a ministry which commanded a large majority in the house of commons, and his refusal to dismiss its successor at the request of the house needed no pardon; they were endorsed by the declaration of the national will, and he gained a hold on the affection of his people such as he had never had before. His success must not make us forget the courage and the political insight which he displayed during this critical period. All that made the crown worth wearing was at stake, for if Fox's party had obtained a majority at the general election, George for the rest of his life would have become a mere puppet in their hands. He won the game, but he did not win all that he hoped for. Pitt, whom he chose as his champion, was not a minister after his own heart, content to carry out a royal policy. George freed himself from the danger of whig domination, but he did so at the cost of resigning his hopes of establishing a system of personal government, and accepted an independent prime minister. He never liked Pitt, but he knew that Pitt stood between him and Fox, and so for seventeen years was content that he should retain office. Pitt's power was established by, and rested on,[Pg 281] the will of the nation. In 1784 England looked forward with hope to the rule of a young minister, a son of the great Chatham, of stainless private character and unimpeachable integrity, who was free from all responsibility for its misfortunes, and was the victorious opponent of Fox, whom it regarded with aversion. Nor did its hope fail of fulfilment.


What the government did for England during the nine years of peace which succeeded the election of 1784 may be said to have been done by Pitt. His colleagues were not men of great capacity, and he received obedience rather than counsel from them. So it was that the position of prime minister, a title which North refused to accept, became finally established. This unavowed change in the constitution settled the sphere of political action open to the crown. Government by the crown through departmental ministers acting independently of each other was no longer possible. The principle of the homogeneous character of the cabinet and of the prime minister's position in it were, as we shall see, decisively settled in 1791 by the dismissal of the chancellor, who, relying on the king's favour, wore out Pitt's patience by rebellion against his authority. Pitt's strength of character and the king's dependence on him caused the gradual extinction of the "king's friends" as a party distinct from the supporters of the government. The leader of the party Jenkinson, the secretary at war in North's ministry, had great commercial knowledge; Pitt made him president of the new board of trade which was constituted in 1785, and as Lord Hawkesbury and as Earl of Liverpool he gave the prime minister his support. Pitt did not attempt to reduce the crown to a cypher, and George exercised a strong and legitimate influence in politics, as adviser of the cabinet, though Pitt occasionally acted against his wishes.

Another change of lasting importance effected by Pitt was in the character of the house of lords. In 1760 the whole number of peers, including minors and Roman catholics, who were incapable of sitting in the house, was only 174; the house was then the stronghold of the whig oligarchy. During North's administration about thirty peers were created or promoted. Under Pitt the invasion advanced far more rapidly. Economical reform deprived the minister of the power of rewarding his supporters with places and pensions, and Pitt used peerages[Pg 282] and minor honours in their stead. George, who did not approve of a large increase in the peerage,[186] was forced to yield to his minister's exigencies. In five years Pitt was responsible for forty-eight creations and promotions, and by 1801 the number reached 140.[187] The house of lords ceased to be a small assembly of territorial magnates, mostly of the whig party; it became less aristocratic, for peerages were bestowed on men simply because they were supporters of the government and were wealthy; it became mainly tory in politics, and its size made it less open to corrupt influence. As a body, however, it was inferior in ability and in devotion to its legislative duties to the small assembly of earlier days.

Under Pitt's leadership, England during the years of peace which succeeded the American war regained her place in the politics of Europe. His attention, however, was chiefly devoted to domestic affairs. He was eminently skilful in finance; he restored the public credit and freed trade from artificial impediments. The corruption of parliament, of which both whigs and tories had been guilty, was brought to an end; many abuses and sinecures were abolished and public life became purer. Though at first Pitt sustained some defeats in parliament, due both to mistakes of his own and to the absence of party consolidation among his usual supporters, his power rapidly increased until it became absolute in both houses. He showed supreme ability in the management of parliament. With much of his father's haughtiness of manner he combined a tactfulness and self-control which his father never exhibited. He had nothing of Fox's winning power, yet he became extremely popular in the house of commons, for he showed himself worthy to lead men and able to lead them successfully. His temper was sweet, his courage, patience, and hopefulness unfailing, and his industry unwearied. That he loved power is surely no reproach to a statesman who used it as he did with single-hearted devotion to his country. For wealth and honours he cared nothing. He was always poor, and soon became deeply in debt, chiefly because he was too much occupied with public affairs to control his household expenditure. While he disdainfully distributed titles and ribbons among a clamouring crowd, he refused all such things for himself. Some[Pg 283] measures of reform which he advocated in early days he dropped when he found that the country did not care for them, and in later days altogether abandoned a liberal policy, for he was called on to give England that which is infinitely more important than liberal measures, the preservation of its constitutional and social life from the danger of revolution.


When parliament met on May 19, 1784, the ministry carried the address in the commons by 282 to 114. Pitt, however, soon found that he could not reckon on this majority on every question. In the Westminster election Fox had been opposed by Admiral Lord Hood, created an Irish baron after the battle of the Saints, and Sir Cecil Wray. The poll was kept open for forty days and there was much rioting and irregularity of every kind, for which both sides appear to have been responsible. Fox's friends, and above all the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire and other whig ladies, canvassed eagerly for him, and the duchess is said to have bought a butcher's vote with a kiss. George watched the contest with anxiety, for Fox's attack on the constitutional rights of the crown had deepened his animosity towards him. So strong were his feelings that, on hearing that Fox was gaining votes, he wrote to Pitt that "the advance could only be by bad votes, yet similar means must be adopted against him rather than let him get returned". He had heard with delight that 300 Quackers (sic) would vote for Hood and Wray.[188] At the close of the poll Hood stood first and Fox second. Great was the triumph of the Foxites, and the Prince of Wales, Fox's pupil in debauchery, was pleased to exhibit his opposition to his father by taking a prominent part in it; he wore Fox's colours, was present at banquets in his honour, where he gave the toast of "True Blue and Mrs. Crewe," one of Fox's lady canvassers, and got disgustingly drunk. Nevertheless the victory was disputed, for the high-bailiff granted a scrutiny, and instead of returning Hood and Fox as elected, merely reported the number of the votes. In this he was clearly wrong, for he made no proper return to the writ. If a scrutiny was to be held, it should have been completed before the day fixed for the return. It was his duty to make a return on that day; a decision as to the lawfulness of the election pertained[Pg 284] to the house of commons. His action deprived Westminster of representation, and would have shut Fox out of the house had he not already been returned for Kirkwall.

Fox petitioned the house to order the high-bailiff to make a proper return. Pitt opposed the petition, and the house ordered that the scrutiny should proceed, though in two divisions on the question his majority fell to 97 and 78. Eight months later, in February, 1785, the scrutiny was still proceeding and was likely to last two years longer. Against the king's judgment,[189] Pitt persisted in maintaining it; his majority sank to 39, then to 9, and on March 4 he was in a minority of 38. The high-bailiff was ordered to make an immediate return, and Hood and Fox were returned as elected. In this matter Pitt did not display his usual tactfulness. Excusably enough in so young a man, he allowed himself to be swayed by personal feeling, and his feeling was ungenerous. With the exception of a small knot of friends like Dundas, he kept himself aloof from his supporters and was ignorant of the annoyance with which they regarded this attempt to deal harshly with a defeated foe.[190] A bill passed that session ordered that polls were not to last more than fifteen days, and that any scrutiny should be closed six days before the return to the writ was due. Fox sued the high-bailiff for neglecting to return him and obtained £2,000 damages.


In spite of this mistake Pitt's position was strengthened by his success in dealing with finance. National credit was low; the public debt of Great Britain had grown from £126,043,057 in 1775 to £240,925,908,[191] and the 3 per cent. consols were at about 57. Heavy expenses entailed by the late war were still to be met, the civil list was in arrear, and the revenue was grievously diminished by smuggling. In order to make smuggling less profitable, Pitt largely reduced the duties on tea and foreign spirits, and made up the loss on the tea duties by a "commutation tax," an increased duty on houses according to the number of their windows. He also made smuggling more[Pg 285] difficult by a "hovering act," which subjected to seizure vessels hovering off the coast with any considerable quantity of tea or spirits. A deficit of £6,000,000 he supplied by a loan, and in raising this loan he abandoned the old evil practice of allotment among selected subscribers and opened it to public competition. A second point on which he made a new departure was his declaration that all sound finance should be directed towards extinguishing debt and that consequently "a fund at a high rate of interest was better for the country than those at low rates". The unfunded debts were large, those ascertained amounted to £14,000,000, and as outstanding government bills were at a discount of 15 to 20 per cent., these debts depressed the funds. Pitt at once funded nearly half as an instalment. Lastly the required charges exceeded revenue by over £900,000, an enormous sum for that time, and he proposed to make up the deficiency by taxation.

The number of the new taxes is a third point specially to be noted in his budget. One proposed tax, on coals, he withdrew in deference to general opinion, and substituted others in its place. The rest met with little opposition. As they finally stood they were laid on candles, bricks and tiles, hats, pleasure horses and horses entered for races, British linens and cottons, ribbons and gauzes, ale-licences, shooting licences, paper, hackney coaches, gold and silver plate, exported lead, postage, and imported raw and thrown silk. His speech on the budget, during which he moved 133 resolutions, at once placed his talents as a finance minister beyond dispute; it was admirably lucid and was conciliatory in tone. He also carried some regulations checking the abuse of the privilege of franking letters. In those days a letter which bore on the outside the signature of a member of parliament was carried post-free, and franks were given away with the utmost profusion. It was calculated that the new regulations, without abolishing the privilege, would increase the revenue by £20,000. The next year, 1785, Pitt completed the funding of unfunded debt, choosing according to his principle the 5 per cents. which, though entailing an immediate loss, afforded an easy means of paying off debt. He was able to declare that the revenues were in a flourishing state, and to speak of the institution of a fund for the repayment of the national debt as in the near future. He was, however, still[Pg 286] obliged to raise £400,000 by new taxes. Among these were an increased tax on male servants, graduated according to the number kept, and two which excited much hostile criticism, the one a tax on female servants, also graduated, two shillings and sixpence on one, five shillings a head on two, and ten shillings a head on three or more, and the other a tax on shops. Both these taxes were unpopular; the shop tax was repealed in 1789 and the tax on female servants in 1792.

In 1784 the East India company was applying to parliament for help, and as its affairs were under investigation it was unable to declare a dividend. Pitt carried bills authorising a dividend of 8 per cent., and granting the company relief from obligations to the exchequer which the late war made specially onerous. He then brought in his new bill for the government of India. This measure, which was not materially different from his bill of six months before, entirely subordinated the political power exercised by the directors to a board of control consisting of unpaid commissioners, a secretary of state, the chancellor of the exchequer, and other privy councillors, appointed by the crown. The patronage of India was to be retained by the directors, but the governor-general and the presidents and members of councils were to be appointed and to be removable by the crown. In all matters of peace and war the governor-general and his council were to be supreme over the minor presidencies. Regulations were made to prevent extortion by the officers of the company, and a special court was instituted for the trial of those charged with delinquencies. The bill was violently opposed by Fox, Burke, Sheridan, and Hastings's enemy, Francis, chiefly on the grounds that government and patronage ought not to be divided, that the nominal sovereignty of the directors and the extensive power of the board of control would lead to confusion, and that the governor-general ought not to have absolute authority in matters at a distance. After several divisions, Pitt carried the second reading in the commons by a majority of 211; he accepted some amendments in committee, and the bill finally passed both houses without a division. Thus was established that system of double government which lasted until 1858.

The session closed with a motion by Dundas for the restoration of the Scottish estates forfeited for the rebellion of 1745. The bill was unanimously approved by the commons. Thurlow,[Pg 287] who for some reason, possibly merely from jealousy of Pitt, adopted a generally malcontent attitude, spoke against it in the lords, but it passed there also without a division. Before the end of the year Pitt's success was declared by the accession to his ministry of old Lord Camden as president of the council in the place of Lord Gower, who took the office of privy seal, vacated by the appointment of the Duke of Rutland as viceroy of Ireland in the previous February. Shelburne, who was deeply offended by his continued exclusion from office, was created Marquis of Lansdowne with the promise that, if the king made any dukes outside his own family, he should be one of the number. He was not appeased by this promotion, and remained hostile to Pitt, who would have been weakened by his alliance and lost nothing by his hostility. Temple, who also aspired to a dukedom, was created Marquis of Buckingham, and was encouraged to hope that his ambition might in the future be fully satisfied. The session closed on August 20. Parliament did not meet again until January 25, 1785, and from that time the custom of beginning the regular session before Christmas has been discontinued.


As Pitt had already twice brought forward motions for parliamentary reform, in 1782 and 1783, the friends of the cause looked to him to promote it as head of the ministry. The question was not at that time exciting much public interest. The king was personally opposed to reform, and it was not until March, 1785, that Pitt obtained his assent to the introduction of a bill. He promised the king that if it was rejected he would not resign, unless "those supposed to be connected with government" voted against it. George took the hint, and while he expressed dislike of the bill to Pitt, assured him that he would not use any influence against it. Pitt did his best to insure the success of his bill, and even persuaded his friend Wilberforce to return from abroad to support it. He brought forward his motion on April 18. After defending himself from the charge of innovation by pointing out that in past ages changes had frequently been made in the representation, he laid down that the representation of boroughs should depend not on locality but on the number of voters. He proposed to disfranchise thirty-six decayed boroughs, and to add their seventy-two members to the representation of counties and of London[Pg 288] and Westminster. The boroughs were to be disfranchised at their own request, which was to be obtained by the purchase of their franchise from a fund provided by the state. In the future any other borough which was, or became, so decayed as to fall below a standard fixed by parliament, was to be allowed to surrender its franchise for an adequate payment, and its right would be transferred to populous towns. He further proposed to extend the franchise to copyholders, and in towns to householders.

According to his plan £1,000,000 sterling was to be set aside for compensation; 100 members would eventually be chosen by free and open constituencies instead of by individuals or close corporations, and some 99,000 persons would receive the franchise. North spoke ably against the motion, dwelling on the coldness with which the country regarded the question; only eight petitions for reform were presented, and none came from Birmingham or Manchester. Fox opposed it on the ground that the franchise was a trust, not a property, and that to offer to buy it was contrary to the spirit of the constitution; and Burke objected to the alteration which it would make in the representation of interests by increasing the influence of the country gentlemen. Pitt allowed that the scheme of purchase was a "tender part"; it was, he said, "a necessary evil if any reform was to take place". Leave to bring in the bill was refused by 248 to 174. Pitt had not yet secured an organised majority. Connexion and influence had not wholly given way to a system of parties founded on general agreement on political questions. There is no reason to suppose that the king broke his promise to Pitt, but his dislike of reform must have been well known, and probably had much weight. Pitt made no more attempts at parliamentary reform, and for the next seven years the question was of little importance in English politics.


The chief conflict of the session was fought over Pitt's scheme for establishing free-trade with Ireland. An agitation for parliamentary reform in Ireland brought into prominence a spirit of discontent. The Irish parliament did not represent even the protestant population; the house of lords was composed of a large number of bishops, generally subservient to the crown, and of lay lords, many of them lately ennobled for political service; the house of commons of 300 members, scarcely[Pg 289] a third of them elected by the people. Flood urged reform on a strictly protestant basis, and the cause of reform was supported by a convention of volunteers assembled at Dublin under Lord Charlemont. The Bishop of Derry, Lord Bristol, a vain and half-crazy prelate, advocated the admission of catholics to the franchise, and tried to excite the volunteers, who were then no longer exclusively protestant, and were recruited from the rabble, to extort reform from parliament by force. He attended parliament with an escort of volunteers and in regal state, and appeared in a purple coat and volunteer cap fiercely cocked. His seditious behaviour, the claim made for the catholics, and the violence of the democratic party caused a division among the volunteers and among the advocates of reform generally. Charlemont and Flood himself checked the violent party in the convention, which was dissolved peacefully. Flood's motions for reform were rejected, and the volunteer movement lost political importance. Pitt regarded parliamentary reform in Ireland as certain if it were adopted in England, and was prepared to welcome it, but was at that time determined to maintain the exclusion of the catholics from the franchise. The Irish administration was opposed to a change of system, and the Duke of Rutland, the viceroy, a young man of great ability, held that the state of the country would render it dangerous. The defeat of Flood's last attempt at reform, in 1785, left the Irish parliament as before without "the smallest resemblance to representation".[192]

In face of the threatened interference in politics of an armed force, of discontent and disloyalty, and foreseeing difficulties in the future between the independent Irish parliament and the imperial government, Rutland prophesied in 1784 that "without an union Ireland would not be connected with Great Britain in twenty years longer".[193] Pitt hoped to pacify discontent by benefiting Irish trade, and to unite the two countries by a community of interest. His plan, to which he attached more importance than to Irish reform, though commercial in character, was based on a lofty political conception; it was designed to promote "the prosperity of the empire at large".[194] North's[Pg 290] concessions to Ireland in 1779 and the subsequent establishment of Irish legislative independence left both countries at liberty to regulate each its own trade. Ireland admitted English goods free or at low duties; and England shut out most Irish manufactures, though admitting linen, the manufacture of which was encouraged by a bounty, and, for her own convenience, woollen yarn free of duty. Ireland, too, though enabled to trade directly with the English colonies, could neither send their products to England nor buy them from England. Pitt designed to establish perpetual free trade between England and Ireland, and as Ireland would be the gainer by the change, he proposed that in return she should contribute a fixed sum to the naval defence of the empire. Rutland, who saw that sending money to England would be violently opposed, suggested that the contribution should be spent on a portion of the navy to be kept on the Irish coasts. In words which it is well to remember, Pitt pointed out that "there can be but one navy for the empire at large, and it must be administered by the executive in this country".[195] The resolutions he sent over to be presented to the Irish parliament provided that the contribution should come from the surplus which the grant of free trade would create in the hereditary revenue of the crown, for, as that revenue was chiefly made up of customs and excise, the payment would be in exact proportion to the benefits conferred by the change.


As, however, Ireland had a heavy debt, which was largely due to the extravagance of government, Grattan insisted that the contribution should depend on the yearly equalisation of the revenue with the expenses. The Irish government yielded to his demand, and with that change the resolutions were carried. Pitt brought them before the English house of commons on February 22 in a speech of remarkable power. Fox, who had long been hoping "to make his harvest from Ireland,"[196] opposed them as injurious to British manufacture. The manufacturers at once took the alarm; a petition with 80,000 signatures was sent up from Lancashire against the resolutions, and a "chamber of manufacturers," with Wedgwood as president, vigorously protested against them. English manufactures, it was asserted,[Pg 291] would be undersold and ruined by goods produced by cheap labour in Ireland. After evidence had been heard on the matter for twelve weeks, Pitt saw that he must modify his scheme. On May 12 he brought forward a new set of resolutions less generous to Ireland, and providing that in commercial legislation the Irish parliament should perpetually be bound by the parliament of Great Britain. Fox, North, and Sheridan vehemently opposed them, and Fox denounced the whole plan as an attempt to lure Ireland to surrender her liberty. "I will not," said he, "barter English commerce for Irish slavery; that is not the price I would pay, nor is this the thing I would purchase." Nevertheless after long and warm debates, Pitt triumphantly carried his resolutions. The speeches of Fox and Sheridan found a loud echo in the Irish parliament; Grattan, in an impassioned speech, condemned the new resolutions, and they passed the commons only by 127 to 108. So strong an expression of adverse feeling forced Pitt to abandon his scheme. Thus was his wise and hopeful attempt to encourage Irish trade and strengthen the bond between the two countries wrecked by the factiousness of the opposition, the selfishness of the manufacturers in England, and the susceptibility of the Irish liberal party. Fox's opposition to free trade with Ireland brought him a temporary return of popularity in the manufacturing districts.

Pitt's command of the house of commons was still uncertain. In February, 1786, he was defeated on a bill for fortifying the dockyards at Plymouth and Portsmouth. His defeat was largely due to the unpopularity of the Duke of Richmond, the author of the plan, who had not gained in general esteem by deserting his former party, and to the old prejudice against increasing the military power of the crown. Yet it illustrates Pitt's position at the time. It was a "loose parliament"; the majority voted every man as he had a mind; Pitt had yet to bind his party together, and his cold and repellent manners still hindered him from making friends.[197] His power was strengthened in this session by the general approval elicited by his bill for the reduction of the national debt by means of a sinking fund. In forming his plan he received much help from Price, a nonconformist minister, distinguished as a writer on[Pg 292] financial questions. When introducing his bill he was able to show that the public revenue would exceed the expenditure by about £900,000, which he proposed to raise to £1,000,000 by some new taxes not of a burdensome nature, ample resources existing to meet a temporary excess in naval and military expenditure caused by the late war. That the revenue would continue to improve seemed assured by the increase in the customs due to Pitt's measures against smuggling. Government might reckon on at least £1,000,000 surplus, and that sum he proposed to make the foundation of his new sinking fund. Unlike the sinking fund established by Sir Robert Walpole in 1716, which had from time to time been diverted to other purposes, his fund was to be kept inviolate in war as well as in peace, and applied solely to the discharge of debt. To secure this, he proposed that in every quarter of each succeeding year £250,000 should be paid to six commissioners of high position, and should be used by them in the purchase of stock. The interest of such stock, together with the savings effected by the expiration of annuities, was to be invested periodically in the same way. The fund thus created would then accumulate at compound interest and become a sinking fund for the extinction of the national debt.

The bill passed both houses without a division. The highest expectations were founded upon it, for people generally, in common with Pitt himself and Price, regarded the new fund as an infallible means of discharging the national debt solely by the uninterrupted operation of compound interest. That the application of surplus revenue to the payment of debt is sound finance, and that to treat surpluses designed for that purpose as a separate fund is a convenient arrangement need no demonstration. There is not, however, anything magical or automatic in the operation of compound interest, nor can the separation of a sinking fund from general revenue have any real efficacy. Reduction of national debt, whatever arrangements may be made for it, can only be effected by taxation. During the years of peace, when the revenue was in excess of expenditure, Pitt's sinking fund acted as a convenient mode of reducing the debt. In 1792 a second fund of 1 per cent. on all loans was established, and by 1793 the commissioners had reduced the debt by about £10,000,000. Then came the war with France; the revenue fell short of the[Pg 293] expenditure, and Pitt met the deficiency by large loans raised at great expense. Yet in order to preserve the benefit which, it was believed, was derived from the uninterrupted operation of compound interest, the payments to the sinking fund were regularly continued, so that the state was actually borrowing money at a high rate of interest in order to reduce a debt at a low rate of interest. No member of the opposition saw the fallacy involved in Pitt's scheme. He is said, probably with truth, to have himself discovered it later, but he maintained the fund, which was useful as a means of keeping the duty of reduction of debt before the nation and of helping it to face with hopefulness the rapid accumulation of debt during the war with France.


In 1787 Pitt laid before parliament a treaty of navigation and commerce with France. The treaty of Versailles in 1783 provided that commissioners should be appointed to make commercial arrangements between the two countries. The French cabinet invited Shelburne to proceed in the matter, and he was about to do so when he was driven from office. Fox was opposed to a treaty. Pitt appointed a commissioner in April, 1784, but nothing further was done. It was a critical matter, for a commercial treaty with France was certain to give some offence at home, and Pitt may for that reason alone have been willing to delay action until his position was more secure. In 1785 the French council of state, irritated by the large influx of British manufactures which were smuggled into France, issued arrêts restraining trade with Great Britain. Pitt was too wise to retaliate. His opportunity had come, and he entrusted the negotiations to Eden, who deserted the opposition and accepted a seat on the new board of trade. Eden had a thorough knowledge of commercial affairs, and carried out his mission as envoy to the French court with great success.[198] The treaty, signed on September 26, 1786, reduced the duties on many of the principal articles of commerce of both countries, and put others not specified on the most-favoured-nation footing. A large and easily accessible market was opened to British commerce, and, as the exports of France were for the most part not produced in England and the French were in want of[Pg 294] British products, both countries would, Pitt argued, be gainers by an increase in the freedom of their trade one with the other, and political ill-feeling would be diminished by more intimate and mutually profitable relations. The navigation clauses showed as liberal a spirit as the commercial; an enemy's goods carried in the ships of either country were to be held free by the other, except contraband of war, which was limited to warlike implements and was not to include naval stores.

The treaty favoured the interests of the consumer, and was contrary to the economic principles of the whigs, who maintained that commerce should be regulated so as to promote home industry. Fox strongly objected to it in parliament, mainly on the ground that France was "the natural foe of Great Britain," and that any close connexion with her was dangerous. Sheridan and Charles Grey, afterwards the second Earl Grey, in his maiden speech joined him in condemning the treaty, but it was approved of by large majorities. Though it caused some temporary displeasure among the manufacturers, it was followed by a large increase of trade with France. Among Pitt's achievements as minister in time of peace none deserves to be ranked higher than this treaty, whether regarded in its details, or as a monument of his enlightened commercial policy, or as illustrating his statesmanlike view of the relations which it was desirable to establish between the two countries. His credit was further strengthened in the same session by his bill for the consolidation of the customs and excise. The customs duties, fixed from time to time, some on one system and some on another, were so complex that no one could be sure what he might be required to pay, and merchants often depended on the custom-house officers to tell them the amount due on goods. The excise, though in a less confused state, was also in urgent need of regulation. Pitt abolished the whole mass of existing duties with their percentages and drawbacks, and put a single duty on each article as nearly as possible of the same amount as before. These duties and all other taxes he brought into a consolidated fund on which all public debts were secured. Simple as this change appears, it involved about 3,000 resolutions. While it only slightly increased the revenue, it was a great benefit to merchants, it simplified the work in public offices, prevented officials from abusing their power, and en[Pg 295]abled Pitt to get rid of a large number of custom-house sinecures, and so at once to effect an economy and dry up a source of corruption. The bill received a warm welcome from Burke, and was passed without a division.


Pitt's position in the commons was not yet one of command. In 1788 his party, those who recognised him as their leader, was said to number only 52, while Fox's party, the regular opposition, was estimated at 138; the "crown party" which might be reckoned on to uphold the government for the time being "under any minister not peculiarly unpopular," consisted of 185, and the rest were "independent" members, whose votes were uncertain. Pitt then had to walk warily. His practical temperament was in his favour. That the country should be well governed, and that it should be governed by himself, which was the same thing to him, as it is probably to all great ministers, was the object of his life. Compared with that, special questions were of small importance. There was nothing doctrinaire in his turn of mind; the abstract righteousness of a cause did not appeal to him, and could not divert him from the pursuit of his main object. In 1787 a bill for the relief of dissenters by the repeal of the test and corporation acts of the reign of Charles II. was brought in by Beaufoy, a supporter of the government. In reality the dissenters suffered very little from these acts, for they were relieved by annual acts of indemnity. Yet their grievance was not wholly sentimental, and, even had it been so, it would still have been a grievance. The opposition was divided; North opposed the bill, Fox warmly advocated it. Pitt consulted the bishops. All save two were against it. He valued the support of the Church, and declared himself against the bill, which was rejected by a majority of 78. In 1789 the majority against it sank to 22. Yet Pitt was thoroughly high-principled. As we shall see later in the case of Hastings, he would not be false to his convictions, and if he judged that a cause was worth maintaining, even at the cost of weakening his own position, he did not shrink from his duty. This is proved by his conduct with reference to the slave trade.

The cruelties attendant on the trade were forcibly represented by a society for procuring its abolition, founded in 1787, mainly by quakers, of which Granville Sharp and Clarkson were prominent members. Wilberforce's sympathy was already[Pg 296] aroused by reports of the sufferings of the negroes in the slave-ships. Pitt advised him to undertake the question in parliament, and as a preliminary agreed to the appointment of a committee to inquire into the methods of the trade. The merchants of London, Lancashire, and Bristol were indignant at the threatened interference, and efforts were made to conceal the truth. Nevertheless the abominable cruelties to which the slaves were subjected during the middle passage were clearly proved. Chained to their places, fettered and fastened together, they were packed so closely on the lower decks and in stifling holds that they could scarcely turn, they were kept short of food and water, and were exercised to keep them alive by being forced under pain of the lash to jump in their fetters. While Wilberforce was ill in 1788, Pitt gave notice of a motion on the trade, and supported a bill moved by Sir William Dolben which mitigated the sufferings of the negroes during the passage. In 1789 Wilberforce in a long and eloquent speech moved resolutions for the abolition of the trade, and Pitt, Fox, who was always quick to feel for human suffering, and Burke joined in supporting him. Pitt's conduct on this question displeased many of his followers. The interests concerned in the trade were powerful, and for a time the question was virtually shelved.


The peace of Versailles left England isolated. The new government was to show that she was able and ready to reassert her right to exercise an influence in Europe. The political situation presented three alliances, of France and Austria, Austria and Russia, France and Spain, and opposed to them two isolated powers, England and Prussia. None of these alliances directly threatened England, yet there were elements of danger in the two first. After the death of Maria Theresa, in 1780, her son Joseph II. changed the general direction of Austria's policy. He was restless and full of great schemes which he looked to Russia rather than France to support. The growth of Russian power under Catherine had changed the political state of Europe. The treaty of Kutchuk Kainardji, in 1774, at the close of a successful war against the Turks, saw Russia strongly established on the Black Sea; the partition of Poland augmented her preponderance in the north: and in 1780 England found that her maritime interests were threatened by a power seated both on the Baltic and close to the Mediterranean.[Pg 297] Catherine welcomed the overtures of Joseph, for she contemplated further conquests from the Turks, and the good-will of Austria was important to her. Of these two allied powers Austria was the more dangerous to England and Prussia. Russia had already gained much, Austria was hoping for gain; Catherine was looking mainly to extension in eastern, Joseph's ambitions tended to disturb the balance of power in western and central Europe. France was impoverished; she desired peace and was anxious to restrain the emperor's ambition, and Spain could do nothing without her. A quadruple alliance, then, between the two imperial courts and France and Spain was impossible. The late war had raised the Bourbon influence in Europe. England was unable to detach Austria from France, and to form an alliance, as Carmarthen wished, with the two imperial courts; and she was, as we shall see, led by a conflict in Holland to enter into an agreement with Prussia which had important results.

Her foreign policy between 1784 and 1788 was chiefly concerned with the affairs of the United Provinces. Anxious to remove the restrictions imposed by treaties on the Austrian Netherlands, Joseph set aside the Barrier treaty of 1715, designed to check French aggression; and the Dutch withdrew their garrisons from the border fortresses. He pressed other claims upon them, relying on their weakness, for they paid dearly for provoking a war with England; and he demanded that the Scheldt, which was closed by the treaty of 1648, should be open to navigation. His claim concerned England, for though Austria could never become a great naval power even if Antwerp had access to the sea, the ports of the Netherlands and, indeed, of the United Provinces might fall under the control of some strong maritime state, such as France or Russia. Joseph's demand was backed by a recommendation from the Russian empress. He sent ships to sail up and down the river, and they were forcibly stopped by the Dutch. War seemed imminent. France, however, was then gaining great influence in Holland, and though she compelled the Dutch to assent to some of the emperor's demands, she upheld their refusal with regard to the Scheldt, and negotiated a treaty concluded at Fontainebleau in November, 1785, between the emperor and the republic, by which Joseph renounced his demand for the opening of the river.[Pg 298]


He was already occupied in renewing a scheme, which had been defeated in 1778, for exchanging his Netherland provinces for Bavaria. This project was highly prejudicial to Prussian interests in Germany; and Frederick of Prussia baulked it by forming a Fürstenbund, or alliance of princes, to maintain the integrity of the Germanic constitution. In February, 1785, he invited King George as Elector of Hanover to join in this projected alliance. George willingly assented, for the alliance was beneficial to Hanover; and in a letter to his Hanoverian minister he expressed the hope that his assent would lead to an understanding between England and Prussia. This was merely an expression of his private feelings; the Fürstenbund was not a matter of English politics and did not, in fact, bring about an Anglo-Prussian alliance.[199] Such an alliance was highly desirable for England as a means of defeating the intrigues of France in the United Provinces. The more republican or "patriot" party in Holland, which had led the states to break their ancient friendly relations with England, was completely under French influence, and, relying on the support of France, designed to compel the stadholder, William V. of Orange, a feeble and irresolute prince, to resign his office. Their victory would have made the republic virtually a French province, and would have brought France a great accession of naval power. Sir James Harris, the British ambassador at the Hague, laboured to counteract their designs by encouraging the party in the republic opposed to the policy of Holland. The stadholder's wife, a princess of high spirit, was a niece of Frederick the Great, and Harris was anxious for an alliance between England and Prussia as a means of overthrowing the French party. Ewart, the ambassador at Berlin, shared his views, but the ambassadors were held back by Carmarthen. The cabinet, Harris declared, was wholly occupied by domestic matters.[200]

In May, 1785, it was evident that Austria was in accord with France, and the cabinet inquired what Frederick's intentions were, hoping that his desire that England would join in preventing the Bavarian exchange would induce him to oppose the ambitious designs of France, and to form a union of[Pg 299] defence.[201] Frederick spoke freely to Ewart with reference to the Bavarian exchange, but would promise nothing as regards Holland.[202] The cabinet then made proposals to Catherine on the basis of her detaching Austria from France, and the formation of a triple alliance between England and the two imperial courts for the maintenance of peace.[203] Catherine replied that she would only agree on condition that England would not assent to the Fürstenbund, which was a menace to her Austrian ally. Her demand was peremptory and threatening. George stood firm. The Fürstenbund, he wrote to Pitt, concerned his "electoral capacity," it was a matter of Hanoverian, not of English, politics; he had already ratified it, and would not retreat.[204] A communication from the Prussian ambassador led the cabinet in September to send Lord Cornwallis to Frederick to ascertain his intentions. Frederick declared that the agreement between himself and England to check France would mean a general war in which England would have to meet the fleets of France, Spain, Holland, and perhaps Russia; and he would have on his hands the armies of France, Austria, and Russia; and that "though such a contest had been maintained, it was not a game to play often".[205] He was old and ill, and would not interfere. The action of France in negotiating the treaty of Fontainebleau strengthened the French party in Holland; the stadholder was forced to quit the Hague, but was supported by some of the other provinces. Frederick the Great died on August 17, 1786. The fortunes of the Orange party were at low ebb. France supplied the patriots with money; free corps were acting on their side; the stadholder was suspended from his office, and French agents advocated its abolition. It seemed as though Holland would become mistress of the Dutch republic and France the ruler of Holland.


The new Prussian king, Frederick William II., the brother of the Princess of Orange, deserted the purely German policy[Pg 300] of Frederick for a more extended European policy. He did not, however, at once interfere in the affairs of Holland, for there was a strong French party at his court. Harris needed money to support the stadholder's cause, and Carmarthen proposed a subvention of £1,200 a year. George was anxious not to be drawn into another war, and said that as his family was growing expensive the money could not be spared from the civil list.[206] In May, 1787, the cabinet decided to put £20,000 at Harris's disposal. Matters came to a crisis in June. As the princess was on her way to the Hague she was arrested and turned back by a free corps. Frederick William demanded that satisfaction should be made for this insult, and as the states of Holland, relying on French support, refused his demand, he entered into a secret convention with England to restore the stadholder, the two powers agreeing, Prussia to send an army into Holland and England to prepare forty ships of the line to support it. A Prussian army under the Duke of Brunswick crossed the frontier and met with little resistance. Amsterdam surrendered on October 10, and the stadholder was restored. Meanwhile Montmorin, the French foreign minister, declared that his court would support the Dutch. Pitt, who was then personally directing foreign affairs, decided, with the full approval of the king, that if the French court would not agree to the restoration war was inevitable.[207] A treaty was made with the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel for the hire of troops, and the naval and military forces were augmented. On the 27th France definitely renounced her design of intervention, and on Pitt's demand the French navy was reduced to a peace-footing. The designs of France, which were fraught with danger to English interests, were defeated, and the party in Holland favourable to alliance with England was secured in power. Though the Fürstenbund, a purely German system directed against Austrian ambition, failed to bring about an Anglo-Prussian alliance, the change in Prussian policy and, as an immediate cause, the insult to the Prussian king's sister, brought England and Prussia into active co-operation against the attempt of France to become mistress[Pg 301] of the United Provinces, and in 1788 led to the formation of a triple alliance for mutual defence and the maintenance of peace between England, Prussia, and the republic which changed the political situation. England was no longer isolated; she was restored to her position of influence in the affairs of Europe. Harris was created Baron Malmesbury as a reward for his services at the Hague.


[186] George III. to Pitt, March 30, 1790, MS. Pitt Papers, 103.

[187] May, Constitutional History, i., 277-80, 321.

[188] George III. to Pitt, April 13 and May 1, 1784, MS. Pitt Papers, 103.

[189] George III. to Pitt, March 4, 1785, MS. Pitt Papers, 103, quoted in Stanhope's Life of Pitt, i., App. xv.

[190] Pulteney to Rutland, Feb. 10, 1785, Hist. MSS. Comm., Rutland Papers, iii., 177-78; Earl of Rosebery, Pitt, pp. 64-66.

[191] Parl. Paper, Accounts, xxxiii. (July, 1858).

[192] Rutland to Pitt, June 16, 1784, Correspondence of Pitt and Rutland, p. 17; see also pp. 76-79.

[193] Ibid., p. 19.

[194] Parl. Hist., xxv., 586.

[195] Pitt to Rutland, Jan. 6, 1785, Corr., p. 73.

[196] Rutland to Pitt, June 16, 1784, Corr., p. 22.

[197] Pitt to Rutland, May 21, 1785, Corr., p. 105; Stanhope, Life of Pitt, i., 275, 288-89.

[198] Count de Butenval in his Précis du Traité de Commerce, 1786, endeavours to prove that in the initiation of negotiations Pitt was acting in obedience to the will of Vergennes.

[199] F. Salomon, "England und der deutsche Fürstenbund," Historische Vierteljahrsschrift, 1903, ii., 221-42.

[200] Malmesbury, Corr., ii., 102-6, 112-15, 116-18.

[201] Carmarthen to Ewart, May 14, 1785, MS. Prussia, R.O.; Political Memoirs of the Duke of Leeds, pp. 111-13; Salomon, u.s., pp. 231-33.

[202] Ewart to Carmarthen, May 26, 1785, MS. Prussia, R.O.

[203] Carmarthen to Fitzherbert, June 23, MS. Russia, Supplementary, R.O.

[204] George III. to Pitt, August 7 and 10, 1785, with Woronzow's (Vorontsov) statement, MS. Pitt Papers, 103, partially copied in Stanhope's Life of Pitt, i., App. xviii.

[205] Cornwallis, Corr., i., 199-211.

[206] George III. to Pitt, Sept. 22, 1786, and Jan. 8, 1787, MS. Pitt Papers, 103.

[207] Pitt to Eden, Sept. 14, 1787, Auckland Corr., i., 194-96; George III. to Pitt, Sept. 16, MS. Pitt Papers, 103.



The affairs of India, which played so large a part in raising Pitt to power, brought him a question fraught with embarrassment. Annoyed by reproofs sent out by the directors, and harassed by opposition in his council, by the independent attitude of the Madras government, and by difficulties arising from the conduct of officials both at Benares and Lucknow, Hastings in 1783 declared his intention of resigning office. His hope that the cabinet would request him to remain with extended powers was crushed by the speech with which Pitt introduced his India bill, and he left India in February, 1785, esteemed and honoured by the natives of all classes in the Bengal government. His wife came to England a year earlier, and though her conduct before her marriage with Hastings would have debarred other ladies from appearing at so strictly moral a court, she was received at St. James's, and the queen accepted presents from her. On the return of Hastings the directors thanked him for his eminent services, the king was gracious to him, the chancellor, Thurlow, who was in the royal confidence, was loud in his praise, and society generally smiled upon him. Pitt was cold; there was much in his conduct which needed defence. Preparations for an attack upon him were steadily pursued. Burke found a useful ally in Francis, who gratified his spite by giving him information to be used against his former antagonist. Fox and the opposition as a party adopted Burke's case. It was believed that Pitt would stand by Hastings in order to please the king. If he did so, they could represent him as shielding a criminal; if he joined in bringing him to trial, he would incur the risk of offending the king and alienating many of the supporters of the government.[Pg 303]


During 1785 Burke went on accumulating facts which were distorted by his fervent imagination. The delay of the attack encouraged the friends of Hastings, and on the first day of the session of 1786 his parliamentary agent, Major Scott, an ill-advised person, challenged Burke to fulfil a pledge made the year before that he would bring charges against him. In February Burke announced that he would propose to impeach Hastings before the lords, and in April exhibited charges against him. Pitt insisted that a copy of them should be delivered to Hastings, and that he should be heard in his defence before the house voted upon them. Fox and Burke, who on every check to their proceedings accused the government of a design to screen Hastings, declared with much heat that Pitt's proposal was intended to quash the accusation. The house, however, determined to hear Hastings, and he read his defence, which occupied two days and wearied his audience with a number of unfamiliar details. On June 1 Burke moved the first charge, which related to the Rohillá war, and was ably supported by Fox. Pitt took no part in discussing the main subject of the debate. Dundas, the most prominent member of the India board, though condemning Hastings's conduct, refused to consider the war as affording ground for a criminal charge; and said that, as an act of parliament had subsequently reappointed Hastings as governor-general, the house had condoned his previous conduct; and he spoke of Hastings as "the saviour of India". The house rejected the charge by 119 to 67.

The second charge, with reference to the treatment of the rájá of Benares, was moved by Fox with all his wonted ability. A treasury note invited the supporters of the government to vote against the motion. To the astonishment of all, and to the consternation of his supporters, Pitt announced that he agreed to the charge; he sharply criticised the misrepresentation of Hastings's opponents, and conclusively maintained that the rájá was bound to furnish the troops and money demanded of him, but he considered the fine imposed on him "exorbitant, unjust, and tyrannical". Many of the government party voted against him, but about fifty followed his lead and the charge was accepted by 119 to 79. The next day Hastings attended the court on the presentation of a magnificent diamond sent by the nizám to the king, whose acceptance of the present gave[Pg 304] rise to much ill-natured comment. Various motives have been suggested for Pitt's decision. None appear adequate save the most obvious and honourable one, that he acted in accordance with his conscience. Though his decision took the house by surprise, he clearly defined his attitude four months before: "he was neither a determined friend or foe to Mr. Hastings, and was resolved to support the principles of justice and equity".[208] He did not read the papers relating to Benares until the eve of the debate, and then, Dundas says, after reading them along with Hastings's defence, Pitt and he agreed that they could not resist the charge. The king in a friendly note gave Pitt credit for acting conscientiously, adding that for his part he did not think it possible in India "to carry on publick business with the same moderation that is suitable to an European civilized nation".[209] George was an eminently sensible man. There was no split between him and his minister.

In February, 1787, Sheridan brought forward the third charge, relating to the treatment of the begams of Oudh in a speech held by all who heard it to be a marvellous display of oratory. He described Hastings as "by turns a Dionysius and a Scapin," a tyrant and a trickster, with a mind in which "all was shuffling, ambiguous, dark, insidious, and little".[210] Indeed throughout the proceedings against Hastings his accusers constantly disregarded moderation and even decency of language. The third charge and other articles having been accepted by the commons, Burke, on May 11, impeached Hastings of high crimes and misdemeanours. An attempt was also made to bring an impeachment against Sir Elijah Impey, lately chief-justice of Bengal, on the ground of the execution of Nanda-Kumár and on other charges, but the commons, having heard his defence, refused to agree to the articles. The trial of Warren Hastings before the lords was opened in Westminster hall on February 13, 1788, with circumstances of dignity and splendour worthy of so great an occasion. Burke's speech on the case for the prosecution lasted for four days; it remains a magnificent specimen of rhetoric, though its vehement denunciations founded on[Pg 305] occurrences in which the accused was not directly concerned, and its attempts to create prejudice were not likely to affect the opinions of men conscious of their responsibility as judges. The court sat during that session of parliament for thirty-five, and in 1789 for seventeen days. It became evident that the trial would last a long time and public interest in it soon flagged.


Cornwallis was chosen by Pitt in 1786 as governor-general of India under the new act, and assumed the government in 1788. Unfettered by his council, he was in a far better position than Hastings, and, in spite of many difficulties arising from abuses of long standing, he effected numerous reforms both in the civil and military services of the company during the first three years of his administration. Meanwhile Tipú, encouraged by his success in the late war and by the negligence of the Madras government, was preparing for another attempt to drive the English out of the Karnatic. He attacked their ally, the rájá of Travancore, in 1789. Cornwallis secured the alliance of the nizám and the Maráthás in 1790, and General Medows, the new governor of Madras, successfully invaded Mysore. As, however, no further progress was made, Cornwallis assumed the command; he carried Bangalore by storm in March, 1791, and having obtained the active co-operation of the nizám and the Maráthás, laid siege to Seringapatam in 1792, and compelled Tipú to submit to a peace by which he surrendered half his dominions, engaged to pay a sum equal to £3,600,000, and gave two of his sons as hostages. The surrendered territory was divided between the peishwá and the nizám. Tipú's power was effectually broken, and the way was prepared for his final overthrow seven years later. Cornwallis was created a marquis as a reward for his splendid services, and resigned his office in 1793.

Though the government escaped the dangers in which the impeachment of Hastings threatened to involve it, a new question relating to India brought it into some peril. When, in October, 1787, war seemed likely to arise out of the intervention of England in the affairs of the Dutch republic, the India board sent four regiments to India, a measure of precaution which met with the full approval of the directors. The storm-clouds dispersed, and then the directors objected to pay the expense. Pitt held that the company was bound by the act[Pg 306] of 1784 to pay for the transport and maintenance of any troops which the board judged to be necessary for the defence of the British possessions in India, and brought in a declaratory bill to that effect in February, 1788. The opposition was supported by the influence of the company, and made a vigorous resistance. Fox, whose downfall as minister had followed his attack on the company, appeared as a champion of its claims. The directors were heard by their counsel, one of whom, Erskine, afterwards lord chancellor, a strong whig, made a violent attack on Pitt. On the other side, Scott, also (as Lord Eldon) a future chancellor, contended as a member of the house that the bill was a true exposition of the act. The debate on the committal lasted till 7 A.M. Pitt had drunk heavily with Dundas the night before, and was too unwell towards the end of the debate to reply to his opponents. His majority of 57 was considered unsatisfactory, and so many of the regular supporters of government were adverse or lukewarm that an ultimate defeat was thought probable. With great tact he two days later adopted some amendments which met the chief arguments of the opposition without injuring the principle of the bill.[211] The danger was over, and the bill finally passed both houses. A severer conflict and a more signal triumph were at hand.

The retirement of the aged chief-justice, Lord Mansfield, in the June of that year, was followed by some legal appointments, which included those of Pitt's personal friend, Pepper Arden, as master of the rolls, and Scott as solicitor-general. Thurlow, who was annoyed by Pitt's assent to the impeachment of Hastings, strongly objected to Arden's appointment. The king tried to make peace between him and Pitt. Thurlow was forced to yield, and remained sulky and hostile. About the same time Howe, the first lord of the admiralty, who was constantly attacked with reference to matters which arose out of the reduction of the navy consequent on the peace, resigned office, because he considered that Pitt did not afford him adequate support. He was created an English earl on his retirement. In his place Pitt put his own elder brother Chatham, a favourite with the king, but, as it proved, an indolent and inefficient minister, and also appointed Hood to a seat on the new admiralty board.[Pg 307]


For the most part things were going well with the king. He rejoiced in the successes of his ministers, and his victory over the coalition brought him popularity such as he had not enjoyed since his accession. His popularity was heightened by an attempt to stab him made by an insane woman named Margaret Nicholson on August 2, 1786. The poor woman was sent to Bedlam. George, who behaved with the utmost calmness, escaped unhurt, and the manifestations of loyalty evoked by the incident deeply gratified him. He was, however, much troubled by the ill conduct of the Prince of Wales. The prince drank, gambled, betted, and was addicted to debauchery; he showed no sense of honour in his dealings either with men or women, was thoroughly mean and selfish, and consorted with low companions. He was outrageously extravagant, and, in addition to the large sums lavished on his ordinary expenses, incurred enormous liabilities in altering and decorating his residence, Carlton house. The arrangement of his affairs in 1783 was not on a scale sufficient to meet his expenditure. By August, 1784, he was so deeply in debt that he informed his father that he intended to leave England and live abroad. George insisted that he should give up this scheme, which would have implied a public breach, and said that if he expected help he should send him a full statement of his debts and some assurance that he would keep within his income in the future. The prince was unwilling to send details of his debts, and when Sir James Harris tried to persuade him to please his father by ceasing to identify himself with the opposition and by marrying, declared that he could not give up "Charles" [Fox] and his other friends, and that he would never marry. When at last he sent his father the required statement, it showed liabilities amounting to £269,000, of which £79,700 was for completing the work at Carlton house. George was very angry, and the prince finding that his father would not help him stopped the work, dismissed his court officers, and sold his stud. There was an open quarrel between the father and son. "The king hates me," the prince said, and he did not consider how grievously he had provoked his father.[212]

His friends wished to obtain the payment of his debts from[Pg 308] parliament, but were embarrassed by the report that he was secretly married to Mrs. Fitzherbert, a beautiful and virtuous lady, six years older than himself, who at twenty-seven was left a widow for the second time. After repeated solicitations, unmanly exhibitions of despair, and a pretended attempt at suicide, he had persuaded her to accept his offer of marriage, and they were married privately before witnesses by a clergyman of the established Church on December 21, 1785. This was a most serious matter, for Mrs. Fitzherbert was a Roman catholic, and the act of settlement provided that marriage with a papist constituted an incapacity to inherit the crown, while on the other hand the royal marriage act of 1772 rendered the prince's marriage invalid. In April, 1787, his friends in the house of commons took steps towards seeking the payment of his debts from the house. Pitt refused to move in the matter without the king's commands, and, notice of a motion for an address to the crown on the subject having been given, declared that he would meet it with "an absolute negative". In the course of debate, Rolle, a member for Devonshire, alluded to the reported marriage as a matter of danger to the Church and state. Fox explicitly denied the truth of the report, and on being pressed declared that he spoke from "direct authority". There is no doubt that he did so, and that the prince lied. Mrs. Fitzherbert was cruelly wounded, and in order to satisfy her the prince asked Grey to say something in the house which would convey the impression that Fox had gone too far. Grey peremptorily refused to throw a doubt on Fox's veracity, and the prince had to employ a meaner instrument: "Sheridan must say something". Accordingly, Sheridan in a speech in the house, while not insinuating that Fox had spoken without the prince's authority, "uttered some unintelligible sentimental trash about female delicacy".[213] Fox was indignant at the way in which the prince had treated him, and is said to have refused to speak to him for more than a year; but he evidently did not consider the prince's conduct such as ought to prevent him from again acting with him, and in about a year they appear to have been as friendly as before.[Pg 309]

The denial of the prince's marriage was generally accepted. Pitt saw that there was a strong feeling that he ought to be relieved from his difficulties, and determined to anticipate a motion to that effect. He and Dundas arranged terms between the father and son. George agreed that the prince should receive an addition to his income of £10,000 a year from the civil list, and that a royal message should be sent to the commons requesting the payment of his debts; and he demanded that the prince should promise not to get into debt again. The promise was given, and a reference to it was inserted in the king's message. The commons, without a division, voted £161,000 for the payment of the debts and £20,000 for the completion of Carlton house. The father and son were reconciled, and appeared together in public. In spite of his protestations the prince did not amend his conduct. Early in 1788 he still took an active part with the opposition, and set up a gambling club, where he lost heavily. His example was followed by his younger brother Frederick, Duke of York. The duke, then a lieutenant-general, after receiving a military education in Germany, returned home in 1787, and lived a very fast life with so little regard to decency that "his company was thought mauvais ton".[214]


On November 5, 1788, the king, who for some time had been in bad health, became decidedly insane. At first it was believed that his life was in immediate danger, and that, even if he was spared, he would not recover his reason. The Prince of Wales stayed at Windsor, and assumed charge of the king's person, and it was universally recognised that he must be regent. Whether the king died or remained insane, Pitt's dismissal seemed certain, for not only was the prince closely allied with the opposition, but he was deeply offended at the line Pitt had taken with reference to his debts. The hopes of the opposition ran high. Fox, who was travelling in Italy with his mistress, Mrs. Armistead, was sent for in hot haste. In his absence Sheridan, whose convivial habits made him acceptable to the prince, busied himself with the affairs of the party. If they came into power Loughborough had an undoubted claim to the chancellorship. Thurlow, however, was ready to betray[Pg 310] his colleagues if he were assured that he should retain his office. The prince and Sheridan arranged that he should have his price, and he secretly joined them. From the first Pitt decided on his course; the prince must be appointed regent by act of parliament, with such limitations as would secure the king, should he recover, from being hampered in the exercise of his rights.[215] For himself, embarrassed as his private affairs were, he looked forward calmly to the loss of office, and determined to practise as a barrister. According to the last prorogation, parliament was to meet on the 20th. The king's insanity rendered a further prorogation impossible; parliament met, and Pitt procured an adjournment until December 4, to see how it would go with the king.

Meanwhile Fox returned home and unwillingly agreed to the arrangement with Thurlow. The chancellor's colleagues were convinced that he betrayed their counsels, and one day when the cabinet met at Windsor, the fact that he had first had a private interview with the prince was disclosed through the loss of his hat; "I suppose," he growled, "I left it in the other place," the prince's apartment.[216] Pitt wisely took no notice of his treachery. On the 3rd the king's physicians were examined by the privy council; they stated that he was mentally incapable, that they believed that his illness was curable, and that they could not say how long it might continue. The opposition was anxious to make the worst of matters, for if the illness was likely to be a long one, it would be difficult to refuse the regent full powers. Accordingly, on the 4th, Fox urged that the physicians should be examined by a committee of the house. Pitt assented readily, for a new physician had been called in who took a favourable view of the case. This was Willis, a clergyman, who had become a doctor, and was a specialist in insanity; he took chief charge of the king, who was removed to Kew, pursued a new line of treatment, prohibited irritating restraints, and controlled him by establishing influence over him. He told the committee that he had found that such cases lasted on an average five months, and at worst about eighteen; the other doctors, though less hopeful, held that ultimate recovery[Pg 311] was probable. The ministers were ready to proceed, and reckoned that another month would see the prince appointed regent, and that their own dismissal would follow at once.[217]


On the 10th Pitt moved for a committee to search for precedents. Fox objected; it was not for parliament, he maintained, to consider who should be regent; the Prince of Wales had a clear right to the regency, and parliament was only qualified to decide when he should exercise his right. When Pitt heard the authority of parliament thus called in question, he is said to have slapped his leg and to have exultantly exclaimed to the minister sitting beside him, "I'll unwhig the gentleman for the rest of his life!" He declared that Fox's doctrine was in the highest degree unconstitutional, and that no part of the royal authority could belong to the prince unless it was conferred on him by parliament; the question, he told the house, concerned its right of deliberation. Fox saw his mistake, and two days later stated that the prince put forward no claim of right; both sides agreed that he must be regent and that before he assumed the office he must be invited to do so by parliament; his right was an abstract question upon which it was no use to argue. Pitt was too good a tactician to allow him to minimise the point at issue; he denied "that the prince had any right whatever". The difference between an irresistible claim, which Pitt acknowledged, and an inherent right was not one merely of words; if the prince could claim the regency as of right, parliament could not restrict his power without his consent. The effect of Fox's false move was heightened by the folly of Sheridan who raised a storm of indignation by a threat of the danger of provoking the prince to assert his claim. Once again Fox made Pitt the champion of the king and the nation against the pretensions of a whig faction. The character of the struggle was understood, and bills were posted with the heading: "Fox for the prince's prerogative," and "Pitt for the privilege of parliament and the liberties of the nation". Yet in both houses several supporters of the government ratted, for the prince seemed the rising sun, and he and the Duke of York openly canvassed on Fox's side.

Nevertheless the commons approved Pitt's resolutions to the effect that, as the personal exercise of the royal authority was[Pg 312] interrupted, it was the duty of the two houses to supply the defect, and that it was necessary to determine on means by which the royal assent might be given to bills for that purpose. None of the precedents adduced by the committee met the present case. Fox argued that to appoint a regent by a law was to treat the monarchy as elective, and that the two houses had no legislative power independently of the crown; and assuming that he was about to re-enter on office taunted the ministers with a design to weaken their successors by limiting the powers of the regent. The ministerial majority was 268 to 204. Pitt proposed to provide for the royal assent by placing the great seal in a commission with authority to affix it to the bill. This daring fiction, the only means by which a regency could be established by enactment, was approved by 251 to 178. On this question, and throughout the whole course of the struggle, Burke spoke with a violence and impropriety which injured his party and suggested a disordered mind. He called Pitt the prince's competitor, referred to the chancellor as Priapus and as "a man with a large black brow and a big wig," and later disgusted the house by speaking of the king as "hurled from his throne" by the Almighty. In the lords the proceedings followed the same lines as in the commons. Willis's account of the king convinced Thurlow that he was playing a wrong game, and when the question of the prince's right was discussed in the lords' he spoke strongly on the government side. Several members of the lower house were present to hear him. He referred to the favours he had received from the king, "When I forget them," he said, "may God forget me!" "Forget you!" said Wilkes with exquisite wit, "He will see you damned first." "The best thing that can happen to you," said Burke. Pitt left the house exclaiming, "Oh, the rascal!" On the 25th Thurlow formally severed his connexion with Fox. After a warm debate the ministerial resolutions were affirmed by the lords by 99 to 66.


The restrictions which the cabinet proposed to place on the power of the regent were laid before the prince. He was to be debarred from conferring peerages except on the king's issue of full age; from granting reversions or any office or pension except during pleasure, and from disposing of the king's property; and the charge of the king's person and the management of the[Pg 313] household were to be in the queen's hands. These restrictions were based on the idea that the king would speedily recover; if his illness was prolonged they were to be open to revision by parliament. The prince promised to accept the regency, and stated his objections to the restrictions. The existence of the government seemed drawing to an end. Pitt was extremely popular, and the London merchants, expecting that he would soon be driven from office, offered him a gift of £100,000, which he declined to accept. Before he could bring the restrictions before the commons, the speaker, Cornwall, died, and on January 5, 1789, William Wyndham Grenville, joint-paymaster of the forces, was elected in his place. A fresh examination of the physicians was urged by the opposition. Willis told the committee that good progress was made; Dr. Warren's account was less favourable. Willis was represented by the prince's party as a charlatan, and Warren was pitted against him as the doctor of the opposition. After this delay Pitt laid the restrictions before the house as resolutions. They certainly impaired the power of the executive, and would have weakened any ministry appointed by the regent. No exact date was fixed for their duration, and it is conceivable that, after the regency had lasted for some years, the upper house would have refused to remove the restriction as to the creation of peers, and would, as in 1719, have attempted to limit their number by withholding from the regent a part of the royal prerogative. And as the management of the household would have placed a patronage of over £80,000 a year[218] at the disposal of the queen, who was hostile to Fox, a court influence might have been established in favour of Pitt and adverse to the new ministry. The queen was accused of intrigue and violently attacked by the opposition press. Fox urged his objections to the resolutions with much force, but they were adopted by both houses, and on the 31st the prince accepted the offer of the regency made by the lords and commons on those terms, on the understanding that the restrictions were temporary.

His party was in high glee; medals were struck to commemorate his regency, whig ladies wore regency caps and ribbons, and a list of new ministers was drawn up. The conduct[Pg 314] of the prince and the Duke of York caused much scandal. Stories of the ill-treatment of the king while in the prince's charge may be dismissed as unfounded; it is alleged that the prince made sport of his father's ravings, it is certain that his associates did so, and that he and his brother behaved with brutal callousness and openly indulged in riotous merry-making during the king's illness.[219] Before the resolutions could be made law it was thought that a formal opening of parliament was necessary in order to invest it with legislative capacity, and this was effected on February 3 by a commission under the great seal. Pitt then brought in the regency bill, and while it was before the commons, agreed that all restriction should terminate in three years if the king remained ill so long. The bill passed the commons after warm debate, and had reached the committee stage in the lords when, on the 19th, the king was declared to be convalescent. His recovery progressed steadily, and on March 10 he announced to parliament, through commissioners, his complete restoration to health. Both on that night, and on April 23, when he returned thanks in St. Paul's, there were great rejoicings, for his illness enshrined him in the hearts of his people. The skill and temper which Pitt exhibited throughout the long crisis strengthened his position in parliament and his place in the esteem of the public, and from that time more cordial relations were established between him and the king, who warmly acknowledged his obligations to him. Though he was fortunate in the king's timely recovery, he owed much also to Fox's bad management. The hasty assertion of the prince's rights and the delays interposed in the proceedings in the commons put off the settlement of the regency until it was no longer needed, while the attack on the authority of parliament on behalf of the prince's prerogative and the reckless attempt of Fox and his party to displace a ministry which had the confidence of the nation, in order to obtain office for themselves, brought general censure upon them and added to Pitt's popularity.

In Ireland the parliament met in 1789 when the regency question was still before the English parliament. Buckingham,[Pg 315] who as Earl Temple was lord-lieutenant in 1782-83, had succeeded Rutland in 1787. He hoped that the Irish would adopt the English plan. He was disappointed by their extreme jealousy of anything which might look like dependence. The functions of the viceroy rendered the question of restrictions of little importance, and, under the guidance of Grattan, an address was voted inviting the prince to assume the regency of the kingdom without limitations. Buckingham refused to forward it on the ground that it purported to invest the prince with a power not conferred on him by law; for the prince could not lawfully take any part of the royal authority without an act of parliament, and no Irish bill could be enacted without the royal assent under the great seal. The cabinet approved of his refusal. The parliament sent commissioners over with the address; but by the time that it was presented the king was virtually recovered, and the matter ended ineffectually. No serious consequences probably would in any case have arisen from the course adopted by the Irish parliament, but the difference between the two countries on so important a question enforced the need of a legislative union. Soon after the conclusion of this business Sydney resigned the home office. He differed from Pitt on the slave trade question, and Pitt was probably glad to get a colleague more thoroughly at one with him. He was succeeded by William Grenville on June 5, and Henry Addington was elected speaker in Grenville's place.


In the summer news of a revolution arrived from Paris. The reforming movement, in which all European states had some share, was promoted in France by ideas of constitutional government borrowed from England, by the attacks of Voltaire on medievalism and religious authority, by the advance of science, by the teaching of the encyclopædists, by the exaltation of individual liberty by political economists, by Rousseau's romantic theories on the foundations of society, and by sympathy with the American revolution. It was supplied with practical aims by the misery of the poor, the injustice done to the lower classes, which alone paid the heaviest of the taxes, the privileges of the nobles and clergy, the harshness of the laws, and arbitrary methods of government. England, as we have seen, shared in the reforming movement. Here, however, it had no such violent results as in France. No sharp lines divided class[Pg 316] from class; the laws were the same for all, there was no difference in taxation, and no privileged caste, for a peer's younger sons were commoners, as was his eldest son so long as his father lived. Parliamentary and other free institutions, imperfect as they were, secured the liberties of the people. The life of the agricultural poor though hard was not intolerable; landowners lived upon their estates and directed local affairs, and the poor were at least kept from starvation. France was almost bankrupt, ruined by the prodigality of her two last kings and their neglect of their duties to their people. Louis XVI. was forced to summon the states-general, which met at Versailles on May 4, 1789. Political discontent was rife and was rendered dangerous by the distress of the poor; the winter had been hard, prices were rising, and Paris was full of destitute persons, of labourers out of work, and along with them a large number of criminals and ruffians.

The deputies of the "third estate," who were about equal in number to those of the two privileged orders and were supported by a few nobles and a large minority of the clergy, demanded that the three estates should form a single chamber. The king upheld the privileged orders in their refusal. The third estate voted itself a "national assembly," and, after a struggle of six weeks, gained its point, and the estates were constituted as a single assembly. Paris was in a ferment of excitement. The king dismissed Necker, the minister of finance, who was trusted by the popular party, and refused to withdraw his troops from the city. A riot broke out, and on July 14 the Bastille, an ancient fortress and prison, then little used, which was guarded by a few Swiss and some old soldiers or invalides, was taken by the mob, and the governor and some others were murdered. The king's brother, the Count of Artois, the Prince of Condé, and several unpopular nobles fled from France. A new municipality was established and Lafayette was chosen to command a new civic militia or national guard. Disorder and rioting prevailed in the provinces, country-houses were burnt and pillaged, and many murders were committed. Louis was forced to assent to all the demands of the people; he recalled Necker, and showed himself at the Hôtel de Ville wearing the national cockade or tricolour. The assembly voted decrees sweeping away the[Pg 317] feudal system, abolishing the privileges of classes and corporations, and ecclesiastical tithes, and promulgated a flatulent declaration of the rights of man. Bread-riots broke out in Paris on October 5; a mob marched on Versailles and invaded the palace, and on the 6th the national guard brought the king and queen to Paris, where they remained in virtual captivity.


The first tidings of the movement were received in England with satisfaction. It was generally believed that the insurrection would shortly end in the establishment of constitutional government, that while the troubles lasted France would cease to be formidable, and that consequently a continuance of peace and relief from taxation might be expected. Before long, however, the acts of violence and the spoliation effected by the decrees of the assembly roused widespread disgust. As late as February, 1790, Pitt, while stigmatising the liberty proclaimed in France as "absolute slavery," believed that the commotions would end in order and true liberty. Burke from the first held that the outburst of "Parisian ferocity" proved that it was doubtful whether the French were fit for liberty; he maintained that, though the power of France might cease to be formidable, its example was to be dreaded, and expressed his abhorrence of the destruction of the institutions of the kingdom. Fox, on the other hand, as he had delighted in the American revolution, delighted in the revolution in France. Of the fall of the Bastille, which had made hardly any impression on French public opinion, he wrote: "How much the greatest event it is that has happened in the world; and how much the best!" While he regretted the bloodshed which accompanied the revolution, he constantly declared his exultation in its successes. A comparatively small party of democrats, supported by the political dissenters under the leadership of the Unitarian ministers Price and Priestley, noisily expressed their sympathy with the French democrats; and some men of high position, such as Lords Stanhope and Lansdowne, professed more or less republican principles. The revolution society under the presidency of Stanhope sent an address to the French assembly, and clubs were formed in many large towns "avowedly affiliated to the democratic clubs in France".[220]

The difference between Burke and Fox on this matter[Pg 318] was openly declared in the debate on the army estimates in February, 1790. Fox in a mischievous speech referred to the part taken by the French army in forwarding the revolution, and said that it was a time when he should be least jealous of an increase in the army, since the example of France had shown that "a man by becoming a soldier did not cease to be a citizen". Burke declared that France was setting an example of anarchy, fraud, violence, and atheism, and that the worst part of its example was the interference in civil affairs of "base hireling mutineers" who deserted their officers "to join a furious licentious populace". He protested against a comparison between the revolution in France and the revolution of 1688, between the conduct of the soldiery on that occasion and the behaviour of some of the French troops. His speech, which was received with general applause, had a strong effect on opinion, and Pitt and others expressed their agreement with it. Fox answered him in a conciliatory tone. Sheridan fanned the flame; he taunted Burke with inconsistency, and pronounced a panegyric on the revolutionary leaders. Burke replied that thenceforth he and Sheridan were separated in politics. A rift in the opposition was started, and an attempt to close it by a conference two days later was ineffectual. The opinion of parliament on two other questions during the session was, seemingly, influenced by events in France. Fox renewed the attack on the test acts. He was opposed by Pitt; and Burke, whose speech, Fox said, filled him "with grief and shame," animadverted on the overthrow of the Church in France, and maintained that Price, Priestley, and other dissenters hoped to overthrow the Church of England. Fox's motion was defeated by 294 to 105. A motion for parliamentary reform by Flood, who then represented an English constituency, was opposed by Pitt, Windham, and Burke, and was rejected without a division. The session ended on June 10, and parliament was dissolved.


England reaped material benefit from the temporary extinction of France as a factor in the affairs of Europe, consequent on the proceedings of the assembly. Some difficulties with Spain had been removed by a convention arranged in 1786, by which Great Britain agreed to withdraw the settlers from the Mosquito coast, and the Spanish king allowed them to[Pg 319] occupy a district in Honduras. As this compliance on the part of England checked the smuggling of goods into the Spanish colonies, it was well received by Spain. Hostile feelings towards England soon revived. Florida Blanca, the Spanish minister, was anxious to increase trade with the colonies, and was determined to keep it exclusively for the mother-country. It was impossible to prevent English ships from interfering with it. The colonies of Spanish America were discontented; some insurrections had been made with the object of gaining direct trade with other nations, and the malcontents hoped for help from England.[221] Florida Blanca believed that England sought first to establish direct commercial communication with her Spanish American colonies, and, finally, to separate them from the mother-country.[222] He was determined to prevent these designs, which had no existence in England, and was upheld in his purpose by the extravagant opinion held by himself and his nation as to the strength of their country. He found his opportunity in 1789. Some English merchants had established a settlement at Nootka Sound, off Vancouver's island, for trade in furs and ginseng with China. In April one of their ships with its cargo was seized in the Sound by a Spanish frigate, the officers and crew were maltreated, and two more ships were seized shortly afterwards. Satisfaction was demanded by the English government, and was refused by Spain on the grounds that all lands on the west coast of America as far as 60° north latitude were under the dominion of Spain, and further that Nootka belonged to Spain, because it had been discovered and occupied by a Spanish captain four years before Cook visited those coasts.


The English government held that these pretensions were inadmissible, for there was no effective occupation by Spain; it refused to discuss them, and claimed that the king's subjects had a right to navigate and fish in those waters and settle on unoccupied lands.[223] Spain prepared for war, and Florida Blanca seems to have made overtures to Austria and Russia in the vain hope that they would enter into an active alliance with[Pg 320] his court.[224] The affair was kept secret in England until May 3, when the preparations of Spain demanded immediate action. On that day an order in council was passed for pressing seamen in every port in the kingdom, and the commons unanimously agreed to a vote of credit of £1,000,000 for expenses. The matter was laid before the two other members of the triple alliance; the Dutch at once fitted out a squadron to act with the British fleet, and a favourable answer was received from the Prussian king. The French ministers, moved by the news of the naval preparations of Great Britain, and expecting to be called on to fulfil the obligation expressed in the family compact, ordered the armament of fourteen ships of the line. On this the national assembly voted that it had the right to decide on questions of war, and on May 22 declared that the French nation renounced wars of conquest. This grandiloquent decree destroyed the effect of the armament. Nevertheless, Spain was set on war; fleets were gathered at Ferrol and Cadiz, and a loan of £4,000,000 was arranged. Florida Blanca seems to have relied on help from the United States, and made some efforts to gain their good-will, but they did not respond to them.[225] From France he peremptorily demanded the assistance to which Louis was pledged by the family compact. His demand was laid before the national assembly, and on August 25 it was decided to substitute a new pacte national for the pacte de famille, and to invite the king to arm forty-five ships for defence, and to revise the treaty; and a suggestion was made to Spain that she might confirm the new compact by the cession of Louisiana. This was mere folly. The English ministers notified the French government that any help given to Spain would be promptly resented,[226] and Florida Blanca seeing that no reliance was to be placed on France entered into negotiations with England. During their progress a fresh cause of offence was given to England; for in September McDonald, captain of a British West Indiaman, reported that his ship had been stopped by a Spanish frigate in the Gulf of[Pg 321] Florida, that he had been forced to go aboard the Spaniard, and had there been cruelly tortured, being set in the bilboes in the blazing sun.[227] For this outrage satisfaction was promptly made, and on October 28 a treaty was signed between Great Britain and Spain by which Spain yielded to the demands of the British court with reference to the Nootka Sound affair and restored the disputed territory. The submission of Spain marks a complete change in her policy; she sought by compliance towards England to gain the security no longer to be looked for from alliance with France. It was a signal triumph for Pitt, who as usual had directed the proceedings of the foreign office, for Carmarthen, who succeeded his father as Duke of Leeds in 1789, was a feeble person. Pitt had broken up the family compact and could reckon on the compliance of Spain. France was isolated and had exhibited her weakness before the eyes of Europe. The despicable proceedings of the national assembly saved England from a war, and dissolved the alliance which had so long threatened her.[228]


[208] Parl. Hist., xxv., 1094.

[209] George III. to Pitt, June 14, 1786, MS. Pitt Papers, 103, quoted in Stanhope's Life of Pitt, i., App. xix.

[210] Parl. Hist., xxvi., 287.

[211] Bulkeley to Buckingham, March 10, 1788, Court and Cabinets of George III., i., 360-61; Parl. Hist., xxvii., 115-27.

[212] Copies of correspondence relating to the Prince of Wales given by the king to Pitt in Jan., 1787, MS. Pitt Papers, 105; Malmesbury, Diaries, ii., 126-31.

[213] Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party, ii., 123-42; Langdale, Memoirs of Mrs. Fitzherbert, pp. 28-30; Parl. Hist., xxvi., 1019, 1048-56, 1070, 1080.

[214] Court and Cabinets, i., 363-64; Auckland Corr., i., 456.

[215] Grenville to Buckingham, Nov. 13, 1788, Court and Cabinets, i., 448-49.

[216] Same to same, Nov. 30, ibid., ii., 23; Administrations of Great Britain, p. 122 n.

[217] Grenville to Buckingham, Dec. 9, 1788, Court and Cabinets, ii., 41.

[218] Parl. Hist., xxvii., 1010.

[219] Compare Massey, Hist., iii., 383-84, 388, with Jesse, Memoirs of George III., iii., 85 sqq., and Lecky, Hist., v., 147 sqq.; see also Court and Cabinets, ii., 12, 25, 122; Auckland Corr., ii., 306.

[220] Annual Register, xxxii. (1790), 65.

[221] Despatches and Papers, MS. Pitt Papers, 345.

[222] Fitzherbert to Leeds, June 16, 1790, MS. Spain, R.O.

[223] Del Campo to Leeds, Feb. 10, 1790; Memorial, Spain, 18; Leeds to Fitzherbert, Aug. 17, 1790, all MSS. Spain, R.O.

[224] Merry to Leeds, Feb. 8, 1790; Fitzherbert to Leeds, Nov. 8, 1790, MSS. Spain, R.O.

[225] Fitzherbert to Leeds, June 16, 1790, MS. Spain, R.O.; Bond to Leeds, Jan. 3, 1791, Letters of P. Bond.

[226] Leeds to Lord Gower, Sept. 1, 1790, MS. France, R.O.

[227] McDonald's Affidavit, Sept. 25, 1790, MS. For. var., 816, R.O.

[228] A. Sorel, L'Europe et la Révolution Française, ii., 84-95.



For the sake of clearness it will be convenient in this chapter to notice first some matters of domestic interest debated in parliament from 1790 to 1792, next to take a general view of English foreign policy, and, lastly, to trace the effects of the French revolution on English politics down to the outbreak of the war with France. The general election of 1790 proved that Pitt had thoroughly gained the confidence of the nation, for it increased his already large majority. The election presented one noteworthy incident; Horne Tooke, though in holy orders, and consequently supposed to be disqualified, presented himself for election at Westminster; he retired before the close of the poll, and the question of the qualification of clergymen to sit in parliament was not decided until 1801. In consequence of the hostility of the chancellor, Pitt needed some one to lead his party in the lords, and chose William Grenville, the secretary of state for home affairs, who was created Baron Grenville. The expenses of the armament against Spain amounted to nearly £3,000,000; the prosperity of the country warranted Pitt's decision not to allow any interruption in the progress of the reduction of debt; he obtained £500,000 from the Bank of England without interest, on the strength of unclaimed dividends, and proposed to obtain the remainder by taxation. The question was raised whether the dissolution put an end to the prosecution of Hastings. That an impeachment was not "abated" by a dissolution had been affirmed by the lords in the case of Lord Danby in 1679, but this decision was reversed in 1685. Precedents were obscure, and the great lawyers differed. Pitt, who on this question sided with Fox and Burke, argued on broad constitutional grounds that an act of the crown[Pg 323] should not hinder the commons in the exercise of a right, and it was agreed by both houses that an impeachment should remain in statu quo from one parliament to another. The trial was resumed in 1791. After lasting for seven years it ended in 1795 in the acquittal of the accused on every count. The decision was generally approved. If in the midst of extraordinary difficulties Hastings did some things hard to justify, he was at the least a great ruler, firm, self-reliant, patient, and enlightened, who served his country well. He lived until 1818, honoured in his old age.


The relief granted to English Roman catholics in 1778 was extended in 1791. Though they were still precluded from sitting in parliament and holding public offices, a bill introduced by John Mitford, afterwards Lord Redesdale, gave complete freedom of worship and education, admission to the legal profession, and exemption from vexatious liabilities to all catholics who took an oath of an unobjectionable character. Pitt approved of the bill, and Fox supported it, though he wished that it had gone further, and declared his dislike of all tests. A bill placing Scottish catholics in virtually the same position as their co-religionists in England was passed in 1793. The confiscation of Church property in France strengthened the unwillingness of the commons to weaken the position of the Church at home. A motion to relieve the Scottish presbyterians from the obligation of the test act was lost by a large majority, and a motion for the relief of unitarians, which must be noticed later, also failed. Since 1789 Wilberforce had been working on a committee for collecting evidence with respect to the slave trade. In 1791 he made a motion for its abolition which was supported both by Pitt and Fox, but was defeated by 163 to 88. He repeated his motion in 1792. The king had at first favoured the cause, but a shocking massacre of the white population in the French portion of St. Domingo by the negroes, who were excited by the preaching of the "rights of man," turned him against it, and he thenceforward regarded abolition as jacobinical. Thurlow, Hawkesbury, and Dundas were strongly opposed to it. Pitt could not, therefore, make it a government measure without almost certainly wrecking his administration. He supported the motion with a speech of surpassing eloquence. Public opinion made a direct negative no[Pg 324] longer possible; but the West India merchants and planters and the shipping interest were powerful, and the anti-abolitionists were strengthened by the king's known dislike to the cause. The motion was met by arguments for delay, and an amendment proposed by Dundas for gradual abolition was carried. A resolution was finally adopted that the trade should cease in 1796. The lords postponed the question. Year after year Wilberforce, supported by James Stephen, Zachary Macaulay, and others, carried on the struggle for the abolition of the trade with noble persistency. The victory was not attained until 1807.

Another measure on which Pitt and Fox were also in full accord was more successful. Lord Mansfield's pronouncement in the action against Almon, the bookseller, in 1770, which reserved the question of the criminality of a libel for the decision of the court, was, it will be remembered, widely condemned as an invasion of the rights of jurors. Of late years these rights had successfully been maintained by the famous advocate Erskine. When, for example, in 1789, in consequence of a motion by Fox, a publisher, Stockdale, was prosecuted by the crown for a libel on the promoters of the trial of Hastings, Erskine contended that the whole pamphlet in question should be considered by the jury, and procured an acquittal. Fox, who in his early days had jeered at the rights of jurors, introduced a bill in 1791 declaring their right to give a general verdict in a case of libel. His speech was one of his finest; he was ably seconded by Erskine; Pitt gave him his aid, and the bill was passed unanimously by the commons. Thurlow, who disliked the bill, prevailed on the lords to postpone it until the next session. When it was again sent up by the commons in 1792, he obtained a delay until the judges should have been consulted. Their opinion, though hesitating, was unfavourable to the bill. The aged Camden, however, spoke strongly in its favour, and it was carried in spite of the chancellor's opposition. This statute, of which Fox, Erskine, and Pitt share the credit, placed the liberty of the press in the hands of jurors.


From 1788 Pitt's foreign policy was directed towards the pacification of Europe and the maintenance of the balance of power by means of the triple alliance between Great Britain, Prussia, and Holland. Catherine of Russia, who was bent on the overthrow of the Turkish empire, and on strengthening her[Pg 325] hold on Poland, pressed the Turks until they declared war in 1787. The next year the emperor Joseph declared war against them. Gustavus III. of Sweden allied himself with the Turks and invaded Finland. His expedition failed, and Denmark, the ally of Russia, invaded his kingdom. Sweden was in imminent danger; its overthrow would have given Russia absolute sway in the Baltic; the commerce of England and Holland would have been seriously affected, and the coast of Prussia endangered. The allied powers interfered, and a threat that Prussia would invade Holstein, and a British fleet sail for the Sound, compelled Denmark to cease hostilities, and saved the independence of Sweden. Catherine was deeply offended, and when the allies offered to mediate a peace between her and the Turks, returned a decided refusal. She pressed on the war with success, and the capture of Ochakov extended her dominions to the Dniester.

The emperor's war was unsuccessful. He was in great difficulties; for Hungary was restless and his Netherland provinces in revolt. The allies might have mediated a peace between him and the Turks on the basis of the status quo before the war, had it not been for the desire of Frederick William to use the difficulties of Austria for his own advantage. He designed to compel Austria to a peace by which she should restore Galicia to Poland, in order that in return Poland should cede to him Dantzig and Thorn; and he would have compensated Austria by allowing the emperor to conquer and retain Moldavia and Walachia. He hoped to accomplish this through his alliance with England and Holland, and in order further to weaken Austria proposed that the revolted Netherlands should be united to Holland as one republic, urging that they might otherwise fall into the hands of France. Pitt desired to arrange a peace on the status quo basis, and to extend the triple alliance by the inclusion of other powers; and, highly as he valued the Prussian alliance, he would not consent that, merely to aggrandise Prussia, England should lend herself to a policy which would almost certainly have led to a new war. Accordingly, the Duke of Leeds warned Frederick William that his plans went beyond the treaty of alliance, which was purely defensive. The death of the emperor Joseph, on February 20, 1790, changed the situation, for his successor, Leopold II., was a practical and[Pg 326] wary statesman. Frederick William was bent on war against Russia and Austria, his minister signed a treaty with the Turks, and he pressed England to acknowledge the independence of the Austrian Netherlands. The English government took a decided line, made him clearly understand that in the event of a war he would be isolated, and proposed an immediate armistice.

Frederick William at last yielded to the representations of England and Holland. Through the mediation of the allies an armistice between Austria and the Turks was arranged on the basis of the status quo at a congress at Reichenbach in July, 1790, and a formal peace was concluded the next year at Sistova. The English government, anxious to prevent an alliance between the revolted Netherlands and France, desired the restoration of the Austrian power in the provinces, under conditions which would shut out French influence by satisfying the people; and accordingly the allies guaranteed the liberties of the provinces, and they were regained by the emperor. The ministry agreed with Prussia that support must be given to Sweden, which was exhausted by its war with Russia; a subsidy was promised and a squadron lay in the Downs ready to sail for the Baltic. As soon as Catherine heard of the issue of the conference at Reichenbach, she made a peace with Gustavus without the mediation of the allies, which was concluded at Werela in August. So far, then, in spite of serious difficulties arising from the ambition of the Prussian king, the triple alliance had enabled the government to carry out its policy with success. Its formation secured the Dutch from the ascendency of France; it strengthened the position of England in its quarrel with Spain, saved the independence of Sweden, mediated peace on the basis of the status quo between Austria and the Porte, hindered the spread of French influence in the Netherlands, and indirectly restored peace in the Baltic.


Pitt's policy, however, received one decided check. Catherine rejected the proposal of England that she should make peace with the Turks on the basis of the status quo before the war, and declared that she would keep Ochakov and the line of the Dniester. Pitt differed from the views held by his father, the whigs generally, and the coalition, with reference to Russia. They looked on Russia as the natural ally of England, both for commercial reasons and as a counterpoise to the Bourbon[Pg 327] alliance, and Catherine owed much to England's good-will in her war with the Turks in 1770 and during her conquest of Crimea in 1783. Times had changed; and Pitt regarded with displeasure the establishment of Russia on the Black Sea and the prospect of the conquest of Constantinople, and held that the Turks were useful as a check on Russian aggrandisement. The possession of Ochakov was believed to be of the first importance in the struggle between the two powers. Frederick William urged that Catherine should be forced to resign it. In 1790 Pitt was opposing his wishes elsewhere; he was unwilling to alienate him altogether, and agreed to put pressure on Russia. The Turks were repeatedly defeated, and in December Suvorov (Suwarrow) took Ismail; 12,000 Russians and 28,000 Turks perishing in the storming and sack of the city, which are described in Byron's splendid verse. In the following March, in spite of some opposition, Pitt persuaded the cabinet to agree to send a fleet to the Baltic, and a squadron to the Black Sea to assist the Turks, while Frederick William invaded Livonia, and on the 27th an ultimatum was despatched to St. Petersburg.[229]

The next day a royal message to parliament announced the augmentation of the navy. Pitt sought to obtain a pledge that parliament would support the government in its proposed action. He met with strong opposition. Fox and others in both houses maintained that our true policy was to be on good terms with Russia, and that Russia had an undoubted right to retain Ochakov. "The balance of Europe," it was urged, could not be overset by its retention; it was a matter which did not concern England; a war with Russia would be disastrous to English trade and manufactures; if Russia became a power in the Mediterranean so much the better, as its fleet would be a check on the fleets of France and Spain. Burke vehemently protested against England embarking on an "anti-crusade" by assisting "destructive savages," as he called the Turks, against a Christian power. Four times, in one form or another, the question was debated in the commons. The government majorities were large, though less than normal. In the cabinet Grenville opposed the armament, and Pitt found that the feeling of the country generally, and specially of the city of London and the[Pg 328] mercantile class, was strong on the same side. He yielded on April 16; a messenger was sent in hot haste to St. Petersburg to prevent the presentation of the ultimatum, and the Prussian king was informed that the fleet would not sail to the Baltic. Catherine was triumphant; she kept Ochakov and the line of the Dniester, made terms with the Turks without the intervention of other powers on August 11, 1791, and concluded a definite peace at Jassy in the following January. Freed from her wars with Sweden and the Porte, and from the danger of foreign intervention in both cases, she was again able to pursue her designs on Poland. She complimented Fox on the part he had played, and placed his bust in her palace between those of Demosthenes and Cicero. Pitt, who had lately refused the king's offer of the garter, sarcastically referred in parliament to the compliments his opponent received from a foreign sovereign.

Pitt's prestige was for a time seriously injured by this failure and people talked of a possible change of government. Leeds considered that as foreign secretary he was specially compromised, and resigned the seals. As it was more difficult to find a foreign than a home secretary, Pitt recommended that Grenville should be transferred to the foreign department, that Cornwallis should take Grenville's place, and that, until Cornwallis returned from India, Dundas should have the seals, and further suggested that Lord Hawkesbury (Jenkinson), then president of the board of trade, should be called to the cabinet. George agreed, but as Cornwallis declined the offer Dundas remained home secretary. Pitt learnt that Ochakov was not so important as he at first imagined; indeed the possession of it by the Turks would not have rendered Constantinople safe from attack nor protected Poland from further partition. His failure, however, to carry out his scheme of coercing Russia was a serious matter; it destroyed his hopes of an extension of the defensive alliance, and the triple alliance itself, on which his foreign policy had been built, virtually came to an end. Frederick William was deeply annoyed and, in order to strengthen his position with regard to Russia, made advances to Austria, which led to an alliance between the two powers and to their joint invasion of France.

The opinion of the great majority of the nation with regard to the revolution in France was decided by the publication of[Pg 329] Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution in November, 1790. This famous work was primarily intended to rebut the assertions of Price and others that the revolution in France was a more perfect development of the ideas of the English revolution of 1688, that Englishmen had a right to choose their own governors, cashier them for misconduct, and frame a government for themselves. It describes the constitution as an inheritance to be handed down to posterity uninjured and, if needs be, improved, and exhibits and condemns the measures of the French assembly as precipitate, unjust, and doomed to failure. Splendid alike as a literary achievement and as a store-house of political wisdom, it is also remarkable as a proof of Burke's prescience, for though he wrote at an early stage of the revolution, before those savage excesses which have made it a by-word, he foretold its future course, not indeed without errors, but with wonderful sagacity. Superbly national in sentiment, the book met the propaganda of French ideas by appealing to the pride with which Englishmen regarded their own institutions. Its success was immense. Paine answered it in his Rights of Man, expressing revolutionary ideas with a crude force which influenced thousands too ignorant to detect its fallacies; and Mackintosh in his Vindiciæ Gallicæ expounded in polished sentences the position of the whig sympathisers with the revolution. Neither undid the effect of Burke's work. Of the well-to-do of all classes there was scarcely one man in twenty who did not become an ardent anti-jacobin.


Stimulated by the success of the Reflections, Fox lost no opportunity of declaring his admiration of the revolution in parliament, and his followers irritated Burke by thwarting his attempts to reply. At last the crisis came during a debate on a bill for the government of Canada. After the settlement of the United Empire Loyalists in western Canada, the demands of the British colonists for the repeal of the Quebec act of 1774 became urgent. Pitt recognised the value of the French population as a conservative force, a check on revolt, and in order to do justice to both peoples, introduced a bill dividing the dominion into two provinces, Upper and Lower Canada, each with its own governor, elective assembly, and legislative council. Burke supported this measure, which was passed, and is known as the constitutional act of 1791. Fox objected to the principle of the bill on the ground that the French and English inhabitants should[Pg 330] coalesce, and to two special provisions in it, one that the sovereign might grant hereditary titles with a right to sit in the council, the other reserving certain crown lands for the support of the protestant clergy. He blamed the proposal to revive titles of honour in Canada when they had been abolished in France, and jeered at Burke's lament in the Reflections on the extinction of the spirit of chivalry among the French. A few days later, on May 6, Burke, after much baiting by Fox's party, spoke strongly of the danger of French propagandism, and declared that at the risk of the desertion of friends he would exclaim with his latest breath, "Fly from the French constitution!" "There is no loss of friends," Fox whispered. "Yes," he said, "there is a loss of friends. I have done my duty at the price of my friend; our friendship is at an end." When Fox rose to reply the tears trickled down his cheeks. The rupture was permanent. Burke stood alone. His former friends treated him as a renegade, and the whig newspapers showered abuse upon him. His answer was a powerful vindication of the consistency of his position in his Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, which had a decided effect on the opinions of many of Fox's party.

In June came the French king's flight to Varennes and his enforced return to Paris. His queen Marie Antoinette appealed to her brother the emperor for help. Leopold would do nothing save in concert with the other great powers, and learnt that England would take no part in a congress.[230] Pitt, always more interested in domestic reforms than in foreign politics, had no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of France. War would hinder the commercial progress of the country; he wanted fifteen years of peace to secure the full benefits of his economic reforms: his policy was one of strict neutrality. He shared in the general belief, so soon proved to be mistaken, that the revolution would prevent France from engaging in war and would ensure years of peace to England; the funds were high and commerce was flourishing. Leopold could only look to Prussia for co-operation. The attitude of England decided that of Spain. Gustavus of Sweden was, indeed, eager for a war of a crusading kind to re-establish the old régime, but this idea was contrary to the policy of both Austria and Prussia,[Pg 331] and Gustavus allied himself with the French emigrant princes who commanded an army at Coblentz; themselves selfish and intriguing, their army undisciplined and ill-provided; Leopold rated them at their proper value and was on his guard against them. Frederick William, untrustworthy as he was, seems to have been sincerely anxious to help the French king. Leopold hoped to avoid war; he distrusted Prussia, and the designs of Catherine on Poland caused both sovereigns to hesitate. In August, however, the diet demanded that Leopold should support certain princes of the German empire against France. He held a conference with Frederick William at Pilnitz, and on the 27th the two monarchs signed a declaration that they would employ force on behalf of the French king, provided that the powers to which they applied would join them. Leopold knew that England would refuse, and the declaration was nugatory. It enraged the French, and was used by the émigrés as though it promised the fulfilment of their hopes for an invasion of France by a foreign confederation. Calonne, who acted as their minister, applied to Pitt for an assurance of neutrality and for a loan. Pitt refused his requests and would not recognise him as having any formal authority. On September 13 Louis was forced to accept the new French constitution, and Leopold declared that his acceptance put an end to all need for intervention.


The French were not content to leave other peoples alone. To the more ardent revolutionists the revolution was not a mere political event in the history of their country; it was a religion which it was the mission of France to propagate. No part of France was to remain outside it; the feudal rights of princes of the empire in Alsace and Lorraine were abolished, and Avignon and the Venaissin were declared French territory. No people wishing to share in its benefits was to be left unenlightened, and French democrats were already intriguing with the factions in the Netherlands which were opposed to the Austrian rule. In England the propaganda had as yet made little way, though the democrats were noisy. At Birmingham, where Priestley had his chapel, they arranged to hold a dinner on July 14 to celebrate the fall of the Bastille, and a seditious address was circulated. In the evening of that day a violent riot broke out. The mob, with shouts of "Church and king,"[Pg 332] wrecked two dissenting chapels and seven houses belonging to prominent democrats, one of them Priestley's house, where they destroyed his library, philosophical apparatus, and papers. The riot lasted for two days and was finally quelled by dragoons. Three of the rioters were hanged, and over £26,000 was paid by the neighbouring hundreds as compensation to the sufferers.

Though both as a king and as a German prince George was indignant at the proceedings of the French revolutionists, he fully acquiesced in Pitt's determined neutrality. How little at the beginning of the session of 1792 Pitt expected to be driven from his position is shown by the line which he adopted in parliament. The king's speech declared that the state of Europe seemed to promise that the country would continue to enjoy tranquillity. The naval force was reduced to 16,000 men, and the proposed reductions in the two services amounted to £200,000. For the last four years there had been an average yearly surplus of £400,000, and Pitt proposed to add £200,000 a year to the sinking fund and to remit taxes to the same amount. He also instituted an additional system for the reduction of debt by providing that every new loan should carry a sinking fund of its own. When this scheme was before the lords, Thurlow poured ridicule upon it, and spoke of its author with contempt. The king wrote to Pitt, hoping that his old friend would own himself in the wrong, and that Pitt would overlook the offence. Pitt, who had borne long enough with Thurlow's sullen temper and constant opposition, told the king plainly that he must choose between him and the chancellor. George did not hesitate, and Thurlow, much to his surprise, received an order to give up the great seal. He retired at the end of the session, on June 15, and the great seal was put in commission. Pitt's ascendency in the cabinet was placed beyond dispute. The dismissal of Thurlow marks a step in the progress of the development of the cabinet system. It was no longer possible, as in the earlier years of the reign, for a minister to remain in office, through the king's favour, against the will of the prime minister. When a prime minister is dissatisfied with one of his colleagues he can insist on his resignation, for if he requests his dismissal, his request cannot be rejected unless the sovereign is prepared to take new advisers.


The loss of the chancellor was erroneously believed to have[Pg 333] weakened the government. Some of the whig party, of which the Duke of Portland was the recognised head, busied themselves in devising a coalition government. Apart from the sweets of office, the condition of their party rendered the idea specially attractive to them. Burke's appeal to the whigs to maintain their old principles, which he urged in person at a meeting of the heads of the party on June 9, 1792, convinced them that unless Fox moderated "his tone and temper," it might become impossible for them to continue to work with him. A junction with the government might save them from disruption. It was proposed that Pitt should resign the treasury, that he and Fox should be joint secretaries of state and that the treasury should be held by the Duke of Leeds, as a neutral, who would be little more than a figure-head. This precious scheme, chiefly, at least, set on foot by Loughborough in the hope of gaining the chancellorship, was debated among them for weeks. Loughborough, who was not a man to be trusted, led them to believe that some of Pitt's confidential friends were in favour of it, and had assured him that Pitt would readily agree to it. Fox approved of the idea of coalition if he was to have an equal share with Pitt of power and patronage. Leeds mentioned the idea of a coalition to the king, who received it coldly, for George hated Fox; he did not intend to alter his government to suit the whig leaders, and he knew that they were mistaken as regards Pitt's attitude. At last Leeds spoke of the scheme to Pitt who drily told him that circumstances did not call for any alteration in the government and that no new arrangement had ever been in contemplation.[231] If the Portland whigs were to separate themselves from Fox and his friends and were to support the government, they would have to support the government of Pitt, and that after a while, as we shall see, they resolved to do.

Early in 1792 war between France and Austria and Prussia seemed at hand. The French ministers hoped to obtain an alliance with England, or at the least an assurance of neutrality in case of an invasion of the Netherlands, and to arrange a loan. They were prepared to offer Tobago and even Mauritius to boot. Talleyrand, the ex-Bishop of Autun, came over in an unofficial[Pg 334] capacity to see how matters stood and to intrigue with the opposition. At court the king treated him coldly and the queen turned her back on him. He had interviews with Pitt and Grenville, and got nothing out of them; he received much attention from the opposition and returned to France in March. Meanwhile, on February 7, Leopold, unable to disregard the call of the diet and uneasy about the Netherlands, agreed with Frederick William to restore order in France, both allies intending to be indemnified. Yet war did not come at once, and on March 1 Leopold died. His son and successor, Francis II., was less distrustful of Prussia, and was eager for war. Under the influence of a party, somewhat later known as the Girondists, the French assembly was brought to desire war with Austria. On the accession of this party to power Dumouriez became minister of foreign affairs. He designed to detach Prussia from the Austrian alliance, isolate Austria, invade the Austrian Netherlands, where the people seemed ready for revolt, and establish them as an independent republic, and prosecute further plans for the extension of France to its "natural barriers". Gustavus was assassinated, and Sweden adopted a neutral policy; Russia, though violently hostile, was engaged in Poland, England decided the policy of Spain and would be followed by Holland. Would England oppose an invasion of the Netherlands on the understanding that France would not conquer them for herself; could the government be persuaded to an alliance by offers of Tobago, a mutual guarantee of possessions, and a treaty of commerce; and could a loan be arranged? Negotiation on these points was entrusted to Talleyrand who was to accompany Chauvelin, the accredited ambassador, to England.[232] On April 20 France declared war on the "King of Hungary and Bohemia," as Francis was entitled before his election.


While England's official relations with France remained friendly, dislike of the revolution was growing stronger, and the more moderate whigs were changing their opinions with regard to it. This change was largely due to the active propagation of revolutionary ideas among the lower classes, which was carried on by various societies. The Friends of the People, a respectable association of the more extreme whigs, excluding[Pg 335] Fox, who would not join it, was formed in the spring of 1792 to promote parliamentary reform; some of its proceedings were discreditable, but it kept clear of connexion with the French revolutionists. Not so the Revolution Society, the Society for Constitutional Information, and the London Correspondence Society, which were in correspondence with the jacobins of Paris. The last, the most formidable of them, was directed by a secret council, and had branches in various large towns, the Sheffield branch alone numbering 2,400 members. Meetings were held in which the most violent revolutionary sentiments were loudly applauded, and seditious handbills and pamphlets, chief among them the second part of Paine's Rights of Man, were distributed by tens of thousands. Though the number of persons who adopted revolutionary ideas was as yet comparatively small, the propaganda was carried on noisily, and was certainly gaining ground. The government saw that it was time to interfere, and, on May 21, issued a royal proclamation against seditious writings. The address to the crown in answer to the proclamation was opposed in the commons by Grey. Fox supported him, and declared that the proclamation was merely a move taken by the government to divide the "whig interest," which, he said, nothing could divide. Nevertheless Windham and others of Fox's party supported the government, and the address was carried without a division. Proceedings were taken against Paine by the attorney-general; he fled to France and became a member of the convention. For a time the propaganda was checked.

The feeling which it excited strengthened the government. Acting in connexion with the Society of the Friends of the People, Grey gave notice of a motion for a reform of parliament. Pitt said that it was "not a time to make hazardous experiments"; and though Fox, Erskine, and Sheridan spoke on the other side, he was supported by the larger number of the party. Pitt was delighted at this split, and hoped to obtain a pledge of co-operation against the propaganda from "the most respectable members of opposition".[233] Matters were not ripe for this. An attempt of Fox to procure the relief of the unitarians from penal laws was defeated by a large majority,[Pg 336] owing to the active part which they were taking in spreading principles subversive, so Pitt said, "of every established religion and every established government". Chauvelin and Talleyrand found themselves avoided by society generally. They held constant communication with Fox, Sheridan, Lord Lansdowne, and other enemies of the government; and Chauvelin had the impertinence to send a remonstrance to Grenville against the proclamation of May 21, for which he was duly rebuked. All that they could obtain from Grenville was an assurance that England desired to remain at peace with France, and hoped that France would respect the rights of the king and his allies; if, in other words, the French wished England to remain neutral, they must keep their hands off Holland. No better success attended the effort to detach Prussia from the Austrian alliance, and the Prussian king declared himself at war with France.

An attempt of the French to snatch the Austrian Netherlands ended miserably; their soldiers fled before the emperor's army of occupation on April 29, mutinied, and murdered one of their generals. The allied armies under the Duke of Brunswick were gathering, and Paris was in a ferment. Neither of the two national assemblies, not the first, called the constituent, nor its successor, the legislative assembly, could govern. The Paris mob, bestial and sanguinary, was supreme, and was moved from time to time to violent action by individuals or groups which played upon and pandered to its passions. On June 20 a carefully engineered insurrection exposed the king and queen to cruel insults and imminent danger. The long agony of the monarchy was drawing to a close. After protracted delays the allies began to move, and, on July 25, Brunswick published an ill-judged manifesto which excited the French to fury. The British ambassador, Lord Gower, wrote that the lives of the king and queen were threatened, and asked if he might represent the sentiments of his court. Determined not to give any cause of offence, the government refused to allow him to speak officially. On August 10 another prearranged insurrection was raised in Paris; the king and queen sought refuge with the assembly, and the king's Swiss guards and officers were massacred. He and the queen were imprisoned, and royalty was "suspended". Gower was at once recalled. This was not a hostile act; the king to whom he was accredited no[Pg 337] longer reigned, and to have accredited him to the provisional government, which had deposed the king, would have been indecent and a just cause of offence to the allied powers. Before leaving he was instructed to express his master's determination to remain neutral, and his earnest hope that the king and queen would be safe from any violence, "which could not fail to produce one universal sentiment of indignation throughout every country of Europe". Talleyrand left England; Chauvelin remained, though the king's deposition deprived him of his character as ambassador.


The allied armies entered France; Longwy surrendered on the 26th and Verdun on the 31st. A few days later England was horrified by the news of the massacres of September; the indignation was general, and Fox spoke of the massacres with genuine disgust. The success of the allies was short-lived; Dumouriez defeated the Prussians at Valmy on September 20, and before the end of October the invaders were forced to evacuate France. A French army seized Savoy and Nice, which were annexed to France, and another overran the principalities on the left bank of the Rhine, receiving the surrenders of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz, crossed the river and took Frankfort. Meanwhile Dumouriez entered the Austrian Netherlands; he defeated the Austrians at Jemappes, and the Netherlands were lost to the emperor. Everywhere the French posed as liberators and set up republican institutions. While France was allured by the Girondist idea of universal emancipation, it carried on the traditions of the old monarchy in its aggressions; it was so in the Rhineland and the Netherlands, and it was so with regard to the Dutch republic. French republicanism was industriously propagated in the provinces, and the "patriot" party, which was defeated in 1787, was again encouraged to revolt. Determined not to be drawn into war, the British government, in July, warned the states-general not to be persuaded to join the allies, and the Dutch remained neutral. In November, a victorious French army was on their border, and a strong party among them was ready to co-operate with it by overthrowing the stadholder as soon as it entered their territory. England was bound alike by honour and her own interest to defend the stadholder, and the French knew that, if they desired that England should remain neutral, they must not molest[Pg 338] Holland. On the 13th the states-general applied to England for an assurance of help if need arose. It was, Pitt felt, "absolutely impossible to hesitate," and Grenville assured the states-general that England would faithfully fulfil the stipulations of the treaty of 1788.


Holland was in imminent danger, and in the hope that some combined action might lead to a general pacification, the English government sought to open confidential communications with Austria and Prussia. The replies of the two powers were delayed; they were arranging for their respective indemnifications; for their plans were upset by the failure of their invasion of France. Catherine had invaded Poland in the spring, and Frederick William, who had more than once guaranteed the integrity of the kingdom, betrayed the Poles, and agreed with the empress to make a second partition of Poland between themselves. That was to be his indemnity; the emperor was to be gratified by being allowed to exchange the Netherlands for Bavaria. Great Britain protested, but in vain. The second partition of Poland was carried out in 1793. Scarcely had Grenville assured the Dutch that England would stand by them, when, on the 16th, the French executive declared the Scheldt open, and soon afterwards sent ships of war by it to Antwerp. This decree violated the rights of the Dutch, which had been confirmed by the treaty of Fontainebleau in 1785, and which England was bound to defend by the treaty of 1788. It showed that France assumed the right of subverting the political system of Europe by setting treaties at nought, and it was a direct defiance of England.

Nor was this the only provocation which England received. The downfall of the French monarchy excited the revolutionary societies to fresh activity, and the propaganda was carried on with amazing insolence. Deputations from these societies appeared before the national convention with congratulatory addresses and were received with effusion. The constitutional society, for example, hoped that Frenchmen would soon have to congratulate an English national convention, and the president in reply expressed his belief that France would soon hail England as a sister-republic. Emissaries from the French ministry promoted sedition both in England and in Ireland, and their reports led their employers to believe that England,[Pg 339] Scotland, and Ireland were ripe for revolt.[234] It was an absurd mistake. Yet though the number of revolutionists was still comparatively small, the propaganda caused much uneasiness. Thousands of French refugees were landing in England, mostly priests and members of the aristocracy, many of them completely destitute. Subscriptions were raised for their relief, and Burke and others exerted themselves nobly in their behalf. This large immigration made it easy for French spies and revolutionary agents to carry on their work undetected. Its progress was helped forward by discontent among the lower class. The harvest was bad and the price of wheat rose, trade was depressed, and there was much distress, specially in the manufacturing districts. Riots broke out at Carlisle, Leeds, Yarmouth, Shields, Leith, Perth, and Dundee, and in some cases were connected with revolutionary sentiments. At Dundee cries were raised of "No excise, no king," and a tree of liberty was planted. On November 19 the convention openly asserted its right to overthrow the government of other countries by decreeing that France would help, and would instruct her generals to help, all peoples that desired freedom; and an order was given that translations of this decree should be distributed in all countries. The decree was an invitation to the subjects of every state in Europe to revolt, and the propaganda which it authorised was a gross insult to the British government and nation.

The danger of Holland and the activity of revolutionists at home convinced the ministry that it was time to take measures of defence. On December 1 a part of the militia was embodied, and parliament was summoned for the 13th; the Tower was fortified, naval preparations were set on foot, a squadron was ordered to the mouth of the Scheldt, and an order of council prohibited the exportation of grain to France. Grenville informed the Dutch that England was arming, and called on them to arm also. Pitt still hoped for peace, and suggested to a French envoy that his government should give him assurances through an authorised agent with respect to the safety of Holland and the decree of November 19. The executive council would only treat through Chauvelin, who was offensive.[235] On the 27th he[Pg 340] demanded whether England was to be reckoned neutral or an enemy of France; he protested that the decree did not apply to England, and that no attack would be made on Holland, but said that France would not give way as to the Scheldt, and threatened that if the ministers decided on war, they would find the nation against them. Already a decree of the convention passed on the 15th had ordained that all states occupied by French armies should virtually be subject to France, and should contribute to the support of the French troops. The war of "liberation" had become a war of conquest.[236] Grenville replied to Chauvelin on the 31st to the effect that the protestations of the executive council were belied by its conduct, that England could not consent that France should annul treaties at her pleasure, or be indifferent to her assumption of sovereignty over the Netherlands, and that if she desired England's friendship, she should abandon her views of aggression and cease to insult or disturb other governments.[237]


During the first days of the session Pitt was absent; he had at the king's earnest wish accepted the valuable sinecure office of warden of the Cinque Ports, and was not yet re-elected. In moving an amendment to the address on the 14th Fox made a violent attack on the government. At that critical time when England's welfare demanded that party enmities should yield before the importance of union against sedition at home and aggression abroad, he did not scruple to declare that the government had wilfully exaggerated domestic disturbances, in order to establish a system of oppression more intolerable than "the horrors of the inquisition of Spain," and implied that the ministers were hostile to France merely because France was, as he jeeringly said, "an unanointed republic". Windham and other whigs voted against him, and his amendment was rejected by 290 to 50. He returned to the charge, but spoke more moderately, on the next day and again on the next, with a motion for sending an ambassador to Paris, which was negatived without a division. The disruption of the whig party was obvious; Portland, Fitzwilliam, Spencer, Carlisle, and[Pg 341] Loughborough in the lords, and in the commons Windham, Elliot, and many more voted with the government, and Burke took his seat on the treasury bench. Loughborough received the great seal on January 28, 1793, but the rest as yet gave the ministers independent support. An addition of 9,000 men to the naval force and increased army estimates were voted unanimously, Fox declaring his approval on the ground that the position of foreign affairs demanded them. An alien bill was also carried, subjecting foreign immigrants to police regulations and empowering the secretary of state to expel them. This bill was opposed in the lords by Lansdowne, and in the commons by Fox and Grey. In the course of an almost frenzied speech in support of it, Burke threw a dagger on the floor of the house, a specimen, he said, of three thousand which, he was informed on excellent authority, had been ordered in Birmingham by an English revolutionist.

Chauvelin, whose credentials as "minister plenipotentiary of the French republic" were not accepted by the English court protested against the alien bill and the prohibition of the export of grain, and declared that France considered the treaty of commerce of 1786 broken and annulled. The two measures excited the indignation of the convention; the speedy downfall of England was triumphantly predicted; 3,000,000 Irishmen were ready to revolt, and India would shake off the British rule as soon as the French appeared in Asia. The executive council was pressed to demand the repeal of both measures, and a satisfactory explanation of the English military preparations, and orders were given for the immediate armament of a fleet. While the French ministers were already preparing for a descent on England,[238] and France was reducing the Austrian Netherlands to a merely municipal status, the contemplated invasion of Holland was delayed by the condition of the French army; and negotiations with England were carried on. Believing that if the English people were assured with respect to the Netherlands and the intention of France not to interfere in their domestic concerns, they would declare against the government in case of a war, the French foreign minister protested that the occupation of the Netherlands was merely temporary,[Pg 342] that France looked forward to Belgian independence, and that the decree of November 19 only applied to a case where the general will of the people was expressed. The opening of the Scheldt was defended as authorised by the law of nature. This paper, which was a kind of ultimatum, did not withdraw the claim to propagate republicanism in other states or to annul the treaty rights of England's allies, and put no definite limit to the occupation of the Austrian Netherlands. Grenville returned a haughty answer. War was almost certain. The execution of the French king on the 21st hastened the end. The tidings were received in London with universal grief and indignation; the theatres were closed, and not the court alone, but all who could afford it, wore mourning. As the king drove through the streets, cries were raised of "War with France!" Chauvelin was ordered to quit the kingdom in eight days, and left at once. On February 1 France declared war on England and Holland. In common with the nation at large, George welcomed the declaration of war; the "insolence" of France irritated him, and the execution of the French king was an insult and a menace to every crowned head in Europe; yet the order of the king in council for Chauvelin's departure was of course given on the advice of the ministers.[239]


Pitt had striven long and earnestly to avoid war. It was finally forced upon him. Grossly as the government was provoked by French attempts to spread republicanism in the king's dominions, that alone would not have forced him into war; the great mass of the English people was thoroughly loyal, and the resources of government were sufficient to deal with sedition. But England was bound in honour to defend the rights of the Dutch, and her own security demanded that she should withstand the French designs of aggrandisement. Burke would have had war declared on France as an enemy of God and mankind, because she trampled on institutions which he regarded as sacred in themselves and essential to the well-being of society. The feelings of the nation were excited by the excesses of the revolution, until the crowning act of the king's execution called forth a demand for war; and as the war went on hatred of French principles made Englishmen willing to[Pg 343] bear the heavy burdens it entailed. But in the great decision Pitt was unmoved by sentiments such as these. Unlike the rulers of Austria and Prussia, the government was not embarking on a war either of principles or ambition, not on a crusade against republicanism nor, in its inception, a struggle for extended dominions; its object was to maintain the honour and the security of England. The opening of the Scheldt by France was a far more serious matter for England than if Leopold II. had succeeded in his attempt to carry out the same measure; for France was a great maritime power and entertained schemes of boundless ambition. That she contemplated the annexation of the Austrian Netherlands and the conquest of Holland was certain, and if she became mistress of the Netherlands and Holland, and had Antwerp as a station for her fleet, the security of England would be at an end.

Security could only be attained either by war or by an alliance with the republic, which would have been repugnant to the nation, would have made England partner in unjustifiable aggressions, and would have betrayed the interests of Europe to France. While it may be urged that the haughty tone adopted by Grenville during the last few weeks of peace irritated France, and that the dismissal of Chauvelin put an end to further attempts at reconciliation, it will scarcely be denied that the government was justified in refusing to prolong useless communications, and that it acted wisely in taking a decided step when the country was thoroughly prepared to support its decision. Having to choose between war and all that an alliance with France would have entailed, England chose war, and took her stand in the breach which France made in the political system, true to herself and finally the saviour of Europe.

The violent opposition of Fox seems to have proceeded from mixed causes. That he sincerely loved liberty must be allowed, but he was less attracted by the constitutional liberty of Burke's devotion, which like some stately building grows towards completeness as each successive generation enters into and carries on the labours of its predecessors, than by the cause of liberty, whether truly or falsely so called, in revolt. Unbridled in his own life, he loved resistance to authority. And he was one of those, in England unfortunately there are always such, who rate the cause they love above their country's cause. It was so[Pg 344] with him during the American war. When he would describe how much an event pleased him he wrote, "no public event, not excepting Saratoga and Yorktown, ever gave me so much delight". It was so during the war with France. His opposition, however, also proceeded from hatred to the government.[240] Abhorred by the king and rejected by the country, he resented his exclusion from office by opposing the government at a time when Englishmen should have sunk all party differences in the face of their country's peril. He ascribed the measures taken to repress sedition and defeat the French propaganda as attempts at tyranny. While he acknowledged that the opening of the Scheldt was a casus belli, he spoke of it as a matter which England could well afford to overlook, and he represented the action of the government as unfair to France and as the result of monarchical prejudice. As the war went on his unpatriotic feelings were constantly displayed in a most offensive manner. His conduct broke up the whig party. England was entering on a period of fearful conflict; happy at least in that the confidence of the nation was given to a statesman whose one absorbing care was for the welfare of his country.


[229] Political Memoranda of the Duke of Leeds, pp. 150-52; Lecky, Hist., v., 222-99.

[230] Sorel, L'Europe et la Révolution Française, ii., 236.

[231] Political Memoranda of the Duke of Leeds, p. 194.

[232] Sorel, u.s., ii., 417-23.

[233] Auckland Corr., ii., 401-3.

[234] Sorel, u.s., iii., 214-15.

[235] Ibid., 221-22, 225, 229.

[236] Sorel, u.s., iii., 235-37, 259; Sybel, Geschichte der Revolutionzeit, French trans. Histoire de l'Europe pendant la Révolution Française, ii., 58-60.

[237] Correspondence between M. Chauvelin and Lord Grenville, Parl. Hist., xxx., 250-56.

[238] Sorel, u.s., iii., 243.

[239] Pitt to Grenville, Jan. 23, 1793, and following letters, Dropmore Papers, ii. 371-72, 378.

[240] Memorials of C. J. Fox, iii., 349.



The nine years between Pitt's accession to office and the outbreak of the war with France were a period of advance in constitutional freedom and financial prosperity. All progress in these directions was arrested by the war. The security of England, a matter of higher importance than these, was at stake. The war demanded all the energies of the nation. Questions which would have divided the country or weakened the government were shelved, for it was not a time to debate reforms when the state itself was in peril. Pitt defeated efforts for parliamentary reform and grew cold to the cause of the abolition of the slave trade. But the war brought worse than an arrest of progress; it brought repression of freedom and a tremendous load of debt. The French propaganda roused general indignation and alarm. Towards the end of 1792 the ministers were convinced of the existence of a plot for effecting a revolution by the aid of France. There was much to justify their alarm; Ireland seemed ripe for revolt, political discontent was strong in Scotland, and evidence, gained later, confirmed them in their belief that sedition was reaching a dangerous height in England. They overrated the existing danger, though if sedition had remained unchecked it might soon have become dangerous; for France was attacking the state by secret seduction as well as by open arms. Extraordinary precautions were taken to meet a peril which was specially terrible because its extent was unknown. Measures of repression were eagerly welcomed by parliament; judges and magistrates exercised their powers with harshness, and juries were often biassed by the feeling of the bench. The nation was alarmed, and severity was popular.


Pitt, who had guided England in peace, was to remain at the[Pg 346] helm in war. The conduct of the war is therefore closely connected with the question whether, great as he was in peace, he was a great war minister.[241] The British army, which in 1792 only numbered about 17,300 men and at the outbreak of the war was increased by 9,945, was so small that it could only either act a secondary part in a continental war, or engage in isolated expeditions to support insurrections in France. During the first part of the war our successes on land were trifling and our failures many. This was partly at least due to the custom of regarding noble birth rather than military attainments as a claim to command. Though Pitt, as we shall see, insisted on the recall of the Duke of York, he did not break through this evil custom, and our generals, though brave, were often incompetent. Pitt built great hopes on the co-operation of the French royalists and many expeditions were sent out to act with them. A belligerent power should place little dependence on insurrectionary movements in an enemy's country; for insurgents, however hostile they may be to their own government, will seldom act cordially with a foreign invader; their forces are generally unorganised, and they are apt to expect too much of their foreign ally. It is good policy to encourage them by sending them supplies, for their revolts embarrass their government and are useful as diversions in war. But a belligerent should not squander on diversions strength which might be employed in the main conflict. Pitt's expeditions of this kind were costly failures; they inflicted no deadly wound and were expensive both in men and money. On the other hand England was victorious by sea; the naval force was raised to 45,000 men in February, 1793, was constantly increased, and was commanded by admirals whose right to command was based on their skill in seamanship and maritime warfare.

For the security of England and the peace of Europe France, it was held, must be reduced to powerlessness. England's greatness at sea might enable her to destroy the enemy's commerce, conquer her colonies, and blockade her ports; the object of the war could be attained only by victories on land. Politically the continental states were rotten; their rulers were selfish despots, each bent on extending his dominions by any[Pg 347] means, however dishonest; for international morality had broken down before the bait offered by the weakness of Poland. What barrier could they oppose to the flood of French aggression, the outcome of the enthusiasm of a great people? When France forced England into war she provoked a more dangerous enemy—the will of a nation. Supported by the national will, Pitt embarked on the task of combining the powers of Europe against France, and as some were unwilling and some unable to fight at their own expense, he paid them with English gold, and England found money for them as well as for her own naval and military operations. Pitt raised enormous loans. The funded debt, which in 1792 was, roughly, £238,000,000, rose during nine years of war to about £574,000,000. He began to borrow at once; in 1793 he raised a loan of £4,500,000, and in 1794 another of £11,000,000, besides imposing new taxes amounting to £913,000.

He has been blamed for not raising more by taxation during the early years of the war instead of burdening posterity so heavily. The financial difficulties of France led him to believe that the war would be short. "It will be a short war," he said, "and certainly ended in one or two campaigns." "No, sir," replied the more prescient Burke, "it will be a long war and a dangerous war; but it must be undertaken." In its earliest years Pitt had good reason for avoiding high taxation. It began in the midst of a financial crisis. The harvest of 1792 was seriously defective, and there was much want. The rapid advance in agriculture, commerce, and manufactures had led to the foundation of many country banks, which eagerly pushed their own notes into circulation, and credit was unduly strained. Currency became redundant, and a violent revulsion began in November, 1792, when the number of bankruptcies in the month amounted to 105, more than double the average number of the ten earlier months of the year. The crisis became more acute in the spring of 1793, and during the year there were 1,926 failures, of which twenty-six were failures of country banks. In order to relieve the distress Pitt, in April, obtained the assent of parliament for the issue of exchequer bills to the extent of £5,000,000 to be applied in advances at fair interest and on good security. Fox offered a factious opposition to this measure, alleging that it conferred a dangerous power on the[Pg 348] executive. It was completely successful, and the panic was checked. As, then, Pitt believed that the war would be short, and as it was not a time for attempting to raise taxation to an amount sufficient to furnish the supplies within the year, he was justified in having an early recourse to loans.

In return for the £336,000,000 of debt created by Pitt in nine years, the country only received about £223,000,000 in money; and he has been accused of extravagance because he raised money mainly in 3 per cent. stock instead of at a rate more nearly corresponding to its market value. In 1793 every £100 borrowed created £138 stock, and when in 1797 the 3 per cents. fell to 47, the sacrifice was enormous. Pitt did attempt to raise a loan at a higher rate in 1793, and found it impossible; and it is at least doubtful whether he did not act more prudently in borrowing in the 3 per cents. than at a high rate.[242] In his budget speech of 1793 he announced that he would always maintain the sinking fund. He kept his promise, and this expensive economy provided a deduction of £42,500,000 from the £336,000,000 of debt. Financially, as we have seen, this was a mistake; politically it was useful in encouraging and comforting the country in a time of stress; for the opposition was as fully persuaded as the ministry of the efficacy of the fund. If, then, it be allowed that the war was just and necessary, little fault should be found with the way in which money was provided for it. That Pitt's subsidies were sometimes unwise may be conceded; that his coalitions disappointed him is certain. He had to contend with selfishness and deceit in the rulers of Europe, and laboured with ability and courage to keep them steadfast to the common cause, again and again taking up his task, undismayed by failures which are not to be laid to his charge. While mistakes in the conduct of the war forbid us to call him a great war minister in the narrow sense of the term, we should scarcely refuse that praise in a wider, truer sense to a minister so dauntless in adversity, so fertile in resource, so deservedly trusted by the nation as "the pilot that weathered the storm".


In March the government hired troops from Hanover and Hesse Cassel; and during the year, Holland being already an[Pg 349] ally, made treaties hostile to France with all the other Christian powers of Europe except Denmark, Sweden, the Swiss, Tuscany Venice, and Genoa, which decided on neutrality. The emperor and the Prussian king agreed to carry on the war in concert with England. Catherine of Russia made a treaty of commerce, and another promising co-operation against the commerce of France. Her army was engaged in Poland, and she took no part in the war beyond carrying out her engagement by means of her fleet. In May, the convention declared war on Spain and the king entered into the coalition. The King of Sardinia was already at war, and the British government granted him a subsidy of £200,000 to enable him to keep up his army, and agreed to send a fleet into the Mediterranean. A treaty for concerted action in the Mediterranean was made with the king of the Two Sicilies, and another treaty with Portugal, our ancient ally, which became of importance after Spain deserted the coalition. The accession of England to the enemies of France gave them a new weapon against her. Great Britain and Russia agreed to prevent neutral ships from supplying her with provisions, and, on June 8, British officers were ordered to stop all ships so engaged and send them to England, where their cargoes would be sold and their freights paid by the government.

The emperor did not relish the idea of a disinterested war; and Grenville agreed that the allies should indemnify themselves, and should make conquests on the Belgian frontier of France, which in Austrian hands would form a strong barrier against her. This met the emperor's views, for an enlargement of the Austrian Netherlands would forward his plan of exchanging them for Bavaria. The proposed exchange, however, was contrary to English policy, for it would have created a weak state on the French frontier. As soon as war was declared, Dumouriez invaded Holland, but was soon called back to Belgium, where the French were losing ground. He was defeated at Neerwinden on March 18, and the French withdrew from the Netherlands. They were unsuccessful on the Rhine, and Mainz was threatened by the Prussians. Dissatisfied with the proceedings of his government, Dumouriez intrigued with the enemy and finally fled to the Austrian camp, but was unable to carry his army with him. On April 8 a conference between representatives of the allies was held at Antwerp.[Pg 350] Lord Auckland, the British minister in Holland, appeared for England, accompanied by the king's second son, the Duke of York, who was to command the British and Hanoverian army. The allies agreed to make conquests and keep them. Auckland declared that this was the policy of his court. Austria was to gain places on the frontier which would shut France out from the Netherlands, England would look to the conquest of Dunkirk and the French colonies.[243]

On May 20 the British army with its Hanoverian and Hessian contingents joined the Prince of Coburg, and took a distinguished part in driving the French from their camp at Famars. The smart appearance of the English troops was much admired, but their officers were careless. The French army of the north was disorderly and discouraged. While the regular troops generally behaved well, the volunteers, who had a separate organisation and elected their own officers, were insubordinate and lacking in soldierly qualities; the representatives of the people who accompanied the army, though they did some good, meddled in military matters; the generals were suspected, were constantly displaced, and were fortunate if they escaped the scaffold; and the ministry of war was utterly incompetent. The allies besieged Condé and Valenciennes; Condé surrendered on July 13 and Valenciennes on the 28th, and the Austrians took possession of both. Coburg's allies were anxious to secure territory for themselves, and he had some difficulty in persuading them to join him in an attack on the French at Cæsar's camp, a strong position covered by the Scheldt, the Sensée, and the Agache. The French were driven out and fell back on Arras. France was in sore straits. Mainz capitulated on July 23, and the army of the Moselle retreated behind the Saar. On the Spanish frontier Roussillon was invaded. In the Alps the republican army was driven back near Saorgio, and its best troops were sent off to quell insurrection in the cities of the south; for the country was torn by civil discord. The Girondins were overthrown in June, and the party called the Mountain gained absolute power. Bordeaux was a centre of resistance; Marseilles, Lyons, and Toulon were in revolt, and were supported by the towns of the Jura and Provence. An insurrection which[Pg 351] began in the Vendean district of Anjou grew to a formidable height. The army of La Vendée, of 40,000 men, defeated the republican generals, captured Saumur, and threatened Nantes. Between Basle and the sea the allies were 280,000 strong; an advance on Paris in two directions, from the Belgian border by Soissons and from Mainz by Reims, would almost certainly have ended the war. After the capture of Cæsar's camp the way to Paris lay open to Coburg; there was no French force strong enough to arrest the march of the allies.[244]


The coalition was paralysed by discord and by the insistence of its members on the pursuit of different objects. The English ministers made the security of the Netherlands as an Austrian province a prime consideration, and to satisfy them the emperor promised to give up the exchange of the Netherlands for Bavaria. He was to be indemnified by the acquisition of Alsace and Lorraine, which were to be conquered by the help of Prussia.[245] Frederick William, however, would not help to conquer territory for Austria, nor assist in the dismemberment of France, unless the emperor assented to the treaty for the partition of Poland secretly arranged between him and Catherine of Russia, and signed on January 23. Baron Thugut, the Austrian minister, who was violently hostile toward Prussia, would not assent to a treaty which aggrandised that power and did not give his master a share in the spoil. While, then, France, distressed by invasion, revolt, and scarcity, seemed an easy prey, Brunswick remained on the Rhine, and refused to co-operate with Austria in Alsace, and Coburg was intent on gaining frontier towns. The English government was anxious to secure its own share in the conquests from France, and, on August 10, acting on instructions from home, York went off with a force of 37,000 men, his own English and German troops with 11,000 Austrians, to lay siege to Dunkirk. About the same time Frederick William ordered 8,000 Prussian troops engaged in Flanders to withdraw to Luxemburg, and Coburg invested Le Quesnoy.

On one side only was full advantage taken of the distress of France. In consequence of the late disputes with Spain and Russia the British navy was in an efficient state. Of 113 ships[Pg 352] of the line nearly ninety were in good condition. Howe commanded the channel fleet; he kept it at Spithead, and it did nothing of importance during the year. The Mediterranean fleet under Hood sailed in June and blockaded Toulon. The insurrectionary movement at Marseilles was quelled by the convention, and the royalists at Toulon were threatened by the jacobin forces. Though the town was well supplied with provisions, the chiefs of the royalist party persuaded the people that the only way to escape starvation was to treat with the English. The inhabitants declared for Louis XVII., the son of the late king, and the constitution of 1791, and surrendered the town to Hood, together with the ships in the port, thirty ships of the line, more than a third of the whole French line of battle, and other smaller vessels. Hood received the forts and the ships for King Louis and promised to restore them at the end of the war. He invited the co-operation of the Spanish fleet under Lángara and when it appeared entered the harbour, on August 29. The news was received in England with delight, and Grenville declared his belief that "the business at Toulon" would probably be "decisive of the war". England desired the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, and it was hoped that the occupation of the place would strengthen the movement in that direction in the south. The émigré Count of Provence, the next younger brother of Louis XVI., who had assumed the title of regent, desired the government to allow him to enter the town. As the émigrés aimed at the restoration of absolutism it would have been fatal to the hopes built on the movement in the south in favour of a constitutional monarchy to have granted his request, and it would have been unfair to the Toulonese who stipulated for the acceptance of the constitution of 1791. Besides this, the émigrés were strongly opposed to the policy of conquest adopted at Antwerp; and, though Toulon was not to be taken from France, England could not at that time encourage the count's pretensions. His presence in the town would have been embarrassing to Hood, and he would certainly have interfered with the defence. England did not acknowledge his claim to the regency, and he was not admitted into Toulon.

While the allies were divided in purpose and action, the danger of France and the violation of her territory roused the[Pg 353] party in power to energy in her defence. In August the second committee of public safety decreed a levée en masse, and on the 23rd substituted for it a universal conscription. Men were poured into the army, but they had to be turned into soldiers; and efficient generals, and above all a competent military administration, had to be provided. At this crisis Carnot, who was to earn the title of "organiser of victories," took the direction of the war. The new troops were at first worse than useless, but after a while they were brought to order by being drafted into the old battalions; the amalgamation of the volunteers with the regulars was effected early in 1794, and the army of the revolution became a well-ordered fighting machine. While the new levies of August, 1793, were still undisciplined Carnot's genius began to raise the fortunes of France.


When York marched off to the siege of Dunkirk on August 10 he divided his army into two corps, placing one, composed of 14,500 German and Austrian troops, under Marshal Freytag, to act as an army of observation, while he commanded the army of the siege in person. On his march a detachment of his troops surprised and routed a French force at Linselles while engaged in pillaging the place. He summoned Dunkirk on the 23rd. The fleet, which was to have bombarded the town and brought a siege-train, had not arrived. He was only able to invest the town on the east, for the French laid the country between Bergues and Dunkirk under water, and the causeway from Bergues was strongly defended. His army occupied a wretched position, was in want of good water, and was cut off from direct communication with Freytag, who was encamped in front of Bergues.[246] On September 6-8 Freytag's army was attacked by a French army under Houchard of nearly four times its strength. Walmoden, who succeeded Freytag, might have avoided the battle of Hondschoote on the 8th; he fought in obedience to York's orders and was defeated with heavy loss. York hastily retreated to Furnes. If Houchard had followed up his success he might have crushed York's army. He turned aside to attack the Dutch quartered on the Lys and routed them at Menin. Le Quesnoy surrendered to the Austrians on the 11th, and Coburg invested Maubeuge. Jourdan, the new commander of[Pg 354] the army of the north, and Carnot, who accompanied him, attacked and defeated the Austrian covering army at Wattignies on October 16, and forced Coburg to raise the siege. This was practically the end of the campaign, which closed far more favourably for France than it had begun.

On the German frontier political disunion was fatal to the success of the allies. Frederick William believed that the emperor's refusal to accept the partition treaty encouraged the Poles to resist his demands. He left the army of the Rhine, and went off to Posen to establish his rule in his new dominions, ordering Brunswick not to engage in any operations which might prevent him from sending him such troops as he might call for. Wurmser, the Austrian commander, drove the French from their lines at Weissenburg on October 13, but the limited co-operation of the Prussian army was not enough to secure any material progress, and finally, on December 26, Hoche inflicted a severe defeat on the Austrians at the Geisberg. Wurmser retreated across the Rhine, and the Prussians were forced to abandon the greater part of the Palatinate, and withdrew to Mainz. No French territory on the north or east remained in the hands of the allies except Condé, Valenciennes and Le Quesnoy, while on the Italian frontier forward movements of the Piedmontese had ended in failure and the King of Sardinia was reduced to a merely defensive attitude.

The republican armies were not less successful against domestic foes than against foreign invasion. The loss of Mainz in July set free a large force which was used to lay waste La Vendée. The Vendeans applied for help to the emigrant princes and to England. Pitt, though he would not encourage the hopes of the princes, was willing to support a movement which was weakening the enemy and might forward the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. Stores were sent to Noirmoutier for the insurgents and further help was promised. Some 80,000 Vendeans, of both sexes and all ages, crossed the Loire, marched through Anjou, and made an attempt on Granville, in the hope of gaining a port at which they might receive succour from England. An expedition was prepared to help them, and a force of 12,000 men, émigrés, British troops, and others under the Earl of Moira, the Lord Rawdon of the American war, arrived off the Norman coast on December 2.[Pg 355] They made signals but no answer was returned. The Vendeans had failed before Granville and had retreated a few days before. As they were attempting to return to their homes they were caught by a republican force; a large number was massacred and the rest dispersed. The English expedition returned without accomplishing anything.


Toulon was threatened by the republicans both on the east and west, while on the north Lyons was closely besieged. Hood despatched Nelson to Naples for reinforcements which were sent by the king. Even with them the garrison, made up of 2,000 British troops, Spaniards, Sardinians, Neapolitans, and French royalists, many of them untrained, amounted to only about 12,000 men fit for duty, a wholly insufficient number, for the defences were widely extended. Hood sent off four of the French ships, full of republican prisoners, who were allowed to return to their homes because it was inconvenient to keep them. By the middle of September the republicans were pressing the siege, and on October 1 the garrison under Lord Mulgrave smartly drove them from a commanding position which they had seized on Mont Faron. The fall of Lyons on the 9th set free a large force to act against the place, and the besieging army under Dugommier finally numbered 37,000 men, with artillery organised and directed by a young Corsican officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, who since September 16 had taken an active part in the siege. General O'Hara, then in command in the town, was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a sortie, and on the night of December 16-17 the enemy forced the line of defence and planted their batteries in commanding positions. Neither the harbour nor the town was tenable any longer, and orders were given for the embarkation of the troops. Of the twenty-seven French ships of the line in the harbour, nine, together with smaller vessels, were burnt by British seamen under Sir Sidney Smith, in spite of a furious bombardment from the heights, and three accompanied the retreat. The remaining fifteen were left to the enemy, and an attempt to destroy the dockyard was only partially successful, for time was short and the Spaniards, either through treachery or more probably through the incompetence of their officers, failed to accomplish their share of the work. The English and Spanish fleets sailed on the 19th, carrying off[Pg 356] some 6,000 refugees, and Hood's fleet anchored in Hyères bay. The remainder of the population was exposed to the cruel vengeance of the jacobins.

There is good reason to believe that the government did not intend to violate the terms of the surrender by keeping Toulon as a British possession. As an isolated station it could not have been defended and supplied without an enormous strain on England's resources. Its value to Great Britain was purely temporary; it was of incalculable importance to the enemy, and it was expected to serve as a base for the movement in the south against the jacobin government. The issue of the insurrection was decided by the fall of Lyons. Hopes of a success to be gained through French disaffection were as ill-founded as those based on American loyalism. The ministers pursued a mistaken policy, and pursued it weakly; for as they believed that the occupation of Toulon was of first-rate importance, they should have concentrated their efforts upon its defence instead of squandering their resources by trying to do two things at once, to co-operate with the Vendeans and to defend Toulon, while the war on the Flemish frontier was a constant drain on England's small army. Grenville ascribed the disaster to the "common cause" to the failure of the Austrian government to fulfil its promise of sending a reinforcement of 5,000 men to the garrison.[247] The loss of the place was a bitter disappointment; it was mortifying in itself, and it declared the futility of the high hopes built on the insurrectionary movement in the south. Reckoning it with Dunkirk and the Vendean expedition, the government had to confess to three failures in the year. Yet England had some grounds for satisfaction. Tobago and the fishery islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were taken without difficulty, Pondicherry and the other French factories in India were surrendered, several French ships of war were captured in single-ship and other small combats, and a substantial advantage was gained by the destruction of the ships at Toulon.


The success of the allies in the spring of 1793 gave Fox an opportunity for moving for the re-establishment of peace. If, he argued, the war was undertaken to preserve Holland and[Pg 357] check the aggrandisement of France, that object was attained. France had been the aggressor; so much the more reason was there to regard the war as purely defensive, and end it when the aggression ended. Pitt said that he would no longer pledge himself that England would not interfere in the internal affairs of France. So long as the existing French government was in power, there could be no security that the system of aggression and propagandism would cease, or that treaties would be observed. Fox's motion was defeated by 187 to 47. Earlier in the session the government brought in a bill against traitorous correspondence, to prevent intercourse with France, and specially such acts as the purchase of French stocks, which tended to support the enemy. Some of its provisions were unusually restrictive, and the penalty of treason was attached to the breach of any of them. The bill was passed without material alteration. In spite of the strong feeling against societies believed to advocate revolutionary principles, Grey, in accordance with his notice of the last session, moved that the petition of the Friends of the People for parliamentary reform should be considered. His motion, which was supported by Fox, was defeated by 282 to 41.

Violent efforts were made by the government to crush the effects of the French propaganda, by prosecutions for uttering, printing, or publishing sedition. The attack was indiscriminate; spies were employed, and idle words of obscure persons were made grounds of indictment. Both in the superior courts and at quarter sessions severe penalties were inflicted. One Frost, a broken-down attorney, and a pestilent rascal enough, though convicted merely of saying in a coffee-house that he was "for equality and no king," was se