« EdellinenJatka »
sketches, and flying comments relating chiefly to the earlier years of the Hanover succession.
The first four years of Lord Shelburne's life were passed in the remotest parts of the south of Ireland, under the govern'ment of an old grandfather, who reigned, or rather tyrannised, • equally over his own family and the neighbouring country (p. 1). Up to the age of fourteen the boy's education was neglected. Arrived at the age of sixteen,' he writes, 'I had • nobody to teach me and everything to learn, of which I was fully aware; but I had, what I was not at all aware of, everything to unlearn.' At sixteen he went to Oxford; there, under the direction of a tutor whom he describes as a narrowminded man, he made some progress in his studies, and at the same time his father introduced him to Lord Chesterfield, Lord Granville, and other persons of distinction,
We next hear of Lord Fitzmaurice in 1757, an officer in Wolfe's regiment, distinguishing himself at Minden and at Kloster Kempen, rewarded with the rank of colonel and that of aide-de-camp to the King. This rapid promotion gave such umbrage to the Whig courtiers that the Duke of Richmond resigned his office in the Household from resentment that Fitzmaurice should have been preferred to his brother, Lord George Lennox, who had been equally distinguished. His staff appointment brought Lord Fitzmaurice into immediate contact with the Court, and he there found an opportunity of making his political fortune, which he seized with promptitude and dexterity. Lord Bute had undertaken the mission of emancipating the young King from the dominion of the Whig oligarchy which had hitherto held the House of Hanover in bondage. A more desperate enterprise could hardly have been conceived. Bute was connected with no party, he had no personal following, no popularity. He was a poor Scotch lord, known only as the Chamberlain, and the reputed favourite of the Princess Dowager. He had no political experience, and but a slender capacity. The Minister, on the other hand, a man of unrivalled abilities and strenuous will, was at the height of fame and power. He was supported by the strongest combinations in Parliament, and he had the country at his back. Called to power, as he proudly boasted, by the voice of the nation at a crisis of danger and disgrace, the 'great . Commoner' had secured its safety and restored its honour. The downfall of Pitt was therefore an indispensable preliminary to the policy of the Court. The career of military triumphs which had set in under his guidance must be stopped, and peace at any price must be obtained.
Such was the project which a half-educated young man, newly entered upon public life, undertook to promote! The first thing to be done was to secure the services in Parliament of some able, experienced, and unscrupulous partisan. There was one man of great courage and capacity, who in former years had coped,
, not always unsuccessfully, with Pitt; but, overborne at last by the ascendency of his rival, Henry Fox had retired from public life, pursued by public obloquy, and loaded with the spoils of office. But when the new reign opened a prospect of a change of policy, Fox evinced a desire to return to political adventure. There had been a connexion between Fox and Fitzmaurice's father. Early in 1761 Fox made an overture to Lord Bute through Fitzmaurice. A meeting took place accordingly, and a basis of negotiation was soon agreed upon. Fox was willing to do the work of the Court at a price; and as that price involved no question of policy, but simply a personal bargain, there could be no real difficulty in effecting an arrangement. The details were entrusted to Fitzmaurice. Fox demanded a peerage for his wife by way of a retaining fee. Bute, by desire of the King, who was throughout his reign very chary of granting honours, tried to put him off with a promise that Lady Caroline should have a peerage at the first opportunity ; but Fox was not the man to be dealt with in this way; he threw out a significant hint that unless his terms were granted he could give only a general support to the new Ministry, and that a general support was tantamount to a half opposition.' This was sufficient; the peerage was granted, and soon after Pitt having been thrust out of office, Fitzmaurice was urging Bute, who had lately made himself Secretary of State, to assume the name as well as the position of Prime Minister.
Fitzmaurice having succeeded to the peerage on the death of his father, nominated Colonel Barré as his successor in the representation of the family borough of Chipping Wycombe. Barré was a great accession to the Court party, and shortly after he had taken his seat he opened the war by an insolent though powerful invective against Pitt. It was naturally supposed that Shelburne had instigated this attack, and it is not improbable that he was privy to it; but Barré had a private grudge against Pitt, who had neglected his application for promotion after the taking of Quebec. Barré afterwards became a staunch adherent and one of the few devoted personal friends of Chatham. Shelburne, though at this time firmly opposed to the Whig combination, which had so long monopolised power, affected to take an independent course in Parliament, and was consequently regarded with distrust by the Court whips.* The Duke of Bedford, though a member of the Government, made a motion in Parliament for the recall of the troops from Germany. Shelburne supported the motion, which was in furtherance of the new policy ; but the Duke of Newcastle was still at the head of the Government, and Bute was not yet prepared for the vigorous and decisive measure proposed by Bedford. He preferred the less direct mode of putting an end to the German war by stinting the supplies. Newcastle asked for two millions; but Grenville, who was the chief Minister in the Commons, insisted that only one million should be voted, and Bute supported him. Newcastle threatened to resign, though without any idea of being taken at his word. The Court, however, eagerly seized the opportunity, and Newcastle, like Pitt, was forced out of office. Lord Hardwicke and the Duke of Devonshire also resigned. Bute now became Prime Minister, and invited Shelburne to join the Administration. But the young and rising statesman, though willing to aid in breaking up the Whig combination was not disposed to embark his political fortunes under the guidance of such a pilot as Bute; and as men seldom avow, even if they know, the real motives which influence their conduct, Shelburne wrote to Fox excusing himself for refusing Bute's offer of employment for the high-sounding reason that men of independent fortune should be trustees between King and people, and contrive to think in whatever they do to be occupied in actions of service to both, without * being slaves to either '--a pretence which Fox treated with ridicule, plainly telling him that if he meant to get on in public life he must get rid of such 'puerile notions.'
The peace was now hurried forward. The war in Germany was practically abandoned, and the treaty with Spain was in progress, when, unfortunately for the Court, the British army achieved an inopportune success by the capture of the Havannah. Some equivalent must in decency be demanded for this important conquest, for murmurs had already been heard through the country that terms had been offered which could only be compared to the infamous stipulations of Utrecht.' Bute was in sad perplexity. He dared not conclude a treaty without the sanction of Parliament; while, on the other hand, it was hopeless to submit the preliminaries to a hostile House of Commons, which, for once, represented public opinion
• Lord Shelburne,' writes Jenkinson, the principal manager of the king's friends,' is a mad politician.' (Jenkinson to Bute, Feb. 14, 1761, p. 129.)
throughout the country. He could not depend upon his colleagues for support; Grenville was discontented, and on the point of resignation ; Sir Francis Dashwood, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the intervals of pleasure was occupied in learning the elements of finance. Under these disheartening circumstances, it is not improbable that Bute would have given up his attempt as desperate, had he not been sustained by the courage and decision of the young aide-de-camp who was now constantly at his ear. Shelburne never ceased to urge upon the hesitating Minister the necessity of concluding the peace, and taking the necessary steps to secure the support of the House of Commons. This could be done only by securing the services of some man of ability and experience, who would not scruple to employ the means which could alone secure the vote of a venal and corrupt assembly. The public life of England at that time could supply many men whom no scruple of principle would deter from any work, however foul, but there was only one man who combined the qualities necessary for organising rapidly and surely all the resources of corruption, and bringing them to bear upon one particular point. That man was Fox; and Shelburne was at length commissioned by Bute to engage the services of the most skilled and experienced master of party management in the modern history of Parliament. Fox was not unwilling to undertake a job congenial to his nature and suited to his capacity. But the service was difficult, and even dangerous, and must be highly paid. The Minister thought the office of Secretary of State, the lead of the House of Commons, and a peerage when the work was done, would be sufficient remuneration. Fox refused to be Secretary of State on the ground that he could not perform the duties of the office and attend to the management of the House of Commons at the same time; his real reason being that the acceptance of the office of Secretary of State would necessitate the resignation of the Pay Office, which was far more lucrative. We need not pursue the details of this sordid bargain, to which Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice devotes a portion of the chapter called The Pious Fraud; ' neither need we dwell on the well-known history of the mode by which Fox obtained the consent of the House of Commons to the peace of 1763. The result, so far as concerned the public interest, was that a treaty was obtained quite as favourable as most of the treaties which have terminated successful wars. The particular result, important only to the parties concerned, was a breach between Fox and Shelburne. The former accused the latter of having secured his services under a misstatement of the terms. Shelburne, according to a contemporary authority, admitted that, in his anxiety to effect an agreement between the high contracting parties, he had not observed strict accuracy in his representation of the terms proposed by the one and assented to by the other. Lord Bute is reported to have designated this as a pious fraud;' Lord Holland, however, who considered himself personally aggrieved, while he recognised the fraud, failed to see the piety. Bute, it seems, had been given to understand that in consideration of a peerage, Fox was willing to resign the Pay Office; but the peerage was to be his reward for securing the vote of the House of Commons
for the peace. Fox had been in possession of the Pay Office since 1757. Had he bartered this lucrative office for a peerage, he would have received no compensation for a service of the greatest value which no other statesman could have performed, and which none other, even in that shameless age, would have ventured to undertake. His sinecure office of Writer of the Tallies and Clerk of the Pells in Ireland, which has been stated as part of his reward for carrying the peace, was a permanent office of small emolument, and had been conferred on him some years preriously. Fox's indignation at this attempt, as he considered it, to cajole him was expressed in no measured terms; according to Horace Walpole he went about London abusing Shelburne as 'a perfidious and infamous liar.' Fox, however, was not the man to be outwitted. He retired with his peerage and his places; but he never forgave Shelburne ; and Charles Fox, the best natured and most generous of men, inheriting his father's resentment, always regarded Shelburne with dislike and distrust.
Bute having, as he thought, established the ascendency of the Court over the Whig combination, by the vigorous and unscrupulous policy of Fox, was minded to relieve himself from the irksome responsibility of office while still retaining power. He therefore nominated Grenville as the ostensible head of the Government, and, still employing the agency of Shelburne, reconstructed the administration on the principle of the King's absolute right to choose his own Ministers. Shelburne himself was to have been Secretary of State; but upon the urgent remonstrance of Grenville this design was for the present abandoned, and he was forced to accept the inferior post of President of the Board of Trade. He demanded, however, to be placed on a footing with the Secretaries of State, as regarded the privilege of access to the King; but Bute evaded this claim, and gave Shelburne a significant hint that concord among members of the Government was essential for the King's service. The