« EdellinenJatka »
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. Shel
burne, 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 previously. 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 Board of Trade at that time was more a consultative than an executive department; and as Shelburne probably felt no great deference to the abilities and authority of his official superiors, notwithstanding the warning he had received, he soon came into collision with the Secretary of State on questions both of policy and administration. Nor were these the only questions upon which he differed with his colleagues. A few days after he had taken office, he detected and exposed the blunder which Lord Halifax had made in issuing the famous general warrant for the arrest of the authors of the North Briton,' Before he had been in office two months he became so intractable that it was with difficulty Bute could persuade him to remain.
From this time, however, he seems to have been engaged, with the concurrence of Bute, in an intrigue, the object of which was to displace the existing Government, and to bring back Pitt with the Bedford connexion. The negotiation was not immediately successful, but it resulted in the final and absolute retirement of Bute from public life. Shelburne also resigned, and attached himself to Pitt in opposition to the Government and the Court on the vital question of Wilkes's expulsion from the House of Commons. For his conduct on this occasion, the King deprived him of his staff appointment, and when he appeared at Court, took no notice of him. His somewhat too forward career of ambition being thus severely checked, Shelburne retired into the country, and occupied himself in the improvement of his estate, and the collection of the historical manuscripts which now enrich the library of the British Museum. He also cultivated the society of men of letters; and early in 1765 he married the daughter of Lord Granville, better known as the accomplished and eccentric Carteret, one of those brilliant meteors which flash across the page of history, and pass into oblivion.
During Lord Shelburne's retirement, political events of the greatest moment were in progress. The first fruit of the policy which had made George III. 'a King,' was about to be reaped in the form of the Stamp Act, which deprived the Crown of half its dominions. The dangerous character of this measure was not indeed at first foreseen. Barré, who represented the opinions of Shelburne, and spoke from personal knowledge of the Colonists, was almost alone in warning the House of Commons that they were violating the liberties of a people who inherited the resentment of their countrymen against arbitrary taxation. Such counsels as these passed unheeded in Parliament, and the Stamp Bill was regarded throughout the country as a reasonable demand upon the Colonies to contribute to the common defence of the realm. Shelburne himself seems to have attributed more importance to the Regency Bill; for he quitted his retirement at Bowood to denounce the bill in the House of Lords as unnecessary and unwise. Six peers only supported Temple and Shelburne in their opposition to a measure which, however badly devised, was in itself a prudent and constitutional provision for a possible and even probable emergency.
The King, disappointed in his expectation of finding in Grenville the firm supporter, if not the pliant tool of prerogative, set to work, according to his fashion, to intrigue against his Minister. Overtures were made to Pitt, to Lord Temple, to Lord Lyttelton, but in vain ; and at length, through the intervention of the Duke of Cumberland, a negotiation with a section of the Whigs which recognised the Marquis of Rockingham as their chief, ended in the assent of that nobleman to form a new Administration. Both Shelburne and Pitt, though earnestly pressed, refused to take any part in the new arrangement. The Rockingham minority entered upon office without a policy; but Pitt, who now resumed his place in the House of Commons, very soon dictated a policy, which the minority from sheer weakness and incapacity were fain to accept. The great chief of opposition declared for the absolute and immediate repeal of the Stamp Act, and in speeches of eloquence and power which were never equalled in the House of Commons, nor surpassed by himself, he denied the right of Parliament to tax the Colonies, and rejoiced that they had resisted the attempt. The Prime Minister, the Duke of Newcastle, and Lord Dartmouth yielded to Pitt; the King, still determined on coercing the rebellious Colonies, made an effort to form a new Administration from that portion of the Cabinet which hesitated; but the effort was hopeless; and his Majesty was reduced to the necessity of saving his honour by passing an Act declaratory of the right of Parliament to tax the Colonies, at the same time that the exercise of that right was finally relinquished.
The Rockingham Ministry did not long survive the withering ascendency of Pitt. He was of course offered a place in it, but the offer was rejected with ill-disguised contempt. Pitt was determined not to hold a second place in any Administration, nor to lend his aid to any ministerial arrangement dictated by the great Whig lords. There was indeed at that juncture but one possible Minister, and that was Pitt himself. The apnouncement of his promotion to the head of affairs was therefore received with acclamation; but some surprise and disappointment was expressed when it became known that the
VOL. CXLV. NO. CCXCVII.