« AnteriorContinuar »
king's minister. He had been born and educated a Whig. He had striven to confine the influence of the crown, and enlarge the liberties of the people. But before his principles had time to ripen, he found himself the first minister of a Tory king, and the leader of the triumphant Tory party. The doctrines of that party he never accepted or avowed. If he carried them into effect, it was on the ground of expediency rather than of principle. In advocating the rights of Par-/ liament in regard to the Regency and the abatement of im
he peachments, he spoke thé sentiments and language of the Whig school. In favoring freedom of commerce and restoring the finances, he stands out in favorable contrast with his great Whig rival, Mr. Fox, who slighted political economy and the fruitful philosophy of Adam Smith. But called, at twenty-four years of age, to the practical administration of the government, — possessing unbounded power, haughty and imperious temper, - and surrounded by influences congenial to authority, - who can wonder that he became alienated from popular principles? Even the growth and expansion of his powerful intellect were affected by too early an absorption in the cares of office and the practical details of business. A few more years of opposition and study, - even the training of a less eminent office in the government, — would have matured his powers, and enlarged his philosophy. Yet, notwithstanding these early trammels, he surpassed every statesman of his party in enlightenment and liberality
- of a
1 " His education and original connections must have given him some predilection for popular notions; and although he too often promoted measures of an opposite tendency, he was at great pains to do so, on the ground of iminediate expediency rather than of principle."- Lord Holland's Mem., ii. 35.
2 Butler's Reminiscences, i. 176; Massey's Hist., iii. 281; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, i. 263-273; Debates on Commercial Intercourse with Freland in 1785; Parl. Hist., xxv., 311, 575; Pitt's Budget Speech, 1792, Parl. Hist., xxix. 816; Debates on Commercial Treaty with France, 1787, Parl. Hist., xxvi. 342, &c.; Tomline's Life of Pitt, ii. 227; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, i. 315, 317, 323, ii. 141; Fox's Mem., ii. 276.
Widely different was the character of Lord Thurlow, Long in the king's most secret counsels, - his Chancellor Lord Thur- in every administration, except the coalition, from
Lord North's to Mr. Pitt's, — he had directed the movements of the king's friends, encouraged his Majesty's love of power, and supported those principles of goverument which found most favor in the royal mind. He was in theory, in sympathy, and in temper, the very impersonation of a Tory of that period. For some years he exercised a sway, — less potential, indeed, than that of Mr. Pitt, in the general policy of the state, - but scarcely inferior to that of the minister in influence with the king, in patronage, in court favors, and party allegiance. If Mr. Pitt was absolute master of the House of Commons, the House of Lords was the plaything of Lord Thurlow. It was not until Mr. Pitt resolved to endure no longer the intrigues, treachery, and insolent opposition of his Chancellor, that he freely enjoyed all the powers of a responsible minister."
The Whigs, proscribed at court, and despairing of royal The Whigs favor, cultivated the friendship of the Prince of
Wales, who, in his first youth, warmly encouraged
their personal intimacy, and espoused their cause. The social charms of such men as Fox, Sheridan, and Erskine, made their society most attractive to a young prince of ability and many accomplishments; and his early estrangement from the king and his ministers naturally threw him into the arms of the opposition. Even his vices received little reproof or discouragement from some of the gay members of the Whig party, who shared in the fashionable indulgences of that period. Young men of fashion drank deeply; and many wasted their health and fortunes at the gaming table. Some of his Whig associates — Fox and Sheridan among the number did not affect to be the most moral or prudent men of their age; and their association with the
1 Moore's Life of Sheridan, i. 406; Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, V. 532, 555, 602, &c.; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii. 148.
and the Prince of Wales.
prince aggravated the king's repugnance to their party. How could he forgive the men whom he believed to be perverting the politica, alienating the affections, and corrupting the morals of the heir to his throne ?
It was no new political phenomenon to see the court of the beir-apparent the nucleus of the opposition. It had been the unhappy lot of the Hanoverian family that every Prince of Wales had been alienated from the reigning sovereign. George I. hated his son with unnatural malignity; and the Prince, repelled from court, became the hope of the opposition. Again, in the next reign, Frederick Prince of Wales, estranged from his father in domestic life, espoused the opinions and cultivated the friendship of Bulingbroke, Chesterfield, Wyndham, Cartaret, Pulteney, and other statesmen most vehemently opposed to the king's government.
The Whigs being in office throughout both these reigns, the court of the heir-apparent fell naturally under the influence of the Tories. And now the first-born son of George III. was in open opposition to his father and his father's chosen ministers; and the Tories being in the ascendant at court, the Whigs took possession of Carlton House. The Prince wore the buff and blue uniform, and everywhere paraded his adherence to the Whig party. In 1784, after the Westminster election, he joined Mr. Fox's procession, gave fêtes at Carlton House in celebration of his victory, attended public dinners, and shared in other social gatherings of the party.
Their alliance was still more ostensible during the king's
i Coxe's Walpole, i. 78, 93.
: Walpole's Mem. of Geo. II., i. 47; Lord Hervey's Mem., i. 235, 236, 271. 277. Hearing of their meeting at Kew, in September, 1737, the king said “ They will all soon be tired of the puppy, for besides his being a scoundrel, he is such a fool, that he will talk more fiddle-faddle to them in a day than any old woman talks in a week.”— Ibid., 442.
§ Lord J. Russell's Life of Fox, i. 337, &c.
lution upon parties.
illness in 1788. They openly espoused the cause of the prince, and boasted of their approaching restoration to power ;' while the prince was actively canvassing for votes to support them in Parliament. To the Earl of Lonsdale he wrote to solicit his support as a personal favor; and all his nominees in the House of Commons, though ordinarily stanch supporters of Mr. Pitt, were found voting with Mr. Fox and the opposition.
The Whigs were still a considerable party. However Effects of the interior, in numbers, to the ministerial phalanx, French Revo- they were led by men of commanding talents,
high rank, and social influence; their principles were popular, and they were generally united in senti. ment and policy. But events were impending, which were destined to subvert the relations of parties. The momentous incidents of the French Revolution,
new and unexampled in the history of the world, — could not fail to affect deeply the minds of every class of politicians. In their early development, the democrats hailed them with enthusiasm; the Whigs with hopeful sympathy; the king and the Tories with indignation and alarm.8 Mr. Fox foresaw the spread of liberty throughout Europe. Mr. Pitt, sympa. thizing with freedom more than any of his party, watched the progress of events with friendly interest. Mr. Burke was the first statesman who was overcome with terror. Fore. seeing nothing but evil and dangers, he brought the whole force of his genius, with characteristic earnestness, to the denunciation of the French Revolution, its principles, its actors, and its consequences. In his excitement against de
1 Supra, Vol. I. 149, et seq. 2 Court and Cabinets of George III., ii. 64. 8 Tomline's Life of Pitt, iii. 104: Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii. App. xvii. 4 Mem. of Fox, ii. 361. 6 Tomline's Life of Pitt, iii. 118; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii. 48, 49.
6 Prior's Life of Burke, ii. 42; MacKnight's Life of Burke, iii. 274, et seq.; Burke's Correspondence, iii. 102, 183, 267, 286.-"He loved to exaggerate everything: when exasperated by the slightest opposition, even on acciden
mocracy, he publicly renounced the generous and manly friendship of Mr. Fox, and repudiated the old associations of his party.
Society was becoming separated into two opposite parties, - the friends and the foes of democracy. For a time, the Whigs were able to stand between them, anong the
Whigs. - maintaining liberty, without either encouraging or fearing democracy. But their position was not long ten
Democrats espoused parliamentary reform : their opponents confounded it with revolution. Never had there been a time so inopportune for the discussion of that question, when the Society of the Friends of the People was founded. Mr. Fox, foreseeing the misconstructions to which it would be exposed, prudently withheld his support; but it was joined by Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Erskine, Mr. Grey, Mr. Tierdey, and other leading Whigs, who, for the sake of the cause they had espoused, were willing to coöperate with men of democratic opinions, and even with members of the Corresponding Society, who had enrolled themselves among the Friends of the People. When Mr. Grey gave April 30th, notice of his motion for reform, the tone of the debate disclosed the revulsion of feeling that was arising against popular questions, and the widening schism of the Whig party. While some of its members were not diverted from their purpose by the contact of democracy, others Mar 21st, were repelled by it even from their traditional love 1792. of liberty. A further breach in the ranks of the opposition
tal topics of conversation, he always pushed his principles, his opinions and even his impressions of the moment, to the extreme."- Lord Holland's Mem., i. 7.
i Parl. Hist., Feb. 9, 1790, xxviii. 363, xxix. 249; Fox's Speeches, iv. 51-200; Burke's Appeal from the new to the old Whigs, Works, vi. 110; Lord J. Russell's Life of Fox, ii. 241-252, 273, 283, 318; Annual Register, 1791, p. 114;,Lord Holland's Mem., i. 10; Lord Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii. 91, et seq.; Moore's Life of Sheridan, ii. 125; MacKnight's Life of Burke, iii. 383-411.
2 Lord Holland's Mem., i. 13; Lord J. Russell's Life of Fox, ii. 281; Life and Opinions of Earl Grey, 9-13.