Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 15

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My Lord,

I have this instant heard Lord North say, he believed that Mr.

Pitt was First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer; and I know a variety of circ.u.mstances to confirm it.

The same army will be fought under another general, in the expectation of its being strengthened by deserters before the next action.

I have the honour to be, with great respect,

My Lord, Your most faithful and obedient humble servant, Robert Cuninghame.

GENERAL CUNINGHAME TO LORD TEMPLE.

London, Thursday Night,

Feb. 26th, 1783.

My Lord,

There seems now no doubt of Mr. Pitt's having been offered, and having refused, being First Lord of the Treasury. What may or may not happen to-morrow, n.o.body can conjecture, The House of Commons will probably adjourn till Monday.

I have the honour to be, with true respect,

My Lord, Your most faithful and obedient humble servant, Robert Cuninghame.

The refusal of Pitt, who was sagaciously waiting his opportunity--foreseeing what would come of these desperate efforts to patch up an Administration--and the King's personal aversion to Fox, and dissatisfaction with Lord North for his union with him, rendered it necessary to look for help elsewhere. In this extremity Lord Temple was thought of, as one of the few men whose courage and integrity might be confidently relied upon.

MR. W. W. GRENVILLE TO LORD TEMPLE.

Pall Mall, Feb. 28th, 1783.

My dear Brother,

I have been, for these last five days, in the most anxious expectation of being able to write to you something certain about the situation of things here. Still, however, they remain in the same unsettled state. The invincible repugnance continues to operate in the strongest manner; it is avowed, and was certainly the cause of the late offer, which has been declined; notwithstanding the promises of support from many of those who have voted with Lord North till now, and who are disgusted either at his union with Fox, or his conduct to the King.

To-day, the prevalent report was that you had been sent for.

This I know to be otherwise, in present, though I think it not unlikely to happen; as I know the King's wish--at all events to exclude Fox and North, and particularly the first. If it should be so, lights will undoubtedly be given you which I cannot furnish, to which will of course be added every light which it is in my power to procure. At present I rather believe, and from no bad authority, that the idea is, Lord Gower at the Treasury, Jenkinson, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Townshend to manage the House of Commons, Pitt resigning. But the whole, even from the best information, is but a scene of conjecture. In the meantime, the situation of the country cannot be described. The Government is broke up just at the moment when a Government was most wanted. Our internal regulations, our loan, our commerce, our army, everything is at a stand, while the candidates for office are arranging their pretensions: in the meantime, we have no money, and our troops and seamen are in mutiny.

One thing, however, is worth your attention: a Bill is to be brought in on Monday to open our ports to American s.h.i.+ps, putting them, in all respects, on the footing of natural-born subjects; which regulation is to continue, till it is known that they refuse to do the like by us. How can this be done in Ireland without a Parliament?

I cannot apply, for I have n.o.body to apply to, about your Peerages. Adieu, my dear brother. One thing is worse than bad Government, viz.: the having no Government at all.

Ever yours, W. W. G.

I still retain my wish of _bringing_ over the third reading, as I can be of no use in the House of Lords; although I believe with you, that the disposition to oppose does exist.

All parties were desirous of strengthening themselves by an alliance with Lord Temple. The coalition sought to engage him even before they were themselves in a position to treat; and there seems to be no doubt that, at this juncture, when every succeeding hour brought new incidents and unforeseen difficulties, a movement was going on for placing him at the head of the Government. Mr. Astle, writing to his Lords.h.i.+p on the 1st of March, says: "It is the opinion of men of different parties that a majority in Parliament would act with your Lords.h.i.+p if you was at the head of the Treasury. From what I have collected in the course of this day, I agree entirely in this opinion. Some who have voted with Lord North would draw with you." How far this contemplated escape from the embarra.s.sments that impeded the coalition might have been matured into a practical shape had Lord Temple been in London, we can only infer from the general confidence which was reposed in his ability, high character and personal weight; but his distance from the scene of action precluded the possibility of carrying the project into effect, even had he been disposed to accept the position, which may be reasonably doubted. Events pressed impatiently for a solution, and the activity of the hybrid Opposition admitted of no delay. At the very moment when Mr. Astle was hastily writing off to Lord Temple to apprize him that there existed this desire to invite him to undertake the construction of a Cabinet, General Cuninghame was dispatching another letter, to inform him that a new Administration was actually in course of formation, of which he could then give him no further particulars, than that Lord Rawdon was to be called to the Upper House, and Townshend to be created a peer. In the evening of the same day this piece of intelligence takes a more definite and authentic form.

GENERAL CUNINGHAME TO LORD TEMPLE.

London, March 1st, Eight o'clock, P.M.

My Lord,

Lord North is now with the King. The Duke of Portland, or Mr.

Fox, will be sent for to-morrow.

I have the honour to be, my Lord, Your most obedient humble servant, Robert Cuninghame.

Mr. Fox, however, was not sent for. The King's reluctance to negotiate with him could not be overcome: upon that point His Majesty was inflexible; and interview after interview followed, ending in the same unsatisfactory way, the country continuing to be kept in a state of uncertainty and alarm, and, as Mr. Grenville describes it, "wholly without any Government whatsoever."

GENERAL CUNINGHAME TO LORD TEMPLE.

London, March 4th, 1783.

My Lord,

In these uncertain times, it is difficult to relate events with precision; but I believe there is no doubt of Lord North's having been near three hours last night with the King, and that they parted without agreeing to any Administration. It is said, His Majesty offered to consent to any arrangement that excluded Mr. Fox and his a.s.sociates, and that Lord North thought it was impossible to make up any Administration, to have the appearance of permanency, without them. What is to happen next, G.o.d alone knows! All is confusion; and the gentlemen of landed property are seriously alarmed. I have the honour to be, with the most perfect respect,

My Lord, Your Excellency's most faithful and obedient humble servant, Robert Cuninghame.

His Excellency the Earl Temple, &c., &c., &c.

GENERAL CUNINGHAME TO LORD TEMPLE.

London, March 5th, 1783.

My Lord,

I continue to write in these curious times, though I am confident you must have better intelligence from a variety of other authorities. Lord North's interview, last night, with the King did not last above ten minutes. His Majesty again asked him if _they_ (meaning Mr. Fox and his a.s.sociates) would be satisfied with a neutral person being at the head of the Treasury: his Lords.h.i.+p replied, they would only be satisfied with the Duke of Portland. His Majesty then asked Lord North if he would accept of the Treasury, which he declined; and so they parted. This, the Duke of Portland told me himself, last night, at Brookes's. Mr. Fox said something to the same effect; but it was too late before Lord North left the King, to write by last night's post. His Majesty looked very firm; but what course he is to steer is not yet known.

I am happy to find, from all sorts of people who may be supposed to know something of ideal arrangements, that there is no intention anywhere of your Excellency not having the option of remaining in Ireland; and that it is the universal wish you may continue there, for the sake of this as well as of that country.

If you happened to be here now, you would have the Treasury laid at your feet.

I have the honour to be, with perfect respect,

My Lord, Your Excellency's most faithful, obedient, humble servant, Robert Cuninghame.

His Excellency the Earl Temple, &c., &c., &c.

MR. W. W. GRENVILLE TO LORD TEMPLE.

Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 15

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