Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 30

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Mr. Eden was at that time negotiating the matter in Paris; and although the Government may have reposed implicit confidence in his discretion, they appear to have felt that he did not possess a sufficiently accurate knowledge of the complicated questions out of which this difficult position had arisen, to enable him to act with the requisite caution and prompt.i.tude. In order, therefore, to a.s.sist him through the negotiations, in the hope of bringing about an honourable and satisfactory peace, Mr. Grenville was requested to proceed to Paris.


Whitehall, Sept. 19th, 1787.

My dear Brother,

In Eden's account of the conversation, in which M. de Montmorin notified to him the intention of France to a.s.sist their friends against the Duke of Brunswick's army, he mentions that an intimation was made of a strong wish on their part that means might yet be found for an amicable conclusion of the business, and a desire that the negotiation for that purpose might be pursued with more activity than ever.

Although it is very doubtful whether this is anything more than a _persiflage_, yet, as in their present situation their resolution may change every hour, it has been thought, after much consideration, that we ought so far to avail ourselves of it, as to try whether anything can be done in this way, but, at the same time, by no means to lessen or suspend our preparations. One of the difficulties on this subject was Eden's want of a competent knowledge of the points in dispute, to enable him to discuss them thoroughly, and to bring them to those short and distinct issues to which they must be reduced, if anything is to be done upon them in the very little time that now remains for negotiation. Another, and perhaps not the least of the two, was the strong bent of his mind to admit the a.s.sertions of the French Government, however unfounded, and to soften our communications, in order to keep back a rupture, which he has so great a personal interest to prevent, in addition to those motives which we all have in common for wis.h.i.+ng the continuance of peace.

With a view to these considerations, I was earnestly requested to proceed to Paris for a fortnight or three weeks, in order to carry on this negotiation jointly with him. I have been very unwilling to accept this commission, because my opinion of the possibility of its success is much less sanguine than that of others. But I am satisfied that it is the duty of Government to leave nothing untried, however hopeless, which can enable us to maintain our ground without having recourse to extremities. And there is certainly, _caeteris paribus_, a better chance of doing this with the a.s.sistance of one who is in some degree acquainted with the particulars which are likely to come in question, and who will most undoubtedly state explicitly the real sentiments which are entertained here. For these reasons, I have thought myself not at liberty to refuse, and have given a reluctant consent.

I shall probably set out either to-morrow evening or Friday morning. It seems best for me not to go with any ostensible character, as that would be ridiculous in the case of my coming back _re infecta_ within a few days after my appointment. But in the other much less probable event, it would, I think, be right for me to have powers to sign with Eden.

It is, on the whole, a very hazardous undertaking, and one which, for a variety of reasons, I would gladly have avoided. I think I am sure to carry with me your warmest wishes for my success; and as I know the anxiety which you feel upon it, you may depend on hearing from me as soon as I have anything worth communicating, either good or bad.

In the meantime, believe me, with the truest affection,

My dear brother, Most sincerely yours, W. W. Grenville.

P.S. There is no news, either from Harris or Eden, since I wrote.

Two days afterwards, Mr. Grenville, in a few hasty lines, informs his brother that he is that instant setting out for France. "Accounts were at this moment received," he concludes, "that Utrecht and all the towns in North Holland had surrendered to the Prussian troops; and that the Free Corps were all called in to Amsterdam, which they talked of defending."

The surrender of Utrecht, the stronghold of democratic zeal, literally paralyzed the Dutch. Gorc.u.m, Dordt, Schoonhoven, and other towns surrendered immediately afterwards, without striking a blow. The Senate of Amsterdam made a vain show of resistance, by pa.s.sing a resolution to suspend the office of Stadtholder; but the resolution was waste-paper.

Wherever the Prussians appeared, all opposition vanished, and the onward progress of the Duke of Brunswick's army was literally a procession of triumph.

We now follow Mr. Grenville to Paris.


Seve, Sept. 25th, 1787.

My dear Brother,

I arrived at Paris this evening, and immediately set off for this place, where Eden has a house. You will have heard all the good news in Holland. The effect it has produced here seems to be that of frightening these people into withdrawing themselves from the business. If so, my mission will soon be ended, and the general result will be so happy, that I shall have nothing to fear from my particular share in it. I have but just time to scrawl these three lines, as the courier is waiting, and his getting to Calais early is of real importance.

Ever yours, W. W. G.

The "good news" was neither more nor less than the rapid and complete success which attended the arms of Prussia, without striking a blow.

While Mr. Grenville was negotiating in Paris, to dissuade the French from interfering, the Prince of Orange was making his public entry into the Hague--an event which, to the astonishment of Europe, after the st.u.r.dy independence shown by the States in the first instance, took place within seven days from the date of the invasion.


Seve, Sept. 27th, 1787.

My dear Brother,

I had scarce time to put down three lines to you by the last messenger; but you will have seen from them that our business here bears a favourable aspect. I have this morning received your letter of the 23rd, and can with truth a.s.sure you that I feel in the strongest manner the kindness and affection which give rise to the anxiety you express.

I have not yet seen any of the French Ministers, and am not to do so till to-morrow. But the opportunities which I have of knowing their sentiments, enable me to judge that it is not probable that I shall enter into negotiation with them. Their inclination certainly is very strongly to abandon the business, and to withdraw themselves entirely from it. In this opinion they will of course be desirous of doing this silently; and by a sort of tacit acquiescence, rather than by any agreement or treaty on the subject. The only thing that appears likely to alter this, is the manner in which what has pa.s.sed in Holland is received in Paris. The indignation on the subject is almost general; and the Ministers are universally condemned as having been cajoled or bullied by us into the loss of their object. The imputation is, in my opinion, very unjust. I do not believe that they have been for a moment deceived as to our intentions, nor have we taken any pains to deceive them. But I think that they weighed the merits of the question itself, and decided upon it like wise men. It is, however, impossible to say, in a country where so much depends on public opinion, what effect may be produced by this sort of clamour; and whether that may not drive them, against their wishes, into measures of violence.

In this case, it is easy to see that they must act with precipitation, and even with the appearance of pa.s.sion, so that either way, it is probable that I shall be at liberty to return in a week or ten days' time. I shall certainly do it with much pleasure; for though I felt I could not in honour decline the commission; I accepted it, as you know, with little satisfaction.

The Parliament of Paris is returned, having made a most disgraceful compromise, of registering an edict for continuing the two new Vingtiemes, without any exceptions or privileges of exemption. By this mode, the Court get the money they want, but in a manner more oppressive and ruinous to the country than that of the taxes they had proposed. I suppose the example will, as is generally the case, be followed by the provincial Parliaments.

Adieu, my dear brother.

Ever most affectionately yours, W. W. G.

The successes of the Prince of Orange had relieved France of a difficulty; for, notwithstanding that she secretly regarded these successes with dissatisfaction, her finances were in such a condition of derangement, that she was glad enough of an excuse for avoiding the expenditure of a war. Nevertheless, up to the 1st of October, Mr.

Grenville did not feel quite sure of the issue. "Things," he observes, "remain here still in a very undecided state. They are making vigorous preparations, and holding very high language. At the same time, I still think that they will not be disinclined to listen to proposals for disarming."

Similar preparations were making in England; and in this unsettled and rather menacing condition the negotiation remained, when Mr. Grenville returned to England. In the course of the month, however, the Duke of Dorset, who was the English Amba.s.sador at Paris, brought the question to a conclusion in a formal shape.


Whitehall, Oct. 24th, 1787.

My dear Brother,

Despatches were received yesterday from the Duke of Dorset and Eden, with a project of a declaration and counter-declaration for disarming, which the French Ministers were ready to sign.

These will be returned to them to-day with a few alterations, but of such a nature, that I have myself little doubt of their being agreed to without difficulty, in which case the whole business will be immediately concluded, and in a manner which I think highly satisfactory and honourable to us. You will, however, naturally suppose that we feel a good deal of anxiety till the thing is actually done, as some circ.u.mstances may arise every hour to vary it. Although Amsterdam has formally submitted, there is a fund of much ill-humour there; but I do not think that much is to be apprehended from it, especially if proper and vigorous measures are taken for the security and protection of the present Government in Holland.

The alliance with the Republic will be begun upon immediately; but it will not be a triple one, from considerations which have originated not here, but there.

You will see in the papers, that the Bishop of Hereford is dead.

I immediately renewed the application to Pitt, on the subject of Marylebone, and wrote to the Chancellor myself to state the warm interest that we both take in Cleaver's advancement. I have this moment received a note from Pitt, informing me that the Chancellor has agreed, and in the handsomest manner. I think it very lucky for Cleaver, that this man died before Lord North. I have written to him to inform him of the Chancellor's promise.

With respect to myself, I think I see ground to say, with certainty, that nothing of the sort will take place before Parliament meets.

Believe me, my dearest brother, Ever most affectionately yours, W. W. G.

On the 27th of October, the Duke of Dorset presented a memorial to the King of France, proposing the discontinuance of warlike preparations at both sides, which was at once agreed to, M. de Montmorin observing that it never had been the intention of His Majesty to interfere by force in the affairs of Holland.

The death of the Duke of Rutland in Ireland, on the 24th of October in this year, once more placed the office of Lord-Lieutenant at the disposal of the Administration. As soon as the intelligence was received in England, communications on the subject were opened with the Marquis of Buckingham, who, having no longer any grounds of hesitation, personal or political, accepted the office, and on the 2nd of November wrote to the Lords Justices to announce his appointment. Public opinion appears at once to have pointed out his Lords.h.i.+p as the fittest person to undertake the government of Ireland; and before anything could be known in that country of the intention of Ministers, Lord Mornington wrote to the Marquis, commending a special case to his consideration, under the impression that he would certainly be selected for the office. A pa.s.sage in a subsequent letter of Lord Mornington's, dated 4th of November, written upon the occasion of Lord Buckingham's appointment, possesses peculiar interest on account of the ill.u.s.trious individual to whom it refers. This is, perhaps, the earliest allusion in the correspondence of the period to Arthur Wellesley, whose name now appears for the first time emerging from boyhood into that public life in which he was afterwards destined to act so conspicuous a part. At this time, he was little more than eighteen years of age.

I sincerely wish you the same success in Ireland which attended your last Government; your only difficulty will be to maintain the high character which your Administration bore, in the minds of every description of people. You will certainly be received by the sanguine expectations of the whole country; and from my heart and soul I earnestly hope that you may return home with the same popularity and credit that you carry out. I must be lost to all feeling, if I did not take the warmest interest in the honour and prosperity of your Government, and if I did not acknowledge myself to be bound by the strongest ties of friends.h.i.+p and grat.i.tude to contribute everything within my power to promote its strength, in any way in which you may please to call upon me.

Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 30

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