Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 33

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It can hardly be supposed that this trait could have been generated in the mind of a statesman of such tried ability and acknowledged influence from any distrust in his own powers, or in the high position he held amongst his contemporaries; and it must, therefore, be regarded entirely as a matter of temperament. It was the weakness of a nature capable of the sincerest attachments, and jealous of every appearance of neglect in those whose regards it cherished. Between his Lords.h.i.+p and Lord Sydney there existed a strict bond of friends.h.i.+p. It had been tested in the struggles of public life, and cemented by many interchanges of confidence in their private relations. Lord Sydney, however, appears upon some occasion to have forgotten, in his official capacity as Secretary of State, the formality with which the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland should have been addressed, and to have lapsed, perhaps unconsciously, into that familiar tone which, no doubt, sat more easily upon him in writing to his friend, Lord Buckingham. The particular subject is of no importance; but, whatever it was, Lord Buckingham was dissatisfied with his correspondent's style, and indicated so much to him. Here is Lord Sydney's answer, marked "private;" admirable as a specimen of excellent feeling and indomitable good-humour.


Grosvenor Square, Feb. 6th, 1788.

My dear Lord,

I heartily congratulate you upon the success of two very important questions, which has been determined so much to the advantage of the public, and to the credit of your Lords.h.i.+p's Administration. I should have been very sorry if the style of any letter of mine should have had the effect of diminis.h.i.+ng in the least degree the pleasure which you must have received from the news which had just reached you from the House of Commons. I agree with you that forms must be observed, and surely none more exactly than those which consist in the mutual respect and civility which ought to appear in the correspondence between two of the offices of Government. In a private one between the Marquis of Buckingham and Lord Sydney, the latter will always be inclined to be as little punctilious as any man living. But as to that in question, I must say, that I had no reason to suppose that my style could seem objectionable, when I had endeavoured to imitate that of the letter to which mine was an answer. To leave this subject, you may depend upon my being as cautious as possible in future, to avoid any deviation from the usual form; but in the present case, the King's leave of absence being already given, it is not proper that any alteration should be made.

I have seen the d.u.c.h.ess of Rutland to-day for the first time at her Grace's desire. She expressed herself in the strongest terms of grat.i.tude towards your Lords.h.i.+p, for your attention in transmitting to her the extracts from the addresses of both Houses of Parliament, as well as for your letter upon the subject. Her manner and appearance was truly affecting, particularly to one who has had a strong attachment to the Rutland family all his life. She is very much pleased with the marks of respect which have been shown by all ranks of people to the memory of the poor Duke, and said that she must always love Ireland. I never saw more propriety, or a more unaffected general behaviour in my life.

I have finished Mr. Anselm Nugent's business to-day. I do not think that His Majesty quite likes so total a dispensation with an Act of Parliament; but agreed to it with great cheerfulness, and with very gracious expressions of his desire to do what was agreeable to you.

We have nothing new stirring, except the young ladies, two of whom eloped the day before yesterday: Lady Augusta Campbell with a son of Sir John Clavering's, and a daughter of Sir H.

Clinton's with a son of Mr. Dawkins's.

You will be glad to be released, and I am called to dinner.

Present my best respects to Lady Buckingham and Lord Temple.

Believe me ever to be, with the greatest esteem and regard,

My dear Lord, Your most obedient humble servant, Sydney.

The India Declaratory Bill, and the trial of Mr. Hastings, were the great subjects which now engrossed the attention of the Government and the country. Mr. Pitt had just introduced the famous Declaratory Act, for the purpose of conferring new and important powers on the Board of Control, and explaining the provisions of his former measure for the regulation of Indian affairs. Against this Bill a most formidable opposition was organized in the House of Commons, threatening, by its numbers no less than by the weight of its objections, to overthrow the Administration. The House was reminded that Mr. Fox's Cabinet had fallen by a similar measure; and it was endeavoured to be shown, not without a considerable appearance of justification, that the most odious features of that measure were revived and exaggerated in the Bill now introduced by Mr. Pitt. It is evident from Mr. Grenville's letter on this subject, that, although Ministers disclaimed the resemblance thus traced between the two plans, they regarded with no inconsiderable apprehension the arguments founded upon it, and the consequences they entailed. Lord Mornington writes more hopefully, but his letter was written before the decision which betrayed the defection of many of the usual supporters of Government.


Hertford St., March 4th, 1788.

My dear Lord,

As I know that William Grenville has not been quite well for this day or two, and that he does not mean to write to you by this post, I trouble you with a few lines, in order to give you the earliest account of the business of last night. Erskine and Rous came to the bar in support of the Pet.i.tion from the Directors against the East India Declaratory Act, and there was a great muster of the forces of Fox, Lord North, Lord Lansdowne, and of the refractory directors, with every appearance that some great exertion was to be made. Erskine made the most absurd speech imaginable: and after having spoke for near three hours, he was taken ill, and obliged to leave the bar. Rous was then heard; and when he had finished, Erskine (who had dined in the coffee-room with the Prince of Wales, and been well primed with _brandy_), returned to the charge, I understand at the express desire of His Royal Highness. Erskine now spoke for near two hours, and delivered the most stupid, gross, and indecent libel against Pitt, that ever was imagined; the abuse was so monstrous, that the House _hissed_ him at his conclusion. After this, Rous proposed to produce some letters from the Treasury and the Board of Control, as evidence of the construction of Pitt's East India Bill; on this question we divided--for receiving the evidence, 118; against, 242. The Lansdownes divided against us; Pitt then moved himself for the letters. The Bill was read a second time, and is committed for Wednesday, when another attack will be made.

We reckon this a great triumph. You cannot conceive the clamour that has been attempted to be raised on this occasion; and the question of the new Act is certainly well contrived for the union of the great men whom I have mentioned. It seemed great mismanagement in the Opposition to divide on the question of evidence, instead of pressing an adjournment, on which they might have made a much better appearance. It is hardly to be expected that we shall be quite as strong on the question of the Bill itself; but you know the effect of a great majority, even in preliminary questions, on the main subject.

Pitt took no sort of notice of Erskine's Billingsgate.

I will write to you after Wednesday, and shall then have some other points to state to you. I am much obliged to you for your kind attention to my Windsor job; but I beg you to consult your own convenience in it, as it is not at all material to me.

Hastings's trial you hear enough of from others. One fact you cannot have heard, as we have but just received the accounts at the Treasury; the expense of the counsel and solicitors attending the management has already amounted to near 5000, the trial having lasted as yet only eleven days. There are five counsel employed at ten guineas a-day, besides consultation fees, and consultations are held every night. The first charge is not yet finished. Make your own calculations of the probable expense of this business, and of the patronage which it has placed in the immaculate hands of the great orators.

Ever yours most affectionately, Mornington.

I cannot say how I rejoice in your success in Ireland--we hear nothing but good news of you in every way, and even from all quarters.


Whitehall, March 6th, 1788.

My dear Brother,

I am very sorry to send you, in return for all your good news, an account from hence of a very different nature. By one of those strange caprices, to which our friends in the House of Commons are so peculiarly liable, they have taken the alarm about our explanatory East India Bill; and although that Bill does no more than declare that to be the law which not only every man who can think, but every man who can read, must agree with you is already the law on that subject, they have suffered themselves to be persuaded that we are doing neither more nor less than a.s.suming to ourselves all the power of Fox's Bill.

You must often have observed, that of all impressions the most difficult to be removed, are those which have no reason whatever to support them, because against them no reasoning can be applied. Under one of these impressions; the question of the Speaker's leaving the chair came on last night, and after debating till seven this morning, we divided, in a majority of only 57: Ayes, 183; Noes, 125. So many of our friends were against us in this division, and that sort of impression runs so strongly after such a display of weakness, that I have serious apprehensions of our being beat either to-morrow on the report, or Monday on the third reading. I need not tell you, that besides much real inconvenience and embarra.s.sment, with respect to the measure itself, such a defeat would be in the highest degree disreputable to Government, the personal opinions, conduct and character of every leading man in the House of Commons on our side being involved in this discussion. Add to this the impression in the country, where the people will certainly be persuaded that this House of Commons would not have rejected such a Bill, except on just and solid grounds. We must, however, weather it as well as we can, and submit to the consequences of an evil which, I think, you will agree with me it was not easy to foresee. What hurt us, I believe, materially last night was that Pitt, who had reserved himself to answer Fox, was, just at the close of a very able speech of Fox's, taken so ill as not to be able to speak at all, so that the House went to the division with the whole impression of our adversaries' arguments, in a great degree, unanswered. I had spoken early in the debate, and Dundas just before Fox. I think this is the most unpleasant thing of the sort that has happened to us; but I console myself with recollecting how many similar disasters we have surmounted. I have seen n.o.body this morning but apprehend that we shall certainly go on with the Bill, as nothing, I think, would be saved by withdrawing it.

Till within this last day or two I have been much out of order, and this, added to the hurry of this business for the last week, has made it impossible for me to get an answer to your queries.

I fear it will be impossible for me to do it before Tuesday, but you may depend upon my exerting myself as much as I can.

I do not agree at all with what I understand from Young to be your opinion on the reduction of interest; holding with Smith, that the hire of money, like that of any other commodity, will find its level, and going even beyond him in thinking the grounds on which he states such a measure to be sometimes justifiable, such as will not support him on his own principles.

I have also a doubt, but of that you are a much better judge than I can be, whether it is often desirable to hold a neutrality on the part of Government with respect to such questions. That, however, depends on circ.u.mstances, and I can easily conceive such as would make that the only line you could prudently adopt.

This has been the most sickly of all seasons with us. Jemmy has been very ill, and is not recovered, though, I trust, entirely out of all danger. Hester has also been seriously ill, but is out again. I agree most entirely with Fitzgibbon, in reprobating that some _lex et consuetudo_ Parliament, which is to supersede the good old common law of the land. Fox's whole conduct and language has been singularly indecent.

Ever most affectionately yours, W. W. G.

It will be seen that Mr. Grenville complains of the failure, on the part of the friends of the Government, in answering the arguments of the Opposition. Amongst those whose talents raised the highest expectations, only to be disappointed in the moment of debate by want of resolution, was Lord Mornington--subsequently distinguished by the brilliancy and solidity of his orations. Mr. Grenville elsewhere alludes to Lord Mornington's intention of speaking from day to day, which he fears he will suffer the session to pa.s.s over without carrying into execution, and begs of Lord Buckingham to write to him urgently on the subject.

Lord Bulkeley gives a less dignified version of Mr. Pitt's retreat from the discussion on this occasion, and, in his usual rattling way, runs on about the prominent topics of the hour. In this letter some names appear which were afterwards destined for a wide celebrity, more especially those of "a Mr. Tierney" and "young Grey."


Stanhope Street, March 10th, 1788.

My dear Lord,

Our politics have worn the most decided aspect till lately. On last Wednesday, on the bringing in the Declaratory Bill of the powers of the Board of Control, Mr. Pitt experienced a mortification, not only from the abilities of those who oppose him, but from the defection of some of his friends, and the luke-warmness of others, that he has not experienced since he has been a Minister. It was an awkward day for him, and he felt it the more because he himself was low-spirited, and overcome by the heat of the House, in consequence of having got drunk the night before at your house in Pall Mall, with Mr. Dundas and _the d.u.c.h.ess of Gordon_. They must have had a hard bout of it, for even Dundas, who is well used to the bottle, was affected by it, and spoke remarkably ill, tedious and dull. The Opposition, therefore, made the most of their advantages, and raked Pitt fore and aft in such a manner, as evidently made an impression on him. I heard from our own friends that no Minister ever cut a more pitiful figure.

These triumphs were, however, of short duration to the Opposition, for on Friday Pitt made one of the best and most masterly speeches he ever made, and turned the tables effectually on Opposition, by acquiescing in such shackles as they chose to put on the article of patronage, all which they had pressed from an idea that Pitt on that point would be inflexible. This speech of Pitt's infused spirit into his friends; Dundas spoke very well, and, contrary to expectation, so did Scott and Macdonald. Government kept up their numbers in the division, and Opposition lost ten. I understand from all quarters that last Friday was, considering all circ.u.mstances, as good as the Wednesday before was _bad_ for Government.

Notwithstanding this happy recovery, there is yet a heavy and severe clamour against Dundas, and I shall not be surprised if his unpopularity should very materially injure Pitt's character and Government. It was by his influence that a Mr. Tierney was kept out of the direction, and a Mr. Elphinstone brought in, which last has turned out the most violent opposer and the most formidable Government has had at the India House; and there is great reason to think the other, if he had been supported, would have been a friend, though that docs not seem clear. However, those two men have been the most active and useful to the Opposition in all the late contentions in Leadenhall Street, where Mr. Dundas _ought_ to have had a majority.

All this business has given Fox advantages, which he has not neglected; and although Mr. Pitt may be secure as to the continuation of his power, yet the former has and will gain character, as a firm and manly straightforward politician; which the other begins to lose by nearly adopting the principles of a Bill which he had reprobated and condemned. Devaynes tells me that a few dozen of claret, and two or three dinners, would have operated with many in the direction; but Rose and Steele follow Pitt's example in that respect, and vote such company boors not deserving of such notice.

Your brother William suffered a mortification last Wednesday, which, I am told, has vexed him: the moment he got up to speak, the House cleared as it used to do at one time when Burke got up. I hope it proceeded from accident, for if it continues it must hurt him very essentially. The day after he was in uncommon low spirits, and croaked very much. There seems a general complaint of Pitt's young friends, who never get up to speak; and I am not surprised at their timidity, for Fox, Sheridan, Burke, and Barre, are formidable opponents on the ground they now stand upon. Young Grey has not yet spoke on either of these last days, and he is. .h.i.therto a superior four-year-old to any of our side. I have kept Sir Hugh Williams and Parry steady to their tackle; the latter, I think, unless a judges.h.i.+p comes soon, will not live much longer, not being of an age or const.i.tution to live for ever on expectation, however good his may be, for I am a.s.sured he is to have the first vacancy. What the event of Hastings's trial will be, I cannot say; the prosecution is carried on with great ability and acrimony, but hitherto the oral evidence has fallen short of the expectations p.r.o.nounced by the managers.

Fox made a severe attack on the Chancellor and the Court, for which Lord Fortescue was near moving to have the words taken down, and to adjourn to the House of Lords, but letting the proper moment slip, he was advised not to resume it again by the Chancellor and the Duke of Richmond. I think the Chancellor, to a certain degree, provoked Fox's attack by a speech the day before in the House of Lords, which everybody said had better been left alone.

I dined last Friday with your brother Marquis; in talking of Lord Fortescue, he said he heard he was a sensible man, and asked me whether he stood on his own bottom, or whether he was a follower of the Grenvilles. I felt the aim of his _gracious_ speech, and consoled myself with his dinner and the addition of a new stock of mimicry of those I already possess of him. He and all his Synod are violent against the new Declaratory Bill, and are ready for any mischief against the present Government, though they are the last who would benefit by a change. The Prince of Wales takes an active part in opposition, and goes on the same. The Duke of York in politics talks both ways, and, I think, will end in opposition. His conduct is as bad as possible; he plays very deep, and loses, and his company is thought _mauvais ton_.

I am told the King and Queen begin now to feel "how much sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have an ingrate child." When the Duke of York is completely _done up_ in the public opinion, I should not be surprised if the Prince of Wales a.s.sumes a different style of behaviour; indeed, I am told he already affects to say that his brother's style is too bad.

I am, my dear Lord, Your affectionate and sincere B.

The habits of the Prince and his brother were now become matter of notoriety in the political circles, and in the preceding January had attracted the observation of Mr. Grenville, who thus spoke of them in a letter to Lord Buckingham:

Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 33

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