Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 23.djvu/142

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Grenville
Grenville
134

general in his cousin Pitt's first administration, and was sworn a member of the privy council on 31 Dec. 1783. On 7 April 1784 he was appointed joint-pay master-general with Constantine, second baron Mulgrave, and at the general election in the same month was returned, after a very severe contest, at the head of the poll for Buckinghamshire. On 3 Sept. following he was made one of the commissioners of the newly created board of control, and on 6 Sept. 1786 was appointed vice-president of the committee of trade. Though Grenville had taken part in several important debates with a fair amount of success, he did not make much way in the commons as a debater, and as early as 1786 began to aspire to a seat in the House of Lords. In the summer of 1787 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Hague, and afterwards went to Paris to assist Morton Eden [q.v.] in the Dutch disputes. On 5 Jan. 1789,while only in his thirtieth year, Grenville was elected speaker of the House of Commons, in the place of Charles Wolfran Cornwall [q. v.], by 215 votes against 144 (Parl. Hist. xxvii. 904-7). Owing to the king's illness the usual formalities of receiving the royal permission to elect a speaker, and the royal approbation of him when elected, could not be observed, and Grenville taking his seat immediately performed all the duties of his office (May, Parl. Practice, 1883, p. 203). On 16 Jan. Grenville spoke at great length on Pitt's resolutions providing for the exercise of the royal authority during the king's illness (Parl. Hist. xxvii. 970-94), and in May took part in the debate on the slave trade resolutions, when he declared that Wilberforce's speech ‘entitled him to the thanks of the house, of the people of England, of all Europe, and of the latest posterity’ (ib. xxviii. 76). Having accepted the post of secretary of state for the home department in the place of Lord Sydney, Grenville resigned the speakership on 5 June 1789, and was succeeded in the chair by Addington. A few weeks afterwards he also resigned the offices of joint-paymaster-general and of vice-president of the board of trade. On 12 March 1790 he succeeded Lord Sydney as president of the board of control, and at the general election in June was again returned for Buckinghamshire. On 25 Nov., the day of the meeting of the new parliament, he was created Baron Grenville of Wotton-under-Bernewood in the county of Buckingham. Grenville was forthwith entrusted with the conduct of the government business in the lords, it being vainly hoped that he would be able to keep matters smooth with Thurlow, whom Pitt was at a loss to know how to manage. He made his maiden speech in the upper house during the debate on the convention with Spain on 13 Dec. (ib. p.948). On the resignation of Francis, fifth duke of Leeds, Grenville was appointed secretary of state for foreign affairs (8 June 1791), being succeeded at the home office by Dundas. At first Grenville seems to have taken a very rose-coloured view of foreign affairs. Writing on 17 Aug. 1791, on hearing of the conclusion of the negotiations at Sistova, he says: ‘I am repaid by the maintenance of peace, which is all this country has to desire. We shall now, I hope, for a very long period indeed enjoy this blessing, and cultivate a situation of prosperity unexampled in our history’ (The Court and Cabinets of George III, ii. 196), His letter to his eldest brother, dated 7 Nov. 1792, satisfactorily proves that up to that time our government had abstained from any interference in the hostilities against France (ib. pp. 221-5), while that dated 17 Sept. 1794 gives Grenville's view of the war after it had broken out. In his opinion ‘the existence of the two systems of government was fairly at stake, and in the words of St. Just, whose curious speech I hope you have seen, that it is perfect blindness not to see that in the establishment of the French republic is included the overthrow of all the other governments of Europe’ (ib. p. 303). This letter contains the key to Grenville's foreign policy, and whenever the subject of peace negotiations was brought before the cabinet Grenville was always to be found at the head of the war party in opposition to Pitt.

On 13 Dec. 1791 Grenville was appointed ranger and keeper of St. James's and Hyde parks, a sinecure office, which he afterwards exchanged in February 1794 for the lucrative one of auditor of the exchequer, worth 4,000l. a year. In December 1792 he introduced the Alien Bill for the registration and supervision of all foreigners in the country, and on 24 Jan. 1793 wrote to M. Chauvelin, the French ambassador, informing him that ‘His Majesty has thought fit to order that you should retire from this kingdom within the term of eight days’ (Parl. Hist. xxx. 269). Grenville resigned the presidency of the board of control in June 1793, and was succeeded by Dundas. On 22 May in the following year Grenville moved the first reading of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill, which was passed through all its stages and read a third time in the House of Lords on the same day (ib. xxxi. 574-603). On 6 Nov. 1795 he introduced the Treasonable Practices Bill (ib. xxxii. 244-5), and in the following month the Seditious Meetings Bill (ib. pp.