Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 23.djvu/144

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Grenville
Grenville
136

of Commons, received the royal assent on 25 March (47 Geo. III, sess. i. c. xxxvi.), the very day on which the ministers went out of office. On 5 March 1807 Lord Howick (afterwards Earl Grey), who had succeeded Fox in the post of foreign secretary, introduced the Roman Catholic Army and Navy Service Bill, a measure throwing open both services to Roman catholics and dissenters alike (Parl. Debates, ix. 2-8). Lord Sidmouth had already alarmed the king, who declared that he would never go beyond the extension to England of the Irish act of 1793. On the 13th the king told Grenville and Howick that he would never consent to their bill. Finding that all Pitt's friends were determined to support the king, Grenville and the other ministers who were favourable to the bill determined on the 15th not to proceed any further with it. In the minute acquainting the king with their determination they reserved to themselves the right to openly avow their opinions in parliament on the subject of the catholic claims, and to offer in future such advice to the king about Ireland ‘as the course of circumstances shall appear to require’ (Memoirs of Lord Castlereagh, iv. 388). On the 17th the king demanded a positive assurance from ministers that they would never press upon him in the future any concessions to the catholics. On the 18th Grenville informed the king that it was not possible for the ministers acting with him to give such assurances (ib. p. 392). The king thereupon expressed his intention of looking out for other ministers, and appointed the Duke of Portland first lord of the treasury.

As a matter of policy, the insertion of these reservations in the minute was most ill advised. They were quite unnecessary, and were only calculated to provoke the king into retaliation. Some of Grenville's colleagues, indeed, looked upon his conduct as nothing short of political suicide, notably Sheridan, who is reported to have said that ‘he had known many men knock their heads against a wall, but he had never before heard of any man who collected the bricks and built the very wall with an intention to knock out his own brains against it’ (Lord Colchester, Diary, ii. 109). In September 1809 an unsuccessful attempt was made to induce Grenville and Grey to join the ministry on the resignation of the Duke of Portland. In his letter to Perceval conveying his refusal Grenville declared that his ‘accession to the existing administration’ could not be considered ‘in any other light than as a dereliction of public principle’ (The Court and Cabinets of George III, iv. 376). On 14 Dec. 1809 Grenville was elected chancellor of the university of Oxford, in the place of the Duke of Portland, who had died in the previous October. The contest was a severe one, but the division of the tory interest secured Grenville's election, the votes recorded for Grenville being 406, for Lord Eldon 393, and for the Duke of Beaufort 288. Grenville was created D.C.L. by diploma on 23 Dec., and was duly installed as chancellor on 10 Jan. 1810. Previously to the passing of the Regency Bill in the beginning of 1811 the Prince of Wales had several communications with Grenville and Grey. It was believed that the prince intended to change the government as soon as he should become regent. The prince, however, on 4 Feb. 1811 informed Perceval that he had decided ‘not to remove from their stations those whom he finds there’ (Memoirs of the Court, i. 32).

In February 1812 Grenville and Grey refused to accede to the regent's wish that ‘some of those persons with whom the early habits of my public life were formed would strengthen my hands and constitute a part of my government’ (ib. p. 227). In their joint letter to the Duke of York, through whom the prince regent had made his wishes known, they declared that their differences of opinion were ‘too many and too important to admit of such a union,’ and that they were ‘firmly persuaded of the necessity of a total change in the present system of government’ in Ireland, and of the immediate repeal of the catholic disabilities (ib. p. 233). After Perceval's death fresh negotiations, with a view to forming an administration, were opened with Grenville and Grey, first through Lord Wellesley and afterwards through Lord Moira. On the refusal of the latter to acquiesce in the demand of Grenville, that certain changes should be made in the household appointments, the prince regent made Lord Liverpool prime minister. In April 1813 Grenville supported Romilly's bill for repealing the Shoplifting Act. ‘For strength of reasoning,’ wrote Romilly, ‘for the enlarged views of a great statesman, for dignity of manner and force of eloquence, Lord Grenville's was one of the best speeches that I have ever heard delivered in parliament’ (Memoirs, 1840, iii. 95). In the following year Grenville made a powerful speech calling attention to the question of the slave trade in the newly restored French colonies (Parl. Debates, xxviii. 299-336). In March 1815 he strenuously opposed the new corn bill, and on the 20th of that month, with ten other peers, signed the protest drawn up by himself and Lord Wellesley declaring their opinion that ‘public prosperity is best promoted by leaving uncontrouled the free current of