Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/589

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
1845.]
571
A Chapter on Chatham.

we account for his apparently contented acquiescence in the first movement which was made, in March, when Lord Holdernesse retired on a pension, Lord Bute taking his place, and Lord Barrington was made Chancellor of the Exchequer in the room of Mr. Legge. If we may judge from the new Chancellor's own testimony, this change could have brought no strength to the tottering ministry: "The same strange fortune which made me Secretary at War, five years ago, has made me Chancellor of the Exchequer; it may perhaps at last make me Pope. I think I am equally fit to be at the head of the Church as of the Exchequer."—[3 Chatham, 99.]

It is due to truth here to pause, and say that the apparent connivance of Pitt, in this arrangement, never has been explained. His private correspondence is silent. The change in Lord Holdernesse's department is less material than that in the Exchequer. Lord Holdernesse, if we are to believe Dodington's hearsay testimony, was party to the pending conspiracy. But with Mr. Legge, the case was widely different. He was the friend of Mr. Pitt; and one of two conclusions is inevitable: either that the change was made with his free consent, and by concert between Lord Bute and himself, as an 'adverse movement to others of his colleagues; or that, being unable to resist the current of personal and royal favor, he was unwilling, for a friend's sake, to attempt to thwart it. The evidence on the one side is, that Mr. Pitt's panegyrists assumed this ground of very inadequate justification; and on the other, an intercepted letter from the Spanish ambassador (a very vigilant observer of all that was going on around him) to his government, which, being published in the Chatham Correspondence, (vol. iii., p. 101,) must have come into Mr. Pitt's hands soon after it was written. "Mr. Pitt," says he, "is not visible. I believe he wants to gain time to see the effect of France's declaration. Your Excellency need not doubt of his union with my Lord Bute; and that the present changes have been made with his privity. The blow is leveled at the Duke of Newcastle and his party. Your Excellency will see the consequences of this."

Be this as it may, the deeper plot was still in progress; and when, through other agency than its own, its object was attained, Dodington wrote to his victorious patron: "I sincerely wish your lordship joy of being delivered of a most impracticable colleague, his majesty of a most imperious servant, and the country of a most dangerous minister, I am told that the people are sullen about it. Be that as it may, I think it my duty to my most gracious sovereign, and my generous friend, to say, that if I can be of any service to either in anything that can be most difficult and dangerous, I am most ready to undertake it."

Lord Brougham, in his sketches of British Statesmen, sees in the Earl of Bute's reply nothing but austere and dignified rebuke. To me it seems more like the cautious reply of one who, having attained his own ends, chooses to check the familiarity of a confederate whose counsel and exultation are neither useful nor agreeable. It is not improbable, too, that Lord Bute, now that he held alone the helm of State, began to distrust his ability to keep the ship steady, and regretted the absence of the old pilot whom he had helped to throw overboard. Besides, if no concurrence of views and plans had existed between them, would Dodington ever have ventured to write such a letter? Lord Bute says, in reply, (Oct. 7th:) "Whatever private motives of uneasiness I might have in the late administration, I am far from thinking the dissolution of it favorable, in the present minute, to the king's affairs. I shall not fail to acquaint the king with the very frank and generous declaration you made. Indeed, my good lord, my situation, at all times perilous, is become much more so, for I am no stranger to the language held in this great city: 'Our darling's resignation is owing to Lord Bute, and he must answer for all the consequences;' which is, in other words, for the miscarriages of another system, which Pitt himself could not have prevented. All this keeps up my attention, and strengthens my mind without alarming it; not only whispers caution, but steadiness and resolution, wherein my noble friend's assistance will prove a real comfort to me."

Such is the accessible evidence of the miserable court-intrigue, of which alone, it is not possible to doubt, Mr. Pitt would in time have been the victim. Other causes, public in their nature, which it is far more agreeable to contemplate, led to the same results.

The parties to the war which was raging when George III. came to the throne, were, on the one side, France, Austria and Russia—on the other, England and