Letters of Junius/Letter XLIX
TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF GRAFTON.
22. June, 1771.
- MY LORD,
THE profound respect I bear to the gracious Prince who governs this country with no less honour to himself than satisfaction to his subjects, and who restores you to your rank under his standard, will save you from a multitude of reproaches. The attention I should have paid to your failings, is involuntarily attached to the hand that rewards them; and though I am not so partial to the Royal judgment as to affirm, that the favour of a king can remove mountains of infamy, it serves to lessen, at least, (for undoubtedly it divides,) the burden. While I remember how much is due to his sacred character, I cannot, with any decent appearance of propriety, call you the meanest and basest fellow in the kingdom. I protest, my Lord, I do not think you so. You will have a dangerous rival in that kind of fame to which you have hitherto so happily directed your ambition, as long as there is one man living who thinks you worthy of his confidence, and fit to be trusted with any share in his government. I confess you have great intrinsic merit; but take care you do not value it too highly. Consider how much of it would have been lost to the world, if the King had not graciously affixed his stamp, and given it currency among his subjects. If it be true that a virtuous man, struggling with adversity, be a scene worthy of the gods, the glorious contention between you and the best of Princes, deserves a circle equally attentive and respectable. I think I already see other gods rising from the earth to behold it.
But this language is too mild for the occasion. The King is determined that our abilities shall not be lost to society. The perpetration and description of new crimes will find employment for us both. My Lord, if the persons who have been loudest in their professions of patriotism, had done their duty to the public with the same zeal and perseverance that I did, I will not assert that government would have recovered its dignity, but at least our gracious sovereign must have spared his subjects this last insult, which, if there be any feeling left among us, they will resent more than ever the real injuries they received from every measure of your Grace's administration. In vain would he have looked round him for another character so consummate as yours. Lord Mansfield shrinks from his principles;—his ideas of government, perhaps, go farther than your own; but his heart disgraces the theory of his understanding.—Charles Fox is yet in blossom; and as for Mr. Wedderburne, there is something about him which even treachery cannot trust. For the present, therefore, the best of Princes must have contented himself with Lord Sandwich.—You would long since have received your final dismission and reward; and I, my Lord, who do not esteem you the more for the high office you possess, would willingly have followed you to your retirement. There is surely something singularly benevolent in the character of our Sovereign. From the moment he ascended the throne, there is no crime of which human nature is capable (and I call upon the Recorder to witness it) that has not appeared venal in his sight. With any other Prince, the shameful desertion of him in the midst of that distress which you alone had created,—in the very crisis of danger, when he fancied he saw the throne surrounded by men of virtue and abilities, would have outweighed the memory of your former services. But his Majesty is full of justice, and understands the doctrine of compensations. He remembers, with gratitude, how soon you had accommodated your morals to the necessity of his service;—how cheerfully you had abandoned the engagements of private friendship, and renounced the most solemn profession to the public. The sacrifice of Lord Chatham was not lost upon him. Even the cowardice and perfidy of deserting him may have done you no disservice in his esteem. The instance was painful, but the principle might please.
You did not neglect the magistrate while you flattered the man. The expulsion of Mr. Wilkes, predetermined in the cabinet;—the power of depriving the subject of his birthright, attributed to a resolution of one branch of the legislature;—the constitution impudently invaded by the house of commons;—the right of defending it treacherously renounced by the house of lords;—these are the strokes, my Lord, which, in the present reign, recommend to office and constitute a Minister. They would have determined your Sovereign's judgment, if they had made no impression upon his heart. We need not look for any other species of merit to account for his taking the earliest opportunity to recall you to his councils. But you have other merit in abundance.—Mr. Hine,—the Duke of Portland,—and Mr. Yorke—Breach of trust, robbery, and murder. You would think it a compliment to your gallantry, if it added rape to the catalogue; but the style of your amours secures you from resistance. I know how well these several charges have been defended. In the first instance, the breach of trust is supposed to have been its own reward. Mr. Bradshaw affirms, upon his honour, (and so may the gift of smiling never depart from him!) that you reserved no part of Mr. Hine's purchase-money for your own use, but that every shilling of it was scrupulously paid to Governor Burgoyne. Make haste, my Lord; another patent, applied in time, may keep the Oaks in the family.—If not, Birnham-Wood, I fear, must come to the Macaroni.
The Duke of Portland was in life your earliest friend. In defence of his property, he had nothing to plead but equity against Sir James Lowther, and prescription against the Crown. You felt for your friend; but the law must take its course. Posterity will scarce believe that Lord Bute's son-in-law had barely interest enough at the treasury to get his grant completed before the general election.
Enough has been said of that detestable transaction which ended in the death of Mr. Yorke.—I cannot speak of it without horror and compassion. To excuse yourself, you publicly impeach your accomplice; and to his mind, perhaps, the accusation may be flattery. But in murder you are both principals. It was once a question of emulation; and, if the event had not disappointed the immediate schemes of the closet, it might still have been a hopeful subject of jest and merriment between you.
This letter, my Lord, is only a preface to my future correspondence. The remainder of the summer shall be dedicated to your amusement. I mean now and then to relieve the severity of your morning studies, and to prepare you for the business of the day. Without pretending to more than Mr. Bradshaw's sincerity, you may rely upon my attachment as long as you are in office.
Will your Grace forgive me, if I venture to express some anxiety for a man whom I know you do not love? My Lord Weymouth has cowardice to plead, and a desertion of a later date than your own. You know the privy-seal was intended for him; and if you consider the dignity of the post he deserted, you will hardly think it decent to quarter him on Mr. Rigby. Yet he must have bread, my Lord;—or, rather, he must have wine. If you deny him the cup, there will be no keeping him within the pale of the Ministry.
- The Duke was lately appointed Lord Privy Seal.
- A superb villa of Colonel Burgoyne,—about this time advertised for sale.
- It will appear, by a subsequent letter, that the Duke's precipitation proved fatal to the grant. It looks like the hurry and confusion of a young highwayman, who takes a few shillings, but leaves the purse and watch behind him.—And yet the Duke was an old offender.