Page:The American Review Volume 02.djvu/586

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A Chapter on Chatham.

spirit pervading the whole; the state destitute of alliances, and without respect from foreign nations."[1]

Between the dates of these two extracts Mr. Pitt had retired from the ministry, which, as a Commoner, and through a war, he had conducted with such ability, and, becoming an earl, had sunk into the insignificance of a sinecure department in an administration which he wanted either the inclination or—from infirmity of health or temper—the ability to regulate or control. It is necessary that the leading incidents of this interval should be intelligibly narrated.

On the 14th January, 1760, (and so it continued till the accession of George III., in October of the same year,) everything in and out of the cabinet was "union, cordiality and good-will." "When you have changed," says Walpole, in a private letter written less than a fortnight after the king's death, "the cipher from George II. to George III., and have shifted a few lords and grooms of the bed-chamber, you are master of the history of the new reign, which is, indeed, but a lease of the old one."

Things were very soon destined to change, and a combination of domestic intrigue and foreign diplomatic controversies led to Mr. Pitt's final retirement from administration.

On the accession of George III., the Earl of Bute, though possessed of great influence, personally, with the royal family, held no responsible office under government. It is now well ascertained that he was not merely discontented with this state of things, but had early determined, not only to have a place in the administration, but to rid himself of the overshadowing influence of Mr. Pitt. The evidence that this was so may be briefly stated. Among the meanest and most contemptible of intriguers, was Bubb Dodington, who, in 1761, was by Lord Bute created—as a reward for services presently to be stated—Lord Melcombe. He was the friend, the confidant and the tool of Lord Bute. In his Diary of November d, 1760, less than a month after the death of George II., are the following entries:

"Nov. 22d. Lord Bute desired to see me at my own house, at Pall Mall. He staid two hours with me; we had serious and confidential talk; he gave me repeated assurances of his most generous friendship, and fresh instances of the king's benignity, by his majesty's order. Nov. 29th. Lord Bute came to me by appointment, and staid a great while. I pressed him to take the Secretary's office, and provide otherwise for Lord Holdernesse. He hesitated for some time, and then said, if that was the only difficulty it could easily be removed; for Lord Holdernesse was ready, at his desire, to quarrel with his fellow-ministers (on account of the slights and ill-usage which he daily experienced) and go to the king and throw up, in seeming anger; and then he (Bute) might come in without seeming to displace anybody. I own the expedient did not please me.

"Dec. 20. Lord Bute called on me; and we had much talk about setting up a paper, and about the Houses, in case of resignations.

"21st. Mr. Glover was with me, and was full of admiration of Lord Bute. He applauded his conduct, and the king's saying, 'they would beat everything; but a little time must be given for the madness of popularity to cool.'"

On the 2d of January, 1761, is a passage of similar import, in which Lord Bute tells Dodington that the ministry were meditating a peace with France. "If such," replied Dodington, "should be their scheme, it will be irresistible; there was but one way to defeat the use they proposed to make of it, which was, to put himself at the head of it in a great office of business, and to take the lead." [See also Diary, 16th January.]

Of these intrigues, or at least of the evidence of them, the prime minister did and could know little or nothing, and may, not unreasonably, have relied on the professions of confidence and regard which the king and Lord Bute were habitually making. In this way only can

  1. This is an extract from an almost forgotten pamphlet, "The State of the Nation," written in 1709, and to which Mr. Burke published his celebrated reply. Of the thousands who are familiar with the imposing eloquence of the reply, how few have read the former. Yet, as evidence, it is a most valuable paper. It was written by Mr. Knox, the private secretary of George Grenville, (I. Cavendish's Debates, p. 42,) and may be considered a fair exposition of that statesman's policy, the inducements to the peace of 1763, and the origin of the system of colonial taxes. On the 5th Nov., 1768, Mr. Grenville, then in opposition, made a speech, reported by Sir Henry Cavendish, in which he refers to the "State of the Nation" almost in the same terms with the extract in the text.