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Thus at length had Wilkes attained two high objects of ambition. In November he was installed as Lord Mayor of London. In November also he was permitted to take his seat as Member for Middlesex. The Government had wisely determined to consider his alleged disqualification as terminated by the Dissolution, and they interposed no further obstacle in the way of his admission. But as the ablest politicians had all along predicted, the moment his persecution ceased so did also his importance. When quietly allowed to be a Lord Mayor and a County Member he became — nobody. Having neither talent in his speeches nor yet weight in his character he quickly dwindled to an insignificant and for the most part a silent vote. Some time afterwards the office of City Chamberlain becoming vacant, the people of London remembered their ancient favourite; and that lucrative and easy post was held by him until his death in 1797.—Fortune, however, had yet in store for Wilkes one further triumph. In 1782 he moved in the House of Commons, as he had often done before, that all the Resolutions relative to his expulsion should be expunged from the Journals, and (thus variable is the temper of popular assemblies) the expunging was then carried by as large a majority as the expulsion had once been! Subsequently, as a Member of Parliament, Wilkes became an habitual supporter of Mr. Pitt's administration. Sometimes he appeared at the King's Levee and found himself graciously received. On one of these occasions the King addressed to him an inquiry respecting his friend Serjeant Glynn. "Pray, Sir," answered Wilkes, "do not call Serjeant Glynn my friend; he was a "Wilkite, which I can assure Your Majesty I never "was!"
The newly elected Parliament met on the 29th of November. Amendments to the Address, claiming the fullest information on American affairs, were moved in the Peers by the Duke of Richmond, in the Commons by Lord John Cavendish. They could muster only thirteen votes in the Upper House; in the Lower only seventythree; a decisive proof of the weakness of Opposition at that period. The essential business was postponed until after the Christmas holidays. Then it was that Lord Chatham emerged from his retirement. For some time past he had seen in the clearest light the urgent necessity of reconciliation with America. Not indeed that he could be blind to the manifold grounds of provocation which Massachusetts had afforded. But he felt that provocation could no longer be treated as such when it came from one united province, and when it was supported by eleven provinces more. He felt, as Burke at the same period truly and finely said, that he did not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.* There remained then only the hope, perhaps too sanguine, yet such as full success had crowned in the case of the Highland regiments, to disarm inveterate hostility by generous confidence. With these views Chatham appeared in the House of Lords on the 20th of January, without any previous notice of his precise object, having only in general terms announced a motion on American affairs. The Bar was crowded with Americans, amongst others, by Chatham's own invitation, Dr. Franklin. The other hearers comprised young William Pitt, who writing to his mother next morning gives an animated account of the debate. "No wonder," says he, "my father is lame from standing so long; his first "speech lasted above an hour, and the second half an "hour, — surely the two finest speeches that ever were
"made before, unless by himself. The matter
"and manner both were striking; far beyond what I "can express." f Chatham moved an Address to the King praying that in order to open a way towards allaying the ferments and softening the animosities in America His Majesty would send orders to General Gage to remove his troops as soon as possible from the town of Boston. "Laying of papers on your table," he cried, "or counting numbers in a division, will not avert or "postpone the hour of danger; it must arrive, my Lords, "unless these fatal Acts of last Session are done away; "it must arrive in all its horrors But it is not
* Works, vol. iii. p. 69. ed. 1815.
f Chatham Papers, vol. iv. p. 377. A good report (good at least for that day) of these celebrated speeches was taken by Hugh Boyd and first published in 1779. It was on this occasion that Dr. Franklin used the remarkable expressions of praise which I have elsewhere cited. (voL iii. p. 20. sec. ed.)
"merely repealing these Acts of Parliament, it is not "cancelling a piece of parchment, that can win back "America to our bosom; you must repeal her fears and "her resentments, and you may then hope for her love "and gratitude. But now, insulted with an armed force "at Boston; irritated with an hostile array before her "eyes; her concessions, even if you could force them,
"would be suspicious and insecure But it is more
"than evident that you cannot force them, united as they "are, to your unworthy terms of submission. It is im"possible; and when I hear General Gage censured for "inactivity, I must retort with indignation on those "whose headlong measures and improvident councils "have betrayed him into his present situation. His "situation reminds me, my Lords, of the answer of a "French General in the civil wars of France,—Monsieur "de Conde opposed to Monsieur de Turenne. He was "asked how it happened that he did not take his adver"sary prisoner as he was often very near him. 'Be"'cause,'—replied Conde very honestly,—'because I am "' afraid he might take me!'
"When your Lordships look at the papers transmitted "us from America, when you consider their decency, "firmness, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their "cause, and wish to make it your own. For myself I "must declare and avow that in all my reading of his"tory, — and it has been my favourite study; I have "read Thucydides and have admired the master-states "of the world,—no nation or body of men can stand in "preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia. "All attempts to impose servitude on such men, to esta"blish despotism over such a mighty Continent, must be "vain, must be fatal. We shall be forced ultimately to "retract; let us retract while we can, not when we "must. I say we must necessarily undo these violent "oppressive Acts; they must be repealed; you will re"peal them; I pledge myself for it that you will in the "end repeal them. I stake my reputation on it. I will "consent to be taken for an idiot if they are not finally "repealed. Avoid then this humiliating disgraceful ne
"cessity To conclude, my Lords, if the Ministers
"thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the King, "I will not say that they can alienate the affections of his "subjects from his Crown, but I will affirm that they "will make the Crown not worth his wearing; I will not "say that the King is betrayed, but I will pronounce "that the kingdom is undone."
The motion of Chatham was ably supported by his friends Lords Shelburne and Camden. Lord Rockingham also said a few words in its favour. But the Ministers opposed it with much warmth; instead of recalling troops from Boston, they said it would rather behove them to send more. On a division only 18 Peers were found to vote for the motion; against it 68.—It was noticed that this small minority comprised both Lord Grosvenor and the Duke of Cumberland. His Royal Highness—it may be said in passing — was not long in joining without reserve the ranks of Opposition. Once in the lobby of the House he walked up to Dr. Price to compliment him on a most vehement pamphlet in favour of the Americans which Dr. Price had lately written. "I sat up to read "it last night," said the Duke, "so late that it had almost "blinded me!" — "On the greater part of the nation," observed Dunning who was standing by, "it has had exactly the opposite effect; it has opened their eyes!"
Far from being daunted by the late division, and resolved to leave no effort untried to avert a civil war, Chatham with characteristic energy forthwith applied himself to prepare and present to the House "a Pro"visional Bill for settling the Troubles in America." In the framing of this measure he sought the counsel and aid of Dr. Franklin. Already in the month of August preceding they had become acquainted, through the mediation of Lord Stanhope, who carried Dr. Franklin to Hayes. Lord Chatham had then referred to the idea which began to prevail in England that America aimed at setting up for itself as a separate state. The truth of any such idea was loudly denied by Dr. Franklin. "I "assured his Lordship that having more than once tra"veiled almost from one end of the Continent to the "other, and kept a great variety of company, eating, "drinking, and conversing with them freely, I never had "heard in any conversation from any person, drunk or "sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, "or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to
"America In fine, Lord Chatham expressed
"much satisfaction in my having called upon him, and "particularly in the assurances I had given him that "America did not aim at independence."* Yet these assurances, however earnest or frequently repeated, by no means expressed the true and inmost thoughts of Franklin. At this very period a young American from Boston, Mr. Josiah Quincy, arrived in England. He had taken a zealous part with the " Sons of Liberty," as they termed themselves, of his native province, and in London had almost daily intercourse with Dr. Franklin, his father's early friend. In one of his secret letters to his confederates at Boston, dated the 27th of November 1774, Mr. Quincy says: "Dr. Franklin is an American in "heart and soul; you may trust him; his ideas are not "contracted within the narrow limits of exemption from "taxes, but are extended upon the broad scale of total "emancipation.—He is explicit and bold upon the subject." f
At the time in question Chatham was not, and could not be, aware of this double game. Confiding in Dr. Franklin's truthfulness, and knowing the great influence of his name in America, he was most anxious to secure his co-operation in his healing measure. As a channel of communication Chatham employed Lord Mahon, who, already his kinsman by birth, had recently become his son-in-law. Lord Mahon had been bred at Geneva; "that little but learned Republic " as he long afterwards termed it, where he had imbibed an eager, nay enthusiastic, attachment both for liberty and science. At the age of only seventeen he had gained the gold medal prize from the Academy at Copenhagen for the best Essay on the Vibrations of the Pendulum; and since that time he had zealously pursued the experiments of Franklin upon Electricity. To Franklin therefore at his lodgings in Craven Street was Lord Mahon now despatched by Chatham, requesting a visit from the philosopher at Hayes.
* Works, vol. v. p. 7. ed. 1844. Franklin's own narrative of these conferences and negotiations was written on his voyage homewards in the form of a letter to his son, the date being March 22. 1775.
'f Life by Jared Sparks, p. 372.