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General-in-ehief, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, who in his former administration had commanded our armies with so much glory and success.* On reading the French note of the 13th, he had given his eldest son, Lord Pitt, permission to re-enter the army. Soon afterwards, accordingly, Lord Pitt sailed for Gibraltar, as an aide-decamp to the Governor; he served long enough, let me observe in passing, to become, as second Earl of Chatham, himself the General and Governor of that fortress.
Meanwhile, many members of the Rockingham party, feeling, as they well might, greater confidence in Lord Chatham than in their own immediate chief, and not willing at this crisis to be absent from his thoughts, desired to transmit to him, through his friend Lord Granby, the expression of their sentiments. Of that overture there is nothing further known to me beyond its mention, as follows, by the King:—"I am extremely indifferent "whether Lord Granby goes or does not go with the "abject message of the Rockingham party to Hayes: I "will certainly send none to that place, "f
At this moment, indeed, the King was more than ever incensed against Lord Chatham, from the high claims which the conversations with Lord Shelburne had disclosed. With a spirit as high, His Majesty protested that he would surrender the Crown sooner than stoop to Opposition. He called upon Lord North to answer one plain question, — Will you, like the Duke of Grafton, desert me at the hour of danger? Lord North, in reply, gave the King no hope of his consenting to remain in office permanently, but agreed, if the King should insist upon it, to carry through the present Session to its close. The King next desired that the Attorney-General, Mr. Thurlow, might forthwith' be appointed Chancellor, as a preliminary step to the new arrangements. It was plainly His Majesty's object to continue the same system, though with other hands. But for that very reason, and with a just sense of his public duty, Lord North was most un
* See the observations of Lord Shelburne in the House of Lords, April 8. 1778. t To Lord North, March 18. 1778. VOL. VI. Q
willing to trammel and embarrass his successor, by having first disposed of the Great Seal.
It is certain, moreover, that the object of the King was at this juncture wholly unattainable—that if Lord North retired, as not willing or not able to carry his system further, no other administration on the same system could be formed. Of that fact there can be no stronger evidence than the language of Lord Barrington affords. Lord Barrington was then Secretary at War. Lord Barrington had ever been forward among the party or section of the "King's friends." Yet what are the terms of advice with which we find Lord Barrington, in this very month of March, address His Majesty? "I represented "to the King that he had not one General in whom His "Majesty, the nation, or the army would place confidence, "in case of the invasion of Great Britain or Ireland, and "the necessity there was of bringing Prince Ferdinand "hither. ... In a subsequent audience I thought it my "duty to represent to His Majesty the general dismay "which prevailed among all ranks and conditions; arising, "as I apprehended, from an opinion that the administration was not equal to the times; an opinion so universal "that it prevailed among those who were most dependent "on and attached to the Ministers, and even among the "Ministers themselves."*
Other testimonies from the same time all point to the same conclusion. The tide in favour of Lord Chatham was setting in too strong to be resisted. Great as was the King's aversion, he must soon have yielded, as, notwithstanding aversions full as great, His Majesty did yield on other occasions, both before and since. It seems to me beyond all doubt, that had Lord Chatham's last and fatal illness been delayed a few weeks, perhaps even a few days longer, he would have been called to the helm of public affairs, and invited, with such friends as he might choose, to solve the problem he had himself propounded— to regain the affections while refusing the independence of America.
* Private Memorandum, drawn up by Lord Barrington, in March, 1778, and inserted in his Life by the Bishop of Durham (p. 186. unpublished).
In that arduous task could Lord Chatham have succeeded? Critics the most opposite have agreed that he could not. "Heaven," says Mr. Croker, "spared him the "anxiety of the attempt, and, as we believe, the mortifi"cation of a failure."* Mr. Macaulay argues with much zeal in behalf of Lord Rockingham's views, and considers Lord Chatham's as almost demonstrably fallacious. "Chatham," he says, "had repeatedly, and with great "energy of language, declared that it was impossible to "conquer America, and he could not without absurdity "maintain that it was easier to conquer France and "America together than America alone. But his passions "overpowered his judgment. . . . That he was in error "will scarcely, we think, be disputed by his warmest "admirers." t
Yet in spite of the respect justly due to such high authority, some grounds for doubt, at least, might be alleged. In the first place let it be remembered with what great, what singular, advantages Lord Chatham would have set his hand to the work. He had from the outset most ably and most warmly supported the claims of the Colonists. Some of his eloquent sentences had become watchwords in their mouths. His statue had been erected in their streets, his portrait was hanging in their councilchambers. For his great name they felt a love and reverence higher as yet than for any one of their own chiefs and leaders — not even at that early period excepting Washington himself. Thus if even it could be said that overtures of reconcilement had failed in every other British hand, it would afford no proof that in Chatham's they might not have thriven and borne fruit. But what at the same period was the position of the Congress? Had that assembly shown of late an enlightened zeal for the public interests, and did it then stand high in the confidence and affection of its countrymen? Far other wise. The factions and divisions prevailing at their town of York; the vindictive rigour to political opponents, the neglect of Washington's army, and the cabals against Washington's power, combined to create disgust, with
* Quarterly Review, No. cxxxi. p. 266. June, 1840.
other less avoidable causes,—as the growing depreciation of the paper-money, the ruinous loss of trade, and the augmented burdens of the war. Is the truth of this picture denied? Hear then as witnesses the Members of the Congress themselves. We find in this very month of March one of them write to another on the necessity of joint exertions to "revive the expiring reputation of the "Congress." * We find a third lamenting that "even "good Whigs begin to think peace, at some expense, "desirable." f
When such was the feeling in America, both as regarded Lord Chatham and as regarded the Congress, it would not certainly follow that any overture from the former would be rejected on account of the disapprobation of the latter. The provinces might perhaps have been inclined to control the deliberations, or even to cast off the sway, of the central body, and make terms of peace for themselves. At least all such hope was not precluded; at least some such trial might be made. Nor does it appear to me, as to Mr. Macaulay, that there was any, even the slightest, inconsistency in Lord Chatham having first pronounced against the conquest of America, and yet refusing to allow her independence, after the declaration in her behalf of France. Lord Chatham had said no doubt that America could not be conquered. Had he ever said that she could not be reconciled? It was on conciliation, and not on conquest, that he built his later hopes. He thought the Declaration of France no obstacle to his views, but rather an instrument for their support. He conceived that the treaty of alliance concluded by the envoys of the Congress with the Court of Versailles might tend beyond any other cause to rekindle British feelings in the hearts of the Americans. Were the glories of Wolfe and Amherst, in which they had partaken, altogether blotted from their minds? Would the Puritans be inclined to make common cause with the Papists? Would the soldier-yeo- * Letter from William Duer of New York to Robert Morris, dated March 6. 1778, and printed in the Life of Beed, vol. i. p. | General Reed to President Wharton, February 1. 1778.
men of the Colonies be willing to fight side by side with those French whom, till within these fifteen years, they had found in Canada their bitter hereditary foes? That consequences like to these, that some such revulsion of popular feeling in America, might, perhaps, ensue from an open French alliance, is an apprehension which, during the first years of the contest, we find several times expressed in the secret letters of the Revolution chiefs; it was a possibility which we see called forth their fears ; why then might it not be allowed to animate the hopes of Chatham?
In this state of parties and of public feeling, the Duke of Richmond, far unlike Lord Chatham, had become eager to close the American contest by a surrender of the British sovereignty. He gave notice of an Address to His Majesty for the 7th of April, entreating the King instantly to withdraw his fleets and armies from the Thirteen Revolted Provinces, and to make peace with them on such terms as might secure their good will. Lord Chatham was at that time slowly recovering from gout, and still much indisposed, at Hayes. No sooner did he hear of the intended Address than he determined to appear in the House of Lords and oppose it. For such an exertion it was clear that he had not yet regained sufficient strength of body nor even composure of mind. His family and friends endeavoured to dissuade him, but in vain. On the 7th of April then he came, or it might almost be said was carried in, walking with feeble steps, and leaning with one arm on his son William, with the other on Lord Mahon. Of the solemn and memorable scene which ensued I have already, in my sketch of Lord Chatham's character, given, by anticipation, some account.* But since that time a letter from Lord Camden has been produced from the Grafton Correspondence, containing a more full and authentic description than we previously possessed. "The Earl "spoke,'' says Lord Camden, "but was not like him- * Vol. iii. p. 18. For Lord Camden's letter to the Duke of Grafton (April 9. 1778), see the Appendix to the present volume. The Duke was at this time attending the muster of the Militia in Suffolk.