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such'a keen opponent of Lord North. — The brother of William Eden had been the last Colonial Governor of Maryland. William Eden himself was a man of rising ability on the Government side; in after years, under Mr. Pitt, ambassador in succession to several foreign Courts, and at last a Peer, with the title, of Lord Auckland. — Frederick Howard , the fifth Earl of Carlisle, was then only known to the public as a young and not very thrifty man of fashion and of pleasure. Against his appointment, therefore, there were many cavils heard both in and out of 'Parliament. Thus in one debate the Duke of Richmond said, "I have lately been "told that one of the Governors in America made objection "to the Congress because some of them sat in Council with "woollen caps on. Congress were highly offended at this, "and persisted in doing so. How inadequate, then, must "this embassy be, where a noble Lord, bred up in all the "softness that European manners make fashionable to '•rank, — I say, how inadequate must such an embassy be "to men in woollen night-caps!" *
It was through one of these Commissioners, namely Mr. Eden, that Lord North opened his communications to Lord Chatham. Mr. Eden could not see the great Earl, who was Still at Hayes, but had several conversations with his trusted friend, Lord Shelburne.** It was soon apparent, as Lord North must have foreseen, that Lord Chatham had not the smallest inclination to make common cause with the party in power. If he came into office at all, it must be on the call of his Sovereign, and as planning a new administration; it
* Debate in the Lords, March 9. 1778. In the same spirit Wilkes exclaimed of Lord Carlisle: "The Muses and the Graces, with a group of "little laughing loves, were in his train, and for the first time crossed the "Atlantic!" (Debate in the Commons, November 26. 1778.) See also an amusing yen d'esprit which appeared in a London paper of that day, and which has been reprinted in the Appendix to the Life of Reed (vol. i. p. 423.).
** A full account of these conversations was drawn up by Mr. Eden at the time, and, after remaining in MS. for three quarters of a century* has at length appeared in Lord John Russell's Memorials of Fox (vol. i. p. 180— 187.). Lord Shelburne said that, as he had often already declared, "Lord "Chatham must be the Dictator." (1853.)
1778. SECRET OVERTURES TO CHATHAM. 235
must be as what the King in high displeasure terms him — a Dictator. In Lord Chatham's own papers, as subsequently published, there appears no trace whatever of these overtures, which may probably have passed by messages and word of mouth. We only find that his family and friends, in common with the public, expected at this juncture a summons from St. James's. Thus writes William Pitt to his mother from his studies at Cambridge: — "I am not sure "whether I can find in the history of antiquity any instance "of a nation so miserably sacrificed as this has been; but I "believe almost every page will furnish an example of the "only method left to revive it, — recurring in the extremity "of danger to those whose superiority is unhappily as much "proved by the failure of others as by their own success." Mr. Thomas Coutts, already rising into eminence as a banker in the Strand, transmits an offer of public service from Lord Kochford, and adds, to Lady Chatham: "I do "not meet with any one who does not lament and wonder "that His Majesty has not yet publicly desired the only help "that can have a chance to extricate the country from the , "difficulties which every day grow greater."
If called upon, Lord Chatham was ready to obey the call. His blood was roused, as of yore, against the House of Bourbon, and he deemed that the war with France, if it could not be averted, should be most vigorously waged. We may gather, that it was his intention to propose, as General-in-chief, 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-de-camp 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.
* See the observations of Lord Shelburne in the House of Lords, April 8. 1778.
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."*
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 unwilling 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
* To Lord North, March 18. 1778,
1778. THE KING CONTINUES INFLEXIBLE. 237
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.
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 mortification 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,
* Private Memorandum, drawn np by Lord Barrington, in March, 1778, and inserted in his Life by the Bishop of Durham (p. 166. unpublished).
** Quarterly Review, No. cxxxl. p.266. June, 1840.
"had repeatedly, and with great energy of language, de"clared 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."*
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 council-chambers. 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 otherwise. 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 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 * Edinburgh Keview, No. eliii. p. 592. Oct. 1844.