« PreviousContinue »
services, did not add to, but rather took away from, the subsequent weight and popularity of those who practised it. For, as a great historian has observed, the tempters to evil. deeds bear ever afterwards a reproving and hateful aspect, even in the eyes of those with whom they had unhappily prevailed.* While Fox was thus browbeat in the Commons, he was, on the other hand, by no means smiled upon at Court. Lord' Bute and the Princess Dowager had only raised him to power at their utmost need, and as their best instrument to carry through the Peace, but that object once achieved, they — and still more their dependents — treated him with ill-disguised aversion. To explain the cause of that aversion we must notice some secret rumours of the day. It was known that the King about the time of his accession had conceived a romantic passion for one of the most lovely of his subjects, — the young and blooming Lady Sarah Lennox, sister of the Duke of Richmond, and sister-in-law of Fox. It was whispered that His Majesty had even formed the scheme or the wish to make her the partner of his throne. Such a thought might be properly and justly resisted to the uttermost by the Princess Dowager and, at her instigation, by Lord Bute. Such a thought might as naturally rouse and kindle the ambitious hopes of Fox. It was observed in the spring of 1761 that the King used almost every morning to ride along the Kensington road, while Lady Sarah, fancifully attired as a shepherdess, used to stand close by, on the lawn of Holland House, makinghay.** Finally, however, His Majesty, feeling the manifold objections that might attend his marriage with one of his own subjects, generously sacrificed his inclinations to the remonstrances of his mother and to the good of his people. Lady Sarah on her part with a high spirit suppressed whatever chagrin she may have felt. On the King's nuptials with the Princess of Mecklenburg, which shortly
* Malorum facinorum ministri quasi exprobrantes aspiciuntur (Tacit. Annal., lib. xiv. c. 62.) ** Lord Orford's Memoirs of George III., vol. i. p. 64.
1763. SIR FRANCIS DASHWOOD. 13
followed, she appeared as one of the bridesmaids, - ten young ladies of the highest rank and beauty who had been appointed at the ceremony to bear, the train of their new Sovereign. In the ensuing year Lady Sarah became the wife of Sir Charles Bunbury. Yet although the whole transaction had thus terminated with high honour to the King, and without scandal or discredit to any other of the parties concerned, the remembrance of it still rankled, as a ground of hatred against Fox, in the mind of the Princess Dowager. With such sources of mortification both below and above him, it is not strange that Fox became weary of his invidious elevation in the House of Commons, and desired to quit it for his promised reward, – the ease and dignity of the peerage. i t . Apart from such cabals, and looking to the immediate conduct of affairs, the main difficulty of the Government seemed to lie in the finances. During the war the yearly excess of expenditure had been provided for by yearly loans, but such a system could not of course be permanent, and it was found that after all reductions, and for the first year of peace, the estimates would still, though slightly, outrun the supplies. The funded debt had grown to above a hundred millions, the floating debt, or the deficit on former estimates, to three and a half. * For this last sum, as well as for the future equalization of income and expenditure, it became urgent to provide, by two measures, a new loan and a new tax, — strange followers in the train of the Peace so lately concluded ! - To cope with these difficulties became the task of the newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Francis . Dashwood. He had travelled in Italy, and had acquired taste and skill in the fine arts, as even now the frescoes at his house of West Wycombe, though mouldering with damp and neglect, remain to show. But his profligate morals are no less denoted by another painting also still preserved. In
* See, the Abstract of the Supplies in the Annual Register 1763, p. 175–190,
this he allowed himself to be delineated with the habit of a Franciscan friar, and upon his knees, but with the Venus de Medici before him as the object of his adoration.* He was in truth and almost professedly what is termed a man of pleasure; an associate of Wilkes and Lord Sandwich; a partaker in the orgies of Medmenham Abbey. In public life he had hitherto shown no knowledge of finance, but only plain good sense, and he had been chiefly remarkable for his high Tory politics, which the public said must have been his sole recommendation with Lord Bute. With such a Chancellor, – “my Chancellor,” as Lord Bute was accused of calling him too much in the Regal style **, - there was little likelihood of the Exchequer thriving. The loan was disposed of without publicity or open competition, and the shares rose almost immediately to eleven per cent. of premium. Thus was afforded a reason for alleging that the bargain had been most improvident, and a pretext for the calumny that the Favourite and his friends had secured the shares for themselves to their own enormous emolument, and to the public loss.” Norwas the reputation of Sir Francis Dashwood retrieved by the Budget which he brought forward at nearly the same time. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the occasion, his usual plain good sense appeared to have forsaken him; his speech was conveyed in mean and common language, and yet was wanting in perspicuity and clearness. His good sense, however, made him afterwards conscious — which fools are seldom — of his failure. “What shall I do?” he exclaimed to some friends. “People will point at me and cry: “There goes the worst “Chancellor of the Exchequer that ever lived!”f The matter of the new Budget pleased as little as its oratory. Sir Francis proposed, besides some additional
* A full description of this picture is given in the “New Foundling “Hospital for Wit,” vol. iii. p. 78. ed. 1784. It is still, I believe, in the possession of the Society of Dilettanti at the Thatched House. ** North Briton, No. 42. See also vol. iv. p. 278. of the Collection relative to Mr. Wilkes, published in 1772. *** “History of the Minority," p. 100. Parl. Hist. vol. xv. p. 1305. + Lord Orford's Memoirs of George III., vol. i. p. 250.
1763. CYDER TAX PROPOSED. 15
duties on wines, a new tax on cyder and perry, amounting to ten shillings on the hogshead, and to be paid by the first buyer. The City of London, which had lately chosen Pitt's friend, Alderman Beckford, against his own wishes, as Lord Mayor, and which was well prepared to take part against anything or everything emanating from Lord Bute, forthwith raised an angry cry, and sent petitions against the scheme, not only to the House of Commons, but to the Lords and to the King. On more obvious grounds of interest the western counties, as Worcestershire and Devonshire, were eager and loud in their complaints. The ancient loyalty of these districts — “the Cyderland,” as they were termed, was not forgotten. It had been proved in King Charles's battles. It had been chaunted in the Cyder-poet's verse.* How grievous the enormity to lay a special and peculiar tax upon such well affected counties! In the eyes of some exasperated country gentlemen and orchard gardeners it seemed little short of a tax upon loyalty itself. So loud indeed were the complaints, and so many the cavils, that Bute and Dashwood speedily agreed to some modification of their scheme. They proposed a duty no longer of ten shillings, but only of four shillings, the hogshead, to be paid not by the first buyer but by the grower. The produce of the tax was then estimated at only 75,000l. Even thus there remained the hardship that there being various kinds of cyder varying in price from five to fifty shillings on the hogshead, the same duty was laid indiscriminately upon all. This change, moreover, involved the necessity that the grower should be made liable to the regulations of excise and to the visits of excisemen. And the mere name of extending the excise immediately opened a more formidable class of objections. The old weapons which had been brandished against Sir Robert Walpole in 1733 were again unsheathed. A petition from the City of London prayed “that “the meritorious subjects of this country may not feel an ex“tension of excise laws among the first fruits of peace.”* In the House of Commons Pitt thundered against the intrusion of hired officers into private dwellings, and quoted the proud old maxim that every Englishman's house was, or should be, his castle. George Grenville, who had hitherto stood sullenly aloof because he thought himself neglected, rose on this occasion, unfortunately for himself, to support his wavering colleagues, and to answer his eloquent kinsman. He bid the House remember the profusion with which the late war had been carried on, — a profusion which alone, he said, had made new taxes necessary. If the Right Honourable Gentleman objected to this particular tax, he was bound to tell them where else he would have taxes laid. “Let him tell me where!” he repeated. “I say, Sir, let him tell me where!” While dwelling for some time on this phrase in a peevish and monotonous voice, Pitt, who sat opposite, and who had been provoked by Grenville's reflections on the profusion of the war, quoted from his seat, and in nearly the same tone as Grenville's, a line from a well known song — “Gentle Shepherd, “tell me where!” And then starting up he added some sentences of bitter ridicule. The laughter of the House may be imagined, nor probably did it diminish when Grenville resumed his speech in a transport of rage: “If,” he cried, “gen“tlemen are to be treated with this contempt—.” Pitt had already left his seat, and was deliberately and in the most public manner walking out of the House, – a common practice with him when desiring to manifest that he thought the * Parl. Hist, vol. xv. p. 1309.
* “Oh Charles: Oh best of Kings!
“Yet was the Cyder-land unstained with guilt;
“The Cyder-land, obsequious still to thrones,
“Abhorred such base, disloyal deeds, and all
“Her pruning-hooks extended into swords !”
John Philips, cyprit, book ii. In France likewise the Bretons are celebrated both for loyalty and
cyder. A late traveller observes, between Lorient and Rennes: “La route “est, parsemée de petites auberges; il en sortait une femme quinous “demandait en Breton si nous voulions un verre decidre. Je faisais signe “que oui; et réellement ce cidre n'était point désagréable. Cette soirée “a €té, charmante,” (Mem, d'un Touriste (M. Beyle), vol. ii. p. 127. ed. Bruxelles, 1838).