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1766. PITT CREATED EARL OF CHATHAM. 167
mediately followed is described with much spirit in the Duke of Grafton's Memoirs: “Being appointed to the Queen's “House, I found Lord Northington and Lord Camden alrea“dy there. Mr. Pitt was in with the King. The two Lords “appeared to be in most earnest conversation and much agi“tated. On perceiving it I naturally was turning from them “after my bow. But they begged to impart to me the subject “of their concern, asking me whether I had any previous “knowledge of Mr. Pitt's intention of obtaining an Earldom, “and thus placing himself in the House of Lords, whereas “our conception of the strength of the administration had “been till that moment derived from the great advantage he “would have given to it by remaining with the Commons. “On this there was but one voice among us, nor indeed “throughout the kingdom. When Mr. Pitt left the Closet we “had only to receive notice of the measure as a matter fixed, “and not for deliberation. The reception we gave to the “communication was so evident that it could not escape a “penetrating eye.” So far back as the February preceding it had been rumoured in some circles that there was a wish at Court to prevail upon Mr. Pitt to go into the House of Lords.” Nothing of the kind, however, is manifest in the transactions of the time. The peerage appears to have been Lord Chatham's own spontaneous unconsulting act, and the King took no further part in the business than to comply with his Minister's request. The following is the letter in which his final compliance was announced: “Mr. Pitt, I have signed this day “(July 29.) the warrant for creating you an Earl, and shall “with pleasure receive you in that capacity to-morrow, as “well as entrust you with my Privy Seal, - as I know the “EARL or Chatham will zealously give his aid towards de“stroying all party distinctions, and restoring that subordi“nation to Government which can alone preserve that in
* Letter, from Mr. Gerard Hamilton to Mr. Calcraft, Feb. 20, 1766, Note to Chatham Papers, vol. ii. p. 386.
“estimable blessing Liberty from degenerating into licen“tiousness.” They were not merely the colleagues of Pitt who murmured at his taking a Peerage. On all hands it was either lamented as an error or condemned as a kind of crime. It seemed to be assumed that on leaving the popular branch of the legislature he had also deserted the popular cause. By his enemies William Pitt was now compared to William Pulteney, - each, they said, a man of high eloquence and high ascendency, — each in his day surnamed the Great Commoner, — each lured from the paths of duty and honour by an Earldom, - each doomed hereafter to oblivion and contempt. In the City which had been the stronghold of Pitt's popularity its decline was most apparent. There it had been designed to celebrate his return to power by a general illumination. Lamps for the purpose were already placed around the Monument. But no sooner did the Londoners read in the Gazette that their patriot Minister was now the Earl of Chatham than the festivity was countermanded and the lamps were taken down. From Blackheath Lord Chesterfield observes: “There is one very bad sign for Lord Chatham in “his new dignity, which is, that all his enemies, without ex“ception, rejoice at it, and all his friends are stupified and “dumb-founded.”* From Dublin Mr. Burke exclaims: “There is still a little twilight of popularity remaining “around the great Peer, but it fades away every moment.” The effect of this peerage in Lord Chatham's own family may also, considering the event, be deemed worthy of commemoration. “My Lord Pitt,”— thus writes the tutor, Mr. Wilson, — “is much better, Lady Hester quite well, and Mr. “William very near it. The last gentleman is not only con“tented in retaining his Papa's name, but perfectly happy in “it. Three months ago he told me in a very serious conver“sation: “he was glad he was not the eldest son, but that he
* Letter to his son, Aug. 1. 1766. * Correspondence, vol. i. p. 106, ed. 1844.
1766. POPULAR MURMUR'S AGAINST HIM. 169
“‘could serve his country in the House of Commons like his 4% “Papa.”* The Chatham peerage, though warmly censured by all contemporaries, has not in our own time wanted strenuous defenders. It has been urged that no peerage was ever better earned, - that Pitt was old in years and older still in constitution, — that it was impossible for him to go through the nightly labour of conducting the business of the Government in the House of Commons, – that his wish to be transferred to a less turbulent assembly was under such circumstances natural and reasonable.* But no ability, as it seems to me, can palliate his utter and manifest impolicy in quitting that House which alone had brought him his power, and which alone could secure him in it. His regular attendance indeed could not be, and never had been, expected in his uncertain state of health; but even his occasional appearance would have sufficed, as heretofore, to awe his enemies to silence and his colleagues to submission. Nor can Iregard as altogether destitute of foundation the popular outcry against the new-made Peer. If indeed Pitt, like Walpole, had been finally retiring from office, the Earldom of Chatham would have been as blameless as the Earldom of Orford. It is one great aim and purpose of the Peerage to receive and welcome such eminent Commoners at the close of their career. But since the design of Pitt was not the relinquishment, but the resumption, of power, the public, I conceive, might not unreasonably feel some disappointment and mortification at his title. They had set their pride on seeing one of themselves,—a younger son of new family and most scanty fortune, – raised by his genius and their favour high above the loftiest and richest of the Somersets and Seymours. He had now for the third time become the arbiter of the State by their determined will. For, as Dr. Johnson once observed, Walpole was a Minister given by the King to the people, but Pitt was a Minister given by the people to the King.” Could they then desire him at the very moment of his rise to lay aside the name which their enthusiasm cherished, and be decked by other honours than those they had themselves bestowed?
* Chatham Papers, vol. iii. p. 27. William Pitt was at this time only seven years of age. * See especially the able argument of Mr. Macaulay to this effect, Edinburgh Review, No. clzii. p. 588,
1766. FIRST MEASUREs of Lord CHATHAM. 171
Both foreign and domestic affairs claimed the early attention of the new Prime Minister. He had ever regarded the Family Compact between France and Spain as threatening to the liberties of Europe. He had resigned office rather than forbear to strike a blow against it. But, besides the more open and manifest dangers attending the union of these two great Powers, Lord Chatham appears to have obtained intelligence of some secret and hostile designs which they had formed against us. There is reason to believe that at this very time, or shortly after it, French officers in disguise were perambulating our southern shores, and surveying the most favourable points for a future invasion. Among Lord Chatham's papers still exists, but without any indication how it came into his hands, a collection of most curious secret Memoirs, drawn up for the information of the French Cabinet; two especially are of great length, and bear the dates of 1767 and 1768. In the latter of these Memoirs the whole range of our coast, even far inland, is accurately described from recent observations, and all our means and powers of resistance are minutely discussed.* In Spain Grimaldi was not less our enemy than Choiseul had showed himself in France. The British Ambassador at Madrid discovered traces of a plot which he believed these two Ministers conjointly to hold in reserve; a plot to surprise and burn the dockyards both at Plymouth and at Portsmouth.**
To provide in time against any treacherous assault from
* MS. Memoirs among the Chatham Papers in the possesion of W. S. Taylor, Esq. Some considerable extracts will be found in the Appendix to this volume.
** Secret Despatches of the Earl of Rochford, Sept. 1764 and Feb. 25. 1765, as printed in Coxe's Memoirs of the Bourbon Kings.