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1766. FIRST SPEECH OF CHATHAM. 177
pamphlet, entitled “Letter to the Duke of Grafton,” and inveighing in no measured terms not only against his Grace but against Lord Chatham, whom he terms “the first orator, “or rather the first comedian, of the age.” + No sooner had the Houses met than the Order in Council laying an embargo upon corn, and the delay in calling Parliament together, were eagerly assailed. Lord Mansfield to the public surprise, and perhaps to his own, appeared for the first time in his life as the assailant of Prerogative. It was on this occasion that Lord Chatham delivered his first speech in the House of Peers, which obtained the praise of eloquence, calmness, and dignity, and of resting his vindication on valid grounds. He defended the Order in Council from the national necessity, and the adherence to the day already appointed for the Meeting of Parliament from the desire of avoiding any needless alarm. Lord Camden who followed on the same side was far less judicious. Of the stretch of the prerogative he said that it was “at worst but a “forty days' tyranny;” and this unlucky phrase not only excited clamours at the time, but was used as a taunt against him for several years to come. The Opposition, urged especially by Earl Temple in one House and by Mr. Grenville in the other, called for an Act of Indemnity to the Ministers; this the Ministers at first disdained and refused, but finally accepted and passed. In one of the stages of the Bill Lord Chatham spoké for the second time, and took occasion in his most lofty tone to say that he would set his face against even the proudest connection in the land. These words of the great Dictator (as his enemies now began to call him) gave much offence, and drew him into a short but angry altercation with the Duke of Richmond. “I hope,” cried Richmond, “the mobility will not be browbeaten by an insolent “Minister.” – “I challenge the Noble Duke,” retorted Chatham, “to give an instance in which I have treated any “man with insolence; if the instance be not produced the “charge of insolence will lie on his Grace.” + * , * * * This scorn for aristocratical connections and family juntas was indeed prominent in Lord Chatham's mind at this time, as it had been during the formation of his Government. He did not fully consider the position in which that Government stood. When several small sections of different parties are combined in one administration they will always for some time forward remain at gaze, suspicious and jealous of each other. With such materials and at such a time even a slight spark can kindle a flame. The appointment of an insignificant man (Mr. Shelley) to a petty post (Treasurer of the Household), and the consequent removal of Lord Edgcombe who had refused, in exchange, a Lordship of the Bedchamber, incensed all those friends of the old admimistration who still continued in the new. General Conway as their chief was more especially perplexed and aggrieved. At length Lord Besborough, one of that little band, offered to accept the vacant office, provided, in return, Lord Edgcombe should be appointed to his own. The offer was eagerly forwarded by Conway to Chatham. But Chatham took offence, it would seem, at the kind of stipulation which the offer contained. He returned a haughty answer that he would not suffer connections to force the King. Upon which Conway was provoked into exclaiming that such language had never been held westward of Constantinople! There seems indeed no reason to doubt that the demeanour of Lord Chatham to his colleagues on this and on most other occasions was overbearing and despotic. Conscious of his own upright motives and pre-eminent abilities he despised too much the common herd, or rather let them see too much that he despised them. In the present case Conway was with much difficulty appeased by his friend Horace Walpole, who during the last few years had been a * Lord Orford's Memoirs of George III., vol. ii. p. 409.
* Further still he calls Lord Chatham “the abject, crouching deputy of “the proud Scot.” But this seems to have been part of Wilkes's stock in trade, – used by him almost indiscriminately against every government. In his letter to Cotes of October 27. 1765, he says of Lord Rockingham and his colleagues: “I believe the Scot is the breath of their nostrils.” (Letters, &c., vol. ii. p. 214.)
Mahon, History. W. 12
most active meddler and go-between in party-politics. But the other placemen of that connection — Lords Besborough, Scarborough, and Monson, the Duke of Portland, and some others of less note — resigned their employments the next day. To supply the void thus created Lord Chatham reckoned on the Bedfords. That very evening he sent for Lord Gower, and offered places for himself and for others of his friends. Lord Gower hurried down to Woburn to consult the Duke, and the Duke came up to confer with Lord Chatham in town; but his Grace, it was then found, insisted on a larger share of offices for his followers than the Prime Minister could or would afford. Thus that negotiation ended, and the vacant places were filled by the Duke of Ancaster, Lord Hillsborough, Mr. Nugent, now created Lord Clare, and other recruits from various sides.
In all these questions of office Lord Chatham's feeling as to party sections and connections has been already explained and may be well understood. But on other points also he showed himself untoward. Thus it was believed that Burke about this time was not unwilling to accept a place; and we find the Duke of Grafton recommend him to the Prime Minister strongly and justly as “the readiest man upon all “points perhaps in the whole House,” and as “one on whom “the thoroughest dependence may be placed where once an “obligation is owned.” But the reply of Lord Chatham, then still at Bath, was forbidding and cold.* There seems to me great reason to suspect that the terms, or at least the tenor, of that reply, may through some indiscretion have reached the ears of the young statesman, since otherwise it is not so easy to account for that constant and resentful feeling of dislike which even the studied compliments, but far more the private letters, of Burke reveal against Lord Chatham. Itis also in this affair remarkable how strongly Lord Chatham held the doctrine of a legislative preference to our own colonial industry. For on this he rests his main objection to the proposed recruit. “His (Mr. Burke's) maxims and no“tions of trade can never be mine. Nothing can be more un“sound or repugnant to every first principle of manufacture “and commerce than the rendering so noble a branch as the “cottons dependent for all the first materials upon the pro“duce of French and Danish islands instead of British.” Another affair on which at this time the mind of Chatham most eagerly turned was the state of the East India Company. Its territorial conquests had been gigantic, and were now ratified by treaty with the native Powers. Such conquests had not been in the slightest degree foreseen or expected either by the Parliaments which granted the Charter or by the merchants who held it. The proprietors of Stock thus suddenly transformed to Sovereigns had not hitherto shown any aptness for the new and extraordinary duties which devolved upon them. They had risen far above a trading Company in their fortunes, but not as yet in their conduct and opinions. Every mail from India brought dismal accounts of the rapine and insubordination of their servants, and of the sufferings of the Hindoos beneath their rule. At home their proceedings for the most part evinced a grovelling concern for their own selfish interests. Thus at a General Court held in September 1766 it was carried even against the wish of the Directors that the Dividends which had for some time past been at Six per cent. should be raised to Ten; and at the next General Court it was urged that no overtures from the Government should be accepted, unless with a further rise to Fifteen; that increase to be positively guaranteed for the ten ensuing years!” Up to this time Parliament had given little attention to the state or the prospects of the East India question. Many 1766, schemes FOR THE GoverNMENT or INDIA. 181
* The Duke's letter of Oct. 17. 1766, is printed in the Chatham Collection. The reply, dated the 19th, will be found in my Appendix.
* Thornton's History of British India, vol. ii. p. 2. In February 1769 Lord Clive declared in the House of Commons: “The East India Company “have now, twenty millions of subjects. They are in the actual receipt of “between five and six millions a year, out of which revenue the Company, * * o: o,”, receive £1,600,000 a year." (Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 261.
politicians who called themselves statesmen deemed it a slight affair, and when they were in power they made or left it so. But far different were the views of Chatham. “I think “it" (thus he writes to the Duke of Grafton) “the greatest of “all objects, according to my sense of great.” So early as the 28th of August the Duke by his directions intimated to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman that they would do well to be prepared, for that the affairs of the Company would probably be brought before Parliament in the ensuing Session. At this time accordingly we may observe how the mind of Chatham brooded over a vast and daring scheme. Its precise details are nowhere to be found recorded, since to no one at its outset did Chatham fully entrust it, and since its further progress was arrested by that mysterious malady which closed his period of power. But we may trace its general import from some slight intimations at the time, and especially from Chatham's own words in his private letters to the Duke of Grafton. — Ought conquests which were never contemplated by the Charter to be deemed an essential part of that Charter? Could it be maintained that a document designed only to secure a few factories up the rivers and along the coasts had now, without check or control, bestowed the sovereignty of three vast provinces — Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar, — provinces larger in extent than the country from which the document came? Might not then these noble provinces be justly claimed as dominions of the British Crown, and governed as a part of such dominions? Were the merchants of the Company entitled as of right to more than a certain continuation of their commercial privileges, and a moderate return for their invested capital? On this basis, and without any real violation of plighted faith, might not a system be reared of lasting benefit to Hindostan, and of hitherto unparalleled prosperity to England, - a system which no longer enriching a band of greedy factors, but affording to the State a yearly stream of territorial wealth, would stand in the stead of all new taxes or imposts at home or in the Colonies, and gradually provide for the extinc