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tion of that National Debt laid on us by the pressure of recent wars? Seven years afterwards when Lord Chatham, as retired from office, took a retrospect of the entire subject, we find him state his general view as follows to Lord Shelburne: “I always conceived that there is in substantial justice a “mixed right to the territorial revenues between the State “and the Company as joint captors; the State equitably en“titled to the larger share as largest contributor in the ac“quisition by fleet and men. Nor can the Company's share “when ascertained be considered as private property, but in “trust for the public purposes of defence of India and the ex“tension of trade; never in any case to be portioned out in “dividends to the extinction of the spirit of trade.”* In the contest which Lord Chatham was thus preparing to commence between what he terms “the friends of the “Public” on the one side and “the advocates for the Alley” on the other we should certainly not blame him if he failed to foresee (as who at that time could?) the great improvement which has since been wrought in the Company itself, and the large measure in which that Company has now become an instrument and agent in fulfilling some at least of the noble aspirations which the mind of Lord Chatham had conceived. To carry out this bold and courageous scheme the first step needed was to institute an inquiry by the House of Commons. It seemed also most desirable that the inquiry should be proposed and conducted by some independent gentleman rather than by any member of the Government; the Government to step in afterwards as arbiter and umpire of the question. For this purpose Lord Chatham chose Alderman Beckford, his personal friend. Beckford was a man of neglected education, noted in the House of Commons for his loud tones and his faulty Latin **, but upright and fearless,
* Letter, May 24, 1773. Correspondence, vol. iv. p. 264. ** On one occasion, for example. (this was in 1770,) Beckford quoted: Non omnium meum mecum porto!" (Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 489.) He must have been thinking of the Omnium in the City.
1766. ASPER1TY OF BURRE. 183
and ever prompt and ready; of much commercial weight and especial popularity in the City of London which he represented in Parliament. On the 25th of November accordingly Beckford brought forward a motion for inquiry into the affairs of the East India Company on a future day and in a Committee of the whole House. It was the very time when Lord Chatham had become in a great measure estranged from Conway and Charles Townshend on account of the Edgecombe episode. This circumstance has afforded some colour for a strange misrepresentation which was afterwards made. It was alleged that Chatham having framed a measure touching the East India Company concealed it from his own administration, and entrusted a personal friend who held no office in that administration to take charge of it in the House of Commons.” But it is clear that Chatham did precisely what the most judicious party-chiefs have often done; he selected an adherent out of place to call for papers and to search for facts, and he reserved himself and his colleagues to act upon the state of things which should be proved and ascertained. The motion of Beckford on the 25th was warmly opposed by Charles Yorke and George Grenville, who defended the East India Company, and invoked the faith of Charters. Nevertheless on a division a large majority declared in favour of the proposed inquiry. Some days afterwards when the subject was resumed another fine speech against it was heard from Burke; in this he referred to Lord Chatham with no slight asperity, painting him as a great Invisible Power that had left no Minister in the House of Commons. “But “perhaps,” he cried, “this House is not the place where our “reasons can be of any avail. The great person who is to de“termine on this question may be a being far above our view; “one so immeasurably high that the greatestabilities” (here he indicated Townshend) “or the most amiable dispositions” (here he pointed to Conway) “may not gain access to him; “a being before whom thrones, dominations, princedoms, “virtues, powers,” (here he waved his hands over the whole Treasury Bench behind which he sat,) “all veil their faces “with their wings!”* Through the keen instinct usually found in Opposition on such subjects Burke had here divined the truth. Ever since the incident of Lord Edgcombe the Prime Minister had wholly withdrawn his confidence both from Conway and Charles Townshend. On their part they were in secret averse to his East India measures, and reluctant to render the inquiry as full and searching as was needed. It was only by vehement threats in letters to the Duke of Grafton that Lord Chatham had succeeded in spurring them forward.** * Thus, when after one active month of Session the Parliament adjourned for the Christmas holidays, the Government had sustained keen attacks both on the Inquiry and on the Embargo, and had suffered loss by the resignations of several of its members. Nevertheless so great was still the ascendency remaining to the name of Chatham (let me rather say of Pitt) that his power was not as yet shaken or ims paired. The Opposition was disunited and dispirited. The General Court of the East India Company far from daring another Parliamentary conflict with the administration came to an unanimous vote recommending the Directors to treat for terms. “We have had a busy month,” writes Horace Walpole, “and many grumbles of a State-quake; but the “Session has, however, ended very triumphantly for the “Great Earl.”*** The “Great Earl,” trusting in these holidays to recruit his health, proceeded once more to Bath. When Parliament met again in the middle of January his return was eagerly expected by his colleagues. But instead of himself the sad news came that he had been seized with gout and was shut up in his chamber. Week after week passed away and still 1767. CHATHAM's MYSTERIOUS ILINEss. 185
* See the statement of Lord Orford (Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 393.), in which he is followed too implicitly by the Edinburgh Reviewer (No. clxii. p. 586.). * See a note to the Chatham Papers, vol. iii. p. 145. Lord Orford adds, that this was “one of his finest speeches." (Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 407.) ** See in the Appendix the letter of December 7. 1766. *** H. Walpole to G. Montagu, December 12, 1766,
the Prime Minister was absent. At length, only half recovered, he set out, but relapsed upon the road, and lay in bed for another fortnight in the Castle Inn at Marlborough.* Evils speedily grew forth from the absence of the mastermind. The Cabinet became divided, and the Parliament unruly. A jealousy, never after extinguished, was kindled between Grafton and Shelburne. Charles Townshend began to assume the airs of a great Minister in the House of Commons, and almost openly thwarted Beckford as to the East Indian Inquiry. Even the highest colleagues and most trusty friends of Chatham complained that they were not thoroughly apprised of his views and intentions. The Duke of Grafton asked his leave to travel down to his bedside at Marlborough for one hour of conversation, — for one gleam of light. But he was answered in stately phrases that the same illness which hindered Lord Chatham from proceeding on his journey must likewise disable him from entering into any discussions of business. The reins of power thus relaxing, all the parties out of office gathered courage and combined for a common blow. Charles Townshend as Chancellor of the Exchequer had to propose the annual vote for the Land Tax, amounting since. the war to four shillings in the pound, but he pledged himself that if he continued in office another year he would reduce it to three. This pledge might have sufficed for economy, but could not for party-spirit. Dowdeswell, supported by Grenville, moved that the reduction to three shillings should take effect at once; and much to their own surprise they prevailed in the division, the numbers being * According to the Edinburgh Reviewer, “footmen and grooms dressed “in his family livery filled the whole inn, though one of the largest in Eng“land. The truth was, that the invalid had insisted that during his stay “all the waiters and stable - boys of the Castle should wear his livery.” (No. clxii. p. 586.) I was assured by my excellent and lamented friend Mr. Thomas Grenville, almost a contemporary of that period, that this story had no foundation in fact. It used to be told by the late Lord Holland, and most clearly, as I think, arose from his imperfect recollection of a passage resembling it, but really quite different, (since referring only to Lord
Chatham's own servants brought from Bath,) in Lord Orford's (then MS.) Memoirs. Sec, in these, vol. ii. p. 416. and 417.
206 and 188. Thus no less a sum than half a million was struck off from the Ways and Means of the current year. It was the first defeat on any financial question of importance which had been sustained by any Government since the fall of Sir Robert Walpole. No wonder if the Opposition greatly plumed themselves upon it. Yet their triumph was perhaps more specious than real, for there was no settled majority against Lord Chatham, and “it is plain,” writes Lord Chesterfield, “that all the landed gentlemen bribed themselves “with this shilling in the pound.”* This untoward event occurred on the 27th of February. Three days afterwards Lord Chatham arrived from Marlborough still afflicted with gout, and scarce able to move hand or foot. His wrath was now fully kindled against Charles Townshend for the part which that gentleman had taken in respect to the East India Inquiry. In a few vehement lines to the Duke of Grafton we find him declare that “the writer hereof and the Chancellor of the Exchequer “aforesaid cannot remain in office together.”** He applied for and obtained, the King's permission that the Exchequer Seals might be offered to Lord North, but Lord North, from an undue diffidence of his own merit, declined them.*** It is probable that a few days more would have seen the acceptance of some new overture and the naming of another Chancellor of the Exchequer. But at this very period Lord Chatham began to be afflicted by a strange and mysterious malady. His nerves failed him; he became wholly unequal to the transaction of any public affairs, and secluding himself in his own house he would admit no visitors and open no papers on business. In vain did the King address him in repeated messages and letters. In vain did his most trusted colleagues sue to him for one hour's conversation. As the
* To his son, March 3. 1767. ** Letter, March 4, 1767. See Appendix. *** The Duke of Grafton adds in his MS. Memoirs, that “Mr. Townshend “remained in his office quite uninformed of Lord Chatham's intentions in “regard to himself.” But the Duke is here mistaken, as plainly appears from a passage in the Chatham Papers, vol. iii. p. 235.