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A more important question still remained, - whether the new import-duties laid upon America should or should not be persevered in. The latter alternative was urged in Parliament by Governor Pownall* and some others, but the Ministers gave equivocal replies, and had come as yet to no decision among themselves. At last a Cabinet-meeting was held upon it on the 1st of May. The Duke of Grafton as Prime Minister proposed to his colleagues that at the commencement of next Session they should bring in a Bill for the complete repeal of these obnoxious duties. Lord North, on the other hand, thought that a concession so entire might argue timidity and weakness in those who made it. He desired rather that, so far at least as any present promise or announcement was concerned, the article of Teas might be expected from the repeal. On a division the proposal of Grafton was rejected by the casting vote of one, – that one Lord Rochford, whom the Duke himself had so lately nominated as his colleague! The Duke in his Memoirs enumerates this result among the evil consequences which he ascribes to Lord Chatham's resignation. “But for that unhappy event,” says he, “I must think that the separation from America “might have been avoided. For in the following spring Lord “Chatham was sufficiently recovered to have given his effec“tual support in the Cabinet to Lords Camden and Granby “and General Conway, who with myself were overruled in “our best endeavours to include the article of Teas with the “other duties intended to be repealed.” — The Duke adds, that from this time forward he felt himself ill at ease in his high post. Lord Camden on his part was so much offended at finding his opinion set aside both in that affair and in Wilkes's, that although he continued to hold the Seal of Chancellor, he ceased to attend the meetings of the Cabinet.
* Mr. Pownall had been Governor of Massachusetts, and still retained the title. He was a worthy well meaning man, and often spoke on Colonial affairs, but in a very tedious strain, so that as Franklin laments, “he is “very ill heard at present.” (To Dr. Cooper, Feb. 24. 1770.) It is probable therefore that very little of his speeches would have reached posterity had they not been carefully reported by himself.
1769. DIVISION IN THE CABINET. 253
The Session was closed on the 9th of May, and four days afterwards Lord Hillsborough communicated the resolution of his colleagues in a Circular Letter addressed to the Governors of the several Colonies in North America. That letter was drawn up in harsh and ungracious terms, and omitted all those softening expressions which the minority in the Cabinet had, as they thought, prevailed in introducing. No wonder that concessions so curtailed in their amount, and so far from courteous in their announcement, gave little satisfaction, and called forth little gratitude.
A FEw weeks only after Lord Chatham's resignation his gout so long intermitted, but for some time past giving symptoms of approach, returned.* Bowed down as he was by a far more grievous malady, it proved to him a healing visitation. It raised his drooping spirits, and it strung his feeble nerves. The clouds which had obscured that great intellect wholly passed away. Never indeed, as we shall see hereafter, did either his splendid eloquence or his wise and resolute counsels shine forth more brightly than during the next following years.
Another event which followed close upon Lord Chatham's retirement from office was his reconciliation with the Grenvilles. At his desire Lord Temple came down to visit him at Hayes, and departed on most friendly terms both private and political. An event so favourable to Lord Temple's views of ambition was not likely to remain a secret in his hands. He took care to have it announced in the publications of the day with no small pomp, and — since this alliance had already proved unstable — with a prophecy of its eternal duration; just as the frailest ladies are ever the most prodigal in their vows of constancy.*
Some considerable time, however, still elapsed ere Lord Chatham resumed his part in public affairs. His first appearance beyond his own domestic circle was at the Levee in July 1769 to present his duty to the King. Men gazed at him 1769. CHATHAM AT THE KING's LEVEE. 255
* “Lord Chatham has got a regular fit of the gout after so long an in“termission. Many think this indicates his re-appearance.” (H. Walpole to Sir H. Mann, Nov. 18. 1768) Another fit of gout occurred in the March following. (Chatham Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 351.)
** “In consequence of repeated solicitations on the part of the Earl of “Chatham a most cordial, firm, and perpetual union this day took place
“with his noble brother-in-law, Earl Temple. Mr. Grenville has heartily “acceded." Political Register, Nov. 25, 1768.
with eager curiosity as on one risen from the grave; above two years and a half had elapsed since he last had shown himself in public. The King was very gracious, and whispered him to come into the Closet after the Levee, which Lord Chatham did accordingly, and remained in conversation with His Majesty for twenty minutes.* He stated his objection to the course pursued both in Wilkes's case and in East India affairs, but added that with his broken health he could have no desire of office, and that therefore if in Parliament he should dissent from any of the Ministerial measures he hoped His Majesty would do him the justice to believe that it would not arise from any interested views. To the Duke of Grafton at this Levee he behaved with only cold politeness, – much to the chagrin of his Grace, whose feelings of respect and admiration for Lord Chatham had not at all abated. The fact of Lord Chatham's conversation with his Majesty (the last that ever took place between them) was speedily noised abroad, but its details remained unknown, and thus a large scope was left to rumours and conjectures. Perhaps he was sent for, says Burke, or perhaps he came of his own accord, “to talk some significant, pompous, creeping, “explanatory, ambiguous matter in the true Chathamic “style!”* These words, it must be owned, describe with considerable aptness, though not without exaggeration,-as even now we may trace them, - Lord Chatham's epistolary faults. “The best orator and the worst letter-writer of our “age!” cries Wilkes.*** Of these two unfriendly critics, the former, writing from Beaconsfield, portrays with no less graphic force the unusual pomp and needless train of servants that Chatham maintained. The “Great Earl” was then on his way to Lord * The Court was surprised with an unexpected phenomenon. “ . . . . . . “He (Lord Chatham) was perfectly well, and had grown fat.” (Lord Orford's Memoirs, vol. iii. p. 373.) See in my Appendix a minute of Lord Chatham's conversation with the King as taken down by the Duke of Grafton the same evening, no doubt on His Majesty's report. ** To Lord Rockingham, Beaconsfield, July 9. 1769. Correspondence, Temple's, his first visit since their reconciliation. “I ought “to tell you,” says Burke, “that Lord Chatham passed “by my door on Friday morning in a JIMwhiskEE drawn “by two horses, one before the other; he drove himself. “His train was two coaches and six, with twenty servants, “male and female. He was proceeding with his whole “family, Lady Chatham, two sons, and two daughters, “to Stowe.” # Thus, according to Burke's description, did Lord Chatham proceed on his visit to Stowe, Lord Temple's mansion, where he was warmly received, and where the freeholders drank to the union of the three brothers. The rest of the summer and autumn he passed at Chevening, which his kinsman and friend Lord Stanhope had placed at his disposal during his own absence abroad. Lord Chatham now was eager for the opportunity of declaring his views in Parliament. Accordingly he did not fail to appear in his place at the opening of the next Session on the 9th of January following. The King's Speech on that occasion began by lamenting a distemper which had lately broke out among the Horned Cattle of the kingdom, and towards the checking of which some measures had been taken by the Privy Council without the assent of Parliament. Much ridicule at the time was showered upon this reference in the Royal Speech; the whole Session was in consequence surnamed the “Horned-Cattle Session;” and Junius, for example, charged the Duke of Grafton with having put into His Majesty's mouth not the true sentiments of a King, but rather “the misery of a ruined grazier.” +* Trifling indeed might this calamity appear to those in whose eyes the squabbles of party and the prizes of office were alone important! Yet since we find that the murrain had been so destructive and deadly that public prayers for its cessation were offered up in the churches, we may presume to think it not altogether beneath the dignity of the Royal notice.
vol. i. p. 173. *** To Humphrey Cotes, December 4, 1765. Memoirs, &c. vol. ii. p. 217. * To Lord Rockingham, July 30. 1769. ** Letter xxxvi., February 14, 1770.