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1763. DEATH OF LORD EGREMONT. 37
But few weeks had elapsed since Mr. Grenville had been placed at the head of the Treasury before a coolness was observed to arise between him and Lord Bute. Nor is the reason hard to be assigned. Lord Bute regarded the choice of Grenville as an act of grace and favour on his part, to be followed by corresponding marks of gratitude and deference. Grenville, on the other hand, could see no other cause for his elevation beyond his own genius and merit. Concurrently with this coolness in Lord Bute, “The “Triumvirate” found that they were far from enjoying, as they had hoped, the full confidence of the King. Each of the Three, at various times, but especially Grenville, remonstrated, argued, and complained. At last, in the first week of August, when Grenville, intending to go out of town, was renewing his representations, the King said that he would take ten days or a fortnight to consider the whole case fully, and decide whether he would dismiss or only seek to strengthen his administration.* The Ministerial crisis, however, took a different and wholly unexpected turn. Lord Egremont, who was of a plethoric habit of body, was seized with apoplexy and expired on the 20th of August. “He was observed,” says Bishop Newton, “to be remarkably cheerful several days before, “and the very morning of his death; and it was while he was “sitting at breakfast with his lady and reading a letter that “the fatal stroke was struck. He called for a glass of water, “but before it could be given him he was insensible, and so continued till he died.”** Lord Bute considering the administration as dissolved by this sudden event, and weighing all his animosities, past and present, against each other, advised His Majesty as the least evil to apply to Mr. Pitt. In his letter to the Duke of Bedford of the 2nd of April, in which he announced his own impending resignation, he had referred to the great Commoner as follows: “One thing the King is determined to abide by..... “never upon any account to suffer those Ministers of the late “reign who have attempted to fetter and enslave him ever to “come into his service while he lives to hold the sceptre.”* Now, not yet five months having fully elapsed, we find Lord Bute who wrote that letter advise that Pitt should be called to the head of affairs; we find the Duke of Bedford who received that letter hasten up to town from Blenheim on a separate impulse, and give the same counsel to the King; we find His Majesty whose fixed determination had been (though perhaps it may be said without adequate authority) announced in that letter yield to the twofold suggestion which he now received! Was not that statesman in the right who exclaimed that there is no such word in party politics as “Never!” Having thus obtained the Royal consent Lord Bute immediately proceeded to open the desired negotiation by a message to Mr. Pitt at Hayes, through Beckford, then Lord Mayor. An interview ensued between the Earl and the Great Commoner at the house of the latter in Jermyn Street. On this occasion Pitt expressed his sentiments on public affairs with the utmost freedom, but refused to ask an audience of the King, or to thrust himself unsolicited into the Royal presenee. “But suppose His Majesty should order you?” asked Bute. “The King's command,” said Pitt, “would make it my duty, and I should certainly obey it.” On the day ensuing Pitt did receive the King's command, although in an unusual form, namely, an open note unsealed, requiring him to attend His Majesty at noon of Saturday the 27th of August at Buckingham House, then called the Queen's Palace, in the Park. At the hour appointed Pitt accordingly proceeded through the Mall in his chair, the boot of which being constructed for the accommodation of his gouty foot made it, according to his own phrase, as much * Bedford Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 224.
* The confidential letters on this subject between Mr. Grenville and Lord Egremont are among the Grenville Papers. (Aug. 3. and 4. 1763.) ** Memoirs, in Newton's Works, vol. i. p. 89. ed. 1787. See also Mr. Grenville's MS. Diary now on the point of publication; a most curious and valuable document, though sometimes warped by the prejudices or passions of the writer. It exhibits him on the whole as very jealous of power, and ever fretting with his brother Ministers.
1763. * overtUREs to PItt. 39
known as if his name were written upon it. Some time afterwards Mr. Grenville arriving at Buckingham House for the usual transaction of business beheld in the Court the unwelcome apparition of this well-remembered chair. The public, and amongst the rest Horace Walpole, believed that this was the first notice which the Prime Minister received of the negotiation then already in progress. In truth, however, the King had apprised Mr. Grenville of his purpose the day before, and both Grenville and Halifax had remonstrated against it, but in vain.* The audience of Pitt with His Majesty lasted three hours. A full and in most respects trustworthy account of"it may be found in a letter from Lord Hardwicke to his son, — an account taken from Pitt's own mouth only six days afterwards.” The Sovereign, it seems, was very gracious, and the statesman very explicit. He, Pitt, went through the defects of the Peace; the things needed and hitherto neglected to improve and preserve it; the claims of the great Whig noblemen, those steady friends of the House of Hanover, who had been driven from His Majesty's council and service, and whom it would be for his interest to restore. The King still said he liked to hear him, and bade him go on, but now and then let fall the words, that his honour must be consulted. To a young and high-spirited Prince there seemed, not mere inconsistency, but even ignominy, in the thought that he must summon back with smiles and favours the same men so lately sent away with anger. Such, however, is the lesson which all Constitutional Monarchs have to learn. At this interview of Saturday the 27th of August no final decision was arrived at, and His Majesty desired Pitt to come again on Monday. Nevertheless, Pitt felt sanguine of a favourable issue. He sent expresses summoning to town the Duke of Devonshire and the Marquis of Rockingham, and on the intervening Sunday went himself to Claremont to see the Duke of Newcastle. On that Sunday evening, however, it appears from Mr. Grenville's Diary that a secret interview took place between himself and the King, when His Majesty expressed a strong repugnance to Pitt's conditions as too hard, and when Grenville did his best to confirm him in these feelings. Next morning, as appointed, there ensued another audience of Pitt at Buckingham House of nearly two hours' duration, but of far less satisfactory tenor. The effect of Grenville's last representations was now apparent. The King, after a few words of gracious welcome, began that he had considered fully what had been said. He spoke strongly of supporting his honour; and he then proceeded to suggest the Earl of Northumberland as head of the Treasury. It was understood throughout that Pitt should resume his former post as Secretary of State. The Earl of Northumberland, lately Sir Hugh Smithson, had been ennobled from his marriage with the heiress of the Percys; an honourable nobleman, but without abilities or reputation in public affairs. But he was an intimate friend of Lord Bute, and his son a few months afterwards became the husband of one of Lord Bute's daughters, – a claim no doubt to the highest honours of the realm | Pitt, much surprised, hesitated an objection that certainly Lord Northumberland might be considered for some office, but that he should not have thought of him for the head of the Treasury. His Majesty then mentioned Lord Halifax for that high office. Pitt said: “Suppose Your “Majesty should think fit to give his Lordship the Paymas“ter's place?” “But, Mr. Pitt,” rejoined the King, “I had “designed that for poor George Grenville; he is your near “relation, and you once loved him!” — To this the only answer made was a low but by no means an assenting bow.
* Lord Orford's Memoirs (vol. i. p. 288.) must be compared with and corrected by Mr. Grenville's own statement, both in the Diary and in his letter of Sept. 2, 1763. On the 27th he was admitted after Pitt had gone, and writes the same evening to Lord Halifax: “My interview was very “short, and no notice was taken of the long audience that preceded mine.” ** Letter to Lord Royston, Sept. 4, 1763. Parl. Hist., vol. xv. p. 1327., and notes to Chatham Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 236—242. The correspondence itself supplies some further hints, while on the other hand the Grenville Diary contains several points of contradiction or counter-statement.
1763. INTERVIEWS WITH THE KING. 41
Pitt, on the whole matter, stated to the King that he was a poor infirm man, declining in years as well as in health, unable to gothrough a constant Parliamentary attendance,— that such little strength as he could bring to His Majesty was derived from the good opinion of his friends and of such people as attributed part of the former successes to his poor endeavours, – but that if His Majesty thought fit to make use of such a little knife he must not blunt the edge, — that he and his friends could never come into government but as a party, - that with such views of his party-ties he must now be empowered to offer the headship of the Treasury to Lord Temple, although he was by no means sure that his Lordship would take that or any other office. The name of Temple might well cause His Majesty to start and pause, considering that only a few weeks since that Noble Lord as the declared partisan of Wilkes had been visited with the severest marks of Royal displeasure, — had been struck from the list of Privy Councillors, and dismissed from the Lord Lieutenancy of Bucks. *
Beside Lord Temple's, it appears that Pitt brought forward several other of his intended nominations. Among these was Lord Hardwicke for the Presidency of the Council, and Chief Justice Pratt for a Peerage, with a future view of the Great Seal. Lord Rockingham was designed as First Lord of the Admiralty, Charles Townshend as Secretary of State, the Duke of Newcastle as Privy Seal, and the Duke of Devonshire as Lord Chamberlain. This last appointment, like Lord Temple's, and for nearly the same reason, must have been personally most distasteful to His
* The letter of Lord Hardwicke and the Diary of Mr. Grenville stand here in point-blank contradiction to each other. The letter states that the King proposed Lord Temple to Pitt, and the Diary states that Pitt proposed Lord Temple to the King. The authority of each may be taken as equal, since Lord Hardwicke derived his information directly from Pitt, and Mr. Grenville directly from His Majesty. My main reasons for preferring the latter are as follows: — 1. The proposal here ascribed to Pitt in 1763 exactly agrees with that which we know him to have made on two similar occasions in 1765 and 1766; 2. It seems most improbable that the King
should himself propose Lord Temple, whom he had so recently with tho highest resentment dismissed his service.