« PreviousContinue »
1763. INLAND NAVIGATION. 7
is carried across both the Mersey and the Bollan and over deep and wide valleys. In the execution of every part Brindley displayed the utmost skill and ingenuity. Yet the progress of prosperity was by no means uniform, nor yet immediate. Monied men — the prudent and the steady as they called themselves — shook their heads and kept their purses closed. Large as was the Duke's estate, it proved unequal to the strain upon it. So low did his credit sink that at one time his bill for 500l. could scarcely be cashed in Liverpool. He found it necessary to send his agent, John Gilbert, to ride round the neighbouring districts of Cheshire, and to borrow small sums from the farmers. On one occasion the enterprising agent, greatly to his own dismay, found himself mistaken for a highwayman. But under every difficulty the Duke showed a resolute energy of purpose. He diminished his establishment at Worsley, brought his personal expenses within the narrow limits of 400l. a year, and bade his engineer proceed. Brighter days soon came. In 1766 was begun the canal from the Trent to the Mersey, which Brindley emphatically named “the Grand Trunk Navigation.” Not long before his death in 1772 he drew the plans for and directed the Oxfordshire Canal, connected through Coventry with the Trent on one side and with the Thames upon the other. Thus in the course of only a few years was opened an inland water communication across the island from Liverpool to London. During this period other men of wealth had trod in the footsteps of the Duke of Bridgewater; other men of genius in Brindley's. High among the latter stood Smeaton and Watt. Smeaton, already famous for that lighthouse of Eddystone, which has now well nigh for a century breasted the Atlantic waves, laid out in 1767 the line of the great canal connecting the Forth and Clyde. Watt, who, as the principal improver of the steam engine, may deserve to be ranked among the foremost benefactors of mankind, was employed at the same time in planning and executing other works of Scottish navigation, — a canal, for instance, to convey the produce of the Monkland collieries to Glasgow. It is worthy of note that scarce any of the great improvements which I have here commemorated were free at first from the obstructions of prejudice and ignorance. In 1768 a mob broke into the house of Hargreaves and destroyed his jinnies. Hargreaves found it necessary to escape as might a felon from his native town of Blackburn, and seek shelter at Nottingham. Eleven years later, his machinery having been perfected by others, there ensued fresh riots against it. By that time the jinnies which had only twenty spindles were admitted to be beneficial, and these accordingly the rioters spared, but those with a greater number being pronounced mischievous were either torn to pieces or cut down to the prescribed dimensions. * A large mill built by Arkwright near Chorley was wholly destroyed. Mr. Peel, grandfather of the celebrated statesman, saw his machinery at Altham flung into the river, and was in personal danger from the fury of the people. Thus again in 1769, when there was pending in Parliament the Bill for the canal between Coventry and Oxford, I find that several petitions . were presented against it as prejudicial to one most important service, — the seamen employed in the coal trade.* From popular errors of this kind the more remote districts or distant dependencies were of course still less exempt. As late as the year 1769 a law was passed in Virginia prohibiting inoculation for the small-pox, and imposing on it as on a crime a penalty of 1,000l.*** Thus incompetent judges are the multitude of their own true interest! So ill could any Government, depending solely on their pleasure, promote in truth the greatest happiness of the greatest number! The great works and the great discoveries of this period — discoveries of which it may be said that in their final results they are destined to overspread and civilise the globe
* Baines's History of the Cotton Trade, p. 158. and 159. ** See the Cavendish Debates, vol. i. p. 337. *** Note of Mr. Jared Sparks to Washington's Writings, vol. v. p. 22, and Hening's Statutes at Large, vol. viii. p. 371.
1763. PITT IN OPPOSITION. 9
—were yet all but overlooked by their contemporaries amidst the stir and strife of their party politics. To these I must now return. Lord Bute had succeeded in concluding the war. He had succeeded in obtaining for his Peace the approval of large majorities in Parliament. Yet he found that his success in both these objects had by no means lessened his remaining difficulties. Several statesmen, Pitt especially, had till then, however sorely tried by libels and lampoons, maintained a lofty moderation, and descanted on the need of harmony and concord to carry on the war. Thus, for instance, in the debate on the declaration of hostilities from Spain, Pitt had eloquently exclaimed: “This is no season for altercation “and recrimination. A moment is come when every Eng“lishman should stand forth for his country. Arm the whole! “Be one people! Forget every thing but the public. I set “you the example. Harassed by slanderers, sinking under “pain and disease, for the public Iforget both my wrongs and “my infirmities.” # When once, however, the Preliminaries had been signed, and Parliament was called on to express an opinion in their favour, we have seen elsewhere how fiercely Pitt had darted forth even from his sick bed to oppose them. No consideration of public danger any longer stood in his way; no necessity of warlike armaments remained to curb his tongue. Since my description of that memorable scene of the 9th of December 1762 some further details have been supplied by the publication of Horace Walpole's contemporary Memoirs. We there find how eager was the expectation of his coming; how prevalent the doubt whether his illness might not keep him away. At length a shout from the thronged streets was heard by the assembled Members; the doors were thrown open; and in the midst of a large acclaiming concourse was seen Mr. Pitt borne along in the arms of his servants. He was set down at the Bar from whence, by the aid of a crutch and of several friends, he crawled to his seat on the front Opposition bench. His countenance appeared emaciated and ghastly; his dress was of black velvet, but both hands and feet were swathed in flannel. His speech, which, as I have elsewhere said, extended to three hours and a half, he delivered sitting down at intervals by the hitherto unprecedented indulgence of the House; his voice was faint and low, and he was more than once compelled to take a cordial before he could proceed. At the conclusion his agony of pain was such as to compel him to leave the House without taking part in the division. When he passed out the huzzas which had greeted his coming redoubled, and the multitude catching at the length of his speech as a topic of praise shouted again and again: “Three hours and a half! Three “hours and a half!” From the length of this speech, and from the state of languor in which it was spoken, it could not be ranked amongst the highest oratorical achievements of Pitt.* Yet it comprised several passages of great beauty, and the slightness of its effect on the division which followed may perhaps be explained by the corrupt traffic which is said to have preceded it. We are assured that Fox, on accepting the lead of the House of Commons, had undertaken to purchase a majority in favour of the Peace. A kind of mart for Members of Parliament was opened by him at his own, the Paymaster's, office. It is alleged that the lowest bribe for a vote upon the Peace was a bank note of 200l., and that Mr. Martin, the Secretary of the Treasury, afterwards acknowledged 25,000l. to have been thus expended in a single morn
* Edinburgh Review, No. clxii. p. 546., a passage in which Mr. Macaulay, by judicious condensation, has in all probability brought much nearer to the original the words reported in Lord Orford's Memoirs of the Reign of George III., vol. i. p. 134. This, the second series, of the Memoirs from the pen of Horace Walpole, is comprised in four volumes, extending from 1760 to 1771. They were first published from the MS. in 1845, and edited with much ability and candour by Sir Denis Le Marchant. * “It is impossible for a human creature to speak well for three hours “and a half.” (Lord Chesterfield to his son. Dec. 13. 1762.) Several speeches of Sir Robert Peel, one of Mr. Brougham on Feb. 7. 1828, and another of Lord Stanley on May 25. 1846, occur to me as strong proofs of the contrary.
1763. ALLEGATIONS OF BRIBERY. 11
ing.* Charges of that nature, which it is easy to make and impossible to disprove, are always to be received with much reserve. For my own part I am inclined wholly to reject them. Yet I must acknowledge that in this case they derive some indirect corroboration, first, from the character of Henry Fox as the least scrupulous of all Sir Robert Walpole's pupils, and, secondly, because the immense majority obtained by the Government on this single point of the Preliminaries, was held as in no degree a token of its permanent strength, or of the general support which the House of Commons might hereafter be willing to bestow. On the re-assembling of Parliament after the Christmas holidays it became apparent how shifting and uncertain was the ground on which the Government depended. Thus, for example, when Beckford, seconded by Pitt, moved an Address to the King to prefer officers on half pay to those whose commissions were more recent, Fox, as the Ministerial leader, opposed it, but in vain. Another day, on a Committee of Accounts, Beckford having desired Fox to save appearances, Fox replied, that he never minded appearances, but — he was going to say realities, when a loud burst of laughter from the whole House interrupted him. On sitting down he exclaimed to Onslow, son of the late Speaker: “Did “you ever see a man in my situation so treated?” Another day besides, when Fox presented a petition from the sufferers by the late war in Newfoundland, he found himself faintly supported by one colleague, Sir Francis Dashwood, and directly withstood by another, Mr. George Grenville; and at last on a point of informality in the signatures he was obliged to ask pardon and withdraw the paper. It is clear from our wholesome system of yearly estimates and public accounts, and from the scanty amount either of Secret Service Money or of Ministerial contributions, that such corruption, as is alleged on the Preliminaries, could, if indeed at all, take place only on few and rare occasions. It is clear also that such corruption, when not supported by any eminent public. * Lord Orford's Memoirs of George III. vol. i. p. 199.