« PreviousContinue »
Anson, when a certain expedition was ordered. “If the ships are not ready,” said Mr. Pitt, “I will impeach your Lordship in presence of the House.” They were ready as directed. Newcastle, in the mean tin e, yielded with quiet sc bmission to the supremacy of his genius. All the Duke wanted was the patronage, and this Mr. Pitt cheerfully gave up for the salvation of the country. Horace Walpole says, in his dively manner, “Mr. Pitt does every thing, and the Duke of Newcastle gives every ching. As long as they can agree in this partition, they may do what they will."'S
One of the first steps taken by Mr. Pitt was to grant a large subsidy to Frederick the Great, of Prussia, for carrying on the war against the Empress of Austria. This was connected with a total change which had already taken place in the Continental policy of George II., and was intended to rescue Hanover from the hands of the French. Still, there were many who had a traditional regard for the Empress of Austria, in whose defense England had expended more than ten millions of pounds sterling. The grant was, therefore, strenuously opposed in the House, and Mr. Pitt was taunted with a desertion of his principles. In reply, he defended himself, and maintained the necessity of the grant with infinite dexterity. “It was,” says Horace Walpole," the most artful speech he ever made. He provoked, called for, defied objections—promised enormous expense_demanded never to be tried by events.” By degrees he completely subdued the House, until a murmur of applause broke forth from every quarter. Seizing the favorable moment, he drew back with the utmost dignity, and placing himself in an attitude of defiance, exclaimed, in his loudest tone, “ Is there an Austrian among you ? Let him come forward and reveal himself !” The effect was irresistible. Universal silence," says Walpole, “left him arbiter of his own terms.” Another striking instance of Mr. Pitt's mastery over the House is said also to have occurred about this time. Having finished a speech, he walked out with a slow step, being severely afflicted with the gout. A silence ensued until the door was opened to let him pass into the lobby, when a member started up, saying, “ Mr. Speaker, I rise to reply to the right honorable gentleman." Pitt, who had caught the words, turned back and fixed his eye on the orator, who instantly sat down. He then returned toward his seat, repeating, as he hobbled along, the lines of Virgil, in which the poet, conducting Æneas through the shades below, describes the terror which his presence inspired among the ghosts of the Greeks who had fought at Troy :
Ast Danaum proceres, Agamemnoniæque phalanges,
VIRGIL, En., vi., 489. 3 A curious anecdote illustrates the ascendency of Pitt over Newcastle. The latter was a great valetudinarian, and was so fearful of taking cold, especially, that he often ordered the windows of the House of Lords to be shut in the hottest weather, while the rest of the Peers were suffering for want of breath. On one occasion he called upon Pitt, who was confined to his bed by the gont. Newcastle, on being led into the bed-chamber, found the room, to his dismay, without fire in a cold, wintery afternoon. He begged to have one kindled, but Pitt refused: it might be inju. rious to his gout. Newcastle drew his cloak around him, and submitted with the worst possible grace. The conference was a long one. Pitt was determined on a naval expedition, under Admiral Hawke, for the annihilation of the French fleet. Newcastle opposed it on account of the lateness of the season. The debate continued until the Duke was absolutely shivering with cold; when, at last, seeing another bed in the opposite corner, he slipped in, and covered himself with the bed-clothes! A secretary, coming in soon after, found the two ministers in this curious predic. ament, with their faces only visible, bandying the argument with great eagerness from one bed side to the other.
+ The Grecian chiefs, and Agamemnon's lost,
When they beheld the man with shining arms
Reaching his seat, he exclaimed, “Now let me hear what the honorable gentle man has to say to me!" One who was present, being asked whether the House was not convulsed with laughter at the ludicrous situation of the poor orator and the aptness of the lines, replied, “No, sir; we were all too much awed to laugh."
There was, however, very little debate after his administration had fairly commenced. All parties united in supporting his measures. It is, indeed, a remarka. ble fact, that the Parliamentary History, which professes to give a detailed report of all the debates in Parliament, contains not a single speech of Mr. Pitt, and only two or three by any other person, during the whole period of his ministry. The supplies which he demanded were, for that day, enormous twelve millions and a half in one year, and nearly twenty millions the next—"a most incredible sum," says Walpole, respecting the former, " and yet already all subscribed for, and even more offered! Our unanimity is prodigious. You would as soon hear 'No' from an old maid as from the House of Commons.” · Though Parliament has met," says Walpole again, in 1759, “ no politics are come to town. One may describe the House of Commons like the stocks : Debates, nothing done ; Votes, under par; Patriots, no price; Oratory, books shut !"
England now entered into the war with all the energy of a new existence. Spread out in her colonies to the remotest parts of the globe, she resembled a strong man who had long been lying with palsied limbs, and the blood collected at the heart; when the stream of life, suddenly set free, rushes to the extremities, and he springs to his feet with an elastic bound to repel injury or punish aggression. In the year 1758, the contest was carried on at once in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America—wherever France had possessions to be attacked, or England to be defended. Notwithstanding some disasters at first, victory followed upon victory in rapid suc. cession. Within little more than two years, all was changed. In Africa, France was stripped of every settlement she had on that continent. In India, defeated in two engagements at sea, and driven from every post on land, she gave up her long contest for the mastery of the East, and left the British to establish their govern. ment over a hundred and fifty millions of people. In America, all her rich possessions in the West Indies passed into the hands of Great Britain. Louisburg, Quebec, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Oswego, Niagara, Fort Duquesne (now PITTSBURGH), were taken ; and the entire chain of posts with which France had hemmed in and threatened our early settlements, fell before the united arms of the colonists and the English, and not an inch of territory was left her in the Western World. In Eu. rope, Hanover was rescued; the French were defeated at Creveldt, and again at Minden with still greater injury and disgrace; the coasts of France were four times invaded with severe loss to the English, but still with a desperate determination to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy; Hâvre was bombarded; the port and fortifications of Cherbourg were demolished ; Brest and the other principal sca-ports were blockaded; the Toulon fleet was captured or destroyed; and the brilliant victory of Admiral Hawke off Quiberon, annihilated the French navy for the remainder of the war. At home, the only part of the empire which continued hostile to the
Amid those shades, trembled with sudden fear.
Died on their gasping lips. • One of those brilliant sallies for which Mr. Pitt was distinguished, occurred at this time, and related to Sir Edward Hawke. In proposing a monument for General Wolfe, Mr. Pitt paid a higlie compliment to Admiral Saunders: “a man,” said he,“equaling those who have beaten Armadas may I anticipate ? those who will beat Armadas!" The words were prophetic. It was the very day of Hawke's victory, November 20th, 1759.
government, the Highlanders of Scotland, who had been disarmed for their rebellions, and insulted by a law forbidding them ts wear their national costume, were forever detached from the Stuarts, and drawn in grateful affection around the Throne, by Mr. Pitt's happy act of confidence in putting arms into their hands, and sending them to fight the battles of their country in every quarter of the globe. Finally, the commercial interests of the kingdom, always the most important to a great manufacturing people, prospered as never before ; and “ Commerce," in the words inscribed by the city of London on the statue which they erected to Mr. Pitt, “ COMMERCE, for the first time, was unit: with, and made to flourish by, war!"
France was now effectually humbled. In 1761 she sought for peace; and Mr. Pitt declared to his friends, when entering on the negotiation, that “no Peace of Utrecht should again stain the annals of England.” He therefore resisted every attempt of France to obtain a restoration of conquests, and was on the point of concluding a treaty upon terms commensurate with the triumphs of the English arms, when the French succeeded in drawing Spain into the contest. After a season of long alienation, an understanding once more took place between the two branches of the house of Bourbon. The French minister instantly changed his tone. He came forward with a proposal that Spain should be invited to take part in the treaty, specifying certain claims of that country upon England which required adjustment. · Mr. Pitt was indignant at this attempt of a prostrate enemy to draw a third party into the negotiation. He spurned the proposal. He declared, that "he would not relax one syllable from his terms, until the Tower of London was taken by storm.” He demanded of Spain a disavowal of the French minister's claims. This offended the Spanish court, and France accomplished her object. The celebrated Family Compact was entered into, which once more identified the two na. tions in all their interests; and Spain, by a subsequent stipulation, engaged to unite in the war with France, unless England should make peace on satisfactory terms before May, 1762. Mr. Pitt, whose means of secret intelligence were hardly inferior to those of Oliver Cromwell, was apprised of these arrangements (though studiously concealed) almost as soon as they were made. He saw that a war was inevitable, that he had just ground of war; and he resolved to strike the first blow-to seize the Spanish treasure-ships which were then on their way from America ; to surprise Havana, which was wholly unprepared for defense ; to wrest the Isthmus of Panama from Spain, and thus put the keys of her commerce between the two oceans forever into the hands of the English. But when he proposed these measures to the Cabinet, he was met, to his surprise, with an open and determined resistance. George II. was dead. Lord Bute, the favorite of George III., was jealous of Mr. Pitt's ascendency. The King probably shared in the same feelings; and in the lan. guage of Grattan, “conspired to remove him, in order to be relieved from his superiority." An obsequious cabinet voted down Mr. Pitt's proposal. He instantly resigned ; and Spain, as if to prove his sagacity, and justify the measure he had urged, drove England into war within three months.
The King, however, in thus ending the most glorious ministry which England had ever seen, manifested a strong desire to conciliate Mr. Pitt. The very next day he sent a message to him through Lord Bute, declaring that he was “impatient" to bestow
upon him some mark of the royal favor. Mr. Pitt was melted by these unexpected tokens of kindness. He replied in terms which have often been censured as unbecoming a man of spirit under a sense of injury-terms which would certainly be thought obsequious at the present day, but which were probably dictated by the sudden revulsion of his feelings, and the courtly style which he always maintained in his intercourse with the sovereign. On the day after his resignation, he accepted
o In his long and frequent interviews with George II., Mr. Pitt, though often commanded in si a pension of £3000 (being much less than was offered him), together with a peernge for his wife. Some, indeed, complained that, acting as he did for the people, he should have allowed the King to place him under any pecuniary obligations. “Il he had gone into the city,” said Walpole, "and told them he had a poor wife and children unprovided for, and opened a subscription, he would have got £500,000 instead of £3000 a year.” He could never have done so, until he had ceased to be William Pitt. Mr. Burke has truly said, “With regard to the pension and the title, it is a shame that any defense should be necessary. What eye can not distinguish · at the first glance, between this and the exceptionable case of titles and pensions ? What Briton, with the smallest sense of honor or gratitude, but must blush for his country, if such a man had retired unrewarded from the public service, let the motives of that retirement be what they would ? It was not possible that his sov. ereign should let his eminent services pass unrequited; and the quantum was rather regulated by the moderation of the great mind that received, than by th: uberality of that which bestowed it.” It is hardly necessary to add, that the tice of public favor, which had ebbed for a moment, soon returned to its ordinary channels. The city of London sent him an address in the warmest terms of commendation. On Lord Mayor's day, when he joined the young King and Queen in their procession to dine at Guildhall, the eyes of the multitude were turned from the royal equipage to the modest vehicle which contained Mr. Pitt and his brother-in-law, Lord Temple. The loudest acclamations were reserved for the Great Commoner. The crowd, says an eye-witness, clustered around his carriage at every step, “ hung upon the wheels, hugged his footmen, and even kissed his horses.” Such were the circumstances under which he retired from office, having resigned on the 5th of October, 1761.
We now come to the fifth and last period of Mr. Pitt's life, embracing about sia. teen years, down to his decease in 1778. During the whole of this period, except for a brief season when bs was called to form a new ministry, he acted with the Opposition. When a treaty of peace was concluded by Lord Bute, in 1762, he was confined to his bed by the gout; but his feelings were so excited by the concessions made to France, that he caused himself to be conveyed to the House in the midst of his acutest sufferings, and poured out his indignation for three hours and a half, exposing in the keenest terms the loss and dishonor brought upon the country by the conditions of peace. This was called his “Sitting Speech ;” because, after having stood for a time supported by two friends," he was so excessively ill,” says the Parliamentary History, "and his pain became so exceedingly acute, that the House unanimously desired he might be permitted to deliver his sentiments sitting—a circumstance that was unprecedented." But whether the peace was disgraceful or not, the ministry had no alternative. Lord Bute could not raise money to carry on the war. The merchants, who had urged upon Mr. Pitt double the amount he needed when. ever he asked a loan, refused their assistance to a minister whom they could not trust.
Under these circumstances, Lord Bute was soon driven to extremities; and as a means of increasing the revenues, introduced a bill subjecting cider to an excise. An Excise Bill has always been odious to the English. It brings with it the right of search. It lays open the private dwelling, which every Englishman has been taught to regard as his “castle.” "You give to the dipping-rod," said one, arguing against such a law, " what you deny to the scepter!" Mr. Pitt laid hold of this feeling, and opposed the bill with his utmost strength. There is no report of his
while suffering severe pain from the gout, never obeyed. When unable any longer to stand, he always kneeled on a cushion before the King.
'Aunual Register for 1761.
• Parliamentary History, xv., 1262. The report of this speech is too meager and unsatinfactory to merit insertion in this work.
speech, but a single passage has come down to us. containing one of the finest bursts
It was the misfortune of George III., in the early part of his life, to be governed first by favorites and then by his own passions. He was naturally of a quick and obstinate temper. During the first twenty years of his reign (for he afterward corrected this error), he allowed his feelings as a man to mingle far too much with his duties as a sovereign. This led him into two steps, one of which agitated, and the other dismembered his empire-the persecution of John Wilkes, and the attempt to force taxation on the American colonies. It is now known, that he sent a personal order to have Wilkes arrested under a general warrant, against the advice of Lord Mansfield, and insisted on all the subsequent violations of law which gave such notoriety and influence to that restless demagogue. And although he did not originate the plan of taxing America, the moment the right was questioned, he resolved to maintain the principle to the utmost extremity. This it was that forced the “Declaratory Act” on Lord Rockingham, and held Lord North so long to the war, as it now appears, against his own judgment and feelings. In respect to both these subjects, Mr. Pitt took, from the first, an open and decided stand against the wishes of the King. He did it on the principle which governed his whole political life; which led him, nearly thirty years before, to oppose so violently the issue of searchwarrants for seamen —tho principle of resisting arbitrary power in every form ; of defending, at all hazards, the rights and liberties of the subject,“ however mean, however remote." During the remainder of his life, all his speeches of any importance, with a single exception, related to one or the other of these topics. It was his constant aim, in his own emphatic language, "to restore, to save, to confirm the CONSTITUTION.”
This attachment of Mr. Pitt to the popular part of the government gave rise to an attack (it is not known on what occasion), which called forth one of those keen and contemptuous retorts with which he so often put down his opponents. Mr. Moreton, Chief Justice of Chester, having occasion to mention “the King, Lords, and Commons,” paused, and, turning toward Mr. Pitt, added, “or, as the right honorable member would call them, Commons, Lords, and King.” Mr. Pitt, says Charles Butler, in relating the story, rose (as he always did) with great deliber ation, and called to order. "I have,” he said, “ heard frequently in this House doctrines which surprised me; but now my blood runs cold! I desire the words
9 See page 80.