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ATTACKS UPON THE MINISTRY.
possible for them to aim at the removal of the Ministry when the King was not in a condition to follow the course of political events. Lord Grenville tersely explains the embarrassment of the situation :-“If the state of public affairs were such,” he writes, * "
as would allow of our postponing the whole question, most willingly would I lend him (the King] my assistance (without his knowing I did so) for warding off from him the difficulties of such a scene. But this I know is impossible. To trust the country for another year, in such times as these, to such management as we are now under, would be, in all reasonable calculations, inevitable ruin; and if, in measuring one's conduct upon such a subject, one could look to the King's health alone, the only possible means of securing his peace of mind is to do the best for guarding the Kingdom against the dangers now ready to burst upon us, and which, if not better provided against than they now are, must, when they come, infallibly overthrow his reason in the first instance, but probably, with that, destroy himself, his family, and his kingdom.” Acting upon these principles, the Opposition renewed their attacks upon Addington; and Pitt also descended into the arena, not in concert with them, but fighting for his own hand. He began the campaign by a motion on the state of the Navy, and was supported by Fox and the Grenvilles. But Sheridan and the Prince of Wales's party aided the Ministry, so that he was left in a minority of 71. The debate was noticeable for his fierce attack upon Sheridan:-“ Among the many assaults,” he said, “which I have had to repel
* Courts and Cabinets of George the 3rd,' üü. 350,
ADDINGTON APPLIES TO PITT.
this evening, was one from a very brilliant flash of lightning, a meteor which for some time has moved neither on the one side nor on the other; a meteor whose absence all may with me have regretted; a meteor which, on its return, concentrating its force, has fixed its rays of resentment and indignation against me—but in whose blazing face * I can look without fear or dread. No insinuations, however bitter or cold, will ever induce me to surrender my freedom in this House. I am fully determined not to renounce my privileges as a member of Parliament."
After Easter, hostilities were resumed; and on the third reading of an Irish Militia Bill, when Fox and the Grenvilles coalesced with Pitt, the ministerial majority was reduced to 21.1 Addington, in a state of great alarm and distress, entered into communication with Pitt, desiring to learn his views on the condition of public affairs and the best mode of conducting the Government. Pitt refused to accept the proffered olivebranch ; but expressed his willingness to discuss the formation of a new Ministry with any person commissioned by the King for that purpose. Eldon was the intermediary chosen, I and through him Pitt sent an
* An undignified allusion to the wine-crimsoned countenance of Sheridan.
+ This, in later times, has been considered a very fair majority; but in the days of nomination boroughs it was regarded as virtually a defeat.
| Wilberforce writes that he had an interview with Lord Eldon, who was open, cordial, and generous, saying, “that he had told Pitt how much he wished to see him and Addington united, that he could not conceive any man in such times as these had a right to think of anything but the country, and my poor old master there, pointing to Buckingham House.”—Life, p. 247. See'also Twiss’s ‘Life of Lord Eldon,' i. 438–442.
ADDINGTON RESIGNS OFFICE.
unsealed letter to be laid before the King, in which he avowed his opposition to the Government, and his intention of supporting Fox in a motion he was to bring forward respecting the defences of the country. This motion came before the House on the 23rd of April, but was rejected by a majority of 52. Two days later Pitt opposed the order of the day for going into committee on a Government bill, objecting to the Government plan of defence, and explaining one of his own. The division gave him 203 votes against 240. Convinced that he could not much longer struggle against so formidable an Opposition, Addington resigned. The event was commemorated in a caricature by Gillray, entitled, “ The Confederated Coalition; or, The
Coalition; or, The Giants storming Heaven, with the Gods alarmed for their Everlasting Abodes,” in which the Titans of the ancient mythology, headed by Pitt, Fox, and Grenville, are seen advancing triumphantly to the attack of Olympus, which is feebly guarded by Addington, Lord St. Vincent, and Lord Hawkesbury.
Pitt was now requested to form a new Government, and the proposal he submitted to the King was based on a fair representation of all political parties. The King had parted very reluctantly with Addington, and with equal reluctance had accepted. Pitt.* But his refusal
* To Lord Eldon, on May 5th, he addressed the following private note :—“The King is much pleased with his excellent Chancellor's note: he doubts much whether Mr. Pitt will, after weighing the contents of the paper delivered this day to him by Lord Eldon, choose to have a personal interview with his Majesty; but whether he will not rather prepare another essay, containing as many empty words and little information as the one he had before transmitted.”—Life, i. 463.
to admit Mr. Fox was definite. We cannot help thinking that Pitt was not greatly concerned at the refusal; and he certainly made no effort to overcome the King's obstinacy. He
He may have felt, and we believe he did feel, that two suns cannot shine in one hemisphere; that there was not room in the same Cabinet for himself and Fox. He accordingly communicated to Fox and Lord Grenville the result of his negotiations. The former replied in a very generous tone. He was too old, he said, to feel any particular anxiety for office; but that he had many friends who for years had faithfully followed him. He should advise them to join the Government, and hoped that Pitt would provide them with places. He had previously written to Mr. Grenville to the effect that he did not wish to stand in the
any arrangement, and that he hoped his exclusion would not prevent either the Grenvilles or his own friends from accepting office. But Lord Grenville, while appreciating this disinterestedness, felt bound in honour to resent Fox's exclusion, and addressed to Pitt a very remarkable letter. After announcing the decision of himself and his friends not to enter the new Administration, he continued :-“No consideration of personal ease or comfort, no apprehension of responsibility, or reluctance to meet the real situation into which the country has been brought, have any weight in this decision : nor are we fettered with any engagements on the subject, either expressed or implied; we rest our determination solely on our strong sense of the impropriety of our becoming parties to a system of government which is to be formed at such a moment as the present on a principle of ex
clusion. It is unnecessary to dwell on the mischiefs which have already resulted from placing the great offices of government in weak and incapable hands. We see no hope of any effectual remedy of these mischiefs, but by uniting in the public service as large a proportion as possible of the weight, talents, and character, to be found in public men of all descriptions, and without any exception. This opinion I have already had occasion to express to you in the same words, and we have for some time been publicly acting in conformity to it; nor can we, while we remain impressed with that persuasion, concur in defeating an object for which the circumstances of the present times afford at once so strong an inducement, and so favourable an occasion. An opportunity now offers such as this country has seldom seen for giving to its government, in a moment of peculiar difficulty, the full benefit of the services of all those who, by the public voice and sentiment, are judged most capable of contributing to its prosperity and safety. The wishes of the public on this subject are completely in unison with its interests, and the advantages, which not this country alone, but all Europe and the whole civilized world, might derive from the establishment of such an Administration, at such a crisis, would probably have exceeded the most sanguine expectations." *
The advisability of such a coalition as Lord Grenville had recommended is admitted by Lord Stanhope. It would have been an inestimable advantage to have
* Courts and Cabinets of George the 3rd,' iü. 352, 353.