« НазадПродовжити »
make reservations in treating with the United States, and that he was prepared for the fullest recognition of American independence. Some concessions were made to France, and particularly to Spain *; but the really important feature of the treaty was the unqualified recognition of the American colonies as independent States. The preliminaries were unpopular, and Mr. Fox had taken advantage of that unpopularity in order to overthrow a weak Ministry; but the concessions made were necessary, and were wisely adopted by Mr. Fox in the definitive treaties which were signed under his auspices. If any blame was due for the concessions, it should have fallen on those who by their mismanagement of public affairs reduced England to such a state of weakness as compelled her to yield, not on those who extricated her from a hopeless and ruinous war. When the vote of censure was passed, Lord North and the Ministers ought to have changed places.f
* The cession of Gibraltar to Spain was seriously in question at this time. A history of the negotiation respecting it is given in * Flassan,' ib. pp. 345-353. Lord Grenville, in a letter of Dec. 15. 1782, mentions a rumour that Lord Shelburne was outvoted in the Cabinet upon the question of Gibraltar. (Buckingham Papers, vol. i. p. 89.) On two former occasions offers for the cession of Gibraltar had actually been made to Spain by the English Government,- once by General Stanhope in 1718, and again by the Elder Pitt in 1757. (See • Lord Mahon's History,' vol. ii. p. 127., vol. iv. p. 111.) Speaking of the negotiations for the treaty of 1783, Flassan says, "Les * ministres Anglais du moins, et particulièrement lord Shelburne et * lord Grantham, montrèrent de la droiture, et une envie de la paix qui n'était balancée que par la crainte que le parlement ne la trouvât pas assez avantageuse.' (Ibid. p. 365.)
† It is curious to observe how general the belief was, both in England and on the Continent, that the power and greatness of this country had been ruined by the loss of the American colonies. The
era of England's glory,' said Mr. Pitt, in defending the preliminaries of peace, 'is past; she is now under the awful and mortifying necessity of employing a language corresponding with her new condition.
The risions of her power and preeminence are passed away.' Coxe, in describing the effects of the Treaty of 1783, says: “The • Bourbon Courts exulted in the success of their machinations, and
confidently anticipated the speedy downfal of the British power.' (Bourbon Kings of Spain, c. 75.) Again he says: “France exulted * in having wrested the colonies from the mother country, and anticipated the advantages which she expected to derive from the diminution of the British commerce and power. The same opinion prevailed throughout the Continent, and the Court of Vienna in particular * prophesied that England would ultimately sink in the unequal contest with the House of Bourbon. Nor were there wanting even in
ted therein pel Crowangeroulets of the imple of Locoloniesed and
About a week after the beginning of the Session, Mr. Fox introduced his famous India Bill. Its principal feature was that it vested the government of India, for four years, in a commission of seven persons named in the Bill, and not appointed or removeable by the Crown. As soon as the plan was disclosed, Pitt denounced it as dangerous to the Constitution, and as a violation of the chartered rights of the East India Company ; and the most ambitious designs were imputed to its authors. The subject was properly in the department of Lord North, as Home Secretary *, for the same reason that the colonies were in his department; but the measure was introduced and managed by Mr. Fox, who had probably been assisted by Burke's advice in its preparation. The Bill, owing to the numerical strength of the Coalition, soon passed the House of Commons, and it was carried up to the Lords by Mr. Fox at the head of a large body of members on the 9th of December. Here, a different fate awaited it. The King, assisted by the suggestions of artful counsellors, sagaciously perceived that his enemies had given him the opportunity for which he was waiting. The Coalition had rendered Fox unpopular; his India Bill had alarmed the country. A canvass of the Peers against the India Bill was set on foot by the King, partly or chiefly through the medium of Lord Temple. In the House of Lords, the · King's 'friends' were numerous; and on the 17th of December the Bill was rejected by 95 to 76 votes. On the following day Fox and Lord North were required to deliver up their seals; and Pitt, seeing the change which had taken place since the spring, now consented to form a Government.
Pitt's Administration, though it lasted sixteen years, did not commence under happy auspices. However great his ability, his age was only twenty-five years; the majority of the House of Commons was against him, and the Coalition had absorbed so many of the leading members, that he had not in that House a single Cabinet minister to assist him. The late Government had been upset by the use of the King's personal influence in soliciting the votes of the Peers against his own Ministers. This royal interference was notorious, and almost avowed; Tomline, in his . Life of Pitt,' admits and defends it. Pitt doubtless took no part in this intrigue, but he knew of it, and profited by its results to obtain power. Lord Temple, who had accepted the
• England persons of enlightened minds, who regarded this peace as
the ruin of their country, and who predicted that “the sun of Great 6" Britain was set for ever.' (House of Austria, c. 48.)
* Tomline's Life of Pitt, vol. i. p. 463.
seals of Secretary of State, and who had been intended for leader of the House of Lords, found the feeling respecting his own conduct so strong, that he resigned his office in three days, in order that he might meet any charges against himself in a private station. This,' says Tomline, was the only event
of a public nature which I ever knew disturb Mr. Pitt's rest, · while he continued in good health.'* At that moment Mr. Pitt no doubt felt uncertain whether the waters were not closing around him. So great did the chances appear against his success in his hazardous undertaking, that when his writ was moved, on his acceptance of office, the motion was received with loud and general laughter by the Opposition.† Fox was confident that the attempt would fail. In a private note written at the time he says, “We are so strong, that nobody can undertake without madness, and if they do I think we shall destroy them almost as soon as they are formed.' This opinion he openly declared, and it was doubtless shared generally by his party.
The siege was now opened in form; a series of general votes of censure upon Ministers, and addresses to the Crown for the formation of a new Administration, were passed by the House of Commons. The King, however, refused to dismiss his Ministers, and Mr. Pitt refused to resign unless some specific charge was brought against him. The contest was carried on with consummate skill and ability by Fox on the one hand, and sustained with extraordinary coolness, courage, and judgment by Pitt on the other. Fox, however, abstained from going to extremities, being restrained, probably, by the reluctance of some of his friends; and while the struggle was still undecided, an attempt was made by some independent country gentlemen to
* Vol. i. p. 233. Mr. Fox, writing to Lord Northington, the Irish Chancellor, to inform him of Lord Temple's resignation, says, “What • will follow is not yet known, but I think there can be very little
doubt but our Administration will again be established. ...: The 'confusion of the enemy is beyond all description, and the triumph of
our friends proportionable.' Dec. 22. 1783. (Mem. of Fox, vol. ïi. p. 224.) † Tomline, Ib. p. 237.
Mem. of Fox, vol. ii. p. 221. Compare Tomline, Ib. p. 463. At this time it used to be the practice for Cabinet Ministers to appear in the House of Commons in full dress. Hence Lord North is always designated in the debates during tbe American war as the • noble Lord in the Blue Ribbon. We have been informed that, after Mr. Fox bad crossed to the Opposition bench, he continued to wear his full dress, in order to mark that, though dismissed by the King, he was still tho Minister whom the House kept in power.
bring about a junction between the two combatants.* The King was even prevailed upon to send a written message to the Duke of Portland, to propose a meeting between him and Mr. Pitt.f Mr. Pitt consented to have a conference with the Duke of Portland, · for the purpose of forming a new Adminis
tration on a wide basis, and on fair and equal terms;' but a discussion arose on the meaning of equal terms,' and the negotiation was broken off. The Opposition demanded that Pitt should resign before any attempt was made to form a united Government; but Pitt refused this demand, saying, that he could not resign in order to treat for office. The contest had now lasted for two months; the necessary supplies had been granted, and a Mutiny Bill passed; the majorities, which had been forty or fifty at the beginning, had dwindled down to one; and at last, without an Appropriation Act, on the 24th of
had wisely calculated the effect of time in turning public opinion in his favour. An earlier dissolution might have produced a balanced state of parties. As it was, the influence of general opinion upon the elections, even in the comparatively shackled state of the representation, was decisive. Above 160 members lost their seats, nearly all of whom belonged to the Opposition. The rout of the Coalition was complete, and after the long series of votes of censure carried against Pitt at the end of the preceding Parliament, the first vote in the new House gave him a majority of more than two to one. From that time Mr. Pitt's majority in the House of Commons remained unshaken.
Of this result, the principal cause was Fox's coalition with
* In one of the debates at this time, Mr. Fox said that he re
principles, none of which did any one whom he had consulted wish him to renounce. The union he (Mr. Fox) wished to see take place was a union of principle. (See Tomline, Ib. p. 356.)
+ Mem. of Fox, vol. ii. p. 234.
I The Duke of Richmond, who had separated from Mr. Fox when Lord Shelburne became Prime Minister, was a member of Pitt's Cabinet, and contributed essentially to support him against Fox on this trying occasion. “His firmness during the memorable contest of . 1784 is said to have prevented Mr. Pitt from following the example • of his cousin, Lord Temple, by resigning in despair. It was on that occasion George III. was reported to have said there was no man in his dominions by whom he had been so much offended, and no man to whom he was so much indebted, as the Duke of Richmond.' (Mem. of Fox, vol. i. p. 455.) See also Tomline, vol. i. p. 235. His reasons for separating from Fox are stated in Lord Albemarle's Memoirs of Lord Rockingham (vol. i. p. 340.).
Lord North. Although it gave him, for the moment, a large parliamentary support, it turned public opinion against him, and rendered his union with Pitt impossible. If his party was not strong enough to stand alone, and some junction was necessary, he clearly made the wrong choice in preferring Lord North to Pitt. His India Bill added to his unpopularity, and had a large share in the consequences of the election of 1784. It is difficult now to understand how the declamatory denunciations of that measure could have produced so great an effect on the country, or how the alarm which was expressed could have been really felt. Pitt may have been under the influence of strong personal prejudice, but his general character forbids the belief that his opposition was insincere. He had doubtless persuaded himself of the reality of the dangers which he described with so much force. The interference with the chartered rights of the Company, so far as they concerned the Government, not the trade, of India, seems to us to require no justification. The Company could have no vested interest in a form of Government which was not conducive to the public welfare. The appointment of an Indian Commission by Parliament, the members of which held their offices on the same tenure as the Judges, and could not be removed either by the Crown or the Company, was unusual, and might be fairly deemed objectionable.* *But to suppose that within the space of four years, and under the control of Parliament and public opinion, such a use was likely be made of the Indian patronage as would destroy the legitimate influence of the Crown, and insure the permanent triumph of Mr. Fox's party, appears extravagant and unreasonable. † In the first Session of the new Parliament Mr. Pitt introduced his India Bill, which was carried by a majority of 271 to 60; this Bill, by creating a Ministerial Board of Control for the affairs of India, established the system of double Government,' which has now existed for seventy years, and which was deli
which of an Indonducive ested interesting no justifi
* A protest, formally signed by Lord Rockingham, the Duke of Portland, Lord Fitzwilliam, and other peers, which was much quoted at the time, contained the following passage : ‘The election of executive • officers in Parliament is plainly unconstitutional, and an example of "the most pernicious kind, productive of intrigue and faction, and • calculated for extending a corrupt influence in the Crown. It frees Ministers from responsibility, while it leaves them all the effect of patronage. (See Adolphus, vol. iv. p. 59.)
† See Lord J. Russell's remarks on Fox's India Bill, vol. ii. pp. 96-100. A good summary of the objections made to it at the time is given in Tomline's Life of Pitt, vol. i. pp. 192-201.