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When this ministry shall be settled, it will be the sixth in six years' time.'1
Alarming intelligence had been received of renewed war preparations in France, and Chatham resolved to guard against the danger that was still apprehended from the Family Compact, by a great northern alliance of England, Prussia, and Russia. Frederick, however, resented bitterly the desertion of England in the last war, and he utterly refused the alliance Of Chatham personally he spoke with respect and admiration, but professed himself entirely sceptical about the continuance of his power and popularity since he had accepted a peerage. Frederick had now entered into a close and separate connection with Russia, and was wholly alienated from England, while Russia would only accept the alliance if it were made to extend to a Turkish war.2 • One thing I feel,' wrote that experienced diplomatist, Sir Andrew Mitchell, that the late frequent changes in England have created a degree of diffidence in foreign Powers which renders all negotiation with them difficult and disagreeable.'3
The Government could thus point to no great triumph of policy to counterbalance its internal weakness. A project was indeed entertained of withdrawing the great dominions which had been conquered in Hindostan from the control of a mere mercantile company, placing them under the direct dominion of the Crown, and diverting to the public treasury the territorial as distinguished from the mercantile revenues. Clive had at one time suggested this measure, though he afterwards appears to have opposed it. Chatham attached very great importance to it, and Shelburne entered cordially into his views, but a parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the Company was the only step of importance that was taken before Chatham was hopelessly incapacitated by illness. It was moved in the Commons in November 1766, and it was characteristic of Chatham that he entrusted the motion, not to any of the responsible ministers of the Crown, but to Beckford, one of the vainest and most hot-headed of the City politicians. The inquiry was ordered by a large majority, in spite of the opposition of the Grenvilles and the Rockinghams; but Charles Townshend, while supporting it, took occasion to say, in direct opposition to the leading principle of Chatham, that he believed the Company had a right to territorial revenue.' Townshend was already intriguing against his chief, speaking openly against him in private circles, and probably aspiring to the position of Prime Minister, and he soon after more openly raised the standard of revolt by declaring his full sympathy with the policy of taxing America.
210. “There are four parties, Lord Northington said about this time, * Butes, Bedfords, Rockinghams, Chathams, and we (the last) are the weakest of the four.'-Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 34.
Chatham Correspondence, iii. 136.
? Ibid. iii. 6-9, 84-86.
* Ibid. iii. 62. Fitzmaurice's Info of Shelburne, ii. 16–18.
The Government was steadily becoming a Tory Government. Separated from the Grenville connection, from the Bedford connection, and from the Rockingham connection, the King's friends were necessarily its chief support. The King was gratified by the restoration of Mr. Stuart Mackenzie, the brother of Bute, to the post from which Grenville had so imperiously thrust him, subject however to the condition that he was to exercise no political power. Lord Northumberland, the brother-in-law of Bute, was thrown into paroxysms of fury because another nobleman had been preferred to him as Master of the Horse, but he was pacified by a dukedom ;3 and, to the astonishment and indignation of many of the old followers of Chatham, most of the vacant places were filled up by Tories. The power of the Government rested upon the extreme division of its opponents, and upon the firm union which was again established between the ministry and the Court. Each of these possessed so great an influence over elections and over members of Parliament that they could seldom fail when united to command a majority. The defeat of the Government on the land-tax was chiefly due to a surprise and to the selfish interests of the county members, but in most cases the Government, even when much divided, discredited, and outdebated, could count upon large majorities in the House of Commons. In critical divisions abstentions were very nume! Fitzmaurice's Life of Shelburne, 2 Chatham Correspondence, iii. 58.
s Grenville Papers, iii. 384, 385.
rous, and one or other section of the Opposition usually left the House.
The clouds darkened more and more. The health of Chatham, which was now of such capital importance, rapidly gave way. In the very first month of his administration he had been prostrated with fever, and it soon became evident that he could exercise no steady direction over affairs. From October 1766 till the following March he was at Bath, but was able to keep up some correspondence with his colleagues, but immediately on his return his disease appeared to settle mainly on his nerves. For some time it had been evident to close observers that his mind was gravely disordered. In public this was shown by the extraordinary and ungovernable arrogance with which he treated almost every leading politician with whom he came in contact; by the strange outbursts of wild rhodomontade that defaced some of his noblest speeches ; by the unbridled fury with which he often resented the slightest opposition. In private the symptoms were still more unequivocal. The legacy of Sir W. Pynsent had made him a rich man, but it was wholly insufficient for the extravagant expenses into which he now plunged. He bought up all the residences around Hayes and around his London house in order to free himself from neighbours. He ordered great plantations at Hayes, and pushed on the works with such feverish haste that it was necessary to continue them by torchlight throughout the night. He could not bear to have his children under the same roof, and could not tolerate the slightest noise. He sold Hayes and removed to Pynsent, where he insisted on covering a barren hill with cedars and cypresses, which were brought at enormous expense from London. A constant succession of chickens were boiling or roasting in his kitchen at every hour of the day, as his appetite was altogether uncertain, and when he desired to gratify it his temper could not brook the smallest delay. He soon grew tired of Pynsent, began to pine after Hayes, and at last, with great difficulty, Lady Chatham succeeded in repurchasing it for him. About nine months after he came to power his health wholly gave way. A gloomy and mysterious malady affecting his nerves and his mind, rendered him incapable of any mental exertion, of any political intercourse, of enduring even the faintest noise, of transacting the most ordinary business, and in this state he continued with little intermission from March 1767 for more than two years.'
1 The following were the numbers 131 to 67, 106 to 35, 180 to 147.-Walin several of the chief party divisions pole's George III. vol. ii. in 1766. 129 to 76,166 to 48, 140 to 56, ? Grenville Papers, iii. 279.
The Government fell at once into complete anarchy. The spell of the name of Chatham was still so great that he was kept at the head of affairs, but he was unable to take the smallest part in counsel or debate. Sometimes in the height of his malady he was seen taking exercise out of doors, but he could bear no discussion, he could make no mental effort. The King vainly asked an interview of but a quarter of an hour. He wrote letter after letter full of the kindest consideration, imploring him to see Grafton, if it were but for five minutes. He represented to him that the Government majority in the Lords was one day only six, and another only three; that Shelburne was plotting against his colleagues ; that Townshend was in open enmity with Grafton; that Conway had already announced his intention of resigning; that the Grenvilles, the Rockinghams, and the Bedfords were united in their efforts to storm the closet, while they confessed that they were far too divided to form an administration. The answers received by the hand of Lady Chatham were always in substance the same. Such was the state of Lord Chatham's health that his Majesty must not expect from him any further advice or assistance. He is overwhelmed with affliction still to find that the continuance in extreme weakness of nerves renders it impossible for him to flatter himself with being able soon to present himself before his Majesty. He is as yet utterly incapable of the smallest effort.' He had no wish to continue in a post the duties of which he was unable to discharge, and he again and again implored the King to accept his resignation ; but broken and in some respects discredited as he was, his name was still the one support of the Government. The King implored him to remain; Grafton, Camden, and Shelburne wrote urgently to the same effect. On one occasion Grafton obtained an interview with him, but he found him completely prostrated with nervous weakness and depression, and was able to extract from him little more than an entreaty to remain at his post, and the general advice to strengthen the ministry by some coalition; if possible, by a junction with the Bedford party.
i See Walpole's Memoirs of George III, iii. 41-44. Chatham Correspondence. Whately wrote (July 30, 1767), Lord Chatham's state of health (I was told authentically yesterday) is certainly the lowest dejection and debility that mind or body can be in. He sits all the day leaning on bis hands, which he supports on the table ; does not permit any person to remain in the room; knocks when he wants anything, and having made his wants known, gives a signal without speaking, to the person who
answered his call to return.' - Phillimore's Life of Lyttleton, p. 729.
Here [at Bath] Lord Chatham is, and goes out every day on horseback when the weather lets him, and looks rather thin and pallid ; but otherwise very well in appearance; he sees no one.'— Mr. Augustus Hervey to Mr. Grenville, Nov. 3, 1767. Grenville Papers, iv. 180. On May 5, 1767, Chesterfield wrote, “Lord Chatham is still ill, and only goes abroad for an hour a day to take the air in his coach.'-Chatham Corresp. iii. 253.
That ministry was now indeed the strangest spectacle of confusion. As Charlemont said, it 'was divided into as many parties as there were men in it. During the latter part of 1767 and some months of 1768 it continued in a condition of chronic fluctuation, perpetual negotiations and intrigues going on between the different fractions of the ministry and the different sections of the Opposition. Every leading Whig statesman took part in them, and in the course of them we for the last time find in public affairs the names of the old Duke of Newcastle and of Lord Holland. Without describing them in detail, it may be sufficient to relate the most important changes. In September 1767 Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons, died, and Lord North became Chancellor of the Exchequer. A few months later the Bedford faction effected a junction with the Government. The Duke indeed declined office, but Gower, Sandwich, Weymouth, and Rigby were introduced into the ministry, while Northington and Conway retired.?
See the interesting passage from kept them from breaking ; that he the Duke of Grafton's autobiography was the most efficient man among quoted in Walpole's George IŅI. iii. them, that he made each of them be51, 52.
lieve he was in love with them (sic) ? In one of Lord Lyttleton's let- and fooled them all; that unless that ters (Nov. 25, 1767) there is a very madman, Lord Chatham, should come curious account of a conversation of and throw a fireball in the midst of Lord Mansfield with the writer on them he thought they would stand the condition and prospects of the their ground, but what that might do ministry. Mansfield said that no he could not tell; that Lord Bute opposition would signify anything if alone could make a ministry which the ministers held together, that the could last ; that if he was dead no. King mediated between them and other man could do it so well. . . . He