Oldalképek
PDF
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

administration of the army, Lord Shelburne had censured a transaction in which Mr. Fullerton, a Member of the House of Commons, was intimately concerned. Fullerton made a violent attack, in his place in the House, upon his censor. But his speech was so disorderly that he was forced to break off. In his anger he sent Lord Shelburne a minute, not only of what he had actually spoken, but of what he had intended to say, in addition, had the rules of Parliament permitted. And he had the effrontery to wind up his obliging communication with these words:—' You correspond, as I have heard abroad, with the enemies of your country.' His letter was presented to Lord Shelburne by a messenger.

The receiver, when he had read it, said to the bearer: 'The best answer I can give Mr. Fullerton is to desire him to meet me in Hyde Park, at five, to-morrow morning.' They fought, and Shelburne was wounded. On being asked how he felt himself, he looked at the wound, and said: 'I do not think that Lady Shelburne will be the worse for this.' But it was severe enough to interrupt, for a while, his political labours.

On the formation in March, 1782, of the Rockingham Administration, he accepted the Secretaryship of State, and took with him four of his adherents into the Cabinet. But the most curious feature in the transaction was that Lord Shelburne carried on, personally, all the intercourse in the royal closet that necessarily preceded the formation of the Ministry, although he was not to be its head. Georgk The Third would not admit Lord Rockingham to an audience until his Cabinet was completely formed. The man whose exclusion from the Grafton Ministry the King had so warmly urged a few years before, was now not less warmly urged by him to throw over his party, and to head a cabinet of his own. He resisted all blandishment, Bookii, and virtually told the King that the triumph of the Oppo- Book-1" sition must be its triumph as an unbroken whole; though r°TM^AND he doubtless felt, within himself, that the cohesion was of Bs**«<-•■

* TORS.

singularly frail tenacity.

On the 24th of March, Shelburne had the satisfaction of conveying to Lord Rockingham the royal concession of his constitutional demands—obtained after a wearisome negotiation, and only by the piling up of argument on argument in successive conversations at the 'Queen's House/ lasting sometimes for three mortal hours. Three DEATI1 op

, Lord Rock

months afterwards, the new Premier was dead. And with Mohah, him departed the cohesion of the Whigs. "*1"I>

As Secretary of State, Lord Shelburne's chief task F°»»*TMN

v' or Lord

had been the control of that double and most unwelcome 8hei-negotiation which was carried on at Pans with France and Ministry. with America.* Por it had fallen to the lot of the utterer • sphere

after, in life

of the 'sunset-speech,'!—' if we let America go, the sun of ^ Gren" Great Britain is set'—to arrange the terms of American BooklII'c" pacification. And the obstructions in that path which were created at home were even more serious stumblingblocks than were the difficulties abroad. The cardinal points of Lord Shelburne's policy, at this time, were to retain, by hook or crook, some amount or other of hold upon America, and at the worst to keep the Court of Prance from enjoying the prestige, or setting up the pretence, of having dictated the terms of peace.

That the split in the Whig party was really and alto

t This famous speech was delivered on the 5th of March, 1778. 'Tlien,' said Lord Shelbume, after denouncing measures which would sever the Colonies from the Kingdom, 'the sun of Great Britain is set. We shall be no more a powerful or even a respectable people.'—Parliamentary Debates, vol. xix, col. 850.

Lovers AND
Public
Benefac-
Tors.

Hookii, gether inevitable, now that Rockingham's death had placed Book- Shelburne above reasonable competition for the premiership, was made known to him when at Court, in the most abrupt manner. On the 7th of July (six days after the death of the Marquess), Fox took him by the sleeve, with M^-rrom the blunt question: 'Are you to be First Lord of the an eve »it- Treasury?' When Shelburne said 'Yes/ the instant

ness), 17»2, J'

Juij7- rejoinder was, 'Then, my Lord, I shall resign/ Fox had brought the seals in his pocket, and proceeded immediately to return them to the King.

In his first speech as Premier, Lord Shelburne spoke thus :—' It has been said that I have changed my opinion about the independence of America. . . . My opinion is still the same. When that independence shall have been established, the sun of England may be said to have set. I have used every effort, public and private—in England, and out of it—to avert so dreadful a disaster. . . . But though Pariiamtn. this country should have received a fatal blow, there is still vol.*TM, a duty incumbent upon its Ministers to use their most

col. 194.

vigorous exertions to prevent the Court of France from being in a situation to dictate the terms of Peace. The sun of England may have set. But we will improve the twilight. We will prepare for the rising of that sun again. And I hope England may yet see many, many happy days.'

The best achievements of the brief government of Lord Shelburne were (first) the resolute defence, in its diplomacy at Paris and Versailles, of our territories in Canada, and (secondly) its consistent assertion of the principle that underlay a sentence contained in a former speech of the Merits of Premier—a sentence which, at one time, was much upon Burns"1 men's hps :—' I will never consent,' he had said, 'that the Ministrt. King of England shall be a King of the Mahrattas.' The merits, I venture to think, of that short Ministry, have had Book n, scant acknowledgment in our current histories. And the Booktm reason is, perhaps, not far to seek. ai*d

The popular history of George The Third's reign has Benefacbeen, in a large degree, imbued with Whiggism. The historians most in vogue have had a sort of small apostolical succession amongst themselves, which has had the result of giving a strong party tinge to those versions of the course of political events in that reign which have most readily gained the public ear. When the full story shall come to be told, in a later day and from a higher stand-point, Lord Shelburne, not improbably, will be one among several statesmen whose reputation with posterity (in common—in some measure—with that of their royal master himself, it may even be) will be found to have been elevated, rather than lowered, by the process.

But, be that as it may, party intrigue, rather than minis- c«s«/«. terial incapacity, had to do, confessedly, with the rapid Z\.»m. overthrow of the Government of July, 1782.

Personally, Lord Shelburne was in a position which, in several points of view, bears a resemblance to that in which another able statesman, who had to fight against a powerful coterie, was to find himself forty years later. But in Shelburne's case, the struggle of the politician did not, as in Canning's, break down the bodily vigour of the man. Lord Shelburne had twenty-two years of retirement yet before him, when he resigned the premiership in 1783. And they were years of much happiness.

Part of that happiness was the result of the domestic Theclostxq

Ykvrs Of

union just adverted to. Another part of it accrued from Lord Lansthe rich Library which the research and attention of many l°TMs years had gradually built up, and from the increased leisure that had now been secured, both for study and for the

Book Ii, enjoyment of the choice society which gathered habitually

Boo»- at Lansdowne House and at Bowood.

prBL^AriD Lord Shelburne's retirement had been followed, in

■TMmc' 1784, by his creation as Earl Wycombe and Marquess of Lansdowne. In the following year, he sold the Wycombe mansion and its charming park to Lord Carrington. Thenceforward, Bowood had the benefit, exclusively, of his taste and skill in landscape-gardening. Unfortunately, his next successor, far from continuing his father's work, did much to injure and spoil it. But the third Marquess, in whom so many of his 'father's best qualities were combined with some that were especially his own, made ample amends.

The exciting debates which grew out of the Trench Revolution and the ensuing events on the Continent, called Lord Lansdowne, now and then, into the old arena. But the domestic employments which have been mentioned, together with that which was entailed by a large and varied correspondence, both at home and abroad, were the things which chiefly filled up his later years. The Marquess died in London on the seventh of May, 1805. He was but sixty-eight years of age, yet he was then the oldest general officer on the army list, having been gazetted as a majorgeneral just forty years before.

•run Pur. jn order to acquire for the nation that precious portion

CHASJ? 0F«, — 1*1 ■ • 1

THE LANS- of Lord Lansdowne's Library which was in manuscript, the Mamu- national purse-strings were now, for the first time, opened scam*. on Denajf 0f the iiterary stores of the British Museum.

Fifty-three years had passed since its complete foundation as a national institution, and exactly twice that number of years since the first public establishment of the Cottonian Library, yet no grant had been hitherto made by Par

« ElőzőTovább »