Oldalképek
PDF
[ocr errors]

Thomas Grenville's union in the double negotiation Bookih, with Mr. Oswald (instructed by Shelburne, it will be re- T»t membered, as Grenville was by Fox) proved to be very 1TM"°TM distasteful to him. From the beginning it boded ill to the J""TM*" success of the mission. As early as the 4th of June, 1782, we find Mr. Grenville writing to Fox thus :—'I entreat *■»"»

.... . 3ION TO

you earnestly to see the impossibility of my assisting you P**tm.

under this contrariety I cannot fight a daily battle 17823

with Mr. Oswald and his Secretary.* It would be neither T Gremillo for the advantage of the business, for your interest, or for your credit or mine ; and, even if it was, / could not do it.' 1782.

The then existing arrangements of the Secretaryship of State gave the control of a negotiation with France to one Secretary, and of a negotiation with America to the other. The reader has but to call to mind the well-known political relationship between Fox and Shelburne in 1782, to gain a fully sufficient key to the consequent diplomatic relationship between Oswald and Thomas Grenville, when thus comp.ii*>

. .' , same to

engaged in carrying on, abreast, a double mission at the «»me. Court of Paris. To add to the obvious embroilment, Os- (cZru».i Wald had shortly before received from Benjamin Franklin ^Jj"' a suggestion that Britain should 'spontaneously' cede n- M-"-) Canada, in order to enable his astute countrymen at home the better to compensate both the plundered Royalists and those among the victorious opponents of those Royalists who had, from time to time, sustained any damage at the hands of the British armies.

The most earnest entreaties, from many quarters, were used to induce Gkenville to remain at Paris. His political friends, and his family connections, were, on that point, alike urgent. But all entreaties were in vain. When the

* Mcauing Lord Shelburne. See, heretofore, pp. 431-433.

Founder or THE Grenvili.k

LlBEABI.

to T. Grenville, 12th July.

nooEin, news reached him of Lord Rockingham's death, and of iu»p'V the break-up in the Cabinet which followed, his decision was, if possible, more decided. He still clave to Fox, while his brother, Lord Temple, accepted from Shelburne the Lieutenancy of Ireland. A Lordship of the Treasury or the Irish Secretaryship was by turns pressed upon Mr. Grenville by Lord Temple with an earnestness which Lord Temple may be called passionate. 'Let me hope,' said he, 'that you will feel that satisfaction that every [other] member of my family most earnestly feels at my acceptance of the Lieutenancy of Ireland. ... I conjure you, by everything that you prize nearest and dearest to your heart; by the joy I have ever felt in your welfare; by the interest I have ever taken in your uneasiness; weigh well your determination; it decides the complexion of my future hours

I have staked my happiness upon this cast.' The resolve of Thomas Grenville to adhere to the position he had taken was the cause of a family estrangement which endured for many years. But the more a reader, familiar with the annals of the time (and especially if he be also familiar with the personal history of Lord Temple before and after), may study Lord Temple's letters of 1782, the less he is likely to wonder that the peculiar line of argument they develope failed to attain the aim they had in view. The vein that runs through thein is plainly that of personal ambition; not of an adherence—at any cost—to a sincere conviction, whether right or wrong, of public duty. Such a line of argument was, at no time, the line likely to commend itself to Thomas Grenville. Both his virtues, and what by many politicians will be regarded as his weaknesses, alike armed him against obvious appeals to mere self-interest or self-aggrandisement.

[ocr errors]

One result—and the not unanticipated result—of the Bookiu,

ir Chap. V.

family estrangement of 1782 was that, two years later, Mr. Tm« Grenville found himself to have no longer the command of a seat in Parliament. For four years to come he gave most of his leisure to a pursuit which he loved much better —as far as personal taste was concerned—namely, to the resumption of his systematic studies in classical literature, Uamint,

1784-90.

But in 1790 he was elected a burgess for the town of Aidborough. Thenceforward, and for a good many years, politics again shared his time with literature, and with those social claims and duties to which no man of his day was more keenly alive.

In 1795 a second diplomatic mission was offered to him, and it was accepted. In the interval, another and more lasting change had come across his career in Parliament. He was one of the many 'Foxites' who utterly disapproved the course which their old leader adopted in regard to the French Revolution and to the rising passion to glorify and to imitate it at home. To the ' Man of the People' (as he was very fancifully called), the English countershock to the French overturn was, in one sense, specially fatal. It ripened peculiar, though hitherto in some degree latent, weaknesses. And with these, when they became salient, Thomas Grenville had really as little fellow-feeling as had Edmund Burke. Alike both men now supported Pitt, with whom, as experience increased and judgment matured, they both had always had intrinsically far more in common. And among the results of the new political relationships came a restoration of family harmony. George Grenville became Pitt's Foreign Secretary; Thomas Grenville became Pitt's Minister to the Court of Berlin. One year later, he again sat in Parliament for Buckingham.

Hook m, The mission to Berlin was first impeded by a threatened rlT,' shipwreck among icebergs at sea, and, when that imped i

l'OUNDER
OF THE

Grenville
Library.

ment had been with difficulty overcome, the journey was again and more seriously obstructed by an actual shipwreck upon the coast of Flanders. Mr. Grenville's life was exposed to imminent danger. After a desperate effort, he

The MisSion To Berlin,

i7»5. succeeded in saving his despatches and in scrambling to land. But he saved nothing else ; and the inevitable delay enabled the French Directory to send Sieves to Berlin, in advance of the ambassador of Britain. The able and versatile Frenchman made the best of his priority. Mr. Grenville was not found wanting in exertion, any more than in ability. But in the then posture of affairs the advantage in point of time, proved to be an advantage which no skill of fence could afterwards recover. Hence it was that the mission of 1795 became practically an abortive mission. With it ended the ambassador's diplomatic career.

The Almost equally brief was his subsequent actively official

Of laoT career in England. On the formation of Lord Grenville's Cabinet (February, 1806), no office was taken by the Premier's next brother. But on the death of Fox, six months later, he became First Lord of the Admiralty. That office he held until the formation of the Tory Government, in the month of April, 1807. It was too brief a term to give him any adequate opportunity of really evincing his administrative powers. And during almost forty remaining years of life he never took office again, contenting himself with that now nominal function (conferred on him in the year The-chief 1800), the 'Chief-Justiceship in Eyre, to the south of the

Justice*

Bhifw river Trent,' of the profits of which, as will be seen pre

Juth Of sently, he made a noble use. That office in Eyre had once

im-\»u Deen a mnctn of real gravity and potency. It was still

[ocr errors]

a surviving link between the feudal England of the Henrys Bookiii, and the Edwards, on the one hand, and the industrial m»'' England of the Georges on the other. Under a king who 'TMTM could govern, as well as reign, the 'Chief-Justiceship in Eyre' might have shown itself, in one particular, to possess a real and precious vitality still. By possibility, the sports of twelfth-century and chase-loving monarchs might have been made to alleviate the toils, to brighten the leisure, and to lengthen the lives, of nineteenth-century and hard-toiling artisans. For in exerting the still legal powers (long thi£c.iikf

° ... JUSTICRSIIIP

dormant, but not abolished) of the forest justiceship, a I»etms, potent check might have been provided against the profligate, although now common, abuse of the powers entrusted by Parliament to the Board of Woods and Forests. No new T'ON legislation was wanted to save many splendid tracts of forest land (over which the Crown then—and as well in 1845, as in 1800—possessed what might have been indestructible 'forestal rights'), for public enjoyment for ever. Existing laws would have sufficed. But no blame on this score lies at the charge of the then Chief Justice in Eyre. Had Mr. Grenville, for example, ever conceived the idea of using the Forest Laws to preserve for the English people, we will say, Epping Forest, or any other like sylvan tract on this side of Trent, as a 'People's'Park' for ever, he would have been laughed at as a Quixote. If Parliament in 1870 is fast becoming alive to the misconduct of those 'Commissioners' who have dealt with the Forestal rights of the Crown exactly in the spirit of the pettiest of village shopkeepers, rather than in the spirit of Ministers of State, there was in Mr. Gkknville's time scarcely the faintest whisper of any such conviction of public duty in regard to that matter. Not one Member of Parliament, I think, had ever (at that time) pointed out the gross hypocrisy, as well

« ElőzőTovább »