Oldalképek
PDF
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

news reached him of Lord ROCKINGHAM’s death, and of
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
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 determina-
tion; 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 en-
dured 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 TnMPLls’s letters of 1782, the
less he is likely to wonder that the peculiar line of argu-
ment they develope failed to attain the aim they had in
view. The vein that runs through them 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 weak-
nesses, alike armed him against obvious appeals to more i
self-interest or self-aggrandisement.

[graphic]

One result—and the not unanticipated result—of the family estrangement of 1782 was that, two years later, Mr. Gamvrmm 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. But in 1790 he was elected a burgess for the town of Aldborough. 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 Pr'rr, 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 Plr'r’s Foreign Secretary; Thomas GRENVILLE became Pr'r'r’s Minister to the Court of Berlin. One year later, he again sat in Parliament for Buckingham.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The mission to Berlin was first impeded by a threatened shipwreck among icebergs at sea, and, when that impediment had been with difficulty overcome, the journey was again and more seriously obstructed by an actual shipwreck upon the coast of Flanders. Mr. Gannvrnan’s life was exposed to imminent danger. After a desperate effort, he 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 SIEYES to Berlin, in advance of the ambassador of Britain. The able and versatile Frenchman made the best of his priority. Mr. Gannvuan 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. \Vith it ended the ambassador's diplomatic career. '

Almost equally brief was his subsequent actively official 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 1800), the ‘ Chief-Justiceship in Eyre, to the south of the river Trent,’ of the profits of which, as will be seen presently, he made a noble use. That office in Eyre had once been a function of real gravity and potency. It was still a surviving link between the feudal England of the Henrys and the Edwards, on the one hand, and the industrial England of the Georges on the other. Under a king who 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 leyal powers (long dormant, but not abolished) of the forest justiceship, a 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 legislation was wanted to save many splendid tracts of forest land (over which the Crown then—and as well in 1845, as

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

in 1800—p0ssessed 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. GRENVILLE’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

Boo-111. as the folly, of selling by the hands of one public board and crispy. . r“ for a few pounds hundreds of acres of ancient and lovely 23$,“ woodlands, and then presently buying, by the hands of 2:33?“ another public board, acres of dreary and almost unimproveable barrenness by the expenditure of several thousands of pounds, in order to provide new recreation grounds for ‘ public enjoyment !’ Of that forestal Chief-Justiceship Mr. GRENVILLE was the last holder. The office had been established by VVILLIAM THE CONQUERoa. It was abolished by Queen VICTORIA. One of _the chief pursuits of those forty years of retirement which ensued to the founder of the Grenville Library, upon the breaking up of the Grenville Administration of 1806, was book-buying and book-reading. ‘A great part of my Library’—so wrote Mr. GRENVlLLE, in 1845—‘has been purchased by the profits of a sinecure office given me by the Public.’ If that sinecure was not and, under the then circumstances, could not have been by its holder’s action or foresight, made the means of preserving for public enjoyment such of the ancient forests as, early in this century, were still intact in beauty, and also lay near to crowded and more or less unhealthy towns, it was at least made the means of giving to the nation a garden for the mind. ‘ I feel it,’ continued Mr. GRENVILLE, in his document of 1845, ‘to be a debt and a duty that I Willoflh should acknowledge my obligation by giving the Library 1'52", so acquired to the BRITISH Musnvm for the use of the 0°‘~18“- Public.’ MILT. I have had occasion, already, to mention that many years Gummy“ before his death Mr. GRENVILLE formed a very high

[ocr errors]

‘jv‘iffjn estimate of the eminent attainments and still more eminent :mA“ "I, public services of Sir A. PANIZZI. No man had a better Pamriu. opportunity of knowing, intimately, the merits of the then

« ElőzőTovább »