THE inconvenience of having Thurlow for Chancellor was soon experienced by the new Government. Lord Rockingham and Lord Shelburne both agreed upon the propriety of carrying the "Contractors' Bill," which had been lately rejected, and, by way of redeeming their pledges, and maintaining their popularity, the reintroduction of it was one of their first measures. In the House of Lords it was fiercely attacked by the "Keeper of the King's conscience," who was thus answered by his colleague, Lord Camden, the new Lord President of the Council:
"My Lords, I must express my astonishment at the laborious industry exerted by the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack; I can only suppose that he wishes to eke out a long debate, which (confining ourselves to solid and rational discussion) might, in my humble apprehension, have terminated in half an hour. The bill presents to my mind but one idea; it is simple and obvious. The noble and learned Lord said its principles should be examined, and, in that single observation of all he addressed to you, I agree with him. I believe there is no noble Lord present who doubts of the existence of 'undue influence' in one shape or another, however denominated, or whatever aspect it may lately have assumed. A very distinguished member of the other House,g now transferred into this on account of his great talents and inflexible political integrity, moved a resolution which was carried against the minister by a considerable majority, 'That the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.' This is a full recognition on record of the existence of that evil which the principle of the bill was calculated to remove. I will not say that an improper or corrupt influence has ever in any instance operated on any of your Lordships. My regard for the purity and dignity of this assembly forbids me to entertain such a suspicion. Nevertheless, I most heartily concur in the resolution of my noble and learned friend, which we must not allow to remain a dead letter, but make the foundation of practical improvement. I can hardly believe that the noble and learned Lord was serious in denying the existence of all public corruption. Thank God! as far as my means and poor capacity could be exerted, I have uniformly set my face against it. I can assure your Lordships that the hope of assisting to remove this cause of our national misfortunes constituted one of the prime inducements for my taking a part in the administration. My colleagues in office, who entered into the King's councils along with me, I am sure are animated by a firm and unanimous resolution to reform all abuses, to promote public economy, and to give their Sovereign and the nation such proofs of their sincerity as must put it out of the power of any set of men to deprive them of their only means of solid support. The noble and learned Lord has tried to compel your Lordships to reject this bill, because you rejected a similar bill two years before. He seeks to deprive you of the exercise of your understanding, and to deprive the public of all advantage from the removal of prejudice and the advancement of knowledge. The bill is different in some of its provisions, and your Lordships are considering it under altered circumstances. This bill is part of a general plan of reform. To effectuate so great a work, my friends have been invited by the public voice to take office. If this bill be thrown out, there is an end of the present administration; they would be no more. Having failed in our expectations, we being unable to carry the measures which while in opposition we recommended to those in power, the nation would regard us with indignation if we continued to draw our salaries while we are under the dictation of those whom we despise. Corrupt and incapable as the last ministers were, I am free to confess, my Lords, that in that case it would be much better that they should be restored to power. They may possibly amend; but by remaining in office without the confidence of parliament and under the necessity of abandoning our objects, we should become daily more degraded and more contemptible, and we should not only ruin our own characters, but extinguish all confidence in public men, essentially injure the country, and take away all hope of better times."
Thurlow continued a most vexatious opposition to the bill in the committee, denouncing it as "a jumble of contradictions;" but Lord Camden left the farther defence of it to the two new law Lords, Lord Ashburton and Lord Grantley, and they fleshed their maiden swords in various rencounters with the "blatant beast" who tried to tread them down. In some of the divisions the ministerial majority was not more than two. The bill was carried, but the Administration was much shaken by this sample of the manner in which it was to be thwarted by the "King's friends."h
Lord Camden's next speech in the House of Lords was in support of the bill to declare the legislative independence of Ireland, which had become necessary from the determined efforts of the Irish "Volunteers," in consequence of moderate and reasonable concessions being long denied to the sister kingdom. This measure was prudent under existing circumstances, with a civil war raging, and foreign enemies multiplying around us; but any prudent statesman might have foreseen that it could not permanently be the basis of the connection between the two islands. The parliament of Ireland and the parliament of Great Britain being equally supreme and independent, they must ere long differ on questions of vital importance, without an arbiter to reconcile them; and if, from any calamity, the power of the Crown should be in abeyance, every tie which bound them together would be severed. Lord Loughborough urged, "that when there was no check upon the Irish parliament but the mere VETO upon bills, and the government of each country was to move in perfect equality, his Majesty would not be King in Ireland in any different manner from that in which he might be sovereign of any other separate territory. The contiguity of position might preserve a more constant intercourse between the subjects of both, and the communion of rights unite them more closely to each other; but it was a possible case, that their interests might be supposed to be conflicting, and what then was to pro-vent their separation?"
Lord Camden, not being able to solve these difficulties, and not venturing to hint at the remedy of a legislative union, regretted "that any debate had arisen on the subject; saying, that unanimity would have given the best chance of efficiency to a measure that must pass." He spoke much of the virtues of the Irish, and the hardships they had suffered. "The right of binding Ireland by a British statute could not be exercised. Why then should the right be claimed? His noble and learned friend had not suggested any other practical course than to agree to this bill. There was no difficulty in renouncing our right of judicature; so far it was a matter entirely for the consideration of the Irish: and as they now had a House of Lords consisting of men of great wisdom, knowledge, and integrity, assisted by their Judges, supposed to be well qualified to advise in matter of law, they were quite right in wishing to decide their own law-suits at home. With regard to legislation, there was more difficulty; but the present demand from the parliament of Ireland only echoed the voice of a brave, a generous, and an armed people; and he dreaded what might ensue if its justice or expediency were questioned."i The bill was very properly passed, with little more discussion; but, within seven years, upon the mental malady of George III. according to the doctrine which prevailed, that it lay with the two Houses of Parliament to supply the deficiency there might have been a choice of two different regents for the two islands; and in point of fact, the two islands were about to appoint the same regent by very different means, and with very different powers.
Soon afterwards came the disruption of the Whig government, by the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, and the appointment of Lord Shelburne to succeed him. Lord Camden was of opinion (and, I must say, with due deference to such names as Fox, Burke, and Lord John Cavendish, was rightly of opinion) that there was no sufficient ground for ministers to throw up their employments in a crisis of such danger to the state. The new Premier was not generally popular; but he was of liberal principles, he was of good abilities, he was a magnificent patron of learning and genius; and the Rockinghams, though personally disliking him, had been sitting with him in the same cabinet. A denial of the right of the King, under these circumstances, to prefer him, was something very much like an entire extinction of the royal authority by a political junto. Lord Camden, therefore, retained his office of President of the Council till he was ejected by the formation of the "Coalition Ministry." He was much grieved to be separated from political friends to whom he was sincerely attached, and chagrined to be brought into closer contact with Lord Thurlow, whose consequence in the Cabinet was much enhanced; but he earnestly superintended the negotiations for peace, and laboured to bring them to a favourable issue.k
Soon after the formation of Lord Shelburne's Government, it was in great danger from internal dissensions. The Duke of Grafton had been induced by Lord Camden to join it, and to accept the Privy Seal. Probably forming an exaggerated notion of his own importance, from his superior rank and the political station he had once filled, he thought himself slighted, and thus disclosed his griefs to his old friend:
"I begin to feel now what I have thought often before that a Lord Privy Seal, who is not known and understood to be confidentially trusted and consulted by the principal minister, cuts but a silly figure at a cabinet. If he is wholly silent, and tacitly comes in to all that is brought there, he becomes insignificant as he is deemed officious and troublesome if his opinions urge him to take a more active part than his office appears to call from him. I have too much warmth and zeal in my disposition not to be drawn into the latter; and my spirit revolting at the former, I find that I must make my retreat if my suspicions should be realised, and that the Earl of Shelburne circumscribed his confidence towards me within the bounds of great civility and appearance of communication." [After at great length stating the means by which he had connected himself with Lord Shelburne, and his supposed ill usage, he says,] "I had once resolved, from a dislike to suspense, to have told you all I thought and felt on the subject; but it is knowing too little of mankind to think that opinions or real confidence can be forced. You may as well force love, and I was and think I shall remain silent. However, it has eased my mind in some degree to have opened my design to your Lordship. We have moved so much on the same principle, that I cannot help wishing to hear what you say about me. My case is particular: recollect the situation I have been in, and that, thank God! I have nothing I want, and nothing I fear from any minister; and, above all, that my domestic peace and happiness ought to be most the object of my wishes and pursuits; and then say, my dear Lord, if I am not right."
Thus Lord Camden replied:
"I have seen and observed with infinite concern that Lord S. has by no means treated your Grace with that confidence I expected, after you had so earnestly laboured to support his new administration, not only by taking so important a post in it yourself, but by keeping others steady who were wavering at that critical moment. I am myself an instance and a proof of your Grace's endeavours, for your persuasion had more force with me than any other motive to remain in my present office. I was therefore disappointed, seeing the Earl of S. so negligent in his attention to your Grace; as if, when his administration was settled, he had no further occasion for those to whom he was indebted for the credit of his situation. Your Grace's real importance demanded the openest communication, and your friendship the most confidential return, and therefore I cannot be wholly without suspicion that his Lordship means to take a line, and pursue a system, not likely to meet with your Grace's approbation; and if he does, 1 am not surprised at his reserve: for where there is a fundamental difference of opinion there can be no confidence. However, I will not suffer my suspicions to operate with me till I have demonstration by facts. Lord S. continues to make professions of adhering to those principles we all avowed upon the first change, and he has pledged himself publicly to support them in which respect it is but reasonable to wait some time for the performance of his promises. At the same time I do readily admit your Grace's dignity, rank, and former situation require something more, and you ought not, as Duke of Grafton, to submit to so under a part with the Earl of Shelburne as to be Privy Seal without confidence. But considering the perilous condition of the public at this conjuncture, I should be much concerned if your Grace was to take a hasty resolution of retiring just now, because your retreat would certainly be followed by other resignations, and would totally unwhig the administration, if I may use the expression;m and this second breach, following so quick upon the first, would throw the nation into a ferment. It will not be possible when the parliament meets for Lord S. to conceal or disguise his real sentiments; and if it should then appear that the government in his hands is to be rebuilt upon the old bottom of influence, your Grace will soon have an opportunity of making your retreat on better grounds than private disgust.
"I am not more fortunate than your Grace in sharing his Lordship's confidence. Yet, though 'I am bound only for three months,' and have the fair excuse of age to plead, I would not willingly risk the chance of any disturbance at this time by an abrupt resignation, but would rather wish, if such a measure should hereafter become necessary, to take it in conjunction with others upon public grounds.
"I am, besides, but too apprehensive that more than one of us will be ripe for it, perhaps before the session. Lord K., I know from certainty, will quit after the campaign. The D. of R.'s discontent is marked in his countenance; and if the Whigs should desert, neither G. C., nor Mr. Pitt, nor even Mr. T., would have the courage to remain behind. I do not, my dear Lord, conceive it possible that a cabinet composed as ours is can be of long duration; especially if Lord S. confines his confidence to one or two of those possibly obnoxious to the others. I have had a long friendship for the Earl, and cannot easily be brought over to act a hostile part against him, and for that, as well as other reasons, cannot help expressing my own wishes that your Grace may wait awhile; at least till you have received most evident conviction of his indifference to your opinions and assistance."
The Duke of Grafton says: "Lord Camden's advice prevailed, and I readily acquiesced in his opinion on this occasion, as I was always inclined to do on most others."n Thus harmony was restored, and Lord Shelburne's Government went on with some vigour till the preliminaries of peace were signed.
Mr. Fox and Lord North, by their ill-starred union, having then obtained in the House of Commons a large majority, and passed a vote of censure on the terms agreed to, parties were thrown into a state of unexampled confusion. Lord Shelburne was still unwilling to retire, and hoping to create a difference between the chiefs associated for his overthrow, meditated to form a coalition himself either with the one or the other of them. Meanwhile his colleagues strongly pressed him to resign. The Duke of Grafton demanded an audience of the King, and, acting singly, though with the approbation of Lord Camden, surrendered the Privy Seal into the King's hands, on account of his disagreement with the head of the Cabinet. His Grace, after relating his conversation with George III., gives a very lively sketch of the state of the ministry at this time:
"Previously to my going to St. James's, Lord Camden called on me, and imparted all that he found himself at liberty to say of a very serious conversation he had that morning with the Earl of Shelburne, who had sent for Lord Camden, as he now and then did when he found himself in difficulties, and on this occasion to consult Lord Camden on the part it became the Earl to take. The substance of Lord Camden's advice was decisive, and nearly this: that Lord Shelburne should retire, as unfortunately it plainly appeared that the personal dislike was too strong for him to attempt to stem with any hope of credit to himself, advantage to the King, or benefit to the country; that he had it in his power to retire now with credit and the approbation of the world, for whatever the acts and powers of united parties had expressed by votes in parliament, &c., still the nation felt themselves obliged to him for having put an end to such a war by a peace which exceeded the expectations of all moderate, fair-judging men. Lord Camden further said to his Lordship, that he might add lustre to his retreat by prevailing on the King to call on the body of the Whigs to form an administration as comprehensive as could be. Lord Camden went further, by saying, that if Lord Shelburne could not be prevailed on to take either of the steps which would give him most credit with the world, and that he was still from engagement or inclination instigated to stand as minister, he had nothing better to advise than that his Lordship should, with manly courage, avow a close junction with Lord North's party, if he could so manage it. This, indeed, might enable his Lordship to carry an administration which a middle way and a partial junction never would effect. Lord Camden added, that he thought the last scheme to be that which ought, if possible, to be avoided. I observed to Lord Camden that I was clear, notwithstanding the advice, that Lord Shelburne preferred it to all the others, and that such would be his decision. The object of sending for Lord Camden, I believe, was with the hopes to draw him into his opinion if he was able, and by no means to take his advice unless it could be made to coincide with the part he was decided to take, though he did not perceive that it was now too late for his plan to succeed. Lord Camden freely acquainted Lord Shelburne that he could not remain at any rate, that the whole was new modelled, and that he must claim his right of retiring at three months, and which had been stipulated at Lord Rockingham's death. Lord Camden urged to him strongly the propriety of his coming to his decision before two days were expired: the other inclined to see the event of as many months. On the 21st, Lord Camden called on me in the morning, and, after much lamentation on the alarming state of public matters, he told me that he was fully determined to quit his office, but that he should take every precaution to make it particularly clear that his resignation should not be interwoven with Lord Shelburne's retreat: he was anxious that his Lordship's conduct on the present occasion should neither guide his in reality nor in appearance. Lord Camden's decision pleased me much, as I told him, for his character entitled him to take his own part whenever he thought the ground good and honourable, without being actuated by the decision of any person whatever."
Lord Camden accordingly resigned in a few days after, and Mr. Fox and Lord North remaining steady to their engagements, notwithstanding all the attempts which were made to disunite them, Lord Shelburne was obliged to retire, the Cabinet was stormed, and, for a brief space, the "Coalition Ministry" was triumphant.
Lord Camden now went into violent opposition, and listed himself under the banner of the younger Pitt, delighted to recognise in him the brilliant talents and the lofty aspirations of the friend of his youth, his political patron, and the associate of his old age with whom he had long fought the battles of the Constitution.o
When Mr. Fox's India Bill, after its most stormy passage through the Commons, at last reached the House of Lords, it was violently assailed by the ex-Chancellor, who denounced its principle as being an arbitrary infringement of the property and the rights of the greatest Company in the world. "This bill," he said, "was tantamount to a commission of bankruptcy or a commission of lunacy against them: it pronounced them to be unable to proceed in their trade, either from want of property, or from want of mental capacity. The only argument for this violent measure was that of necessity which had been used by the worst kings and the worst ministers for the most atrocious acts recorded in history. The only necessity for the bill was that ministers might preserve their power and increase their patronage. The author of the bill was himself to appoint to every office in India. The influence of the Crown had been, to a certain degree, curtailed by late reforms, but now it would be infinitely greater than when one section of the present Government had beaten the other on the resolution that 'the influence of the Crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished.' He lamented the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, who, had he survived, would have adhered steadily to the doctrines of Whiggism, and he lamented still more deeply that some of those who called themselves his friends should now favour a measure so inconsistent with the principles which it had been the labour of that great man's life to establish."p
The bill being rejected in the House of Lords by a majority of 95 to 76, the "Coalition Ministry" being dismissed, and William Pitt, at the age of twenty-four, being made Prime Minister, it was expected that Lord Camden would immediately have resumed his office of President of the Council, and this would have happened had he not waived his claim, that he might facilitate the new arrangements. Earl Gower, afterwards Marquis of Stafford, although he had never had the slightest intercourse with Mr. Pitt, entertained a great admiration of his talents and his character, and sent him a message by a confidential friend that, "desiring to enjoy retirement for the rest of his life, he had no wish for any office, but that in the present situation of the King, and distressed state of the country, he would cheerfully take any office in which it might be thought he could be useful." His name and experience were likely to be of great benefit to Mr. Pitt at this moment, particularly as Lord Temple, after holding the Seal of Secretary of State for a few days, had thrown it up. The Presidency of the Council, with high rank and little work, was thought the post which would be most suitable and agreeable to Lord Gower. He was accordingly appointed to it, and held it during the stormy session which ensued, when the young minister, supported by the King and the nation, fought his gallant fight against the combined bands of Tories and Whigs who had vowed his destruction.
Although the rejection of the India Bill by the Lords had put an end to the "Coalition Ministry," there was perfect tranquillity in their House for the rest of the session, while the storm was raging in the House of Commons insomuch that Lord Camden, although prepared to support the new Administration, had no occasion to come forward once in their defence. When the session was closed by a prorogation, and, parliament being dissolved, the people pronounced decidedly against the Coalition, Mr. Pitt's difficulties were over, and he was in the proudest situation ever occupied by a minister under an English sovereign.
Lord Gower's assistance might now have been dispensed with, but his taste of office had pleased him, and he felt no inclination to withdraw again into private life. Lord Camden would not put the Government to any inconvenience by an impatient desire to resume his office, and during the recess he paid a long visit to Ireland, with the double object of seeing his favourite daughter, and of acquiring information to enable him to assist in carrying the important measures which the minister was about to bring forward for the establishment of a free trade between the two countries.
While there he wrote the Duke of Grafton the following letter on Parliamentary Reform, giving a most interesting view of the state of public feeling among the Irish, after they had obtained "independence:"
"There is one question which seems to have taken possession of the whole kingdom, and that is the reform of parliament about which they seem very much in earnest. Those who wish so much for that reformation at home, cannot with much consistence refuse it to Ireland, and yet their corrupt parliament must be considered the only means we have left to preserve the union between the two countries. But that argument will not bear the light, and no means ought, in my opinion, to be adopted too scandalous to be avowed. I foresaw when we were compelled to grant independence to Ireland the mischief of the concession, and that sooner or later a civil war would be the consequence a consequence ruinous to England, but fatal to Ireland, for she must at all events be enslaved either to England or France. This people are intoxicated with their good fortune, and wish to quarrel with England to prove their independence. Big with their own importance, and proud of their 'Volunteers,' they are a match, as they imagine, for the whole world. But as Galba describes the Romans, 'Nec totam servitutem pati possunt, nec totam libertatem.' This misfortune would never have happened if our government had not been tyrannical and oppressive."
On Lord Camden's return to England, a negotiation was opened for his restoration to the Cabinet. He consented on the condition that an effort should be made to induce his old chief, the Duke of Grafton, to join the Administration, Mr. Pitt was pleased with the proposal, for he still professed himself to be a stout Whig, and he wished to have some counterbalance in his government to the Sidneys, the Gowers, and the Thurlows. The plan was to transfer Lord Gower to the Privy Seal, and to make Lord Carmarthen resign his office of Secretary of State. Lord Camden thus writes to the Duke of Grafton, giving him an account of the negotiation:
"Mr. P. told me he had mentioned to Lord G. his wish that he would consent to exchange his office for the Privy Seal, and believed he should find no difficulty in obtaining that compliance; that he had not yet found an opportunity of sounding Ld C., as it was nut easy for him to make such a proposal as might tempt him to retire from his present situation, but that it was upon his mind, and that your Grace as well as myself might be assured the very moment any vacancy in the Cabinet could be procured that your Grace would condescend to accept, it should be done. I must do Mr. Pitt the justice to say he expressed as earnest a desire as myself to a close and intimate political conjunction with your Grace, and saw clearly the great utility of the Cabinet having so clear a Whig complexion as our accession would give it."
In a subsequent letter, Lord Camden, after speaking of the negotiation for the resignation of Lord Carmarthen, says,
"If that difficulty is removed, I should hardly allow your Grace's plea of disability, or fear, to undertake so arduous an employment to have the weight of an insurmountable objection. If that was sufficient in your Grace, who are now in the very vigour of your age and the ripeness of your understanding, to warrant a refusal, what can be said to me, who am in the last stage of life, when both mind and body are in a state of decline, and are every day tending towards total incapacity? In reality, such is my backwardness to embark in business, that nothing but the comfort of your Grace's support and co-operation could have prevailed upon me to alter my determined purpose (for so it was till I was overruled) for final retirement. And I am afraid, if I know my own feelings, I should perhaps be pleased at my heart, and almost thank your Grace, if you should, by withdrawing yourself, give me an honest excuse for breaking off. I have read the Dean of St. Asaph's trial, and confess I have seen nothing libellous in the paper, and am, besides, more displeased with Judge Buller's behaviour than I was formerly with Lord Mansfield's. Something ought to be done to settle this dispute: otherwise the control of the press will be taken out of the hands of the juries in England, and surrendered up to the Judges."
It was found impossible to prevail on Lord Carmarthen to retire. This disappointment Lord Camden communicated in a letter to the Duke of Grafton, in which, after stating that no vacancy could then be made for him in the Cabinet, he thus proceeds:
"And now, my dear Lord, what part does it become me to take? I don't ask your advice, because I have taken my part already, and have agreed to come in; but I will state my own difficulties, and the true reason that prevailed upon me, at last, to accept. I am more averse than ever to plunge again into business in the last stage of my life. I do not like the Cabinet, as composed; the times are full of difficulty, and the C. not much inclined to persons of our description. Add to this, my own aversion to business, now almost constitutional from a habit of indolence; and, above all, the want of your Grace's support, the only circumstance that made me enter into this engagement after I had, over and over again, given a positive denial. These, you must allow, were weighty considerations; and yet, though I was fairly released by Mr. Pitt's failing to make that opening he had engaged to make, and your Grace's postponing your acceptance till the end of the session, yet, when I consider that Mr. Pitt would be cruelly disappointed and perhaps, in some sort, disgraced upon my refusal, after he had engaged Lord Gower to exchange his office, and that I was pressed in the strongest manner by all my friends, and more particularly by your Grace, who was pleased to think my coming forward would be useful to the public, and help to establish the Administration, I took the resolution to vanquish my reluctance, and to sacrifice my own ease to the wishes of other men."
It was still some weeks before the arrangement was completed, and then Lord Camden, after informing the Duke of Grafton that Lord Gower had at last actually exchanged the Presidency of the Council for the Privy Seal, adds:
"I am now called upon to fill up the vacancy. I go to it with a heavy heart, being separated from your Grace, with whom I had intended to have closed my political life iterum mersus civilibus undis, at a time of life when I ought to have retired to a monastery; but as the die is cast, I will go to the drudgery without any more complaining, and do my best: as I have lost all ambition, and am happily not infected with avarice, and as my children are all reasonably provided for according to their rank and station, I can have no temptation to do wrong; and therefore though, in my present situation when I do not ask the employment but am solicited to accept it, I might, after the fashion of the world, put some price upon myself, I am determined neither to ask nor to accept any favour or emolument whatever for the sacrifice of my own ease.
"I have employed myself of late in examining with some attention the proceedings of the Court of King's Bench in the libel cause of the Dean of St. Asaph, thinking it probable it might have been brought by writ of error into our House; but they have taken care to prevent that review by arresting the judgment, and so the great question between the Judge and the jury in this important business is to go no further, though it is now strengthened by a solemn decision of the Court, which never happened before. This determination, in my poor opinion, strikes directly at the liberty of the press, and yet is likely to pass sub silentio. The newspapers are modest upon the subject, because Mr. Erskine is not to be commended by one party, or Lord Mansfield run down by the other. Thus your Grace sees that public spirit is smothered by party politics."
Lord Camden, notwithstanding some affectation of reluctance, very cheerfully resumed his office of President of the Council, and continued to fill it during a period of nine years, always co-operating most harmoniously and zealously with the "Heaven-born Minister," who, although he began to be nicknamed "Billy Pitt the Tory," and although his zeal for reform did cool considerably, cannot be accused of bringing forward any measure which a Whig might not have supported, till the aged Lord President had disappeared from the scene.
The session of 1785 was chiefly occupied with the measures to establish free trade with Ireland, which were so creditable to their author the first English minister who was a pupil of Adam Smith. However, they were furiously opposed by the English manufacturers, with Mr. Peel, the father of the great Sir Robert, at their head, foretelling entire ruin to England if the laws against the importation of Irish manufactures were removed, as, from the low price of labour and the lightness of taxation in Ireland, cotton might be spun, muslin woven, and every sort of fabric finished there at an infinitely cheaper rate than in England; so that, if the proposed abolition were agreed to, English industry would be paralysed, grass would grow in the streets of Manchester, and we should become a nation of paupers. Mr. Peel threatened that he would remove, with his capital and his family, to the sister isle, which was thus to be so highly favoured at the expense of the mother country. In the House of Lords, these views were zealously supported by Lord Stormont and other Peers. But the resolutions were defended, in a masterly speech, by Lord Camden. He said,
"That, to his knowledge, nothing but the strongest necessity could have induced the Minister to undertake a measure so weighty, which, however conducted, was sure to be productive of murmurs and discontent among many who, upon all other subjects, were disposed to be his warmest supporters."
He then drew an affecting picture of the present wretchedness of Ireland he described her great natural advantages he explained her wrongs he sought to create alarm by her loud demands of redress:
"The tranquillity of the empire," said he, "is at stake. The Irish will next lay their grievances at the foot of the throne; and importune the Sovereign of both countries to take part with the one against the interest, or rather the prejudices, of the other. Here is the foundation of a civil war. Does it not become the providence of the Government to guard against such an emergency? The discontents of the Irish are in proportion to their sufferings."
Having detailed the proposed regulations for establishing free trade between the two islands, he considered the objections to them:
"With respect to the argument of cheapness of labour, which has given such terrors to the manufacturers," he observed, "I confess I see it without alarm. This cheapness of labour must only continue during the rudeness of art; and, in the meanwhile, the rich and manufacturing country must enjoy the benefits of superior skill. There the finished article will still be cheaper. As to Mr. Peel, and the other intelligent witnesses examined at your bar, who threaten to emigrate to Connaught, I feel no uneasiness. If they really should form spinning establishments in that wild region, they may do much to civilise and improve it; and in Lancashire their place may be supplied by others equally enterprising and respectable. They are not more reasonable than our manufacturers of silk and iron, who call upon us to lay such duties upon these articles, when exported from Ireland, that the Irish may be excluded from competition in supplying them to the American market. These requests may all be traced to their true source the itch of monopoly. Let us not have protecting duties on one side of the water, with retaliating prohibitions on the other, which will foster growing enmity between us, to the delight and aggrandizement of our common enemies."
Still there were thirty votes in the negative; and a protest was signed, I am sorry to say, by Lord Derby, Lord Fitzwilliam, and other Whig Peers.
When Mr. Pitt again brought forward his motion for a Reform in Parliament, Lord Camden gave him all the assistance and encouragement in his power; and the following letter, urging the Duke of Grafton to compel one of his members, who was rather doubtful, to vote for the measure, affords, I think, strong evidence of the Premier's sincerity:
"My dear Lord,
"I find myself under a necessity of troubling your Grace, at Mr. Pitt's request, upon a question which I have always thought of the highest importance to the Constitution, I mean the Reform of Parliament. And, if your Grace thinks upon the subject as I do, you will lend your aid by imparting your wishes to such of your friends as are likely to pay attention to your opinion. Mr. Pitt is not assured how Mr. Hopkins stands inclined to this measure, but is very anxious to obtain his concurrence, unless he is really and conscientiously averse to it. At least he wishes, and would think that he may not unreasonably hope, that he would give his vote for bringing in the Bill. When I have said this, I have said all that becomes me to say on this occasion, adding only that Mr. Pitt's character, as well as his administration, is in some danger of being shaken, if his motion is defeated by a considerable majority. I do confess myself to be warmly interested in the event, upon every consideration, and that, perhaps, is the best apology I can make your Grace for giving you this trouble, leaving it entirely to your own wisdom to judge how far it would be fitting or agreeable to your Grace to communicate your wishes to Mr. Hopkins.
"I am," &c.
I will here introduce two letters written at this time, showing, in an amusing manner, how an application used to be made, and evaded, to promote a Bishop. The individual to be translated was Hinchcliffe, who, since the year 1769, had held the poor see of Peterborough, where he had been placed by the Duke of Grafton, when Premier. The first letter is to his Grace from Lord Camden:
"I was forced to wait some days before I could meet with an opportunity of conferring with Mr. Pitt, and when he had, after a full conversation, explained himself, though I think I perfectly understood the substance, I would not venture to put my own sense upon his words. I begged that he would at his first leisure put it down in writing which I have this day received. But I should not care to send it by the common post, unless I should have your Grace's commands for that purpose. To say the truth, I do wonder a little upon reflection, that we have hazarded our correspondence as we have done by the post. I will only add, that the answer, as far as I can judge, will give your Grace satisfaction. Courtly expressions and complimental civility are of course, and go for nothing; but I am much mistaken indeed if Mr. P. is not as sincere in his intentions as he is cordial in his expressions."
The following is the Prime Minister's courteous and cautious reply:
"Downing Street, Feb. 4, 1786.
"My dear Lord,
"In answer to the communication your Lordship was so good to make to me from the Duke of Grafton, I should be greatly obliged to you if you will assure him that, from the desire I entertain of showing every possible attention to his Grace's wishes, he may rely on my being happy to find an opportunity of recommending the Bishop of Peterborough to his Majesty for advancement on the Bench. His Grace not having particularly mentioned any specific object, and it being difficult to foresee the arrangements which may be taken till a vacancy happens in some of the most considerable sees, I can do no more than express my general inclination to meet his Grace's wishes as far as circumstances will allow. Indeed I think there is every reason to suppose that in the course of no very long time openings must occur which may admit of some desirable promotion being proposed to the Bishop, and it will give me great pleasure whenever it can be done to his Grace's satisfaction.
"I am ever,
"My dear Lord,
"With great attachment and regard,
"Most sincerely yours,
"The Rt Honble Lord Camden.''
As might have been foreseen, Hinchcliffe lived and died Bishop of Peterborough.q
On the 13th of May, 1786, Lord Camden's services to the Minister were recognised by his being raised in the peerage: he was created Viscount Bayham, of Bayham Abbey, in the county of Sussex, and Earl Camden.
His chief antagonist in the House of Lords, in his later years, was Lord Loughborough, who was in hot opposition from the dissolution of the "Coalition Ministry," till he went over with the "Alarmists" at the commencement of the French Revolution. Against him he ably defended the East India Judicature Bill,r the Excise Bill,s and other measures of Government; but Mr. Pitt's ascendency was now so triumphant, that the Lords had little to do but to amuse themselves with Mr. Hastings's trial, and they had no other debate of permanent interest till the nation was thrown into consternation and confusion, in the year 1788, by the King's illness.
g Dunning, Lord Ashburton. See 21 Parl. Hist. 340, 6th April, 1780; majority, 233 to 215.
h 22 Parl. Hist. 1356-1382.
i 23 Parl. Hist. 44. See Lord Camden's letter on this subject, 13th Aug. 1784, post.
k While the negotiations for peace were going on, it would appear that the President of the Council was confidentially consulted respecting the different articles. There was now, as there had been at antecedent periods, a disposition to restore Gibraltar to Spain; but this he strenuously resisted. "With Lord Camden," says the Duke of Grafton, "I had much conversation; he appeared to me to lean now considerably to the opinion that Gibraltar is of more consequence to this kingdom, and that the views of its ministers ought in future to look to the possession of it as an object of more value than at first imagined; as likewise that the cession of it, even on good terms, would be grating to the feelings of the nation." Journal, 1782.
m The only other occasion I recollect of this word being used was when Mr. Fox, on the King's illness, having contended that the heir apparent was entitled as of right to be Regent, Mr. Pitt, smacking his thigh, exclaimed, "For this doctrine I will 'unwhig' him for the rest of his days."
n Journal, Aug. 1782.
o It might truly have been said of Lord Chatham and Lord Camden, that "in many a glorious and well-foughten field they kept together in their chivalry." p 24 Parl. Hist. 190.
q However, he was solaced with the Deanery of Durham.
r 26 Parl. Hist 131.
s Being then in his 72nd year, he took occasion to declare that his youthful sentiments in favour of the liberty of the subject remained unaltered. "I allow that the extension of the excise laws is dangerous, and fraught with multifarious mischiefs. It unhinges the constitutional rights of juries, and violates the popular maxim that 'every man's house is his castle.' I have long imbibed these principles; I have been early tutored in the school of our constitution as handed down by our ancestors, and I shall not easily get rid of early predilections. They still hang hovering about my heart. These are the new sprouts of an old stalk. Trial by jury is indeed the foundation of our free constitution; take that away, and the whole fabric will soon moulder into dust. These are the sentiments of my youth, inculcated by precept, improved by experience, and warranted by example. Yet, strange as it may appear to your Lordships, the necessity of the case obliges me to give my assent to the present bill," &c. 26 Parl. Hist. 177.
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