« ForrigeFortsett »
TO JAMES PAUL,
of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County,
in the State of Pennsylvania ;
MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE
PRINCESS OF WALES.
(Political Register, March, 1813.)
London, 19th March, 1813. MY DEAR FRIEND,
You must remember, that, while I was in Newgate for writing about the flogging of the English Local militiamen at the town of Ely, and the employment of German troops upon the occasion; you must remember, that, while I was in that jail, and not many months before the expiration of my two years, and the payment of a fine of a thousand pounds which the Prince Regent received in behalf of his Royal Father, who, during my imprisonment, was become incapable of governing in person : you must remember, that, at the time here referred to, I contidenily predicied, and, indeed, positively asserted, that the BOOK would come out in spite of all that could be done to prevent its publication. It was notorious, that many thousands of pounds had been expended in order to prevent the appearance of this Book; it was notorious that the most extra. ordinary means had been resorted to in order to secure that object; and I was in po:session of some facts relative to the endeavours that were still making for the same purpose ; but, stiil I said, that the Book would come out. I assured my readers, in the most unqualified terms, that they would, at no very distant day, see the whole of the famous BOOK.
Since the date of my last letter to you, the BOOK, i he real, the genu. ine Book, has inade its appearance in print, in a complete forni, in an octavo volume, and being page for page and word for word with the original work. Thus, then, my prophecy is fulfilled ; and though prophets are said not to be honoured in their own countries, I oughts. I think, to expect my due share of credit in yours.
With such a mass of matter before us; overlaid, as we now are, with materials for comment, it is no easy thing to determine where to begin. After a little reflection, however, it appears to me to be the best way, to set out by giving you a short history of this Book, and before we come to an examination of its contents, as they affect the Princess of Wales, to show you what were the uses which political and party intrigue, has made of those contents.
The bistory of the Book is this : When the Princess of Wales, in con.
sequence of the Letter of the Prince, which you have already seen, quitted Carlton House, she went to reside in a house called Montague House, at Blackheath, near Greenwich, which is about five or six miles distant from London. There, in the year 1801, she became accidentally acquainted with a Lady Douglas, the wife of Sir John Douglas, who, as an officer of marines, greatly distinguished himself at the Siege of St. Jean d'Acre, when that place was so bravely defended by Sir Sidney Smith against Buonaparte. Lady Douglas and her husband soon became extremely intimate with the Princess, who, according to the statement of Lady Douglas, seems to have been very fond of her indeed. This intimacy continued until 1804, when the Princess, after some previous bickerings, dismissed Lady Douglas from her society.
Lady Douglas and her husband, after this, that is to say, in 1805, and in the month of December in that year, gave in, as she states, in consequence of commands to that purpose from the Prince of Wales, u written statement of facts, relative to the language and behaviour of his wife, and particularly relative to the birth of a child, which she asserted the Princess to have brought into the world in 1802. The Statement of Facts is now published ; but, as it is the same, in respect to all the material points as the deposition of this Lady, which deposition you will find in another part of the present double number of my Register, I shall not insert it this week. It does nowhere, that I can discover, appear, how the Prince came by the knowledge of Lady Douglas being in possession of such dreadful secrets. Lady Douglas says, that she makes the statement in obedience to the commands of the Prince; but, who gave the information, which induced his Royal Highness to give such commands, we are nowhere, that I can perccive, informed. Yet, this is a circumstance of considerable importance; and, we must not fail to bear it in mind. Lady Douglas was the depository of the awful secret ; and she says, that she divulged it by command ; but, before the command was issued, the person issuing it must have known that she possessed a secret of some sort about his wife. This circumstance must be borne in mind.
But, be this as it may, the STATEMENT of FACTS was made, and was laid before the Prince, verified by the DUKE of SUSSEX. The Statement of Facts, which was to serve, or, at least, which did serve, as the ground-work of all the further proceedings, has, in the printed Book, now published, the name of "AUGUSTUS FREDERICK" signed to it, in order, I suppose, to verify the authenticity of it; in order to verify, that it was signed by Lady and Sir John Douglas. So that the Prince, when it was laid before him, could have no doubt of its being authentic.
Thus in possession of an assertion of his wife's criminality, the Prince, it seems, lost but little time in layi:ng the Statement before his father, who, on the 20th of May, 1806, issued a warrant to the four Lords, Erskine, SPENCER, GEESVILLE, and ELLEN BOROUGH, to examine into the matter. A copy of this warrant, being the 2d of the subjoined documents, will explain its own nature, if you refer to it, as, indeed, you ought to refer to all the documents as you proceed.
The four Lords, having thus got their authority for acting, assembled and called such persons as they chose in order to examine them on oath, touching the matters alleged against the Princess by Lady and Sir John Douglas. It is not my intention to stop here, in order to inquire into the legality or propriety of this mode of proceeding, my business, at present, being simply to tell you what was done ; to trace along the proceedings to the present time; and to show you the uses which politicians and parties have made of these family concerns, and thereoy to enable you to judge of the way in which our national affairs are ma. naged, and to settle in your own impartial mind, whether we, who call for a reform of the House of Commons, are the enemies of the throne and of the Royal Family.
When the Four Lords had gone through the examinations, beginning with those of Lady and Sir John Douglas, they made, agreeably to the warrant under which they acted, a REPORT thereof to the King, a copy of which Report is the first of the documents hereunto subjoined. When you have read that Report, you will see, that the Four Lords declared the Princess to be quite clear of the charge of having been pregnant in 1802 ; but that they left her stigmatized with charges of minor import. The Princess, upon receiving a copy of this Report, together with copies of all the Statements and Depositions that had been received against as well as for her, wrote several letters to the King, and these letters contain her defence against those minor charges with which the Four Lords left her tarnished. The whole of these Letters I have not, this week, had room to insert : but I have inserted all the DEPO. SITIONS against the Princess ; because, these naturally come before the Defence of the accused party.
We now come to the making of THE BOOK ; to its origin, its possible object, and its effects, which are now of much more importance to the people here, and to the world in general, than the truth or falsehood of the several allegations themselves. As to these we will here. after inquire; but, at present, the uses that have been made of the Book is the subject of our inquiry.
The Princess, when the Report of the Four Lords was laid before her, resorted, as it was natural she should, to legal advisers, that is to say, to men eminent in the profession of the law. She chose, as her chief adviser, PERCEVAL, who was shot last year by John Bellingham. It is now said, that two others, the late Attorney-General, Gibbs, who is now a Judge, and the present Attorney-General, Sir Thomas Plomer, were also consulted; but it is perfectly notorious, that Perceval was the chief adviser.
You must now go back with me a little and take a view of the state of parties. In 1805, when the information was given to the Prince by Lady Douglas, Pitt was minister, and Perceval was his Attorney-General. But, even at that time, Pitt was ill at Bath; and, in January, 1806, soon after the information was in the hands of the Prince, Pitt died. His death was followed by the ousting of his set, and Lord Eldon, who w33 Lord Chancellor, Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Canning, Lord Camden, and others, went out of place, and, in the usual way, formed the Oppo. strox to Mr. Fox, Lord Grenville, Lord Grey, Lord Erskine, and otherz, who came into power, and who, from a trick of party, were called the l'hig Administration,
This change, you will observe, took place in 1806, and in the mont! of February, and it brought into the possession of long-sought power, those persons who had always been regarded, and, indeed, called tie Prince's Friends; and, you will observe, from the words of the King's warrant, that Lord Erskine, who was uow become Lord Chancellor, a id who had been the Chancellor of the Prince, laid before the King the abstract of those declarations against the Princess, upon which the King founded his warrant for the inquiry. I do not mention these circumstances for the purpose of raising in your mind a suspicion, that the Prince would not have made the appeal had bis friends not been in power, because I believe he would; but, I mention them for the purpose of showing you the true state of all the parties with regard to each other, and also for the purpose of preparing your mind for the clear comprehension of certain matters that have arisen since the Regency was established in the person of the Prince.
Amongst those who were ousted by the death of Pitt was his Attorney. General, Perceval, who, at the change, became, of course, a member of the OPPOSITION to the Whigs, who, as l observed before, were also denominated the Prince's friends. It was, therefore, not unnatural for the Princess, when the Four Lords had made their Report respecting her, to look to Mr. Perceval as an adviser. She did so, and, as you will soon see, he was a man who knew how to manage such a concern to the greatest advantage.
Having got possession of all the documents relating to so important an affair, the first thing that was done, was, through the means of a correspondence between the Princess and the Lord Chancellor Erskine, to obtain a rerification of the Report, the Warrant, the Statement of Facts of Lady Douglas, and the several Depositions, Examinations, and Letters, which you will find subjoined to this Letter. This being done, the little lawyer had materials to work upon; and, under his ad. vice, the Princess then addressed two Letters to the King, which Letters I shall hereafter publish, and in which Letters she defended herself, made observations on the conduct of her accusers and of the other parties concerned, and called upon the King to restore her to his presence ut Court, from which, since the making of the complaint against her, she had been kept.
The addressing of these Letters to the King took place, as you will see by the dates, during the summer and autumn of 1806. The Report of the Four Lords was made to the King on the 14th of July in that year; the Princess did not receive a copy of it, as you will see, for some iime; from the time she did receive that copy, she continued writing to the King to the date of her Letter of the 2nd October, 1806, concluding with her prayer to be restored to his presence at Court, and thus to be cleared in the eyes of the world. Thus were materials for THE BOOK every day, up to this time, increasing in the hands of Perceval, who seems to have been duly impressed with a sense of their value.
The King, having the defence of the Princess before him, and also her demands of justice at his hands, referred her Letters to his Cabinet Ministers, and required their opinion and advice as to what he ought to do in the case. The Princess, as you will see, had called for her justification in the eyes of the world by means of an admission to Court, That she insisted upon as absolutely necessary to the vindication of her honour. And certainly her request was most reasonable; for, it was gone forth to the world, that she had been accused of having had a child in consequence of an illicit amour. It had, indeed, been also stated, that she had been cleared of this, but that other imputations remained. Therefore, said she, let me appear at Court, and then the nation will be convinced, that I am cleared of every thing of which I
have been accused; or, said she, if you refuse me this request; if you refuse me this open testimony of your conviction of my innocence, let me be proved to be guilty in a fair and open manner. Let me be proved to be guilty, or let me be treated as innocent.
Nothing could be more reasonable, nothing more fair, nothing more just than this; but, the King, who seems, through the whole of the transactions, to have acted the part of an impartial judge as well as of a considerate and kind parent, was hampered by the previous decision of the Four Lords, which left a stain upon the Princess's character. In this emergency he did what a King of England ought to do. He referred the Letters of the Princess to his constitutional advisers, the ministers ; and bade them, after perusing and considering all that the Princess had to say, give him their opinion and advice as to the course he ought to pursue.
The ministers (the Whigs you will observe) appear to bave been greatly puzzled upon this occasion. They were involved in a dilemma out of which it was impossible for them to get. They were compelled either to advise the King to suffer the Princess to come to Court, or not to suffer her to come to Court. If the latter, they ran the risk of all the dangers of an open exposure of all that has now been exposed. They ran the risk of the publication of Lady Douglas's State. ment and Deposition ; and Mr. Edmeades's deposition; and of all the other depositions, proving so clearly what had been going on against the Princess. But, on the other hand, if they advised the King to receive the Princess at Court, what would that advice have amounted to with regard to the judgment of the Four Lords, who had made the Report of 14th July, 1506, an: who were, four out of the eleven, members of the Cabinet, not forgetting that Earl Moira was a fifth ?
In this dilemma the ministers, in Cabinet Council assembled, took a course which generally, if not always, proves fatal to those who pursue it; that is to say, a middle course ; and, on the 25th of January, 1807, after long and repeated deliberations, laid before the king the result, in the following Minute, which you will read with great attention, seeing that it has, as you will see, been productive of very important consequences, not only to this country but to all those countries which have been affected by the measures of our cabinet.
* MINUTE OF CABINET, DOWNING-STREET, JANUARY 25, 1807.
Lord Viscount Howick,
Mr. Secretary Windham,
Mr. Grenville. Lord Henry Petty, " Your Majesty's confidential servants have given the most diligent and atten. “ tive consideration to the matters on which your Majesty has been pleased to “ require their opinion and advice. They trust your Majesty will not think that " any apology is necessary on their part for the delay which has attended their " deliberations, on a subject of such extreme importance, and which they have “ found to be of the greatest difficulty and embarrassment.
"They are fully convinced that it never can have been your Majesty's intention