Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

as it then presented itself to his subjects, and of the existing state of parties which divided the politics of the day.

The death of the late king, which took place rather unexpectedly to his subjects, occasioned much consternation at court on its being made known, and the intelligence was immediately carried to the secretary of state. The great officers of the crown were convened, and Mr Pitt repaired to Kew for the purpose of apprising the heir-apparent of the important occurrence. The young sovereign, who, since the death of his father, had resided entirely with the princessdowager, and preserved a strict neutrality in relation to the contending factions, appeared agitated and embarrassed by the novelty of his situation, and the want of acquaintance with the persons by whom he now began to be surrounded; but his conduct gave general satisfaction, and afforded the presage of a prudent and happy reign,

A council was summoned at Carlton-house, the residence of the princess-dowager, where his Majesty attended in form to transact business and on this occasion he delivered an address to the council, which presented a favourable specimen of dignified modesty and unassuming firm

“ The loss," said the youthful monarch, " which I and the nation have sustained by the death of the king, my grandfather, would have been severely felt at any time; but coming at so critical a juncture, and so unexpected, it is by many circumstances augmented, and the

[ocr errors]

ness :

support of

weight now falling on me much increased. I feel my own insufficiency to support it as I wish ; but, animated by the tenderest affection for my native country, and depending upon the advice, 'experience, and abilities of your Lordships, on the

every honest man, I enter with cheerfulness into this arduous situation, and shall make it the business of my life to promote, in every thing, the glory and happiness of these kingdoms; to preserve and strengthen the constitution in both church and state; and as I mount the throne in the midst of an expensive, but just and necessary war, I shall endeavour to prosecute it in the manner the most likely to bring on an honourable and lasting peace, in concert with my allies.”

England had now been engaged nearly four years in this continental struggle, and the great body of the people began to grow weary of it. Supplies, large indeed beyond all political calcu. lation of what they could raise, had already been granted by his subjects to the late king; but they were still able and willing to raise more, if more were necessary to complete the humiliation of their enemies. It was hoped, however, that a change of politics would take place; that the young king, from his known attachment to his native country, would no longer suffer the public treasure to be squandered in pensions to foreign princes, under the name of subsidies, to enable them to fight their own battles ; nor the blood of the British soldiery spilt, to water the forests, and fertilize the plains, of Germany. But how much soever the new monarch might disapprove of the continental system, his subjects were aware that he could not immediately adopt a change of measures, without an implied censure upon the conduct of his predecessor. Nor could he instantaneously abandon his German confederates, after the important steps that had been taken in conjunction with them, without tarnishing the lustre of the British crown, and inflicting a wound on the faith of the nation. Considerations such as these operated greatly in favour of the new king; and while his declaration to prosecute the war quieted the throbbing breasts of his allies, the liberal supplies granted by the British parliament

for supporting the war during the enA. D. 1761.

suing campaign, amounting to nearly the immense sum of twenty millions sterling, astonished all Europe, and made France and Austria fully sensible of the necessity of

proposing terms of peace.

The collision of parties did not immediately commence on the king's accession to the throne. Possessing an amiable disposition, and of the most unblemished manners, he became highly popular; and his first speech to his parliament excited the fondest hopes of a patriotic reign. “ Born and educated in this country, I glory," said he, “ in the name of Briton.” A proclamation was issued for repressing vice and immorality, which gave general satisfaction : loyal and affectionate addresses poured in from every part of the country; and all regret for the late monarch appeared to be buried with him. A powerful and popular administration having been framed in 1757, the various departments of office were filled by men of talents. As the ostensible head of the ministry stood the duke of Newcastle, a veteran in whig principles, and in the highest honours of the state. Lord Granville filled the office of president of the council, with great reputation for argumentative eloquence in the senate, and for attention to business. He was a man of eminent talents, and proudly conscious of his own importance. Lord Temple, the nephew and heir of lord Cobham, succeeded in the state to his uncle's influence: his merits will be traced in the political transactions which we shall have to record. The Honourable H. B. Legge was one of the most distinguished members of administration. He had passed through the several offices of secretary to the treasury-envoy to the court of Berlin,--treasurer of the navy,-a commissioner of the treasury,--and at last attained the high station of chancellor of the exchequer. Mr Henry Fox, whose eloquence and genius were of the most respectable order, filled the situation of paymaster of the forces. Lord Northington was lord-keeper ; lord Holdernesse, secretary of state; and the duke of Devonshire, first lord of the admiralty.

But the life and soul of the administration was the Honourable William Pitt, afterwards earl of Chatham, who sustained the office of secretary

of war for the southern department. The war in which the country was now involved, though originating with the king of Prussia, had in a great measure been of Mr Pitt's concerting; and it had hitherto been successfully conducted. France was so enfeebled and reduced that her further efforts were not regarded as objects of dread. Her finances were low, and her navy was ruined; her affairs in America and the West Indies were irretrievable; and her West India possessions she was sensible must surrender to the first English armament that should appear upon their coasts. Russia and Sweden seemed tired of a war in which they had acquired neither honour nor advantage. The elector of Saxony was in a hopeless plight, and his Polish subjects refused to interpose in his behalf.

The business of parliament was this session speedily and smoothly conducted. The civil list was arranged and fixed at L. 800,000 per annum. To raise still higher the patriotic intentions of the crown, it was recommended by his Majesty in his speech from the throne, to secure the independence and uprightness of the judges, by extending their commissions for life, unless forfeited by improper behaviour in their office, and making provision that their salaries should be as permanent as their commissions. Before the end of the session, the venerable Onslow, who had filled the office of speaker of the house of commons during thirty years, with great reputation, announced his intention of retiring from public

« ForrigeFortsett »