« ZurückWeiter »
From the Accession of George the Third in
October 1760, to the Dissolution of Parliament in March 1784.
GEORGE II. died suddenly about the close of October 1760. At that time, I was nearly sixteen years old; so that the active part of my
life has all been passed during the reign of George III.
My father was physician to George II. This circumstance led me to see in early life, people who were about the Court. I cannot say that the nation much regretted the death of George II. During the last three years of his reign, the war against France
had been carried on with much success; but this was attributed to the energy of Mr. Secretary Pitt, who was known to be Minister against the wishes of the King (1).
The nation hailed with pleasure, the accession of a Prince born in the country; they persuaded themselves that the interests of England would no longer be sacrificed to the interests of Hanover; and much advantage was taken of this circumstance, in the first speech of the young King to Parliament: “Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.” The old Earl of Hardwicke, the Ex-chancellor, censured this expression, saying that it was an insult to the memory of the late King; but the nation was pleased with the expression, The young King (for he was at that time little more than twenty-two years of age), was of a good person, sober, temperate, of domestic habits, addicted to no vice, swayed by no passion what had not the nation to expect from such a character? There was another circumstance which much increased his popularity; during the reigns of George I. and George II. a considerable part of the
nation had been as it were proscribed, under the name of Tories. The imputation against these men was, that they were attached to the family of Stuart : probably some of them were attached to that family ; but very many were included under the denomination of Tories, solely because theyhad disapproved of the corrupt and feeble administrations of Sir Robert Walpole and the Pelhams. It was soon remarked, that the Pelham party did not possess the partiality of George III. in the same manner as they had possessed that of George II.; and the Tories saw with pleasure the removal of that proscription by which they had been so long oppressed. In one word, the nation was intoxicated with loyalty. But those who approached the Court more nearly, perceived circumstances which filled them with apprehensions (2).
I recollect the expression used to my father by Mr. Pratt, at that time AttorneyGeneral, afterwards better known by the name of Lord Camden, within four months after the King's accession: “I see already, that this will be a weak and an inglorious
of this young
reign.” I recollect also the relation which a friend of my father gave to him, of a conversation which he had had with Charles Townshend : 66 I said to Charles Townshend, I don't want to know any state secrets, but do tell me what is the character
young man ? ” After a pause, Charles Townshend replied, “ He is very obstinate.” It was also observed that the Princess Dowager of Wales had kept the young Prince from having confidential intimacy with any person except herself and the Earl of Bute: the pretence for this was the preservation of his morals. In truth, they had blockaded all approach to him. A notion has prevailed, that the Earl of Bute had suggested political opinions to the Princess Dowager ; but this was certainly a mistake. In understanding, the Princess Dowager was far superior to the Earl of Bute; in whatever degree of favour he stood with her, he did not suggest, but he received, her opinions and her directions. The late Marquis of Bute told me, that, at the King's accession, his father, the Earl of Bute, had no connexion beyond the pale of Leicester House. He added, “I never lived with my
father, nor did any
of his children.” Could such a man be fit to be a minister ?
The Princess Dowager of Wales was a woman of a very sound understanding, and was considered as such by all who had occasion to converse with her. But she had been educated in the Court of her father, the Duke of Saxe-Gotha; here she had received her ideas of sovereign power, and she could never bring herself to feel the necessity, that sovereign power should be exercised by a King of Great Britain with different sentiments, and in a manner different from that in which she had seen it exercised at Saxe-Gotha.
Few Englishmen have occasion to see the interior of the Court of a petty German Prince ; it may therefore be difficult to bring Englishmen to comprehend the character of such a Court. A petty German Sovereign is not a magistrate; he is rather the proprietor of the soil, and of the inhabitants. His Ministers exist by his breath ; they are liable to no responsibility except to their master; they fall into insignificance when