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CHAP, failed in many parts of England, the price of bread had risen CXLL alarmingly, and a famine was apprehended. A foolish proclamation was issued against "forestallcr3 and regraters," which not increasing the quantity of corn, nor lessening the demand for it,— in as far as it had any operation, aggravated the evil by-interfering with the operations of commerce. An order was then made by the King in Council, in which Lord Chatham, though absent, concurred, prohibiting the exportation of corn, and laying an embargo on ships loaded with cargoes of corn about to sail for foreign countries, where the scarcity was still more severe. Although it probably would have been wiser to have left the trade in food entirely free, without duty or bounty, the measure was generally approved of, and the government was actuated by the best motives in resorting to it. Still it was contrary to law; for there was no statute to prevent the exportation of any sort of grain, however high the price might be, or to authorize the Crown to interfere on such an occasion. Those concerned in the embargo were therefore liable to actions, and required to be indemnified. This was the rational view of the subject taken by Lord Chatham himself in his maiden speech in the Nov. 1766. House of Lords, on the first day of the ensuing session. He said, "it was an act of power which, during the recess of Parliament was justifiable on the ground of necessity;" and he read a passage from Locke on Government, to show that, "although not strictly speaking legal, the measure was right in the opinion of that great friend of liberty, that constitutional philosopher, and that liberal statesman." Upon this footing a bill of indemnity would have passed without difficulty. Lord But Lord Northington, for some unintelligible reason, conton'con'8" tended tnat tne measure was strictly legal, and that no tends that indemnity was necessary.* He went so far as to maintain
* The inconsiderate manner in which he had originally agreed to the measure, may be learned from an extract of his letter to the Duke of Grafton, dated 31st August, 1766. "I come now to that part of your Grace's letter which more immediately relates to my office; the revival of the prohibition of the exportation of corn, by order of council, pursuant to the late act — which I have not here. And I am of opinion, that it is absolutely fit and necessary, as I stand at present informed." In truth, the order was directly contrary to the late act j and the President of the Council advises an order, supposed to be framed on an act which he does not see, and with which he is wholly unacquainted! Surely, we are less slovenly nowadays in our mode of transacting public business.
that the Crown had a right to interfere even against a positive CHAP, act of parliament, and that proof of the necessity amounted to ( x u •
a legal justification. Seemingly unconscious that he was this was standing up for a power in the Crown to suspend or dispense lawful, and
. , „ , . . - , , f ,. A , that a bill
with all laws, he defied any lawyer to contradict nun, and or-;ndemsaying " he was no patron of the people," he even went on ni,y was to throw out a sarcasm against the noble Earl, now at the sary. head of the government, for his past popular courses.
Lord Mansfield, never displeased with an opportunity of Lord chastising Lord Northington, clearly showed that the power he ^J,"^6''1 claimed for the Crown was utterly inconsistent with the con- him. stitution, and if it ever in any degree existed, was entirely at variance both with the letter and the spirit of the Bill of Rights.*
The Ex-chancellor, though, to the amazement of mankind, Lord* countenanced by a great constitutional lawyer, who was ex- tonde-"8 pected to scout such absurd doctrine, never seems to have sirouso''
rallied from this downset. 1 cannot discover that he again opened his mouth in parliament, although he continued sulkily in office till the close of the following year. Finding that, in the absence of Lord Chatham, there were dreadful distractions in the cabinet, and that he had no weight there, he soon became desirous of retreating to the quiet enjoyment of his pensions and his sinecures.
He communicated his wish to resign to the Duke of Joint rcGrafton, and they sent a joint representation to Lord Chat- f;oTofihc ham, pointing out " the present state of the King's affairs from Dulic of the want of his Lordship's support and influence, and from and ix>rd the unfortunate situation of his Lordship's health,—the admi- Northing
. , . .... T ton to Lord
nistration having been rested, ab initio, on his Lordships Chatham, weight and abilities." They seem to have received a very rough answer from him, as we may conjecture from the following note, addressed by Lord Northington to the Duke of Grafton:
"My dear Lord, May 29.
"I have the properest sense of your Grace's communi- l^j cation of a letter, most extraordinary, and, as relative to our- Northing
cxif 8e^ves, most absurd as well as dangerous. My sentiments must remain as they were, in justice to my own honour, my
ton to the duty to the King and the public, and the peace and quiet of Grafton! mv own """d. I have the honour to be, with the greatest
expressing respect," &c.
While Lord Northington's resignation was under consideration, he paid his respects at St. James's, and then sent to the Duke the following account of his reception:
"My dear Lord,
June 11. <«I was this morning at Court, and had the honour of
Same to speaking to * at the drawing-room, but as he had no
Ivin commands for me, and several persons of ministry going in, I account of did not trouble the closet. But I thought it fit to signify to St* James's vour Grace, that I am convinced, from circumstances, that it is wished by many to pause till after the session is up. And I could perceive, by the discourse of a noble neighbour of mine, that the thing you arc inquiring after is as extensive as I thought it, and too large for your reception. The many alluded to above are not of our friends, and it being my permanent opinion that we should penetrate through the present cloud, I send this for your better and cooler judgment.
"The was beginning a long account of the state of America, &c &c. But in the midst of this hurlothumbo they were called both in, staid a long time in the closet, and I left them there. . . . My Lord, the affection I bear to your Grace's sentiments, honour, and abilities (and you know I can speak on this occasion only from truth), has induced me to suggest every material circumstance relative to your Grace's conduct in this nice and important crisis, and if my friendship outruns my judgment, I am confident that I shall not only receive your pardon, but thanks for my warmth in endeavouring to express myself, — My dear Lord,
"Your Grace's," &c.
Lord Northington was induced to delay his resignation, and to retreat into the country,—whence he wrote a letter to
* Word illegible.
the Duke, in which, after expressing his satisfaction at having Chap. been present when his son was unanimously elected for
Hampshire, he says: "though the air and retirement have juiy 9. afforded me some ease, the weather hath as yet debarred me J,767
of any relief. I barely walk, and am without strength or same, on appetite. Though I was not surprised that your Grace re- ^ej'TM^e ceived no satisfaction in the information you inquired after, of.public yet I lament it, as it daily confirms what I have long sus- afrairspected, that the rancour and intoxication of faction would sap the very foundations of government. The contagion is so widely spread that it is beyond me to know whither to turn to avoid it. I hope, however, your next may afford me more comfort, as I am sensible of your Grace's discernment to discover, and zeal to pursue, every avenue that may open and lead to the stability of your King and country."
A few days after, the Duke wrote to him an enormously July is. lengthy despatch, giving him an account of negotiations 176" with the Duke of Bedford, Kigby, Conway, Lord Gower, Lord Rockingham, &c, and thus concluding, "one favour I must entreat of your Lordship, who, considering the consequences it is of to the public, must not refuse — which is, though out of office, to assist the cabinet, and particularly myself, with the advice which your ability and great experience in public affairs will make so essential to the King's service." In his answer, Lord Northington says:
"I think myself much obliged to your Grace for commu- juiy 20. nicating to me, in so clear and historical a manner, the l7*^' progress of political matters since I left London." After Northingtedious comments on recent intrigues, and praising the Duke Df for continuing in office, he thus concludes. "As to myself, Grafton, my Lord, I thought it my duty frankly to open my state hi^dcro"5 of health, and its insufficiency to an office so extensive, tio.n t0 the and of so much attendance: It was but just both to the King 'ns' and to his ministers, as I was and am morally certain I shall never re-establish my strength to sustain that burthen, but I desire to be laid at the King's feet as one that out of office will be as zealous as in — and as one that will ever to the best of his abilities support his Majesty's government,
CHAP, and, without a compliment, never with so much pleasure as when your Grace is at the head of it." *
Aug. 3. Being still pressed by the Duke of Grafton, in the King's 1767. name, at least to defer his resignation till the administration
Same to °
same, de- might be remodelled, he wrote back: "You are pleased, to
debilitated8 ol)en tnc 'lumecuate plan of carrying on government in the
condition, interim till a better can be formed I also learn
from your Grace's letter that in his Majesty's present situation it is his wish, and your Grace seems to think it will be a convenience, that I should for a time retain the great employment which his Majesty, out of his abundant grace, was pleased to confer on me. I can have but one answer to that, which I must entreat your Grace to lay at the King's feet, 'That I am so sensible of the many and never-to-be-forgotten marks of the King's favour, proceeding from the greatness of his royal mind, which it hath been my good fortune to have received,— that I am disposed to stand wherever I can be of use to his Majesty's affairs till he can model his administration to his best approbation,—and this with all zeal, duty, and cheerfulness.' That, however, I may conceal nothing, I must inform your Grace that I write this from my bed, having been yesterday seized with the gout in my head, which continued till within this hour, with exquisite pain, and is intermitted so as to enable me to write ; that yet I think myself better than when I left London, and hope to be able, at no inconvenient distance, to be in London long enough to despatch any business that may wait me at Council. But it will be a fortnight before I can use my own house, and in my present state of health I know not where else to lodge. I have thus
Duke of * 1"he Duke, in his Journal, after setting out his own composition >'n e.r
Grafton's tauo, thus proceeds: "It will be proper also to introduce here Lord Northcharacter of ington's answer: We lived in full and mutual confidence in each other: Lord ne had about him the genuine principle of a Whig1, and in all transactions
Northing- 'found him to be a man full of honour, a disinterested gentleman, and, ton. though much devoted to the King, with great zeal for the constitution.
As a lawyer, his knowledge and ability were great; but his manner and speech were ungracious. I shall ever do honour to his memory wherever I hear his name brought forward.
1 I should be curious to know the definition of a Whig, which would include Lord Northington, who might be a very sound politician, but was as little of a Whig as his successor Thurlow.