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CH AP. CXLIV.
my duty, upon that ground, as a minister, to exert my constitutional power to carry the duty act into execution. But as a member of the legislature I cannot bring myself to advise violent measures to support a plan so inexpedient and impolitic, and I am very much afraid (I speak this confidentially to your Grace) that if a motion should be made to repeal the bill I should be under the necessity to vote for it. But there are so few in my way of thinking, that such a motion is not to be expected.
“ I am very sensible that a difference of opinion upon a subject so serious and important may be prejudicial to the administration, and I lament the occasion, being persuaded that a most perfect union amongst us is essential, and I will labour to effect it with my best endeavours. But I do fear, most exceedingly, that upon the American question the Bedfords and myself will be too far asunder to meet. I must maintain my own ground. The public knows my opinion and knows theirs. Neither of us can be inconsistent with ourselves.
“ This letter is to your Grace only. You are my Pole Star, Lord Chatham being eclipsed. I had rather see your Grace at the head of government than any other man in the kingdom, and therefore I have disclosed to you my whole heart upon this ill-fated business. I am sensible that my sentiments do not altogether coincide with your Grace's opinion.
“ There is nothing I dread so much as a war with America. I shall be very happy to know the result of your councils in town upon this subject. Corsica is rather a delicate than a difficult business."*
Lord Camden's advice was entirely disregarded. He had, in like manner, quarrelled with his colleagues respecting the Middlesex election. Still he made an effort to save Dunning, who continuing in office at his request, had given great
We owe the foregoing letters to the circumstance of the Chancellor having passed the autumn at Bath, while the Prime Minister was at Euston : “ Lord Camden and myself unfortunately saw less of each other than in other summers - both of us profiting by a retreat into the country of the leisure which a recess from Chancery and Treasury business offered.”. Duke of Grufton's Journal, 1768.
Dec. 10. 1768.
CHAP. offence to Lord North, now leader of the House of Commons, CXLIV.
by insisting on one occasion that Wilkes should be heard before he was condemned. Thus he appealed to the Premier:
“ 10th Dec, 1768. “ I had an opportunity, after I saw your Grace yesterday, Lord Cam- of hearing an account of what passed in the House of Comden to the
mons, and I find the debate turned Duke of
this : «Whether
upon Grafton in they should vote the paper a libel before Wilkes was heard defence of in his defence ?' and, that this was no question on the merits, Dunning.
but only discourse upon the mode of proceeding: that the Solicitor General thought, if Mr. Wilkes was to be heard, he ought regularly to be at liberty to speak to the nature and quality of the paper, as well as to the fact of writing and publishing. And indeed, my dear Lord, I am of the same opinion; and I do verily believe that no lawyer can hold a different language. The Solicitor said that, difficult as the task would be for Mr. W. to maintain an argument that the paper was no libel, yet he ought not to be precluded from that argument,- which he would be if the House deterinined it to be a libel. I do not see how they can, consistent with the terms of justice, pronounce the paper to be a libel till they have heard him. Now, my dear Lord, give me leave to say that Lord North should not be quite so much offended with Mr. Dunning, because the matter before the House was rather a discourse upon the method of proceeding than a measure of administration. I do not believe Mr. D. will be so base as to remain in office, and not to be hearty in the support of administration. I have the honour,” &c.
This application was successful, and Dunning continued
in office till after Lord Camden's own removal. Cabinet The Ministers found they were getting into such tresummoned on Wilkes's mendous difficulties respecting the Middlesex election by
contemning the Chancellor's advice, that the Prime Minister wrote to him, specially inviting him to attend a Cabinet to be held upon the subject. The following was his answer :
“ 9th January, 1769. Lord Cam. My dear Lord,
“ I have the honour of your Grace's letter, and will cer
den to the
tainly attend the meeting of the King's servants on Wednesday morning next. I do wish, most heartily, that the present time could be eased of the difficulties that Mr. W.’s Duke of business has brought upon the Government: a fatality has Grafton,
dissuading attended it from the beginning, and it grows more serious violent every day. Your Grace and I have unfortunately differed. measures. I wish it had been otherwise. It is a hydra, multiplying by resistance, and gathering strength by every attempt to subdue it. As the times are, I had rather pardon W. than punish him. This is a political opinion, independent of the merits of the cause.
“I am very glad to hear the holidays have given your Grace so happy a respite. They have been to me a perfect paradise, as I have employed my whole time in studying the Douglas cause, and my mind has been totally vacant from political vexations.
“ I have the honour,” &c.
He attended the meeting, but with no good effect. The Lord CamDuke of Grafton treated him with great civility, and was
verruled, inclined to be governed by his opinion ; but what he laid ceases to down respecting the law and the constitution was scornfully binet meetreceived by all the others.-From thenceforth he constantly ings reabsented himself from the Cabinet when the two great Wilkes or subjects of internal and colonial policy were to be discussed America, - Wilkes and American coercion.
The public were not then in possession of these secrets. For two years it was remarked that he preserved an impenetrable silence in Parliament, unless when, as Speaker, he put the question, and declared the majority ; but no one suspected that he had, in reality, ceased to be a member of the Government.
At last, when Parliament reassembled in the beginning of Jan. 9. January, 1770, the Lord Chancellor spoke out. Lord Chat- Lord Chatham, after his resignation,--to the astonishment of all mankind, bam's renot only experienced a great relaxation of his bodily infirmi- public life. ties, but recovered the full energy of his gigantic intellect. On
The reports of the debates respecting the Middlesex election and America at this time generally conclude with the words, “ The Lord Chancellor was silent."-16 Parl. Hist. 477.
CHAP. the first day of the session he was in his place, though
supported on crutches and swathed in flannel, and having delivered a most violent speech against the measures of the Government, affirming that the liberty of the subject had been invaded, not only in the colonies, but at home, he moved as an amendment to the address, that “the House would with all convenient speed take into consideration the causes of the present discontents, and particularly the proceedings of the House of Commons touching the incapacity of John Wilkes, Esq., depriving the electors of Middlesex of their free choice of a representative.”
Lord Mansfield having taken up the defence of the Goden's ex- vernment, and insinuated that all their measures must be planation of his con
considered as having the full approbation of the noble and duct. learned Lord who held the Great Seal 56
ever considered the champion of popular rights,” — the Lord Chancellor left the woolsack, and in a burst of indignation tried to defend his conduct and his consistency. “I accepted the Great Seal,” said he, “ without conditions: I meant not therefore to be trammelled by his Majesty (I beg pardon) by his Ministers; but I have suffered myself to be so too long. For some time I have beheld, with silent indignation, the arbitrary measures of the Minister ; I have often drooped and hung down my head in Council, and disapproved by my looks those steps which I knew my avowed opposition could not prevent. I will do so no longer; but openly and boldly speak my sentiments. I now proclaim to the world, that I entirely coincide in the opinion expressed by my noble friend, whose presence again reanimates us, respecting this unconstitutional and illegal vote of the House of Commons. If, in giving my opinion as a Judge, I were to pay any respect to that vote, I should look upon myself as a traitor to my trust, and an enemy to my country. By their violent
It was in this debate that he so strikingly contrasted modern peers with their ancestors, who had won Magna Charta : “ Those iron barons (for so I will call them when compared with the silken barons of modern days) were the guardians of the people; yet their virtues were never engaged in a question of such importance as the present. A breach has been made in the constitutionthe battlements are dismantled — the citadel is open to the first invader - the walls totter — the constitution is not tenable. What remains, then, but for us to stand foremost in the breach, to repair or perish in it?"
and tyrannical conduct, Ministers have alienated the minds CH AP. of the people from his Majesty's government -- I had almost
CXLIV. said, from his Majesty's person. In consequence, a spirit of discontent has spread itself into every corner of the kingdom, and is every day increasing; insomuch, that if some methods are not devised to appease the clamours so universally prevalent, I know not, my Lords, whether the people in despair may not become their own avengers, and take the redress of grievances into their own hands." *
The amendment being negatived, Lord Rockingham moved Resolution that the Lords be summoned for the following day, when he
Lord Camshould make a proposal of great national importance : but den. it being evident that after this scene the government could not go on, Lord Weymouth, the Secretary of State, moved an adjournment for a week. Lord Temple said, “the House well knows for what purpose the Lords opposite want an adjournment; it is to settle the disordered state of the administration, which is now shattered in a most miserable manner, and, in all likelihood, will soon fall to pieces; their particular object is to dismiss the virtuous and independent Lord who sits on the woolsack, and to supply his place with some obsequious lawyer who will do as he is commanded.” Lord Shelburne added : “ After the dismission of the present tion
Denunciaworthy Chancellor, the Seals will go a begging: but I hope against there will not be found in the kingdom a wretch so base and every lawmean-spirited as to accept of them on the conditions on which would they must be offered.”
agree to The ministerial crisis which followed was one of the most him. exciting and memorable in our party annals. Lord Chatham, Ministerial Lord Temple, and Lord Rockingham were now reconciled, and taking the same view of the questions which then divided the nation, might have formed a strong government, with Lord Camden for their Chancellor,-on the basis of American conciliation, and of the reversal of the unconstitutional judgment at home, that a commoner was rendered disqualified to represent the people by a vote of the House of Commons. But
1 Adolphus, 390. ; 16 Parl, Hist. 644.; Gent. Mag. Jan. 1770.