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Earl of Hardwicke, was a most zealous member of that party. CHAP. After Lord Chatham's resuscitation, which followed his re-'
signation, the two sections of the AVhig party were reconciled, a.d. 1770. and formed a formidable opposition to the Court, now bent on taxing America, and trampling on the liberties of the people by persisting in the perpetual disqualification of Mr. Wilkes to sit in parliament. If all the Whigs were true and steady to their engagements, the greatest hopes were entertained that the illiberal members of the cabinet might be compelled to resign ; —that America might be conciliated, and that tranquillity and the constitution might be restored at home.
With this prospect opened the session of 1770; when Lord Tuesday, Chatham, having again thundered against ministerial corrup- J^"09' tion and imbecility, Lord Camden made his startling dis- Lord Camclosure, that for years he had absented himself from the turVwilu" council when the most important subjects of colonial and the Godomestic policy were debated there, because he utterly con- vcrnmcntdemncd the course which his colleagues were obstinately pursuing.* The total surrender of the government depended upon whether any lawyer, of decent character and abilities, could be found to succeed him. Lord Shelburne, knowing this, had declared in the House of Lords, "that the Seals would go a begging; but he hoped there would not be found in the kingdom a wretch so base and mean-spirited as to accept them on the conditions on which they must be offered."f This was in the night of Tuesday, the 9th of January.
A meeting of the opposition leaders was held next morn- Wedncsinjj when they resolved that Lord Camden should be re- 'i"y' ,„
o' J - ^ Jan. 10.
quested to hold the Great Seal till he should be dismissed; 1770. and that all their influence should be used to prevent any ofTheOp-"
* Horace Walpnle says: "The Duke of Grafton accused him of having made no objection to Lutterell's admission; his friends affirmed he had; and Lord Sandwich allowed that he had reserved to himself a liberty of acting as he pleased on every question relating to Wilkes. The Chancellor's mind certainly fluctuated between his obligations to Lord Chatham and the wish to retain his post. The Duke of Grafton's neglect determined the scale."—IVul/,. Mem. Geo. III. iv. -12.
f Horace AY'alpole represents that General Conway tried to prevail upon the Duke of Grafton to continue Lord Camden in office, and that the Duke " told him he was to see a person of consequence at night on that subject." "That person," said Horace to Conway, "is Charles Yorkc, who is afraid of being seen going into the Duke's house by daylight."—M-moirs of George 111. iv. 44.
Object of the Court to induce Charles Yorke to become Chancellor. Jan. II.
His interview with the Duke of Grafton.
Thursday, Jan. II.
lawyer of character from agreeing to accept it. Simultaneously the King and his "friends" determined that if Lord Camden did not voluntarily resign, he should be dismissed, and that a successor to him must be found at any price. Lord Mansfield would have been the first object of their choice, but in less ticklish times he had expressed a firm purpose never to exchange his permanent office of Chief Justice of the King's Bench for the fleeting eclat of the Chancellorship.* The great effort to be made was to gain over Charles Yorke, whose secession would add much credit to their cause, and materially damage the Whigs. A letter was immediately written to him making an overture in very general terms, and in the evening of the following day a long interview took place between him and the Duke of Grafton. The Great Seal was now distinctly offered to him, and when he talked of his past political connections a hope was held out to him of the admission of some of his friends into the Cabinet, and of the adoption of a more liberal policy. He required time for consideration, but seemed in a humour so complying that the Duke of Grafton made a very favourable report to the King of the state of the negotiation. Charles Yorke, however, having stated what had passed to a meeting of Whigs at Lord Rockingham's, they pronounced the whole proceeding treacherous and deceitful; they foretold that, as soon as he had been inveigled to leave his party, the Court would treat him with contumely, and they prevailed upon him to give them a pledge that he would be true to them. He returned to the Premier, and declared that he positively declined the Great Seal. Being then asked if he had any objection to see the King, who had condescendingly expressed a wish to confer with him, he said he considered himself bound as a faithful subject to obey what he considered a command from his Sovereign, and he showed such alacrity in yielding to the wish, as to create a belief in the Duke's mind that he had voluntarily solicited the interview. It took place at St. James's, on Saturday the 13 th of January. The particulars of the conversation are not
* Horace AValpole says: "It had been thought necessary to make Lord Mansfield the compliment of offering him the Seals ;" but if this offer was then repeated, it must have been an empty form.
known, but aa yet Charles Yorke remained firm, and the CHAP.
. CLI King, with great concern, wrote to the Duke of Grafton
that he had been able to make no impression on the obstinate A„ 1770.
lawyer. He again
This refusal caused great joy among the Whigs, and news Qj^*^ of it being sent to Hayes, where Lord Chatham then was, he thus wrote: —
"Wednesday, 17th Jan. 1770.
"Mr. Yorke's refusal is of moment; and I can readily Letter from believe it, from my opinion of his prudence and discernment. Riding ;„ No man with a grain of either would embark in a rotten his refusal, vessel in the middle of a tempest, to go he knows not whither. I wish our noble and amiable Chancellor had not been so candid as to drag the Great Seal for one hour at the heels of a desperate minister, after he had hawked it about with every circumstance of indignity to the holder of it."
But before these characters were traced, the prudence and £j|p* of the virtue of Charles Yorke had been overpowered. The Yorke ministers had abandoned all hope of gaining him, and were thinking of pressing the Great Seal on Sir Eardley Wilmot or De Grey, the Attorney General *; but the King himself, without consulting them, with great dexterity and energy, made an attempt — which at first seemed crowned with brilliant success—though it terminated so fatally.
On Tuesday, the 16th of January, there was a levee at St. He attends James's, and Charles Yorke thought it his duty to attend for *^-e lng s the purpose of testifying his loyalty and personal respect for Tuesday, the Sovereign. To his great surprise he met with a very ^;l.n, 16- ,
. . .... . H's second
gracious reception, and the Lord in waiting informed him interview that his Majesty desired to see him in his closet when the King"'6
* Horace Walpole thus notices the lawyers who might have been thought of for Chancellor at this time: "Norton had all the requisites of knowledge and capacity, but wanted even the semblance of integrity, though for that reason was probably the secret wish of the Court. He was enraged at the preference given to Yorke: yet nobody dared to propose him even when Yorke had refused. Sir Eardley Wilmot had character and abilities, but wanted health. The Attorney General, De Grey, wanted health and weight, and yet asked too extravagant terms. Dunning, the Solicitor General, had taken the same part as his friends, Lord Camden and Lord Shelburne. Of Lord Mansfield there could be no question; when the post was dangerous, his cowardice was too well known to give hopes that he could be pressed to defend it."—Mem. Geo. III. iv. 49.
He agrees to become Chancellor.
Wednesday, Jan. 17.
levee was over. He hardly thought it possible that the offers to him should be repeated, but he resolutely determined at all events to be faithful to the engagements into which he had entered. Again led into temptation, he was undone. Long after he entered the King's closet he firmly, though respectfully, resisted the solicitations by which he was assailed—urging, by way of excuse, his principles, the opinions he had expressed in parliament, his party connections, and the pledge he had given to his brother. But he could not stoutly defend his reasons against a royal opponent, who naturally thought himself entitled to the services of all bom under allegiance to the English crown, and who could not well appreciate objections to the performance of the duties of a subject. The King made some impression by declaring, that with such a Chancellor as he wished, an administration might soon be formed which the nation would entirely approve. At last the yielding disputant had no answer to make, when conjured to rescue his Sovereign from the degrading combination by which the throne was besieged; his virtue cooled as his loyalty was inflamed; unable longer to resist,—without making any stipulations for himself, with respect to pension or tellership, — he sank down on his knees in token of submission,—and the King, giving him his hand to kiss, hailed him as "Lord Chancellor of Great Britain."
Charles Yorke, by his Majesty's command, then proceeded to the house of the Duke of Grafton, to inform him of what had happened. The minister, all astonishment, could not believe his own ears, and hurried down to St. James's,—where the King fully confirmed the news of the victory which had been won. It was then resolved that the Seal should be forthwith taken from Lord Camden, and next morning he was summoned to surrender it. — This being accordingly done, in the evening of the same day a council was held, at the Queen's House, for delivering it to the new Chancellor, and administering to him the oaths of office.
As he was never installed in Westminster Hall, nor ever sat in the Court of Chancery, there is no entry respecting him as Chancellor to be found in the Close Roll, or in the home he calls at
records of the Crown Office; but the following minute ap- Chap. pears in the books of the Privy Council: — CLI
"At the Court at the Queen's House, the 17th of .Tanu- A D mo ary, 1770, He is sworn
"Present, the King's Most Excellent Majesty in Council. in
"His Majesty in Council was this day graciously pleased to deliver the Great Seal to the Right Honourable Charles Yorke, Esquire, who was thereupon, by his Majesty's command, sworn of his Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and likewise Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, and accordingly took his place at the board."
At the same time a warrant was signed by the King for a patent raising him to the peerage, by the title of Baron Morden, of Morden, in the county of Cambridge.
As soon as the council was over, Lord Chancellor Charles in j Yorke, carrying away the Great Seal with him in his carriage, drove to Lord Rockingham's, to communicate to him what LoniRockhe had done. It so happened that Lord Rockingham, Lord '"81'amsHardwicke, and the other leaders of opposition, were then holding a meeting to concert measures against the Government. He was introduced to them, and unfolded his tale. We are told that it was received with a burst of indignation, and that all present upbraided him for a breach of honour.
He instantly left them, and went home, his mind sorely harassed with the severity of their reproaches.
It was announced that very evening that he was danger- His sudden ously ill, and at five o'clock in the evening of Saturday the <,eal1'30th of January, three days after he had been sworn in Chancellor, he was no more. His patent of nobility had been made out and was found in the room in which he died, but the Great Seal had not been affixed to it, so that the title did not descend to his heirs. He expired in the forty-eighth year of his age.
A suspicion of suicide immediately arose, and a controversy Question, has ever since been maintained on the question whether that h^hc"im" suspicion was well founded. Fortunately it is no part of mined suimy duty to give an opinion upon a subject so delicate and so 6' e painful Would to God that I could entirely avoid it! I shall content myself with stating the authorities on both