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However full of ingenuity Mr. Vattel or Mr. Puffendorf Chap.
• • CLVIII
may be on the law of nations, which cannot be fixed by any
solid and permanent rule, I deny their authority, I explode A D I783 their evidence, when they are brought in to explain to me what may or may not be done by the Sovereign I serve. Speaking from my own judgment, the records of parliament, the annals of the country, I do not think the cession of the Floridas at all a questionable matter. Let the noble and learned Lord bring forward the subject regularly, and I will establish a doctrine clearly contrary to the extraordinary notion now sported by him, or confess my ignorance. I will not combat the noble and learned Lord with vague declamation and oratorical flourishes,—these I contentedly leave to him with the plaudits they are calculated, perhaps intended, to gain,—but with undecorated sense and simple argument. In my opinion, it is safer to stick to the process by which we arrive at the conclusion that two and two make four, than to suffer your understandings to be warped by the fashionable logic which delights in words, and which strives rather to confound what is plain than to unravel what is intricate." * He might just as well after the manner of Lord Peter, in Marvellous one sentence have affirmed with an oath that it was so, and words. S uttered an imprecation on all who differed from him. f But this ebullition was thought by their Lordships a very ample answer to the objection, and even Lord Loughborough's friends felt that he had made a false point, and that he was completely put down. We must bear in mind Thurlow's voice and manner, and that "he looked wiser than any man ever was." J
* 23 Pari. Hist. 430.
f "Look ye, gentlemen," cries Peter in a rage: "to convince you what a couple of blind, positive, ignorant, wilful puppies you are, I will use but this plain argument: but, by G—, it is true, good, natural mutton as any in Leadenhall market; and G— confound you both eternally if,you offer to believe otherwise." After this "thundering proof," his Lordship was allowed to " have a great deal of reason."
i Saying of Mr. Fox. — In the discussion of the Ashburton treaty, by which the Madawaska settlement, a part of Canada allowed to belong to England, was ceded to the United States, I tried to revive the question, " Whether an act of parliament was not necessary to give it validity?" but I was told that the sufficiency of the prerogative to effect the transfer had been established by the unanswerable arguments of Thurlow.
CHAP. The ill-advised coalition had now actually taken place be
CLVIII. jween ]yjr Yox and Lord North, which produced a censure
Mar. 1783. on tne p^^ m *ne House of Commons and the resignation
Coalition 0f Lord Shelburne.
ministry. verv recently, it had been uniformily stated, and uni
tion of the versally believed, that in the formation of a new government
question ^he King still desired to have Thurlow Chancellor, and that
Mr. Fox his Lordship was nothing loth to comply with the royal wish, Thurlow to t^tt Mr. -^ox ana-tne Whigs recollecting the part he had continue acted under Lord Rockingham, objected in the most pereropChancellor. ^Qr^ manner ^0 an arrangement; that this dispute caused the delay which gave rise to the motions in the House of Commons during the "interregnum;" and that his Majesty was at last induced to yield to a compromise, by which the d °n'd to" Great Seal was put into commission.* But in a late valuable on this sub. biographical work it is stated, that "the following particuject shown lar8 were related by Lord Eldon to his brother-in-law, Mr.
to be inac- *
curate. John Surtees: Mr. Fox, much to Lord Thurlow's surprise, called at his house and was shown into his drawing room. Lord Thurlow, immediately that Mr. Fox's visit was announced, determined to receive him (observing when he narrated the matter, that he did not wish Mr. Fox should suppose him afraid to meet any one,) and an interview took place. Lord Thurlow, on being informed by Mr. Fox that he and his party wished the co-operation of his Lordship as Chancellor in the administration they wished to form, said, Mr. Fox, no man can deny that either you or Mr. Pitt are beyond any two men that can be named Jit from character and talents to be at the head of any administration; but as Mr. Pitt is very acceptable to the King, and is in an extraordinary degree popular in the country, 1 have connected myself with him. On Lord Thurlow's refusal, the Great Seal was put in commission." f I do not impute the slightest intention wilfully to misrepresent either to Mr. John Surtees or to Lord Eldon, but the story is wholly incredible, and there must have been a lapse of memory in one of them, or Thurlow it must have intended to mystify. The refusal is more impos
sible than the offer, and the difficulty cannot be solved CHAP.
by an anticipation of a speedy change, for Thurlow would
have considered that he might have an opportunity of A.D- 1783accelerating this by entering the cabinet; that acceptance must be agreeable to the King ; and that betraying one prime minister was the best prelude to service under another. But to end the controversy, we have only to look to Mr. Fox's declarations in the House of Commons at this very time respecting him whom it was supposed he was pressing to become his colleague. Mr. Coke, of Norfolk, having moved an address, **"3ch 24praying "that his Majesty would graciously take into his consideration the distressed state of the empire, and, in compliance with the wishes of the House, would form an administration entitled to the confidence of the people," Mr. Fox observed, "If any wish to see who it is that for the last five weeks has governed the kingdom and ill advised his Majesty, let them go to the other House ; they will there find the great adviser in his true character. Let them mark the man ; they will sec difficulty, delay, sullenness, and all the distinguishing features of what has been falsely called an interregnum, but in reality been a specimen of the most open and undisguised rule ever known in this country." Governor Johnstone took up the defence of the Chancellor, whom he described as "a great pillar of State, to whom the country might look up with confidence as a protector of its constitution against those mad projects of reform which threatened its annihilation; therefore dark insinuations against such a character ought not to be listened to: If the noble and learned Lord acted in the manner insinuated, and had been the cause of keeping the country so long without an administration, either by giving ill advice to his Majesty, or by any other means, he was a great criminal; but before withdrawing his friendship from one whom he had so long esteemed, he expected to have the fact proved, and he would not consent to presume its truth on mere surmise or assertion. If the right honourable gentleman, actuated by a sense of duty, was for a coalition, let him coalesce with the noble and learned Lord whom he once praised but now calumniated." Mr. Fox. — "I have still as high personal respect for the
A. D. 1783.
Mr. Fox's refusal to allow
April 2. 1783.
The Great Seal in commission.
noble and learned Lord alluded to as ever; I have merely spoken of his public conduct, which I believe has been the source of great calamities to the country. I acknowledge his abilities, but I contend that they render their possessor an object to be dreaded, as he has in the same proportion the power of doing mischief." *
It is quite certain that Thurlow's presence in Lord Rockingham's cabinet was a principal reason for Fox's resignation on the death of that nobleman; that he found it utterly impossible to act with him; and that he would now indignantly have scorned the notion of again being associated with him. His reluctant assent, at a subsequent period during the King's illness, to ratify the conditional disposition of the Great Seal in favour of Thurlow, only shows more strongly that he never would spontaneously have proposed such a course.
The new ministry being formed under the nominal headship of the Duke of Portland, with Mr. Fox and Lord North as its efficient members, the Great Seal was taken from Thurlow and put into commission, Lord Loughborough being the first Lord Commissioner.f
* 23 Pari. Hist. 658—723.
f "7th May, 1783.—Alexander Lord Loughborough, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Sir Wm. Henry Ashurst, Knt., a Judge of the King's Bench, Sir Beaumont Hotham, a Baron of the Exchequer, being by letters patent, dated 9th April, 1783, appointed Commissioners of the Great Seal of Great Britain, upon the 7th day of May following, being the first day of Easter Term, came into the Court of Chancery at Westminster Hall, and in open Court took the oaths, &c.; the senior Master in Chancery holding the book, &c."—Cr. Off. Arts. No. 2. 30.
CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD THURLOW TILL THE KINO'S
But Thurlow, deprived of the Great Seal, remained Chap. "Keeper of the King's conscience," and they both went CL1Xinto hot opposition. If it be ever excusable in a King of jd 1783 England to cabal against his ministers, George III. may well Thurlow be defended for the course he now took; for they had been George"jIr. forced upon him by a factious intrigue, and public opinion '[> opposiwas decidedly in his favour. Thurlow was frequently clo- Uonseted with him, and they watched for a favourable opportunity to be revenged of the coalitionists. Mr. Pitt, on the resignation of Lord Shelburne, had declined an offer to form a new government, of which he was to be the head — wisely thinking it better to wait till the "coalition" should become more unpopular. For this reason he was for the present looked upon at Court rather coldly, and though polished and courteous in his manners, yet, on account of his lofty spirit and unbending independence, he never was personally so much beloved by George III. as Thurlow, who, rough and savage to the rest of mankind, was always noted for pliancy and assentation in the presence of royalty.
From April to December, the term of the coalition Their tacministry, Thurlow was constantly considering the most ticseffectual means for effecting its overthrow. Had he been in the cabinet, he would have had a still better opportunity of thwarting its measures, and his opposition would have had double weight. However, his prudence and sagacity were of essential service in tempering the impatience of the King, and when the proper time arrived he struck the fatal blow with signal vigour and dexterity. It was by secret advice more than by open efforts in parliament that he struggled for his restoration to office, and till Mr. Fox's India Bill arrived