Page images

maintained their illegality with uncommon energy. He asserted, that by such warrants the most innocent person might be dragged from his bed, and com, mitted to prison. All his secrets might be exposed, and his papers converted into evidence against himself.' “ And how," said he, "shall this be reconciled with the British constitution ? It is a maxim of our law, that Every Englishman's house is his castle'Not that it is surrounded with walls and battlements: it may be a straw-built shed; every wind of heaven may whistle round it; all the elements of nature may enter in. But the King cannot; the King dare not.”

In 1765, Sir William Pynsent of Somersetshire, bequeathed to him, in consideration of his patriotism, an estate of 3000l. per ann.

When those unjust measures were adopted, which at length ended in the separation of the American, Colonies from the mother-country, they encountered his strenuous opposition. In March, 1766, the American Stamp-Act was repealed by the new ministry, at the head of which stood the Marquis of Rockingham. Mr. Pitt, though not one of their number, spoke with his accustomed emphasis in favour of the repeal. “The parliament of Great Britain,” he maintained, “ had no right to tax the Colonies. The Commons of America, represented in their several Assemblies, had ever been in possession of the exercise of their constitutional right, of giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves, if they had not enjoyed it. .. At the same time, this kingdom (he admitted) as the supreme governing and legislative power, had always bound the Colonies by her laws; by her regulations and restrictions in trade, in navigation, in ma

nufactures; in every thing, in short, except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent.”

The Marquis of Rockingham and his friends remained in administration only a short time; though, during their continuance in office, several measures had been introduced highly beneficial to the people and favourable to public liberty. In the ministry, by which they were succeeded, Mr. Pitt was made Lord Privy Seal. At the same time he was created Viscount Pitt, of Burton Pynsent in the county of Somerset, and Earl of Chatham in the county of Kent. The Duke of Grafton was appointed First Lord of the Treasury, Charles Townshend Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Earl of Shelburne and General Conway Secretaries of State. But among these new counsellors there was little harmony.* Lord Temple had deserted the side of the new Peer; and the Marquis of Rockingham with other individuals of great rank and influence refused to join him, disgusted (it is said) by the tone of haughty superiority,

* Burke, with his usual affluence of imagery, describes it as “ an administration so chequered and speckled ; a piece of joinery so crossly indented, and whimsically dovetailed; a cabinet so variously inlaid ; such a piece of diversified Mosaic, such a 'tes. selated pavement without cement; here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white; patriots and courtiers, king's friends. and republicans, whigs and tories, treacherous friends and open enemies—that it was indeed a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch, and unsure to stand on. The collegues assorted at the same boards stared at each other, and were obliged to ask Sir, your name, &c.' It so happened, that persons had a single office divided between them, who had never spoken to each other in their lives; until they found themselves they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle-bed."

which he was too much in the habit of assuming. He was himself heavily afflicted with the gout: the measures, which he recommended, were feebly supported; and it was supposed by many, that he had only been ennobled by a court-manæuvre, in order to remove him from the Lower House, and to lessen his general character. He affirmed, it is certain, that promises had been made to him which were not adhered to, and complained in strong terms of deception and treachery. He relinquished his last public employment, November 2, 1768; and so greatly had he fallen in the public esteem, that he was scarcely missed upon his resignation. After the death of Charles Townshend, the Chancellorship of the Exchequer was filled by Lord North, who subsequently became First Lord of the Treasury, and for many years presided over a series of public measures but too faithfully recorded by the misfortunes of his country.

Lord Chatham was frequently so much tormented by the gout, as to be rendered almost totally incapable of public business. But in the intervals of his disorder, and sometimes even under it's visitation, he exerted himself with uncommon vigour. Having been reconciled with Lord Temple, he again frequently took a leading part in popular questions. He began with a spirited attack upon the proceedings of the Commons in the case of the Middlesex election. Lord Mansfield's * doctrine of Libels was another subject, upon

* Yet he always did justice to the talents of his formidable rival. Upon one signal occasion in the House of Lords, he said, " My Lords, I must beg the indulgence of this House. Neither will my health permit me, nor do I pretend to be qualified, to follow that noble Lord through the whole of his argument. Ne

which he 'strenuously maintained the principles of liberty.

In 1772, he spoke with much eloquence in support of a bill, for relieving Protestant Dissenting Ministers from the hardship of being required to subscribe to the doctrinal Articles of the Church of England. He, also, repeatedly reprobated the measures adopted respecting America. He made motion after motion, but in vain, for closing the breach; and he foretold, with almost prophetic accuracy, the fatal result. His anxiety upon the subject, indeed, raised him from his bed in the midst of pain and sickness, urged him to a vehemence beyond that of his best years, and at length was the proximate cause of his dissolution.

“ The way, my Lords (he exclaimed upon one occasion, in 1775) must be immediately opened for reconciliation. It will soon be too late. I know not, who advised the present measures. I know not, who advises to a perseverance and enforcement of them; but this I will say, that whoever advises them ought to answer for it at his utmost peril. I know that no one will avow that he advised, or that he was the author of, these measures : every one shrinks from the charge. But somebody has advised his Majesty to these measures, and, if he continues to hear such evil councillors, he will be undone. He, indeed, may wear

man is better acquainted with his abilities and learning, nor has a greater respect for them than I have. I have had the pleasure of sitting with him in the other House, and always listened to him with attention. I have not now lost a word of what he said; nor did I ever.” At another time, having quoted Lord Somers and Chief Justice Holt in support of his law, and having drawn their characters in splendid colours, he turned to Lord Mansfield and said, “ I vow to God, I think the noble Lord equals them both-in abilities."

his crown; but, the American jewel out of it, it will not be worth the wearing:

“ What more shall I say? I must not say, that * the King is betrayed ;' but this I will say, the nation is ruined. What foundation have we for our claims over America ? What is our right to persist in such cruel and vindictive measures against that loyal and respectable people? They say, 'You have no right to tax them without their consent.'. They say truly. Répresentation and Taxation must go together: they are inséparable. Yet there is hardly a man in our streets, though so poor as scarcely to be able to get his daily bread, but thinks he is the legislator of America. • Our American subjects,' is a common phrase in the mouth of the lowest orders of our citizens. But property, my Lords, is the sole and entire dominion of the owner: it excludes all the world beside the owner. None can intermeddle with it. It is a unity; a mathematical point. It is an atom ; untangible by any but the proprietor. The touch contaminates the whole mass : the whole property vanishes. The touch of another annihilates it; for whatever is a man's own, is absolutely and exclusively

his own.

“ In the last parliament all was anger, all was rage. Administration, did not consider what was practicable, but what was revenge. Sine clade victoria was the language of the ministry last sessions ; but every body knew, an idiot might know, that such would not be the issue. But the ruin of the nation was a matter of no concern, if administration might be revenged. Americans, were abused, misrepresented, and traduced in the most atrocious manner; in order to give a colour, and urge on to the most

« PreviousContinue »