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Memoirs of a Trait in the Character of George III. of these United Kingdoms/Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV.


A reflection incidentally arising out of the preceding circumstances, to which, in parliamentary languge, it may be attached as a rider, is that, any political writer in search of a set off against "Wilkes and liberty," the popular cry of that period, had the curious document quoted been in his way, would have argued from it, that the privilges of the commonalty could be in no danger, unless from the licentious use of them, if these public men, the Commissioners of Longitude, to wit, could treat an indirect communication of the King's sentiments, on a subject of magnitude, with no more ceremony than they might have done a report from the Jockey Club, on some point connected with their motto, "the Devil take the hindmost"—The rashness of their conduct, considering his Majesty would send for the minutes of the Board, is the more extraordinary, as the Author has by him a copy of this memorial, and underneath, in the hand-writing of William Harrison, is his version of the affair, which, strange to say, is more favourable to the Commissioners than their own denunciation of the royal interference, and as follows—
November 28th, 1772. Mr. William Harrison, in his Father's name, presented the above memorial; and Lord Sandwich gave him the following answer.—The memorial you delivered in has been read. We do not find it contains any new matter, and the Board has already told you what they will have done, and they have no reason to alter their opinion—To which Mr. Harrison replied, my Lord, I am sorry to differ with your Lordship, and did hope there was new matter; as from the trial which has been at Richmond, I have leave to say, his Majesty is well satisfied. Here Lord Sandwich interrupted him, and said,—Sir, to be sure, your authority is very great; but if you have a mind to try what experiments you will, that is nothing to this Board. We have nothing to do with them; the Board has told you what they will have done: and they will not alter.

Certainly there never was a better illustration of the common phrase "the laws of the Medes and Persians alter not' They could draw a line which was not to be stepped over as authoritatively, as Popilius Lena; and George 3rd unexpectedly found himself almost as much in limbo as Antiochus. The wand of the "proud republican," or the circle he drew, could not be more restrictively menacing than were the eccentric flights of these functionaries; in whom it seemed impossible to separate an irritated and degrading stimulus from more correct motives. But the words, "Sir, to be sure, &c." may be allowed to soften the deformity of the official statement, which has no equivalent salvo, although six learned graduates either were, or might have been, assisting at this edict against all trials not having their sign manual; and—Presto, begone.—

We are at Buckingham House; where, after the King had perused the regular report of proceedings, which he would do first, the Author conjectures that the junior Harrison showed him his own statement, which he would have in his pocket, and it is highly creditable to him as a plain, but conscientious citizen, that he should, by withholding no part of the truth, have lessened the mischief which these thoughtless men, maugre their erudite designations, might have found they were concocting, by having thrown away their historical horn-books. To adhere to the letter of their right, as Commissioners, at such a juncture, without deigning to show common civility to his Majesty, was hazardous enough; for it was provoking one of those trials of strength on which the revolutions of kingdoms have often been known to depend. To make their privileges the vehicle of a deliberate affront to "the fountain of honour," would have been generally resented by the public, in behalf of their Sovereign, had it been bruited; as savouring more of a puritanical contempt for royalty, among these Ecclesiastics, than of that deference which their friend, Tully, who so greatly admired a triune constitution in theory, would have upbraided them with the want of.—Henry IV. as we learn from Sully, was much prejudiced against all parliaments by the conduct of that of France; and George 3rd after the treatment he had received, might have resolved, consistently with the firmness of his character, that let what would be the consequence, he would never set his hand to any bill constituting such a commission; over which he had no control, though he knew and saw the systematic oppression shown to the venerable Claimant (who had relied on the public faith) by making his labours interminable if they could; ostensibly under a public pretext, but it was so evident the Astronomer Royal found it much easier to adopt this nefarious course than to reply to the strictures on his examination of the successful Timekeeper, "published under the authority of the Board of Longitude," (synonimous with his own) that there was not a court of judicuture in the kingdom but would have reprobated this perverted stretch of their power.

The moral correctness of the part which William Harrison bore in this transaction is deserving of notice; as he must have severely felt the pressure of the disappointment, when it appeared that the royal sanction was as much a cypher in the arithmetic of the Commissioners, as the estimate of the damage done by Dr. Maskelyne to his Father's machines; which, from that spirit of favouritism which frustrated the purposes of their institution, is nowhere lo be found. He was under no obligation to prevent his enemies from running their heads against the wall, by these consummately rash demonstrations; but as a patriotic man, who desired not to profit by the "confusion worse confounded" which their folly might have created, he may be concluded to have mollified the resentment which it is probable his royal Patron would feel (for something most be conceded to human nature) in the first instance, at finding all the trouble he had volunteered to incur, thrown away; by showing him this memorandum of what passed at the Admiralty;[1] in which luckily, the passage referred to, tended to blunt the edge of that cutting instrument, into which they had converted the "brief authority" they were armed with.

A petition to Parliament being now the only resource against misfortunes originating ten years before, in the Earl of Morton's having been insufferably provoked by a non-compliance with the impossibilities he projected, measures were taken by the junior Harrison, with the advice of "George III. of these United Kingdoms," to form a friendly party in the legislature, opposed to that which it was to be expected the Commissioners of Longitude, after this dictum, would exert all their influence to muster against the prayer for the redress sought. As a matter of course, Lord North would be among the first applied to.—The copy of this letter is missing, but the same arguments were embodied in another, which is preserved, addressed, under date, December 18th, 1772, to John Robinson, Esq., Secretary to the Treasury, and supposed to be his Lordship's chief confidant. As the applicant took no step of any moment without consulting his Majesty, the reason of this auxiliary duplicate was probably, that the King from a knowledge of his Minister's constitutional temperament, told him Lord North would be in danger of falling asleep over the business, without this precaution; by which it was designed that Mr. Robinson should give his principal a jog on the elbow, or something equivalent to a fillip on the nose (for he loved a joke) to avert such an awkward sequel to the importance attached to the Premier's support of the petition. This prudential step, however, does not appear to have been attended, with the results looked for. His Lordship manifested either so much apathy, or so much indifference to the subject, that on the 2nd of March following, William Harrison thus writes, "l have at last got my answer from Lord North, which, like all the rest, is nothing at all;" and again, "Lord North seems to pay no attention at all, but would willingly waive off every thing that takes public money out of the common channel of pensions," &c.[2]

That the honourable Frederic North, first Lord of the Treasury, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a knowledge of the interest his royal Master took in the success of the Claimant (and how could he be ignorant of it?) should, maugre this surmise, have given occasion for the above account of an application to him, by direction from that quarter, for his countenance in the matter, is enough to "confound the wisdom of the wise, and to bring to nought the understanding of the prudent."—If by "all the rest" was meant, as seems, those who took the lead on the side of Administration in either House, who were solicited for their support, it favours the notion that, in this country, the consequence of the Prime Minister, for the time being, outweighs that of the regal office.[3] Whether it be that "the loaves and fishes," as they are called, are more immediately under his distribution, "and where the carcass is, there will the vultures be," is an enquiry we waive.

In the present case the political centurions, manipuli and cornets, whose standard was the purse of the state, (borne by certain valiant men) lay in their arms, but on the look out, for the nod of command, not from St. James's, but from Downing-street. Not so, the gentlemen of the opposition, who, when the day of battle came (as is usual on the second reading) volunteered with one reverberating voice in support of the aged Claimant; their device being the goddess, Astrea, who seemed to have descended through the roof of St. Stephen's arena, with the ægis of Jove for their panoply. The petition of John Harrison thus, incidentally, introduces the curious and novel spectacle, of his Majesty at the head of that phalanx to which he was opposed on the subject of the American war, but to which he owed the victory on a question unincumbered with the usual display of Whig and Tory muster rolls. Mr. Fox advocated the hearing of the petition when it was presented, and we shall soon introduce his colleagues; but for the present must observe,—it would be a very mistaken inference, to imagine that after the application his Majesty had already given the subject, it sufficed if he wished well to the inventor of the Timekeeper, in his endeavours to recover the second moiety of the reward, so long detained. This friend to merit, was not a friend by halves; and the letter above quoted furnishes indubitable evidence of the patient attention the King gave to the details of proceedings adopted for that purpose.—It discloses also the extraordinary fact,—that but for the consolation, the kind encouragement and countenance derived from such a source, the father and son, totally despairing of success, would have dropped the further prosecution of their object, as quite hopeless. The passage which ascertains a circumstance at once so important to the petitioner and his descendants, and so honourable to the persevering consistency and humane condescension of this monarch is as follows.—
As I before told you, I will not leave a stone unturned, and therefore have now in the press a case to give to every member of Parliament; and which you may expect to see in a few days. I do not think it possible to get any more of our reward;—but my business, after this, will be, to sit down quietly, without having to say to myself,—had I taken such or such a step, I might have succeeded. I am certain if I do not succeed now, it will be morally impossible afterwards: as I have an opportunity of laying before his Majesty, every Tuesday, every thing I have done: and I do not write one word, or take one step, without acquainting him with it

The junior Harrison being unfortunately (like his father) not a man of reading unconnected with his avocations, nor viewing circumstances in a light foreign to the anxious purpose of his pursuit, the observations on the prominent characters of either House of Parliament, in that day, which may he conceived to have incidentally arisen out of the conferences and counsel he was thus honoured with, and which, as coming from such a quarter, would be enquired for by the future historian, are wholly lost.

The debates, on the first and the third reading of the petition, have been sought for without success; but that on the second, which seems always considered the most important, are preserved; and from the speeches of Sir George Saville and Mr. Burke being given in the first person, it would appear that the reporters found their interest in catering for the public curiosity.

April 27th. The Petition presented from John Harrison, the Inventor of the Timekeeper; &c.—was again read.
Sir George Saville.—I think. Sir, it is a disgrace to this nation, that a man who, as his petition sets forth, has spent forty years of a life of now fourscore, in studying and making so great a discovery as his watch most certainly is, should still remain without his reward, though he had the positive engagement of Parliament to depend on. I much wish, Sir, that he might at have his just due, and that speedily, lest heaven should give him that reward which his country most unjustly denies him. By the Act of Queen Anne, which offered the premium, he is absolutely entitled to it, his Watch having gone to the West Indies, with an accuracy in the performance much within what is required by that Act. But by the last Act, which was explanatory of the first, and which was framed in consequence of his claim, there arises such difficulties, that it seems the Board of Longitude cannot do him justice. This, I think, is so great a grievance upon a man who has made a discovery highly important to that art upon which the wealth, power and happiness of this country so essentially depends, that it would be to the last degree cruel not to repeal this last Act, in order that he may have his claims adjudged by the first.
Mr. Dyson spoke to the form of this matter, being against Sir George's proposal;[4]and Lord North remarked, that Mr. Harrison, in his pettion, rather arraigned the Board of Longitude and observed, that as the Board had required other Timekeepers and experiments to be made, which were not yet concluded, it would be proper to call for the minutes of that Board, relative to the transactions concerning Mr. Harrison, before a conclusion could be come to.
Mr. Edmund Burke. Mr. Speaker, I must own, I am astonished at the replies which have come from the other side of the House. Where, Sir, is the dignity, where is the sense, where even the justice of the representatives of a great, powerful, enlightened, and maritime nation, when a petition of a man is laid before them, claiming not favour but justice; claiming that reward which the law would give him, and to see it refused, upon what principles? Why, a man at eighty years of age is to make more Timekeepers; and he is not only to make them, but to make more voyages to the Indies to try them. Good God! Sir, can this be the House of Commons of Britain? This most ingenious and able mechanic, who has spent above forty years of an industrious and valuable life in search of this great discovery—and has discovered it; who has, according to the verdict of the whole mechanical world, done more than ever was expected—and even gone beyond the line drawn by that Act of Parliament, in consequence of which he undertook the work; this man is now, at the age of fourscore, to have his legal right withheld from him, by adhering to an Act which stands between him and his reward. This instance will be a fresh one, Sir, added to the long and black catalogue of genius and parts being exerted through long courses of lives in the service of the public, and ending in poverty and misery,—monuments of the base ingratitude of mankind! It is a case, Sir, that will admit of no delay; form is to come in between such a man and his reward; we are to have papers called for with all the tediousness attendant, before the inventor of this noble discovery is to have his just rights. Is this a conduct worthy of the munificence of this House? of a nation that owes to her navigation, her wealth, her consequence, her fame![5]

Lord North rose in explanation, and in a candid manner professed himself much inclined to do justice to Mr. Harrison. He said the papers might be had in twenty-four hours; exculpating himself from designed delays.

Mr. Burke answered, that nothing could be further from his idea than to be so ill a friend to Mr. Harrison's cause, as to irritate the noble Lord; that he meant no such thing, and assured the House that he wished only to induce the Treasury to be willing speedily to do the old.man justice.

The debate concludes with the proceedings of the Board of Longitude being ordered to be laid before the House.—Also that an extract of a letter from Captain Pocock to the Comptroller of the Navy, giving a favourable account of a Watch made by Mr. Kendal, on Mr. Harrison's principles, be read at the same time.—The immediate purpose of John Harrison's friends, or of the royal party, as we may call it, was the repeal of Lord Morton's Act, which had proved equally injurious to the Claimant and to the public: but none of those who spoke, nor perhaps any person in the House, knew the disgraceful origin of that measure. Had Mr. Burke had leisure to trace it to the separate commission; and discovered that by the resolutions of the obtrusive and consequential character, who took every thing to himself on that occasion, an outlay of at least £900 might have been incurred, for which no funds were provided; and yet that the Board of Longitude never enquired into the truth, of that nobleman's statements; though it is pretended on the minutes, 9th February, 1765, that they "duly weighed and considered the same," his eloquence would have held up such gross incapacity, or such culpable neglect to the contempt and odium it merited.—Lord North acts a neutral part fairly enough.[6] He had either wanted time, or inclination, to notice the proceedings of the commission of Longitude; and William Harrison had not succeeded in drawing his attention to the subject, when he wrote to him by his Majesty's advice. Yet there was a course which might have enabled his lordship to come forward in the House with his mind not like a partial blank. He knew that the King had given much attention to this affair; and had he availed himself of those frequent opportunities for conversation which his official business threw in his way, he might (to use a metaphor) have borrowed his Master's observation glass, if he had lost his own.—The frivolity of the logic from the opposite side (that is the Treasury benches, where the strength of the enemy lay) it seems was such, that Mr. Burke scarcely preserves good manners in adverting to it; and declines to reply in detail to—what the reporters did not think of sufficient importance for their purpose. He assumes, exactly as the King had done, that no man of common sense, if disinterested, could entertain a doubt on the question, yet probably he did not know half the reasons on which George 3rd had formed that conclusion.

As the salutary forms of the constitution, though intended only to circumscribe bad, or weak princes, yet unavoidably also limit the sphere of action of the good; of whom the Author of Cato observes, "it would be happy for their subjects, if they were absolute;" so in the interval from February to May, or, it is more likely, from Christmas, this ornament to the throne is seen addressing himself, every Tuesday,[7] to all that minuteness of investigation, and operative advice, towards overcoming the difficulties with which it was anticipated the progress of the case through Parliament would be surrounded: for the Commissioners, instead of taking this opportunity to do away with their recorded effrontery, on the 28th of November preceding, sounded the tocsin, and strained every nerve to opposed the Petitioner's success—to defeat, to wit, the important and amiable purpose this Prince bad embarked in, and was determined, from the first, to accomplish, if practicable: while he was restrained by those landmarks which long prescription had set out for the sovereign in all cases pending, the decision of either House of Parliament; and still more coerced by certain reasons of propriety, the "chains invisible" which, by converting his requests into commands, preclude the head of the state from personal solicitation or interference, at times when it would not only be allowed, but commendable in a subject, of whatever rank, to exert himself as to him seemed best.

The Applicant, in a part of his petition, after stating the success of his last made Timekeeper, which, in a trial of ten weeks, had erred only four miles instead of thirty, which it was allowed by the Act, continues 'that your Petitioner has laid undoubted evidence thereof before the Board of Longitude, and is ready to produce the same to this honourable House.'—This "undoubted evidence" was very uncommon—for it was that of "George III. of these United Kingdoms" who, had the forms of the lower House indispensably so required, would have appeared at the bar, under, an inferior title, and given his testimony in accordance with the redress sought.—But this most distinguished deponent, though successful in a considerable proportion, was not so to the full extent of his purpose, £1250 being deducted for money advanced at different periods many years before, to enable the Petitioner to prosecute his experiments.

It should be observed, that when the Candidate was assisted by the Commissioners, so far back as 1787 with an advance of money, in consequence of the recommendations he brought with him from scientific men of the first eminence, it was stipulated in behalf of the public, that such advances were to be regarded as loans to be thereafter included in the reward if he became entitled to it; and this was consonant to equity; nothing being said about a right of property in the work he should produce; but when the Machines he had constructed were claimed and taken possession of, under Lord Morton's Act, the case was totally altered. If any person should assist a mechanic with money to complete some works in hardware, and afterwards secure them to himself without leave of the maker, or enquiring his price, it would be universally held that the latter was exonerated from the original debt. This the P. R. S. either from the effects of education and habit, or of an original flaw in his mental conformation, was incapable of discerning,[8] but George 3rd desiring to hold the scales with fairness between the Claimant and the community reasoned thus, without hesitation, and being a better accomptant than the deceased patrician, he observed, that the sum in question bore but a small proportion to the interest of the moiety detained since February, 1765, if it was taken only at three per cent., and much less still, if that of the whole reward was computed from August, 1762, which subsequently the House of Commons in committee, after hearing evidence, allowed he became fully entitled to at that period:[9] and the King believed it would have been paid then, had not the Board with such an infraction of justice refused him check on the computations.—It appears farther; that William Harrison, with the concurrence, if not at the suggestion of his Patron printed, for circulation among the Members of both Houses, brief extracts from five Acts of Parliament, comprised between the 12th of Queen Anne and the 6th George 3rd inclusively,[10] to show that the pecuniary encouragement by which the Commissioners were enabled to assist ingenious men, from £2000 placed at their disposal for that purpose, was always considered by the Legislature as wholly distinct from the premium provided for the successful Candidate. Thus situated, the injury he had received by the unfair detention of his recompence, as his Majesty thought, in concurrence with men of the first rate talents, without adverting to the decision of the long robe, well entitled him to have any demonstrations like this deduction of £1250, waived in the final settling; especially, and the consideration is of prime importance, that the Petitioner had relinquished every other advantage in life, which his extraordinary abilities might have insured him, to solve the problem of the Longitude, by and with the encouragement of the Commissioners, the mathematical Commissioners, be it observed, till his ultimate success was highly probable.

The debate on the grant not being to be procured, the ostensible causes of this partial failure do not appear; but the real circumstances, or what William Harrison took to be so, are thus accounted for to his friend. After adverting to the weary struggle, but unexpected success of the contest, with such powerful opponents, he proceeds 'Had I been so happy as to have pushed matters, with my Lord North, while Sir George Saville, and some more of my most worthy friends were in town, I had received the whole, without any deduction, but out of politeness[11] to Lord North, his Lordship flung me out of £1250.'—He means that the majority gave way so far to please the Minister. That the Premier, with a knowledge of his royal Master's sentiments on the subject (and who can doubt he knew them) should yet have suffered his satisfaction to be in any degree alloyed by this bonus to the Treasury, is passing strange indeed! and, we may assume, could not at that time have happened under any other Government, bearing resemblance to a monarchy. The fact inclusively shows that the placability and candour of this considerate Prince allowed even those who might be concluded to be most subservient to what he had so much set his mind on, freely to differ in opinion with him, both by their words and actions, provided they were not open to reproach, like the party who refused the old man the loan of the successful Timekeeper: and who damaged his machines, as if in children's sport.—Another circumstance which highly bespeaks attention, is that Sir George Saville, and some of those who divided with him, would directly have declined all pretensions to compete with John Harrison's superior friend, had they understood the self-denial to which he had constrained himself, pending this business; particularly during the trial of the Watch, to which their own sacrifices bore no resemblance. They had attended in their places in the House, when this, as well as ordinary business, was the order of the day, but unluckily, by suffering country engagements, or amusements, to interfere with the probable sequel of the discussions, the Applicant was not so fully benefited as would have resulted, could his Majesty have imparted a portion of his own arduous perseverance to the gentlemen, with whom he was perfectly agreed in opinion. For if it be allowed to judge of what we do not know by what we do, nothing but what was physically insurmountable would have thwarted his dignified purpose; he would have rode from Lincoln, or from York, and in all weather too, if by that he could have restored the "father of modern chronometry" to the elevated ground he occupied when the success of the Timekeeper was universally admitted.[12]



Notes

  1. The interest which the subject may excite makes it worth while to observe, that, in politics, William Harrison was strenuously opposed to the American war; condemned the coalition between Mr. Fox and Lord North; and deprecated the French revolution in its early stages, though he could not, like the gifted Edmund Burke, foresee all the consequences that followed.[subnote 1] These opinions on by-gone subjects being now those of almost every reflecting person, may be adduced in favour of the correctness of his judgment, though he was not a man of reading.
  2. Crabbe the poet (afterwards zealously patronized by Mr. Burke) was equally unsuccessful in addressing his Lordship, who, like—

    A plain good man, and Balaam was his name—

    was no more obliged to admire what had Apollo's sanction, than to attend to uncommon merit in mathematical mechanics. If neither of these attempts to reach the Premier's sensorium (wherever that was) could penetrate it, yet by those who are not admitted behind the scenes in the national drama, it would be universally supposed that a knowledge of the interest which the principal actor took in the Petitioner's success, would have elicited, if not much alacrity, yet some readiness in the Prime Minister, to take the cue from his Patron in this part of the piece. The absence of this deference, when combined with the direct opposition which Lord Sandwich, another cabinet minister, lending himself, perhaps unawares, to the revenge of the Lunar party, is found to offer to the King's views, leaves a field open for the arguments of philosophical politicians, with whom we are unequal to interfere.

  3. In this view, the analogy between our own free institutions and some of the despotic sovereignties in the East is remarkable. In these the office of Prime Minister, or Grand Vizier, becomes hereditary; the nominal Monarch being kept a prisoner in his palace, is shewn to the people from time to time, on days of ceremony. If we mistake not, Hycler Ali and his Son Tippoo Saib were usurpers of this class. After the death of the latter, the lawful heir was restored by the conquerors.
  4. This Gentleman's name occurs once or twice in the lists of the Commissioners, as Secretary to the Treasury; and Jerry Dyson is mentioned in the private correspondence of Junius with Woodfal: but as we know no further of him, and the reporters have not favoured us with his argument, if he had say, it casually brought to mind the quaint epitaph in Joe Miller—

    Here lies the body of Daniel Saul,
    Spitalfields Weaver, and that's all.

  5. The ardour of Mr. Burke, to whom the descendants of the Petitioner seem greatly beholden, was not likely to fail him on a theme which may be allowed to have been more than usually congenial to his cast of mind. It is the Author's persuasion, that had that Gentleman been debarred both politics and literature, and then asked whose fame he envied most?—he would immediately have answered—that of John Harrison.
  6. We have recently seen that Lord Sandwich, the Premier's colleague in the cabinet, opposed himself point blank to the King's view of the subject, and to the zealous interest he took in it.—The why and the wherefore of so singular a circumstance is left to the future historian to explain, if competent. With the Author of the Memoirs, it suffices to contribute these unquestionable facts.
  7. Sir Nathaniel W. Wraxall has given us an abstract of the tiresome routine of a drawing-room day, which would be enough to show that the kingly office was not a sinecure in the reign of George 3rd.
    It is a fact that during many years of his life, after coming up from Kew, or from Windsor, often on horseback, and sometimes in heavy rain, to the Queen's House; he has gone in a sedan chair to St. James's, dressed himself, held a levee, passed through all the forms of that long and tedious ceremony; for such it was in the way that he performed it; without leaving any individual in the circle unnoticed; and has afterwards assisted at a Privy Council, or given audience to his Cabinet Ministers and others, till five, and even sometimes till six o'clock. After so much fatigue of body and mind, the only refreshment or sustenance that he usually took, consisted in a few slices of bread and butter and a dish of tea, which he sometimes swallowed as he walked up and down previous to getting into his carriage, in order to return to the country.

    To this singular, though unquestionable account, may be attached as a rider—that in the spring of 1773, if the levee was on a Tuesday, the King gave audience to William Harrison, who either read, or laid before him for his inspection, sundry written or printed tracts, together with drafts of letters, &c., connected with the prosecution of the petition through Parliament: to the details of which his Majesty attended like on who had no other business on that day: for, it should be observed, that hurried manner which he is accused of when the bow was unstrung, could not be recognized in an affair like this, which called for a deliberate judgment and a cool aim.

  8. There are men of such a cast of mind (an aberration of intellect we should call it) that they cannot be brought to comprehend or conform, to some sentiment to which the general sense of mankind attaches much value. Thus, Lewis XI. when he had bought off the threatened invasion of France by Edward IV., congratulated himself on the dexterity of his management; for he had found, by calculation, it would have cost him considerably more to have put his kingdom into a proper state of defence; and he had not one idea in common with those who condemned (behind his back) the meanness of such political tactics.
  9. This decision of the Committee virtually rescinded the vote of the Commissioners; who, on no apparent ground but the computations which he had been refused to name a check on, and was denied to inspect, decided that the Watch had not kept time within the Act on the trial to Jamaica. But whatever might be the sentiment of the House on the injustice he had experienced, it was followed by no practical result in his behalf: the reason—the why and wherefore of an incongruity so anomalous in a country and under a constitution by the theory of which the rights of all are respected alike, was never accessible. This was impressed on the Writer by the case of a Nobleman, nearly of the same date, being 1760, which is a remarkable set off to that of John Harrison.—The Duke of Athol possessed the royalty of the Isle of Man, with the rights, privileges, and immunities annexed thereto. These it became expedient that Government should purchase, for the better preservation of the revenue. His Grace was treated with accordingly; and by a liberal agreement received £70.000; which was at the extraordinary rate of 140 years purchase: to which was added a pension of £2000 (on the Irish estabIishment) for the lives of himself and the Duchess which was enjoyed forty years.—In 1804, the revenue of the Island having much improved in the interval, the Inheritor of this peerage complained of the serious loss and injury to the family, by the transfer above forty years before!—On the part of Government it was alleged that this improvement was owing to the greater vigilance they were enabled to exert by their cruizers, &c., and therefore was not to have been expected, had the management continued in private hands—an explanation which seems satisfactory enough. But, though it would be difficult to say that any contractor for naval or military stores might not on such a precedent claim compensation for a calculated loss twenty or thirty years after signing the articles,[subnote 2] his Grace, who must have reckoned accurately on his resources, goes down to Parliament, and by that influence which in all countries, whatever may be their form of Government attends on high rank and great possessions procured to the Dukedom of Athol a grant of £3.500 per annum, in perpetuity to replace the pension extinct. The old observation, that it is much easier for a rich man to obtain an addition to his wealth, than for a poor one to procure what is necessary to his existence, comes home with uncommon force to the cause of this Nobleman,[subnote 3] contrasted with that of the Client of a special pleader—George the good. And though not applicable to the latter, it recall the spirit of the sentiment in that verse, often quoted, from The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach 'When a rich man speaketh, every man holdeth his tongue, and look, what he saith, they extol it to the clouds: but if the poor man speak, they say, what fellow is this? and if he stumble, they will help to overthrow him.'
  10. That of the 26th George II. recites how by virtue of the powers vested in them by the first Act, they had 'heard and received several proposals made to them at different times for discovering the said Longitude, and were so far satisfied of the probabilities that they thought it proper to make Experiments thereof, and accordingly certified the same from time to time to the Commissioners of the Navy for the time being, together with the name of Mr. John Harrison, who was Author of the said Proposals; whereupon, bills were made out for several sums of money, amounting in the whole to £1250, all which respective sums were paid to the said John Harrison by the Treasurer of the Navy, pursuant to the directions of the said last mentioned Act of Parliament, as parts of the said Two Thousand Pounds therein mentioned; which the said Commissioners for discovering the Longitude thought necessary for making the said Experiments.—The continuation off the Act places Two Thousand Pounds more at the disposal of the Commissioners, for enabling them to cause such further Experiments to be made as they shall think proper for the purpose aforesaid.' The Applicant states, with reference to the 5th George III, that 'when he delivered up all the Timekeepers, they had actually stood him in a much larger sum than had been issued to enable him to make and try them.' He was assisted by his friends, particularly Sir Martin Folkes, and Mr. Graham: the East India Directors sent him £200; also Charles Stanhope, esquire, is mentioned as having called four times on the Candidate, and on each occasion left £20. (We regret we know no further of this Gentleman than the name.) It was John Harrison's misfortune that he lost too soon, by death, the protection of the eminent and scientific Baronet; who was in all respects a contrast to the mean and incompetent northern Earl, into whose gripe the Claimant was delivered, by the misconduct of the Board (Sir John Cust excepted) in making no enquiry after the proceedings of the separate Commission.[subnote 4]
  11. It will be recollected that, on his Lordship's motion, the papers of the Commission of Longitude were ordered to be laid before the House—were they read with any attention then?—and how is that to be reconciled with the politeness (as the younger Harrison calls it) with which this deduction was carried?—and received with equal civility by the Premier, we must suppose: but by what code of good breeding Lord North could have justified the ill-manners and uncouth opposition he was showing his excellent Master, for what might have been called a drop in the bucket, at the Treasury, we cannot divine.
  12. The following speculative analysis of the general character of monarchs, though it leans to an exaggerated extreme, and certainly allows of manifold exceptions, may be given to illustrate the surprising contrast between George 3rd and the elevated order of men to which he belonged by birth.
    Kings are beings very different from other men; their sensations are of another kind; their exemption from the general lot of hardships in some degree attending all other situations, makes them strangers to commiseration and sensibility; the pleasures of friendship are exchanged for those of flattery and obsequiousness; the nature of their education is calculated to destroy all natural disposition—at least the effects are the same as if it were a part of the plan; they begin so early to live by rules of art, that they are in masquerade the whole of their lives; whether their design be to oblige or offend, they are equally under the necessity of employing artifice. There is no other rank in life that can be so generally defined, because there is no other order of men who are framed so much alike, and have such a sameness in so many respects.

    If we contemplate this Monarch as a private Gentleman, divested of the cares of state, and of the anxieties of a large family but endowed with an ample fortune, would he not son have found his place and class with the Hanways and the Howards of that period? Men whose enlightened purpose it was essentially to benefit their neighbours, or the community, if they could, in various ways, if they had no specific calls for their attention at home:—for it may be observed of those philanthropists, the Man of Ross, Jonas Hanway, Howard, and Alderman Harrison of Leeds,[subnote 5] that they were either unmarried, or had no progeny, excepting Mr. Howard, whose Son was of weak intellects.



Subnotes

  1. By the way, although Lord Chesterfield's name is not associated with that of Mr. Burke on this subject, yet he discoursed afar the portentous signs in the horizon, and, many years before, predicted to his Son, that 'before the eighteenth century should be out, the trades of king and priest would not be half so good as they were.'
  2. At this time, the Author was not aware that in the debate on the grant, one of the speakers (Sir John Miller) indignantly opposed it on the same ground; for he "wished the house joy of what they were going to do. Henceforth they would have business enough upon their hands in remunerating every contractor who had made a bad bargain."—Weed's History of the Isle of Man, page 313.
  3. No reference was intended to financial politics: neither is the Author acquainted directly, or indirectly, with any member of the noble family alluded to, or with their connexions.
  4. Some remarks on the steady friendship of Mr. Graham will be found at No. 6 in the Appendix.
  5. John Harrison imagined himself connected by blood with this patriotic character, such being the tradition of the family; but this affinity cannot be traced.