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Memoirs of a Trait in the Character of George III. of these United Kingdoms/Table of Contents

< Memoirs of a Trait in the Character of George III. of these United Kingdoms

The Dedication, written in his Lordship's life-time, was addressed to Baron Erskine: it could not be prefixed to the trait, but is retained in the Appendix to the Work in Manuscript, from having originated in the remarkable circumstance—that the honourable Thomas Erskine, afterwards Lord high Chancellor of Great Britain,[1] was a junior midshipman on board the Deptford man of war, in which ship the Timekeeper was taken out to Jamaica on the first trial. This incident led to an acquaintance, and to sentiments of kindness between his Lordship and the younger Harrison, which were retained during life; and it precluded the Author from resorting to any other Patron, as it became, in his apprehension, a sort of profanation to withhold from the shade of that lamented Nobleman what had been addressed to his accomplished mind before the mortal scene closed on him in the fulness of a forensic reputation, and a consequence so immeasurably contrasted with his outset in pursuit of fame and fortune.—It may be proper to add, that the patronage sought had no reference to Lord Erskine's opinions as a statesman, politics being wholly excluded from these pages,—to the end that the Work may be acceptable to all parties,—to devotees of every political creed, except the republican.

  1. It is remarked by Sir Nathaniel W. Wraxall, in his "Own Times," that had Lord Erskine been born one grade higher in the aristocracy, had he been the son of a Marquis instead of an Earl, he would have been precluded, by the regulations of the Scotch nobility from practising at the bar;—and consequently cut off from such a source of fame and emolument as it proved to him.—Are there not those who would suggest a doubt here? Would not this enterprizing genius, on finding where his forte lay, have preferred relinquishing the barren privileges of aristocratical consanguinity, if they were such a serious obstacle to his advancement? especially as he was said to have finally determined on this professional choice from being unable to support his family on a commission in the Army, for which he had exchanged the Naval service.—The Author may add a circumstance respecting this Nobleman's relatives, which he has not seen noticed any where.—His Lordship, when Sergeant Erskine, being in company, at table, with a young man entirely deaf, accosted him with much facility by the digitalis verba, or finger alphabet; explaining that he had been used to converse in that mode with an uncle he had; who was, he said, a very learned man, and knew seven Ianguages.


No further reliance could be placed on the Commissioners — his Sovereign's high sense of equity suggests an application in that quarter—a letter to Dr. Demainbury the King's Astronomer at Richmond—his Majesty sends for the younger Harrison to Windsor, and interrogates him on his Father's situation with the Board of Longitude—the party business into which their proceedings had degenerated—Lord Morton had been deficient in common humanity, as well as a sense of equity—great importance of the loan of the Timekeeper affected to be excluded from the minutes—quotation from a printed tract—most injurious conduct of the northern Peer—he sweeps off the Totes, except Sir John Cust's—a question; how he had such influence?—the provision for the effects of heat and cold, how managed—declaration of George 3rd to the Applicant, that he would see him righted—gross exaggerations of Wolcot—the Timekeeper to be tried at Richmond—this interview long-remembered by William Harrison, from the humane attention it evinced—the King dissatisfied with the trial, and the published report authorized by the Board of Longitude—arrangements for the examination—great error of the Watch—the patience and self-command of this Prince—unfounded calumnies of Wolcot—great disquietude of John Harrison—singular discovery of the cause of error in the Timekeeper—the trial resumed—an interruption from an accident to William Harrison—the suavity and condescension he experiences from his Sovereign on that occasion—extract from a letter, written at the time—the trial recommences de novo—is extended from six weeks to ten, and the reason for it—his Majesty held that the trial directed by the 12th of Queen Anne, or some fair equivalent for it, could not be departed from without manifest injustice 1

William Harrison waits on the Commissioners to report the trial—the Ring had authorized him to use his name and sanction for the statement—an examination of Mr. Kendal's Timekeeper was also successful—he prays them to grant a certificate—a mistaken persuasion would circulate—his Majesty's personal attention to the subject excites no deference in the Board: dissembled motives of Lord Sandwich and Dr. Maskelyne— personal animosity indulged under public pretexts—a copy should have been furnished to the British Museum—what passed could have happened in no other country—proceedings on the reading of the Memorial—a clencher for the Claimant's Patron—they overlook Mr. Kendal's Timekeeper—pervert their right to decide as Commissioners—they knew their answer would be reported at Buckingham House—how it might be interpreted—an allusion to certain puritanical writers—the good subjects of Richard Cromwell—how would Montesqieu have treated the question?—a novel Saturnalia—no dispassionate man would have withheld due praise from the Sovereign—he would have been blameless to Timon of Athens—a list of the Commissioners present at the Board, November 28th, 1772—the Mathematicians a majority on the occasion—Lord Chesterfield's vague defence of clergymen—not to be expected that they should be exempt from reproach—isolated merit of this Prince a fit theme for the pulpit—he had neglected to ask leave of the Commissioners bad example of the Collegians—four months' delay—a sentiment of Francis I.—rarity of such self-command among distinguished men—Charles II. and other monarchs not so placable—had George 3rd been more irritable?—a supposed case for the Attorney, or the Solicitor General—cannot the King commit for contempt, as well as the Judges who represent him on his bench at Westminster? 18

A remark connected with the popular cry of "Wilkes and liberty" at that period—rashness of the Commissioners—William Harrison's version of the affair—the Consul and Antiochus—the younger Harrison's conduct tends much to avert the serious consequences that might have ensued—the Commissioners were provoking a trial of strength with the Crown—the Collegians would have much disgusted their friend Tully—the firmness of the King might have been severely illustrated—irritated and degrading motives of the opposed party at the Board—their conduct would have been reprobated in all our courts of justice—the prudence of the Claimant's Son blunts the edge of the mischief—a petition to Parliament becomes necessary—measures taken for its success—Lord North is written to—his apathy—an expedient to rouse his Lordship's attention; but it fails—the Author's surprise at that particular inattention of the Treasury bench—expected contest on this second reading of the petition—the gentlemen of the opposition volunteer their services—George 3rd not a friend by halves; a passage in a letter illustrating it—the junior Harrison not conversant with books beyond his avocations—Mr. Burke and Sir George Saville advocate the justice of the claim they knew not the origin of the Act to amend, explain and alter that of the 12th Queen Anne—Lord North is neutral, but might have enquired of his Majesty on the subject—coincidence between Mr. Burke's opinion and the King's; who is withheld by the forms of the constitution from personal interference—he would have given his testimony under an inferior title, had it been necessary—he is not quite so successful as he sought for, and the causes—the original advances of money were to be included in the reward—nothing said about the right of property in the work—Lord Morton decides the question his own way—incapacity of that nobleman—the King's discriminating view of the subject—William Harrison prints extracts from certain Acts of Parliament for circulation in both Houses—the Petitioner had relinquished every other professional advantage—was well-entitled to receive the grant without deduction—the younger Harrison accounts to his correspondent for this partial failure—unaccountable demeanour of Lord North—the placability of his royal master—the self-denial of this Monarch far greater than that of the Gentlemen who took up the cause of John Harrison 43

Pleasant winding up of the log-book—value of a friend like George 3rd to the unfortunate—few exemplary persons willing to incur so much inconvenience as must have resulted from the resolution the King took—firmness and consistency of his character—many a poor fellow would covet such aid—Wolcot, or Peter Pindar, enabled to get his bread by his scurrility, while an action of so much merit is unknown—the default an inuendo on the courtiers of that day, and on some Fellows of the Royal Society—the adulatory compliments to Princes unnecessary here—what may be effected by a stroke of the pen—the malignity of Junius exposed—his panic should he be discovered a quotation from his letters commented on—flattery a losing speculation—the Author has waited in vain for some disclosure from the private letters, or memoranda, of the men of note near his Majesty's person—frivolous engagements of Prince George—Ashmole's diary—some beneficial agent much wanted, to extend our knowledge of this Monarch—it becomes obligatory on the Author to resort to the press—ambition of the Princess Dowager of Wales and the Earl of Bute—independent spirit of George 3rd—his virtues very imperfectly known—an allusion to the Duke of Sully, to a Boswell, and to Mr. Croker—Prince Frederic and Bub Dodington—love of justice in the King, and his cultivated intellect—his public life given by various writers, but our knowledge of his private worth extremely defective—Fenelon wrote chiefly for Princes; the present work blends with the same purpose—an allusion to the history of the preceding transactions, and to the Earl of Morton—a matter of fact more likely to impress the reader than inventive resources, however ingenious—analogy between the purpose of the Telemachus and the first intention of these memoirs—to "teach the young idea how to shoot;" when the mark involves the safety of multitudes—the middle and higher ranks of society may profit by the example here—George 3rd differed from other monarchs like "good Aurelius"—Britain the only country that contemned the power of Buonaparte—a genuine British King has some features not recognized in history—the House of Brunswic raised to a distinction not surpassed by any dynasty recorded—may it continue to flourish through revolving centuries 69


No. 1. Remarks on a Pamphlet published under the authority of the Board of Longitude 89
No. 2. A letter to Dr. Demainbury (the King's Astronomer at Richmond) 191
No. 3. Voyage in the Deptford man of war to Madeira, and from Madeira to Jamaica—accuracy of the Timekeeper; and the return, with a very tempestuous passage, in the Merlin sloop 201
No. 4. A letter from Lieutenant A. Howe, on the comparative merits of the Lunar process for finding the Longitude, and that by Chronometry 206
No. 5. A quotation from a periodical.—A digression in blank verse, on the fate of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, and some remarks on monumental honours 208
No. 6. On the character of Mr. George Graham 214
No. 7. Some remarks on the respective characters of George 3rd and Dr. Samuel Johnson; suggested by Mr. Croker's annotations on the biography of the Moralist 220
No. 8. A Note on Junius and Wolcot 229
No. 9. Anecdotes of George IV. when Prince of Wales. 238
No. 10. Observations on the injurious and oppressive effects of a claim under the copy-right Act from eleven colleges or libraries 252