Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/182

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
 

he had begun to recover (Life of Hardwicke, iii. 283; Walpole, Letters, iv. 1). In the hope of dividing the whigs, he persuaded Henry Fox to desert his party, and take the management of the commons, acting in this as in all else on Bute's suggestion (Bedford Correspondence, iii. 134). Persons about the court said that the ‘king would now be king indeed,’ and that the ‘prerogative was to shine out.’ The whigs were now to feel the royal displeasure. The Duke of Devonshire [see Cavendish, William, fourth duke], whom the princess-dowager bitterly called the ‘prince of the whigs,’ and who had refused to take part in the discussions about the peace, was lord chamberlain. He called at St. James's in October, but the king sent him out a message by a page, ‘Tell the duke I will not see him.’ The duke resigned his office; his brother, Lord George Cavendish, a member of the household, also resigned, and the king accepted his resignation in person, and with marked discourtesy. Lord Rockingham remonstrated with the king, resigned his office in the bedchamber on 4 Nov., and was treated in the same manner. The same day the king with his own hand erased Devonshire's name from the list of privy councillors. Newcastle, Grafton, and Rockingham were deprived of their lieutenancies, and with the king's approval a general proscription of the whigs was carried out, which extended to inferior officials, such as clerks, and even to pensioners (Rockingham Memoirs, i. 135–60). When the king went to open parliament on the 25th, he was not cheered in the streets. The royal influence, however, was strong in parliament, and the preliminaries of peace were approved. This was a signal triumph. ‘Now,’ the princess said, ‘my son is king of England.’ George was delighted, and when the peace of Paris was concluded in February 1763, declared that ‘England never signed such a peace before’ (Bedford Corr. iii. 199).

Meanwhile a storm of indignation rose against Bute, and the king himself did not wholly escape it; for the minister was held to be a ‘ favourite.’ Favouritism in its special sense was not one of George's weaknesses; while he had of course personal preferences, he showed favour to Bute, and in later times to other ministers not for personal, but for political, reasons. The influence which Bute exercised over him was jeered at in many ways, and among them by a caricature entitled ‘The Royal Dupe’ (Wright, p. 285). Although the ministerial majority was strong in parliament—for, in addition to the practice of intimidation, 52,000l. a year was spent in maintaining it—Bute felt himself unable to brave the popular indignation, and resigned on 8 April. George received his resignation with unexpected alacrity; he considered him ‘deficient in political firmness,’ and seems to have been rather glad to get rid of him as a minister (Malmesbury, Diaries, iii. 163; Rose, Diaries, ii. 192; Walpole, George III, iv. 133). By Bute's advice he appointed George Grenville to the treasury, laying down as a basis of the administration which he was to form, that none of the Newcastle and Pitt ministry were ever to return to office during his reign, but that favour might be shown to those whigs who would support his government (Bedford Corr. iii. 224). The speech with which the king closed parliament on 19 April was scurrilously commented on by Wilkes in No. 45 of the ‘North Briton,’ where it was treated not as the king's, but as the minister's speech. George ordered that Wilkes should be prosecuted, urged forward the violent measures taken against him, treated the matter as a personal quarrel, and dismissed Temple from his lord-lieutenancy for sympathy with Wilkes (Grenville Papers, ii. 162, 192; Walpole, George III, iii. 296; Lecky, iii. 71). Grenville took office with the intention of shielding the king from dictation, but George found him masterful. The administration was bad, and the king was anxious to make some change in it. In August he offered cabinet office to Hardwicke, and even spoke of giving a court office to Newcastle, but Hardwicke would not come in alone, and George would not submit to take in a party in gross.

On the 21st George was much disturbed by the death of Lord Egremont, which weakened the tory side of the cabinet. By the advice of Bute he sent for Pitt, and on 27 Aug. requested him to state his opinions. Pitt dilated on the defects of the peace and the dismissal of the whigs, whom, he said, he should restore. George listened graciously, but said that his ‘honour must be consulted.’ He was in a difficult position; he wanted to get rid of his present ministers, and hoped that Pitt would have consented to be his minister without bringing with him any of the party which he hated. A decision was to be made on the 29th. The day before, Sunday, the 28th, Grenville saw the king, who was confused and flustered. The result of their conversation was that when Pitt the next day stated his terms, which were the treasury for Temple, and the restoration of the great whig families, the king refused them. ‘My honour is concerned,’ he said, ‘ and I must support it.’ He asked Grenville to continue in office. The minister lectured him, and received the king's promise that Bute should not interfere. A few days later Bute made an attempt to win Pitt