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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

The Rockingham Administration came to an end


The House of Representatives replied to the reproofs of their governor in an address that was remarkable for the firmness with which it maintained its own position and the irony with which it reviewed the governor's pretensions. To prove their independence of action, they delayed the Act of Indemnity demanded by Secretary Conway for several months, and then accompanied it with a general pardon to all persons who had been concerned in the riots provoked by the Stamp Act. Though this Act was promptly disallowed by the Home Government on the ground that the power of pardon belonged exclusively to the Crown, it took effect nevertheless, and added another to the grievances of Bernard and of his backers in England.

[Sidenote: 1766--End of the Rockingham Administration]

The slowly widening breach between the American colonies and the mother country might even yet have been filled if it had been possible for the King to depend upon the services and listen to the advice of ministers whose good intentions and general good sense had the advantage of being served and indirectly inspired by the genius of Burke. But unhappily, the fortunes of the party with whom he was allied were not long fated to be official fortunes. After a year of honorable if somewhat colorless existence, the Rockingham Administration came to an end. There was no particular reason why it should come to an end, but the King was weary of it. If it had not gravely dissatisfied him, it had afforded him no grave satisfaction. An Administration always seemed to George the Third like a candle which he could illuminate or extinguish at his {108} pleasure. So he blew out the Rockingham Administration and turned to Pitt for a new one. In point of fact, an Administration without Pitt was an impossibility. The Duke of Grafton had resigned his place in the Rockingham Ministry because he believed it hopeless to go on without the adhesion of Pitt, and Pitt would not adhere to the Rockingham Ministry. Now, with a free hand, he set to work to form one of the most amazing Administrations that an age which knew many strange Administrations can boast of.

The malady which had for so long martyrized the great statesman had afflicted him heavily of late. His eccentricities had increased to such a degree that they could hardly be called merely eccentricities. But though he suffered in mind and in body he was ready and even eager to return to power, so long as that power was absolute. By this time he had quarrelled with Temple, who had so often hindered him from resuming office, and who was now as hostile to him as his brother, George Grenville, had ever been. Temple, in consequence, found no place in the new Administration. The Administration was especially designed to please the King. A party had grown up in the State which was known by the title of the King's friends. The King's friends had no political creed, no political convictions, no desire, no ambition, and no purpose save to please the King. What the King wanted said they would say; what the King wanted done they would do; their votes were unquestionably and unhesitatingly at the King's command. They did not, indeed, act from an invincible loyalty to the royal person. It was the royal purse that ruled them. The King was the fountain of patronage; wealth and honors flowed from him; and the wealth and the honors welded the King's friends together into a harmonious and formidable whole. The King's friends found themselves well represented in a Ministry that was otherwise as much a thing of shreds and patches as a harlequin's coat. Pitt had tried to make a chemical combination, but he only succeeded in making a mixture that might at any time dissolve into its component parts. It was composed {109} of men of all parties and all principles. The amiable Conway and the unamiable Grafton remained on from Rockingham's Ministry. So did the Duke of Portland and Lord Bessborough, so did Saunders and Keppel. Pitt did not forget his own followers. He gave the Great Seal to Lord Camden, who, as Justice Pratt, had liberated Wilkes from unjustifiable arrest. He made Lord Shelburne one of the Secretaries of State. The Chancellorship of the Exchequer was given to a politician with a passion for popularity that made him as steadfast as a weathercock, Charles Townshend.


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