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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

He was going to govern on Whig principles


The

empire over which King George came to rule was as yet in a growing, almost a fluid condition. In North America, England had, by one form of settlement or another, New York, but lately captured; New Jersey, the New England States, such as they then were, Virginia--an old possession--Maryland, South Carolina, Pennsylvania--settled {90} by William Penn, whose death was now very near.

Louisiana had just been taken possession of by the French. The city of New Orleans was not yet built. The French held the greater part of what was then known of Canada; Jamaica, Barbadoes, and other West Indian islands were in England's ownership. The great East Indian Empire was only in its very earliest germ; its full development was not yet foreseen by statesman, thinker, or dreamer. The English flag had only begun to float from the Rock of Gibraltar.

{91}

CHAPTER VI.

OXFORD'S FALL; BOLINGBROKE'S FLIGHT.

[Sidenote: 1714--Formation of King George's Cabinet]

King George did not make the slightest concealment of his intentions with regard to the political complexion of his future government. He did not attempt or pretend to conciliate the Tories, and, on the other hand, he was determined not to be a puppet in the hands of a "Junto" of illustrious Whigs.

He therefore formed a cabinet, composed exclusively, or almost exclusively, of pure Whigs; but he composed it of Whigs who at that time were only rising men in the political world. He was going to govern on Whig principles, but he was not going to be himself governed by another "Junto" of senior Whig statesmen, like that which had been so powerful in the reign of William the Third. He acted with that shrewd, hard common-sense which was an attribute of his family, and which often served instead of genius or enlightenment or intelligence, or even experience. A man of infinitely higher capacity than George might have found himself puzzled as to his proper policy under conditions entirely new and unfamiliar; but George acted as if the conditions were familiar to him, and set about governing England as he would have set about managing his household in Hanover; and he somehow hit upon the course which, under all the circumstances, was the best he could have followed. It is not easy to see how he could have acted otherwise with safety to himself. It would have been idle to try to conciliate the Tories. The more active spirits among the Tories were, in point of fact, conspirators on behalf of the Stuart cause. The {92} colorless Tories were not men whose influence or force of character would have been of much use to the king in endeavoring to bring about a reconciliation between the two great parties in the State. The civil war was not over, or nearly over, yet, and there were still to come some moments of crisis, when it seemed doubtful whether, after all, the cause supposed to be fallen might not successfully lift its head again. As the words of Scott's spirited ballad put it, before the Stuart crown was to go down, "there are heads to be broke." For George the First to attempt to form a Coalition Cabinet of Whigs and Tories at such a time would have been about as wild a scheme as for M. Thiers to have formed a Coalition Cabinet of Republicans and of Bonapartists, while Napoleon the Third was yet living at Chiselhurst.

[Sidenote: 1714--The Treaty of Utrecht]


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