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OF ADMIRAL BYNG.
which were brought to the foot of the throne resembled that of 1641.*
The court-martial acquitted Byng of treachery or cowardice, but condemned him to death Admiral Byng for a breach of the twelfth article of war shot. in having failed in his duty. Their sentence was accompanied, however, by a strong recommendation to mercy. There can be no doubt that this recommendation ought to have prevailed. The unhappy offender was completely exonerated from the only charge, which, according even to the rigorous exigency of the service, could justly affect life-that, namely, of wilful betrayal of his trust. But the probability is that the life of this incompetent officer was sacrificed not so much to a stern sense of duty and policy, as to a selfish and cowardly concession to that indiscriminating cry for vengeance which, directed full against the prominent offender, passed by. those who were, at least, accomplices in his guilt.
A few days before the attack on Minorca, France, departing from her ancient policy, entered offensive alliinto an offensive alliance with Austria. ance between The immediate causes of this great event Austria. were, possibly, those usually assigned by historians. But though Maria Theresa had never stooped to flatter, nor Frederick to insult, the French King's mistress, the altered state of Europe would probably bave brought about, at this period, a change in her political relations. The house of Hapsburg no longer possessed that gigantic power against which France had long to struggle for a separate existence. Prussia, from a petty dukedom, had, within little more than half a century, attained the position of a powerful monarchy. Russia, emerged from barbarisın, had taken up a foremost place in the European system.
* Waldegrave's Memoirs. Mistress Pompadour. See Lord
of Frederick's repeated insults Stanhope's History, vol. iv. pp. to Louis the Fifteenth and the 74-6.
But the real danger which threatened the balance of power at this moment was not the aggression of Austria, but the ambition and the capacity of the Prussian monarch. He had already wrested Silesia, one of its fairest provinces, from the dominion of Maria Theresa. He had invaded Bohemia and occupied Dresden. The annihilation of this new and 'formidable power was therefore the object proposed by the union of these ancient rivals now threatened by a common foe. Russia, liberated from her engagements with England, soon after joined the allied powers.
England was thus, by stress of circumstances, forced into an alliance with Prussia, which now stood alone in Europe against the confederation of the three great Powers. If personal feelings had prevailed, nothing could have been more gratifying to the Court of Great Britain than the humiliation of the Prussian monarch, who had thwarted its policy, who had succoured the Pretender,* and had harassed George the Second, both by menacing his German dominions and treating him personally with a degree of derision and contumely exceeding even that which he had lavished on Madame de Pompadour. But by the mutability of human affairs, which sets at nought all political prediction, the Sovereign, whose unprincipled ambition had endangered Hanover, was now to be its defender—the upholder of Popery and arbitrary power, although really a professed scoffer at all creeds, was now to be the popular idol under the endearing title of the Protestant hero.
Thus commenced that great struggle known in history by the name of the Seven Years' War. And never, certainly, were the commanding qualities of
* The King of Prussia is now avowedly the principal, if not the sole support of the Pretender and of the Jacobite cause.'--Duke of
Newcastle to Lord Chancellor,
1756. COMMENCEMENT OF THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR.
the human mind exhibited with more sustained power than by Frederick the Great during this memorable period. Unshaken fortitude under reverses; prompt energy in repairing them; the happiest combination of military talents with administrative capacity,—distinguished this remarkable man, whose whole career is one of the most striking illustrations on record of what resolution, combined with intellectual power, can effect.
The dissolution of Newcastle's administration was the necessary consequence of a state of Dissolution of affairs which demanded able and vigorous the Ministry. councils. The only members of the Government who could have sustained it under such a pressure were determined to withdraw from the unthankful task. Murray, always intent upon professional advancement, claimed the vacant post of Chief Justice, to which he was preeminently entitled. The Duke, seeing the defenceless condition in which he should be left by the removal of his ablest champion from the House of Commons, used all his wonted arts to avert the disaster; but the Attorney-General was immoveable, and threatened to leave the Government, unless he was gratified by the special promotion which he desired. Fox, thus deprived of his able coadjutor, cared not to encounter single-handed the aspiring leader of Opposition, whose appetite for power was now sharpened by recent privation of office. The Secretary, moreover, had little inducement beyond the mere emolument to remain in the Government. The first minister hardly admitted him to a share in council, though willing to impose upon him the fullest measure of responsibility. The King treated him with rudeness and contempt.* Prudence, therefore, concurred with pride, in dictating a retreat from a position which was neither respectable nor tenable.
* Waldegrave's Memoirs.
PITT COMES INTO POWER.
A few days before the meeting of Parliament, Murray was transferred to the Upper House, and Fox ceased to be Secretary of State.
Newcastle still clung, with convulsive grasp, to power. He made a futile effort to gain over Pitt; but the great orator was too sensible of his commanding position to compromise it by a negotiation with the veteran placeman. Lord Egmont, an able speaker, and conversant with affairs, was next applied to; but, like all the other public men of the day, he never thought of postponing a personal object to the exigencies of the public service. He wanted an English peerage, and, as he insisted upon this condition at the very time when his aid was wanted in the House of Commons, it was useless to carry on the treaty. Lastly, the old rival of Walpole—the witty, classic, and accomplished Granville—was offered the post of danger, the Duke proposing to take the Earl's equally dignified, but less conspicuous, place of President of the Council. Granville, however, was no longer susceptible to such temptation. The Duke had exhausted all his resources; and Ministry the dreaded hour of resignation could no
longer be deferred. After some negotiaDevonshire. tion, which resulted in the exclusion of Fox, with whom Pitt refused to act, a new administration was formed under the auspices of the Duke of Devonshire, with Pitt, Secretary of State, and his kinsman, Lord Temple, First Lord of the Admiralty. Pitt's vigorous Pitt, however, was the real minister; and conduct. his vigorous councils are discernible in the earliest acts of the new Government. The speech, on opening Parliament, expressly referred to the menacing and almost seditious addresses of the summer in terms of approbation, and announced the dismissal of the German mercenaries who had been brought over in pursuance of an address of both Houses, under the late disgraceful panic of in
formed under the Duke of
THE KING'S DISLIKE TO PITT.
personally distasteful to
vasion. A national militia was to be substituted as the more becoming and efficient defence of the realm. The forces, both at sea and land, were largely augmented. Another measure was the orgapisation of the disaffected, half-disciplined, Highland clans into regiments of the line for foreign service. By this fine stroke of policy, sufficient of itself to mark its projector as a master-statesman, a nucleus of rebellion and civil war was eradicated once and for ever—a paralytic member was converted immediately into an arm of strength. From that hour, the cause of the Pretender was extinguished in Scotland.
The King, however, regardless or unconscious of these great merits, could only feel repug- Pitt becomes nance to the disagreeable manner of his personnelline minister. The stability of the throne the King. secured; the honour of his arms vindicated; the confidence of the nation gained :—what were these considerations weighed against errors of tact and taste? Pitt's formal, affected, oratorical style was no doubt wearisome enough when carried into the closet, and Temple's pedantry and arrogance were, perhaps, still more offensive. To His Majesty they were intolerable: 'I must get rid of these scoundrels,' said he to the courtly Waldegrave; ‘I do not consider myself a king while I am in their hands.' Accordingly Temple and Pitt were dismissed, and Waldegrave was commissioned to treat with the Duke of Newcastle once more. The Duke, distracted between his love of power and his dread of responsibility, could decide on nothing. On the one hand, he had a secure parliamentary majority composed of his own nominees and mercenaries, closely attached to him for the same reason that all servants are attached to a good place and a liberal master. On the other side he was scared by his consciousness of utter inability to meet the difficulties of public