« VorigeDoorgaan »
ART. IX.-1. Autobiography and Political Correspondence of Augustus Henry, Third Duke of Grafton, K.G., from hitherto unpublished Documents in the possession of his family. Edited by Sir WILLIAM R. ANSON, Bart., D.C.L., Warden of All Souls College, Oxford. 8vo. London: 1898.
As for all ordinary conversation or reading there is but one
Lord Burghley or one Duke of Marlborough, so there is but one Duke of Grafton. What the chronicles of success and glory have done for the first two, the bitter invective of a malignant enemy has done for the last. In the words of Sir George Trevelyan, "The portrait bitten into the national memory by the acid of Junius has never been obliterated. ... Doing penance for the accumulated sins and scandals ' of his colleagues, Grafton, while English is read, will continue to stand in his white sheet beneath the very centre of 'the dome in the temple of history.' That Junius was an unscrupulous liar, that he drew his facts from imagination and coloured them by spite, is familiarly known by every one at all conversant with English history or biography; and yet, such is the power of words, mere words, when wielded by a master, that where the blow falls it leaves an indelible mark. The autobiography of Grafton, now edited by the Warden of All Souls, will certainly not affect popular opinion; but it is sufficient to convince every candid reader that the character sketch which has been so generally accepted is an absurd and venomous travesty, not even a caricature. This excessive virulence has led Sir William Anson to some interesting speculations on the identity of Junius. He says:
'There was no conceivable reason why a clerk in the War Office should have regarded either Grafton or Bedford with peculiar malignity, nor is there anything in the relations of Francis with the politics of the time to explain the calculated malevolence of the letters addressed to these men. To strike at them as Junius struck needed a motive; Temple, whose life was passed in political intrigue, had a motive, and had, moreover, the sort of temper which would not be gainsaid by considerations of charity, or even of decency.'
And in greater detail he says:—
'If we suppose that Temple was the guiding spirit of Junius, the excessive animosity to Grafton is explained. Grafton, and Conway, whom Grafton brought into Parliament, had been the mainstay of the weak Rockingham Ministry which ousted George Grenville at the moment that Temple had become reconciled to his brother. When the Rockingham Ministry collapsed, and Pitt was requested to form a
ministry, he invited Temple to become First Lord of the Treasury. Temple, thinking that Pitt, as on previous occasions, would be unable to do without him, demanded a larger share in the arrangement of offices than Pitt was willing to grant. Pitt broke with Temple and turned to Grafton. When Grafton hesitated, Pitt said that if the Duke failed him his ministry was at an end: the acceptance of Grafton made it possible for Pitt to take office without Temple.'
Continuing in a similar strain, Sir William Anson shows valid motives for Temple's spite against Bedford, whom Junius pursued with a venom second only-if second-to that which he directed against Grafton; the inference from all which is not that Temple was Junius, a theory that leads to difficulties of its own, with which Sir William is not now concerned, but that, whoever was Junius, Temple aided and abetted. What he says is :
'I will not disturb the ashes of the Junius controversy except to express a conviction, that whatever part Francis may have played in the composition of these letters, Temple directed their policy, supplied much of their information, and may conceivably have polished their invective. And it is the invective, and nothing else, that has made the letters famous. Of political wisdom there is little, if any; where the writer is maintaining a political opinion or a constitutional right, he seldom rises above the level of a clever advocate; but when character is to be assailed, the polish of his weapon shines forth and its cruel edge; and the sentences rise to the splendour of rhythm and balance, which have made Junius an English classic. And thus Grafton appears to all time as depicted in the tremendous apostrophe : "Sullen and severe without religion, profligate without gaiety, you may live like Charles II., without being an amiable companion, and for aught I know may die as his father did, without the reputation of a martyr.'
It cannot but be a matter of regret that the Duke of Grafton left no memorandum about his enemy. It is not as if he had not the opportunity. He wrote largely of the political and personal history of his time, but has strangely omitted all reference to what must have been a matter of some considerable interest to himself. It is conceivable that he wished to imply that Junius was a scoundrel whose name— real or assumed would degrade his pen and foul his paper; who, by the falsity of his facts and the weakness of his judgement, had no just claim to be classed as a political writer. And it was of politics that Grafton wrote.
In 1804-5, when in his seventieth year, he wrote down his reminiscences in the form of an autobiography, primarily addressed to his eldest son, then Lord Euston, but with the
desire that after his death it should come under public inspection.' In this work he was largely guided by memoranda made at the time, and he incorporated numerous letters from the several men with whom he was associated, especially Lord Chatham and Lord Camden. It is thus a very detailed narrative of the personal events of his official life; but notwithstanding the author's expressed intention, the publication of it has for some reason been delayed till now, though the manuscript has been accessible to, and has been consulted by, various historical writers, among others by Lord Stanhope, by Lord Campbell, and by the editor of Walpole's Memoirs of George III.' The present publication of it does, therefore, not add much to our knowledge of public events, and the interest in it is almost entirely as a study of character during a time when, more distinctly than in any other, politics were personal. In this respect it is fresh and unequalled. Nothing else has ever been published, it is impossible that anything can ever have been written, which shows so clearly the utter selfishness and the inner working of the system which was mainly accountable for the woeful blunders made by the ministry of which the Duke of Grafton was the nominal head.
But if the interest of the autobiography has been thus limited in one direction, in another it is vastly extended by the admirable introduction which now ushers it into the world, and by the notes which accompany it. Nowhere else is to be found such a succinct, such a sharply defined, character sketch of George III. In drawing it, Sir William Anson has used the autobiography to throw light on numerous other memoirs; but the gathering these scattered indications into one, the focussing the several rays so as to bring out the perfect picture, is a work of art of the very highest class, as bright, as polished, as relentless as the work of Junius himself. Here is a short summary :
'When we consider that George III. managed his parliaments, choze his ministers, and never allowed an independent minister to feel secure in his employment, or a subservient minister to leave office if he could possibly be retained, we may realise what risks the country ran under the rule of their king. For the capacity of George III. did not extend beyond the arts of obtaining power; our history can hardly produce a sovereign less capable of governing an empire.'
And it is not only the king who is thus laid before us; most of the leading personages of the time are described, often in a very few words. Here is a note on the great Earl
of Chatham, with a delicious characterisation of two of the writer's precursors: -
'Pitt, no doubt, possessed genius; but genius is not always the best companion for everyday life. For great occasions he was the greatest of living Englishmen; for ordinary business he was too often pompous, affected, intractable. . . . The two essays of Macaulay on Pitt seem to give an admirably just portrait of the man, well balanced between the fustian of Carlyle and the ill-natured reminiscences of Shelburne.'
In juxtaposition with Sir William Anson's note it is worth while to place the Duke of Grafton's observations on Chatham's conduct in 1766, which are the more trustworthy as, throughout his political career, Grafton was the devoted, self-sacrificing follower of Chatham, and-though an indifferent politician--had a good deal of the quickness in reading men and motives which comes to a graduate at Newmarket. After speaking of the negotiations with the Duke of Bedford's party, whose demands, he thought, were excessive and led to no satisfactory result, he continued:
Lord Chatham, with his superior talents, did not possess that of conciliating mankind; he was admired, but was rarely liked. So far from succeeding in smoothing away all party divisions, as had been his first and great declaration, he contrived to irritate and offend most; and his mistrust of the friends of the Duke of Newcastle was greater than could be conceived. While he continued to honour them for the political principles by which they professed to be actuated, he suspected that they were not well-wishers to him, in which he was probably not mistaken; but he at length put their patience to a trial, which could only be received by that party as a declaration of hostility.'
The particular measure referred to was the appointing Sir John Shelley to the post of Treasurer of the Household, having previously made a vacancy by dismissing Lord Edgcumbe. It had, what in Chatham's humour at the time was perhaps its special charm, the certainty of offending two of the opposing parties; the Rockingham Whigs, with whom Edgcumbe was closely allied, and the Duke of Newcastle, who was Shelley's uncle and had an embittered quarrel with his nephew. Other portraits and illustrations will present themselves in due course; but the Duke of Grafton is the central figure of the volume, and must be so considered here.
Born in 1735, he succeeded to the title in 1757, on the death of his grandfather, the second duke, for many years Lord Chamberlain, and the much honoured friend' of George II. When the young Duke waited on his Majesty at Kensington to deliver his grandfather's ensigns of the
"Order of the Garter, the king, with tears evidently rising in 'his eyes, said, "Duke of Grafton, I always honoured and ""loved your grandfather, and lament his loss. I wish you ""may be like him. I hear you are a very good boy." In the previous year, while still a commoner, Grafton, then Lord Euston, had been returned to Parliament as member for Bury St. Edmunds; and, though having no official connexion with parliamentary business, was, by his grandfather's rank and his own office as one of the Lords of the Prince of Wales's Bedchamber, in a position to hear the political opinions of the day. His remarkable description of the state of public feeling at the time is thus something more than mere gossip; it has a value of its own. It refers to the end of 1756 and the beginning of 1757, previous, that is, to the coalition of Pitt and Newcastle; to the date of the failure of the fleet in the Mediterranean and of the death-sentence on Admiral Byng for criminal neglect.
'Those persons who were not witnesses would hardly be brought to credit the degree of despondency which, from some time back till this moment [the formation of the Pitt-Newcastle Ministry], prevailed almost universally through all ranks of people. I can never forget it, nor the indignation with which I, as a young man, viewed an alarm so foreign to the just character of the country. "The contention with the power of France," too many usually argued, "was vain and hopeless," and that "if we could fortuitously hold up against it for their own times, it would crown their highest expectations." No less striking, nor less wonderful, was the almost instantaneous turn from that dejection which the nation soon demonstrated. Mr. Pitt's spirit, vigour, and perseverance seemed to instil itself into the heart of every individual, as well as those employed in both services, in a manner more than natural, and this in every quarter of the globe. The consequences were, security at home, and as complete success by sea and land as Britain has to boast.'
During these following years-the years which Voltaire, in his Histoire Universelle,' treated of in a chapter headed 'Les Anglais victorieux dans les Quatre Parties du Monde -Grafton took no part in public affairs; and even his office in the prince's household he resigned some time before the death of George II. An old man writing of his youth, of years glorious in the annals of his country, was naturally led to make an unfavourable comparison of the state of affairs in 1804 with that in 1760, when the administration had been gaining every day more and more the confidence of the nation, as also weight and consideration from foreign 'States who admired and envied the prosperity of this 'country;' whereas, 'at no period of my time,' he says, 'have
VOL. CLXXXIX. NO. CCCLXXXVIII.