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determined that the Lord Chancellor should be considered as the presumptive exponent of the sovereign's will; and that the assent of this functionary should be held equivalent to the assent of the first estate of the realm. This is one of those instances illustrative of the theory of our constitution which is laid down by Blackstone in the words, "that necessity is above all law." An emergency had arisen, for -which the foresight of the constitution had never provided in actual terms. A legal casuist might assert, on the one hand, that every act of the Regency was illegal and null-that no government existed between the illness and the death of the king-and that, consequently, the battle of Waterloo was an act of piracy. It might, again, be asserted, on the other, with an equal amount of plausible sophism, that there was no law in our statute book which restricted the royal prerogative by any considerations of sanity: and that, therefore, the king, sane or insane, was equally entitled to the administration of public affairs. If Parliament had heretofore been able to establish a commission de lunatico inquirendo on the sovereign, a verdict of unsound mind might have been returned in more than a single instance. It might be replied, however, at once to all this badinage, that such arguments might apply to the act of settlement, and to the act of the Hanoverian succession themselves-that the question at issue was based upon those acts, and merely strove to render the necessities of the state compatible with them, by an application of the principles which they recognised to an existing crisis in public affairs. A Jacobite lawyer, desirous of ridiculing the principles of the Hanoverian succession, and the earlier principles of the act of settlement, might have said plausibly enough, that there was a condition that the sovereign should be a Protestant, but that it was no condition that he should be of sound mind; and therefore, so predominant was the profession of religious opinion over the possessing intellectual capacity, that a madman and a Protestant would have been preferred to the most intelligent Catholic in the State!
Mr. Perceval, was already named in the sacred circle of the Opposition leaders. Lord Grenville was to be premier: Grey, Whitbread, Erskine, Romilly, and other such ancient symbols of opposition, were at length to govern the state. Mr. Perceval was, no doubt, in a very hazardous position. While he ruled at Whitehall, Fox and Sheridan were ruling at Carlton House. Such a state of things has no parallel in our constitutional history. Such innocent favourites as Lord Bateman under the ministry of Lord North (see "Fox's Memoirs"), or the better known Sir Benjamin Bloomfield under that of Lord Liverpool, had often exerted a certain influence over the mind of the Sovereign. But here was the Ministry ruling at Whitehall, and the Parliamentary Opposition intervening be tween the cabinet and the throne!
The confidence of the Whigs was now at its height. The Whig cabinet, which the predilections of the Prince were to substitute for that of
In Moore's "Life of Sheridan," it is stated that the Prince of Wales sent immediately for Lords Grenville and Grey to draw up the answer which he should return to the Houses of Parliament. These statesmen, however, very properly refused a charge which should have fallen, of course, on the insulted Perceval. Ministers meanwile resorted to every scheme for their maintenance in power. Even Sheridan was brought over to their side; and it is from that circumstance that he first fell into disrepute with his own party. The course which negociations took at this juncture may thus be caught at a glance from the following extract from the Diary of Mr. Wilberforce :-
Wilberforce makes entry in his diary on the 1st and 2nd of February :- No one knows what the Prince means to do, whether to change his ministry or not. Lord Bathurst believes they are all to go out; but Perry, the editor of the Morning Chro nicle, told Stephen that the Prince of Wales has examined the physicians at Carlton House as to the state of the King's health, and has determined against changing his ministers. Otherwise, it had been decided that Lord Grenville was to be First Lord of the Treasury, in spite of his letter to Perceval. I am assured that before the Prince determined upon keeping the present Ministers, he sent to Mrs. Fitzherbert and Lady Hertford, and they both advised it." (vol. i. p. 30.)
Such is the story of a bed-chamber
plot devised to establish petticoat Government!
Thus, between physicians suborned into making all kinds of contradictory statements regarding the King's health, with a view of influencing the Prince on either side, and the ladies of the Court acting as the diplomatic functionaries employed by the different parties in the legislature, it becomes almost impossible to follow the labyrinth of plots which led at length to the re-establishment of the Tory administration under Mr. Perceval. But the following letter from the Prince, intimating to that minister the course upon which he had resolved, and finally settling the question at issue, bears strong impress, both in style and in matter, of Mr. Sheridan's inditing; and illustrates the conflict between the professional opinions recorded by the doctors in the Liverpool interest, and the unwilling abdications of power on the part of the Whig leaders :
THE PRINCE OF WALES TO MR. PER-
"Carlton House, Feb. 4, 1811. "The Prince of Wales considers the moment to arrive which calls for his decision
with respect to the persons to be employed by him in the administration of the executive government of the country, according to the powers vested in him by the Bill passed by the two Houses of Parliament, and now on the point of receiving the sanction of the Great Seal. The Prince feels it incumbent upon him, at this precise moment, to communicate to Mr. Perceval his intention not to remove from their stations those whom he finds there as his Majesty's official servants. At the same time the Prince owes it to the truth and sincerity of his character, which he trusts will appear in every action of his life, in whatever situation placed, explicitly to declare, that the irresistible impulse of filial duty and affection to his beloved and afflicted parent [the italics are the Duke's] leads him to dread that any act of the Regent's might, in the smallest degree, have the effect of interfering with the progress of the Sovereign's authority [recovery?]. This consideration alone dictates the decision now communicated to Mr. Perceval.
"Having thus performed an act of indispensable duty, from a just sense of what is due to his own consistency and honour, the Prince has only to add, that among the many blessings to be derived from his Majesty's restoration to health, and to the personal exercise of his royal functions, it will not, in the Prince's estimation, be the least,
that that most fortunate event will rescue him from a situation of unexampled embarrassment, and put an end to a state of affairs ill-calculated, he fears, to sustain the interests of the United Kingdom in this awful and perilous crisis, and most difficult to be reconciled to the genuine principles of the British Constitution."-p. 32.
It would certainly be difficult to equal, in point of inconsistency, hypocrisy, and cant, this response of the Whig oracle of Carlton House. What were these " genuine principles of
the British Constitution" with which the Regent deemed his elevation irreconcileable? What was the value of all this profession of "truth and sincerity," in a letter containing the most obvious falsehood? Mr. Sheridan's good genius appears to have forsaken him in a critical moment, if we may ascribe to him the chief authorship of this letter; although, indeed, the Duke of Buckingham supposes that the obliquity of the phraseology is here and there to be referred to the inditing of Lord Sidmouth. The Duke very aptly observes :--"Be this as it may, its filial professions must be tested by a reference to the conduct of the assumed writer, when the King was in an equally pitiable state, and by his extravagant rejoicings as soon as he could display the resources of his new position."
The Prince soon vitally offended his ministers, by an insolent habit of corresponding with them through the subordinate officers of the court. In
a letter to Earl Temple, we read
"That it was very hard for ministers to go on with a man who had secret advisers. They have taken the greatest offence at the Prince Regent's invariably communicating with them individually and officially, when in writing, through the medium of Macmahon and Turner, which is indecorous to them, and quite unprecedented even in the King's practice. Ministers have determined not to submit to it."
The same letter contains an amusing statement of the monomania which was then afflicting the old King:-
"Your Lordship well knows the nature of the King's delusions. Suffice it that, within these eight-and-forty hours, he said to the Duke of Sussex, Is it not a strange thing, Adolphus, that they still refuse to let me go to Lady Pembroke (the old Countess), al
though every one knows I am married to her; but what is worst of all is, that that infamous scoundrel Halford (Sir Henry) was by at the marriage, and has now the effrontery to deny it to my face.""-pp. 50-52.
Before we pass from the subject of the Prince Regent, let us advert to Lord Temple's account of a grand fête apparently given in honour of the imbecility of the King, and finely illustrative of the taste of his Royal Highness. Among the principal trophies felicitously designed to compliment the distinguished guests of the Prince, was a Spanish urn taken from the invincible Armada," à propos of the presence of his Excellency the Spanish ambassador! Next came "the royal crown and his Majesty's cypher,splendidly illuminated," à propos of the derangement of his Majesty's intellect! Then there were
sixty servitors," generally dressed in scarlet liveries, with the exception of a few “in a complete suite of ancient armour," as though standing
out in bold relief to the radiant hues of royal servitude. Then came what Sir Samuel Romilly--himself a guest at this inaugurating banquet-terms "a fish-pond, running though a dining-table." Along the centre of a table two hundred feet long" (explains the Duke), "about six inches from the surface, a canal of pure wa ter continued flowing from a silver fountain, beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its banks were covered with green moss and aquatic flowers. Gold and silver fish swam and sported through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur where it fell, and formed a cascade at the outlet"!!! Sir Samuel Romilly remarks, that the incongruities of this marvellous entertainment were most happily characteristic of its princely designer.
It is singular to observe, as the year 1811 dragged its weary length along, how strangely the political predictions of that period were falsified in almost every particular. The return of the Whigs was generally anticipated, even by the Tory leaders. Had those leaders known how soon Perceval would have been lost to them, they would have made no doubt of such a result. It was anticipated that there would be a general coalition against the high party in
the State. There were then three classes of the Opposition: these were the "Old Opposition," whose leadership, on the death of Fox in 1806, had been accounted to devolve on Lord Grey the "New Opposition," formed by a secession from the government of Mr. Pitt, at first headed by Lord Grenville, but now virtually amalgamated with the elder Whigs and thirdly, the more anomalous party headed by the Marquess Wellesley and Mr. Canning. Of these two eminent statesmen, the former had quarrelled with Mr. Perceval, much as the latter had done so with Lord Castlereagh, although in Lord Wellesley's case no open hostility had ensued. It was now anticipated that the whole of this party would coalesce under the leadership of Lord Grenville; and assume the government of the country. Who, then, foresaw any event so improbable as the loss of Perceval and the accession of Lord Liverpool, during fifteen years of irresponsible power?
On this head we would especially commend to the notice of the public a letter addressed to Lord Buckingham in 1811, but too voluminous for quotation-(vol. i., pp. 122-28). Lord Wellesley, up to that time in Perceval's Cabinet, was, as it appears from this letter, in a very striking manner doing his utmost to eject Perceval from his own Administration, with a view of becoming its head, and of reinstating Canning. The claims of the different candidates were very nicely poised and it can hardly be doubted that if the destinies of this country had been committed to a Wellesley and Canning, instead of a Liverpool and Castlereagh administration during the remaining years of the war, the affairs of Europe would ever after have worn a very different complexion from that which they were destined to present.
There is much in the present work which throws light on the domestic relations of the Regent and his brothers. These illustrious princes appear to have constituted anything but a happy family. The Regent and the Duke of Cumberland were, very soon, scarcely upon terms of acquaintance. Mr. W. H. Freemantle, who was frequently about the Court, was a constant correspondent of the then Marquess of Buckingham, who,
it appears, treasured up all the gossip with which his friend could supply him. This gentleman (vol. i., p. 145) gives his lordship an account of the origin of the feud subsisting between these exalted personages, in the following terms :
While the Princess Charlotte was at Oatlands, she was endeavouring to dance the Scotch step called the Highland fling, and there was a laugh in endeavouring to make Adam (who was one of the party) teach her. The Prince got up and said he would show her; and in doing so evidently wrenched his ancle this took place ten days ago, since which he has never been out of his bed. He complained of violent pain and spasmodic affection; for which he prescribed for himself, and took a hundred drops of laudanum every three hours. He will sign rothing, and converse with no one on business (I speak up to yesterday); and you may imagine therefore the distress and difficulty in which Ministers are placed. The Duke of Cumberland is going about saying it is all sham, and that he could get up, and would be perfectly well if he pleased. I protest, I think he is so worried and perplexed by all the prospect before him, and by the necessity which now arises for his taking a definitive step, that it has harassed his mind and rendered him totally incapable, for want of nerves, of doing anything; and in order to shun the necessity, he encourages the illness and continues to lie in bed.(pp. 145, 46).
This is certainly a deplorabie picture of the head of the British Government, in a period of peril and of war. While the forces of Napoleon were once more compassing the destruction of our national liberties-while our armies in Spain were preparing for that heroic effort for the subjugation of the French authority in the south, which resulted in the capture of Madrid-while we were threatened much as we are threatened now with hostilities from the other shores of the Atlantic,-never was greater injustice encountered by an able Administration.
To continue, however, this family portraiture, Mr. Freemantle tells Lord Buckingham in another letter,
There has been a complete quarrel between him (the Regent) and the Duke of C-, for the cause I before mentioned to you, and another subject relating to a German officer of the 15th Dragoons. The Prince has had no explanation with him, but
has determined never to see him alone; and now, when he calls, the Prince always keeps some one in the room.-(p. 162).
This amusing gossip, Mr. Freemantle proceeds to give as the grounds of a yet more deadly quarrel between the Dukes of Cumberland and Clarence. The interference of his Royal Highness of Cumberland turned, on this occasion, upon the fair sex :
You have probably heard all the history of the Duke of Clarence. Before he went to Ramsgate he wrote to Lady C———— Lto propose, who wrote him [Mr. Freemantle is evidently too ardent a gossip to be very grammatical] a very proper letter in answer, declining the honour in the most decided terms. After his arrival, he proposed three or four times more: and on his return to town, sent her an abstract of the Royal Marriage Act, altered, as he said it had been agreed to, by the Prince of Wales, whom he had consulted; and also conveyed the queen's best wishes and regards-to neither of whom he had said one word on the subject (!) Upon finding she had accepted Pole (who, by-the-bye, is solely indebted to him for this acceptance) he wrote to Lord Keith to propose for Miss Elphinstone, who in the most decided and peremptory terms rejected him he is, notwithstanding, gone to his house (!)
During all this, when he returned to town, he wrote to Mrs. Jordan at Bushy, to say she might have half the children-viz,, five; and he would allow her £800 per annum. She is most stout in rejecting all compromise till he has paid her what he owes her; she stating that during the twenty years she has lived with him, he has constantly received and spent all her earnings by acting; and that she is now a beggar by living with and at times supporting him. This she repeats to all the neighbourhood of Bushy, where she remains and is determined to continue.
While all his (the Duke of Clarence's) gallantry was going on at Ramsgate, the Duke of Cumberland, who must interfere in everything, apprised Mrs. Jordan of what he was doing. Mrs. Jordan then writes him a most furious letter, and another to the Duke of Cumberland, to thank him for the information. By mistake, she directs them wrong, the consequence of which is that there has been, of course, a scene between the two brothers, &c.
Now it is impossible to imagine charges more discrediting than these to the character of King William IV. To begin with, while there is already a lady at Bushy by whom he has had
a family of ten children, he solicits marriage with a high-born and accomplished lady (whose name is not to be concealed by the initials), whom he knows that he can no more render his wife than he can render Mrs. Jordan his wife. No sooner is this proposal rejected, than he is described by Mr. Freemantle as repeating it, and supporting the application by three flagrant falsehoods. He first tells the lady, who is supposed to be ignorant as to the power of the Crown to repeal an Act of Parliament, that he has obtained from the Prince an alteration of the Marriage Act, which he must have well known that the Regent had no power to change. Secondly, it appears (if this writer is to be credited) that he had never seen the Prince on the subject: and thirdly, the message from the Queen, evidently conveyed with a view of intimating the royal favour towards the lady in question, was, it appears, a fraud and a lie.
No sooner, again, is this lady engaged to another, than he precipitately transfers his affections to a daughter or ward of Lord Keith. He declines to take a refusal; and a Duke of the blood royal goes to the house of a modern peer, to " re-open the question," and possibly to be kicked out. Then there is the discrediting circumstance of Mrs. Jordan telling all the inhabitants of Bushy, that (somewhat inverting the usual relations of life) the Duke of Clarence has not kept her, but that she has kept the Duke; that she is now a beggar for her generosity and folly; and that the Duke purposes to pay her a certain sum sufficient to keep herself and half her children, in lieu of his squandering, during twenty years, of all her earnings as an actress! Then finally comes the meddling of the Duke of Cumberland, the inadvertence of Mrs. Jordan in putting the wrong letters into the wrong envelopes; and the scene ends in an explosion between the two Dukes, something between a comedy, a tragedy, and an extravaganza!
We must say, here, as dispassionate critics, that we think that the Duke of Buckingham, before he published such charges against the conduct of a sovereign whose latter years at least have endeared his memory to his people, ought to have produced some
corroborative evidence of their truth. These letters generally emanate from quarters which preclude our dismiss ing the statements they contain as idle fabrications. It is, therefore, only fair to all parties that the character of any man, living or dead, high or low in social station, should not be thus carelessly dealt with, and be made dependant upon the gossip of a courtier. We hope that his Grace, in another edition of this book, will give us some careful annotation on points of importance such as that of which we now speak. They will greatly increase the merit of his work, and they may afford scope for the development of the critical abilities of which he shows himself to be possessed.
We now pass to some very curious correspondence, illustrative of the internal dissensions subsisting between the different parties in the State. The authorship of these communications is left in obscurity. They are addressed to "the Marquess of Buckingham;" but his Grace studiously conceals the name of the writer, which leads to a plausible supposition that they must be written by a living politician; and that politician, too, one who had access to the political secrets of the day, if not a cabinet minister.
The Prince, it appears from these letters, cordially hated Mr. Percival; and that minister, it seems, held office on the precarious tenure of the royal indolence. The Regent, in truth, would rather go on with a minister whom he mistrusted and despised, than encounter the embarrassments of a change.
Here is an instance of the cordiality subsisting between Prince and minis
The little scheme I enclosed your lordship for the proposed double establishment to be moved for the next day of the meeting of Parliament, was perfectly correct. but some restlessness of Percival's upon that point induced him to reopen it very unexpectedly by a fresh project, that the grant to defray the early expenses of the Regency should only extend to £100,000 instead of £150,000, as at first agreed on; which, after a severe struggle with himself, and no small bitterness towards Mr. Percival, to whom he made use of the following strong language:-"Sir, I am not afraid of your bringing the whole of my debts before the country, provided you don't misrepresent me ;” he consented to take, &c.; p. 171.