« 上一頁繼續 »
The most remarkable events of the American war were the battles of Bunker's-hill in 1775, Long Island, 1776, and the Brandywine, 1777, the surrender of General Burgoyne in the latter year, Rodney's defeat and capture of the Spanish Admiral Langara in 1780, the action off the Dogger Bank in 1781, Rodney's defeat and capture of the French Admiral De Grasse in 1782, and the destruction of the Spanish floating batteries off Gibraltar the same year. Peace was restored in 1783.
The riots in London in 1780, which threatened to overturn the very foundations of the Government, called forth, in a most signal manner, the energies of the King's character. It is an undoubted fact, that, when the advisers of the Sovereign were in a state of confusion and alarm, hordering on despair, he at once decided upon those necessary measures of military assistance, which effectually repressed the tremendous dangers of a populace so infuriated. The following is an interesting account of this memorable transaction:
"At the Council on the morning of the 7th of June, the King assisted in person. The great question was there discussed on which hinged the protection and preservation of the Capital-a question respecting which the first legal characters were divided, and on which Lord Mansfield himself was with reason accused of never having clearly expressed his opinion up to that time. Doubts existed whether persons riotously col lected together, and committing outrages and infractions of the peace, however great, might legally be fired on by the military power, without staying previously to read the Riot Act. Lord Bathurst, President of the Council, and Sir Fletcher Norton, Speaker of the House of Commons, who were both present, on being appealed to for their opinions, declared that 'a soldier was not less a citizen because he was a soldier, and consequently that he might repel force by force.' But no Minister would sign the Order for the purpose. In this emergency, when every moment was precious, Mr. Wedderburn, since successively raised to the dignity of a Barou, and of an Earl of Great Britain, who was then Attorney General, having been called into the Council table, and ordered by the King to deliver his official opinion on the point, stated in the most precise terms, that any such assemblage might be dispersed by mili
tary force, without waiting for forms, or reading the Act in question. Is that your declaration of law, as Attorney-General?' said the King. Wedder burn answered decidedly in the affirmabis Majesty. tive. Then so let it be done,' rejoined drew up the Order immediately, which The Attorney-General the King himself signed, and on which Lord Amherst acted the same evening: the complete suppression of the riots followed in the course of a few hours. Never had any people a greater obligation to the judicious intrepidity of their Sovereign!"
It has been stated to us as a fact
upon which we can rely, that the firm conduct of the King, on this remarkable occasion, arose out of a conversation with the late Mr. De
Luc, a gentleman of whose sensible suggestions the King often availed himself.
The second William Pitt came into power in 1783. This was, without doubt, the most important æra of the King's life. Never was an English Minister invested with such unbounded power as this great statesman; and never did a servant of the Crown better deserve the confidence that was placed in him.
In 1788, his late Majesty was attacked by that malady which, for the last 10 years, deprived his family and his people of the guidance of his once active and benevolent mind. It is believed that, soon after his accession to the Throne, the King had a slight attack of a similar indisposition. The national gloom produced by this severe visitation in 1788, and the universal joy manifested on the sudden recovery of the Monarch, are well-known events. The following extraordinary circumstance has lately been made public:
On the 22d of February, 1789, Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville were dining with Lord Chesterfield, when a Letter was brought to the former, which he read, and sitting next to Lord Melville, gave it to him under the table, and whispered, that when he had looked at it, it would be better for them to talk it over in Lord Chesterfield's dressing-room. This proved to be a Letter in the King's own hand, announcing his recovery to Mr. Pitt in terms somewhat as follow:
"The King renews with great satisfaction his communication with Mr. Pitt, after the long suspension of their intercourse,
intercourse, owing to his very tedious and painful illness. He is fearful that, during this interval, the public interests have suffered great inconvenience and difficulty.
"It is most desirable that immediate measures should be taken for restoring the functions of his Government, and Mr. Pitt will consult with the Lord Chancellor to-morrow morning, upon the most expedient means for that purpose. And the King will receive Mr. Pitt at Kew afterwards, about one o'clock."
There could be no hesitation on the part of Mr. Pitt; but, having held the necessary conference with the Chancellor, he waited upon the King at the appointed time, and found him perfectly of sound mind, and in every respect as before his illness, competent to all the affairs of his public station. This was the first notice in any way which Mr. Pitt received of this most important event. The reports of the physicians had indeed been of late more favourable; but Lord Melville verily believed there was not a man, except Dr. Willis, who entertained the smallest hope of the restoration of the King's mind. Mr. Pitt continually declared this opinion to Lord Melville, and they had both determined to return to the Bar, as the dissolution of the Ministry was then on the point of taking place. The Letter in question Lord Melville took from Mr. Pitt, saying he had a trick of losing papers, and fur. nished him only with a copy, the original remaining in his Lordship's possession. The King wrote the Letter at a little table of the Queen's, which stood in his apartment, without the knowledge of any person; and, having finished, rang his bell, and gave it to his valet de-chambre, directing it to be carried to Mr. Pitt *.
During the excesses which grew out of the spirit of anarchy called into action by the French Revolution, the King was repeatedly exposed to the insults and attacks of a licentious mob. On each of these occasions he manifested the utmost fortitude and calmness: his personal courage astonished his friends, and
awed his enemies.
Of the amiable and prepossessing manners of the King, see an interesting account by the late Mr. Justice Hardinge, vol. LXXXIX. i. p. 38.
in 1800, when a maniack, at DruryThe same qualities were displayed lane Theatre, fired at the Royal per800. The dramatic piece, which was about to be represented, commenced if no accident had interrupted its perin a short space of time, precisely as formance; and so little were his nerves shaken, or his internal tranquillity disturbed by it, that he took his accustomed doze three or four minutes between the conclusion of the play and the commencement of the farce, as he would have done on any other night.
The King manifested a like extraordinary composure after the attempt made to assassinate him by Margaret Nicholson.
During the long contest against the military spirit of France, his late Majesty uniformly sanctioned and warmly supported the struggles of Great Britain, when almost every other country was at the feet of the conqueror. Although most desirous of an honourable peace, he would never listen to any attempt to compromise the honour of his country, by propitiating the favour of the ambitious Napoleon. The preliminaries of the Peace of Amiens were concluded without his knowledge or concurrence. On reading the Letter communicating this important intelligence, he said to those about him, "I have received surprising news, but it is no secret. Preliminaries of
peace are signed with France. I knew nothing of it whatever; but, since it is made, I sincerely wish it may prove a lasting peace."
We are approaching that period when the independence of the European States appear ready to be entirely swallowed up in the military preponderance of France. The King's heart expanded to witness the glorious rallying-cry of his whole people on the prospect of invasion; and he saw in the mighty victory of Trafalgar the total destruction of the naval power of our enemy. But, like his great Minister, it was not permitted to him to witness the succession of triumphs, which finally placed this Country in the most commanding attitude of her history, and broke down for generations the once-called invincible power which aimed at universal empire. The glories of Spain had just commenced, when, in November
1810, the King was visited by that malady whose continuance has been so long deplored, and from which he has only been released by the hand of Death.
Over the last nine years of his Majesty's life an awful veil has been drawn. In the periods of the deepest national solicitude his mind has felt no interest; in the hour of the most acute domestic feeling, his eye has been tearless.
The present age has not done justice to the King's abilities. His conversation in public was sometimes light and superficial; but he often had a purpose in such dialogue, and as often entered into it to relieve himself from the weight of superior thoughts. The King taking exercise and amusing himself with those about him, and the King in the Cabinet, were two different men. In the discussion of public affairs, he was astonishingly fluent and acute; and his habits of business enabled him to refer with ease to the bearings of every subject. His successive Ministers have each borne testimony to the dignity of his manners, as well as the readiness of his address, when he put on the character of the Sovereign. Nothing which was submitted to him was passed over with indifference or haste. Every paper which came under his eye contained marks of his observation; and the notes, which he almost invariably inserted in the margin, were remarkable as well for the strong sense as the pithiness of their character.
The King was not a great reader. Indeed, he scarcely ever took up a book. He had a particular tact in obtaining information, and employed persons of ability to read books, and convey to him their substance.
The temperance of his late Majesty's life has become almost proverbial. He rose in summer and winter before six o'clock. He would take a slight breakfast at eight, and dine off the plainest joint at one. He retired early to rest, after passing the evening with his family, generally amused with musick, of which be was passionately fond, and in which he manifested a most correct taste. The King's agricultural pursuits (for as Burke has justly said, "even in his amusements he was a patriot")
contributed to the strength of his constitution.
The habitual piety of his late Majesty was always the most striking part of his character. Those who have been with him at his morning devotions at the private Chapel at Windsor will never forget the fervour of his responses during the service. This constant sense of religion doubtless contributed to the invariable firmness and serenity of his mind. When one of the young Princes was hourly expected to die, the King was sitting on a Sunday, reading a Sermon to his family. An attendant came in with the tidings of the child's death. The King exchanged a look with him, signifying he understood his commission, and then proceeded with his reading till it was finished.
The reign now terminated has been the longest, the most prosperous, and the most glorious, of any recorded in our annals, perhaps of any in the history of the world; nor do the private and domestic virtues of our lamented King less embalm his memory in our affections, than the splendour and renown of his achievements demand our admiration.
The most striking feature in the late King's character was his deeprooted and zealous attachment to the great interests of Religion and Virtue, of which, as he steadily cultivated the principles, so he afforded to his subjects, both in public and private life, a bright and unvarying example. Yet was not his an austere or repulsive piety. His eminent and public respect for the Established Religion of the State did not prevent him from indulging a wise and liberal toleration; and in the course of his reign numerous Statutes attested his desire to enlarge and extend the freedom of conscience, as far as was compatible with public morals, and the Christian Faith. In all respects, lenity, moderation, and paternal mildness, were the characteristicks of his Government at home, as justice and liberality were of his intercourse with Foreign Powers.
**The Account of His Majesty's Fu neral, and other circumstances relative to his lamented death, will be found in our Obituary department, page 176.