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In this utter desertion, the king prevailed on Lord North, who was already Chancellor of the Exchequer, to accept Grafton's post of First Lord of the Treasury, with the Premiership. Lord North, eldest son of the Earl of Guildford, was a man of a remarkably mild and pleasant temper, of sound sense, and highly honourable character. He was ungainly in his person and plain of countenance, but he was well versed in the business of Parliament, and particularly dexterous in tagging to motions of the Opposition some paragraph or other which neutralised the whole, or turned it even against them. He was exceedingly near-sighted, so much so, that he once carried off the wig of the old Secretary of the Navy, who sat near him in the House. For the rest, he was of so somnolent a nature that he was frequently seen nodding in the House when Opposition members were pouring out all the vials of their wrath on his head. He thought himself a Whig, but if we are to class him by his principles and his acts of administration, we must pronounce him a Tory.
Dr. Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury (b. 1643) who figures so prominently in the reign of William and Mary, and who rendered such essential service to the establishment of religious liberty, is the great historian of his time. Without his narratives of his own period, we should have a very imperfect idea of it. With all his activity at Court and in Parliament, he was a most voluminous writer. His publications amount to no less than a hundred and forty-five, though many of these are mere tracts, and some of them even only single sermons. His earliest productions date from 1669, and they continued, with little intermission, to the time of his death in 1715a space of forty-six years. His great works are "The Reformation of the Church," in three volumes, folio, 1679, 1681, and 1715; and his "History of His Own Times," in two volumes, published after his death in 1724. Burnet lays no claim to eloquence or to much genius, and he has been accused of a fondness for gossip, and for his self-importance; but the qualities which sink all these things into mere secondary considerations are his honesty and heartiness in the support of sound and liberal principles far beyond the majority of his fellow prelates and churchmen. Whilst many of these were spending their energies in opposing reform and toleration, Burnet was incessantly, by word and pen, engaged in assisting to build up and establish those broad and Christian principles under which we now live. Besides the great works named, he wrote also "Memoirs of James and William, Dukes of Hamilton;" "Passages in the Life and Death of Wilmot, Earl of Rochester;" a "Life of Bishop Bedell;" "Travels on the Continent;" "An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles," etc. etc.The Free Trade journals did not fail to observe that what they called "this remarkable lecture on Free Trade, Protection, and smuggling, delivered from the Tory Treasury bench," was wound up by the avowal that the principles of Free Trade were now beyond a question, and that the rule to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest was the only valid theory of commerce. In the House some opposition was offered to the reduction of duties on pigs, apples, butter, fish, and other articles; but the Government proposals were affirmed by large majorities, except in the case of apples, which were made to pay 6d. in the bushel. The Opposition, however, raised the old question of the sugar duties, which had been omitted from the list of changes; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to give way, and the Tariff Bill passed the Commons on the 28th of June. It was fiercely debated in the Upper House, but the Whigs did not carry any material amendments.
A commission was then moved for, under the Great Seal, by Lord Camden, and in this commission were included the names of the Prince of Wales, the Dukes of York, Gloucester, and Cumberland. These royal personages, however, declined to be named in it. With these remarkable omissions, Camden's motion was passed, and the result was communicated to the Commons, on which Pitt, on the 2nd of February, moved for the concurrence of that House. This again brought up the question of the prince's right. Lord North, who, though now blind, had mixed in these debates with his usual moderation, and with a great display of good sense, based on official experience, expressed his pleasure that the prince had condescended to accept the regency, notwithstanding its limitations. This prudence, he observed, had given the country an agreeable surprise, considering the temptations to stand upon his right, which must have produced inconceivable embarrassments. Pitt could not resist the impulse to arise and again deny the right, and observe that he believed those who had advocated that right were now really ashamed of it. This immediately called up Burke, for Fox was ill, and away at Bath, and he exclaimed, "I assert that the Prince of Wales's right is clear as the sun, and that it is the duty of the House to appoint him regent, with the full powers of sovereignty." He asserted with equal warmth, that Ministers were about to purloin the Great Seal, and commit an act of forgery. A stormy debate followed, in which Burke's violence was met with moderation and dignity.
There were four corrals in the one, and two of them were on fire. They had spread wet blankets on the roof of the third, but it, too, caught directly. The big, yellow-hearted flames poured up into the sky. The glow was cast back again from the blackness of the low clouds, and lit up the ground with a dazing shimmer. It blinded and burned and set the rules of fire drill pretty well at naught, when the only water supply was in small buckets and a few barrels, and the horses had kicked over two of the latter.
The South Sea Company had immediately on the passing of the Bill proposed a subscription of one million, and this was so eagerly seized on that, instead of one, two millions were subscribed. To stimulate this already too feverish spirit in the public, the Company adopted the most false and unjustifiable means. They had eight millions and a half to pay over to Government as a douceur for granting them the management of the Funds; and, therefore, to bring this in rapidly, they propagated the most lying rumours. It was industriously circulated that Lord Stanhope had received overtures at Paris to exchange Gibraltar and Port Mahon for invaluable gold lands in Peru! The South Sea trade was vaunted as a source of boundless wealth in itself. In August the stock had risen from the one hundred and thirty of the last winter to one thousand! Men sold houses and land to become shareholders; merchants of eminence neglected their affairs and crippled their resources to reap imaginary profits. The Company flattered the delusion to the utmost. They opened a third, and even a fourth subscription, larger than the former, and passed a resolution that from next Christmas their yearly dividend should not be less than fifty per cent.! In labouring to increase the public delusion they seem to have caught the contagion themselves, for they began to act, not like men who were blowing a bubble which they knew must speedily burst, but like persons who had mounted permanently into the very highest seat of prosperous power. They assumed the most arrogant and overbearing manner, even towards men of the highest station and influence. "We have made them kings," said a member of Parliament, "and they deal with everybody as such."The Indians, being wicked, ungrateful, suspicious characters, doubted the promises of the White-eyes. But it is only just to be charitable toward their ignorance. They were children of the wilderness and of the desert places, walking in darkness. Had the lights of the benefits of civilization ever shone in upon them, they would have realized that the government[Pg 226] of these United States, down to its very least official representative, never lies, never even evades.
"Well," drawled Cairness again,he had learned the value of the word in playing the Yankee game of bluff,"with those about the beef contract and those about the Kirby massacre, also a few I gathered around San Carlos (you may not be aware that I have been about that reservation off and on for ten years), with those facts I could put you in the penitentiary, perhaps, even with an Arizona jury; but at any rate I could get you tarred and feathered or lynched in about a day. Or failing all those, I could shoot you myself.[Pg 260] And a jury would acquit me, you know, if any one were ever to take the trouble to bring it before one, which is doubtful, I think."