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LORD GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Dropmore, Jan. 28th, 1799. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
I am much more mortified than surprised at the event of the House of Commons debate on the Union ; for though Lord Castlereagh wrote (as he talked) with confidence, yet one saw very clearly the elements of ratting. I rejoice to hear that you think the question recoverable, because I am more than ever of opinion that it must be tried again and again, till it succeeds. With respect to the person in whose hands it has failed, I may say to you in our confidence) that my opinion does not very much differ from yours, if indeed it does at all. Since he has been in Ireland I have seen no one trait of that character which I thought he had displayed in former situations of great difficulty, and for which I still gave him credit, though a nearer view of his mind had certainly diminished the impressions which I once entertained on the subject. Sorry I am to confess that I concurred heartily and eagerly in his appointment, a measure, my share in which I shall deplore to the hour of my death, though I certainly have nothing to reproach myself with on that account, having done conscientiously what I then thought the best, though I did not, even then, think it so good as others did.
The question of his removal is, however, a very difficult one indeed-one of the most embarrassing circumstances attending the present state of Ireland being, that in that office, above all others, the effect of change, even from worse to better, is frequently, if not always, more mischievous than the continuance of the evil. A violent and precipitate removal just now would, I think, totally unhinge the Government, and it would, above all, throw the whole absolutists at the feet of those who perhaps (I think, certainly) need not have been made enemies, but who being such, must be guarded against as such. Lord Cornwallis never did like the situation; he accepted it unwillingly, and, to do him justice, I believe solely from a sense of public duty. Since he has held it he has experienced nothing but disgusts of every kind, and mortification in every shape, arising no doubt in a very great degree from his own misconduct, but not on that account the less galling to his mind. He can therefore certainly have no desire to stay, and, I should think, would very probably desire to quit at the close of this session, if the dread of foreign invasion is at that time not very urgent.
But if it is, what officer have we to oppose to the domestic and external enemies whom we should in such case have to meet? In a situation requiring above all others the mixture of civil and military talents, to a degree that the Duke of Marlborough scarce possessed them, and for which we must provide by sending some old woman in a red riband that has not a grain of either.
You see it is easy enough to start difficulties, but I do not think myself quite so ready at expedients as I wish I was. This is, I believe, a case where nothing is to be done just now, but to remain quite steady, announcing an unalterable purpose of carrying this great measure, and a fixed persuasion that we must succeed in it. And as to all the rest, if Paddy will set fire to his own house, we must try to put it out if we can, and if we cannot, we must keep the engine ready to play upon our own.
I rejoice that you took the determination, both of not speaking or attending this question in the Irish House of Lords, and of giving your proxy to the Chancellor, which was at once showing him a mark of attention and confidence, which he well deserves, and manifesting your own sentiments in the only way at all consistent with your situation. A little more than two months will now close your pilgrimage, from which you will return with the satisfaction of having done a great deal of good, though not quite all that you might have done if others had done their part.
God bless you.
You will see in to-day's papers the fate of the poor King of Naples. The infatuation of the Emperor is like nothing but that of an Irish Orangeman.
Towards the end of January, Mr. Thomas Grenville again left England on his mission; but his second departure proved even more unfortunate and disastrous than the first. The vessel in which he had sailed was supposed to have made the Elbe, and to have been lost in the ice. The distressing tidings, or rather the terrible apprehensions caused by the absence of any authentic or reliable intelligence, were immediately forwarded to Lord Buckingham. For several days this state of dreadful suspense continued. Every fragment of news that afforded the slightest ground of hope was eagerly seized upon ; and, in the anxious solicitude of that affection which appears so touchingly all throughout these letters, Lord Grenville communicated to Lord Buckingham all he could learn from day to day. At last came the joyful intelligence that he was safe! This happy news was rapidly followed by letters from Mr. Grenville himself, and from his Secretary, Mr. Fisher, announcing his landing at Cuxhaven, and his subsequent arrival at Berlin.
MR. FISHER TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Cuxhaven, Thursday, Feb. 7th, 1799. MY DEAR LORD,
I cannot think of leaving this place without first acquainting you of our safe arrival here, after experiencing a thousand dangers and difficulties in consequence of our ship having run aground on the Newerk bank, at the entrance of the Elbe.
Mr. Grenville, I am delighted to be able to assure you, is in good health, notwithstanding the extreme fatigue he has undergone since Thursday last. The few hours he stays here being entirely occupied with writing letters of business, he fears he shall not have time to write to you from hence. The same reasons, my dear Lord, will deprive me of the honour of giving you, at the present moment, the details of our misfortunes. The officers and crew are all saved with the exception of thirteen seamen, and one woman and child, who were frozen to death in attempting to gain Newerk from the wreck. We are without a change of any one article of dress, and we fear there is little probability of saving any part of our baggage. We, however, proceed on our journey in a few hours to Berlin, from whence it shall be my first care to write to you the particulars of the melancholy events of the last week. Mr. Wynne is quite well, and has on every occasion of danger and difficulty shown the greatest fortitude and discretion.
I beg to be recalled to the remembrance of Lady Buckingham. Believe me, my dear Lord, to be ever, with the most grateful attachment, your Lordship’s most obliged and most devoted servant,
MR. T. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Cuxhaven, Feb. 7th, 1799. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
The fatigue which I have undergone, added to the necessity of my writing several letters upon my arrival here, makes it impossible for me to say more to you than that I am alive and well, after a miraculous escape from the ‘Proserpine,' which ran ashore off Searborn, and a second danger, scarcely less, yesterday morning, in a long walk to gain this place, during which we were overtaken by the tide and forced to wade for an hour, in the hardest frost I ever felt, against a strong current of tide, which was sometimes up to, and sometimes above our middle. We are all, however, well to-day, and I proceed this evening towards Berlin, as well as my fatigues will allow me. I cannot say enough to you of Mr. Fisher's behaviour in these trials of danger; his resources, his attachment, and his kind attentions in assisting our poor Henry, and lessening, where he could, the inconvenience of my situation, have entitled him and ensured to him the sincerest and warmest regard. Henry, likewise, has been a stout mariner, and has shown a fortitude much beyond
I find no Italian news except a report of the French having possession of Naples. They have, likewise, Ehrenbreitstein. When will they have Berlin ? We have not a shirt in company. My loss, about £700.
God Almighty bless and preserve you.
Having arrived safely at Berlin, Mr. Grenville gives a sketch of his first impressions of the King of Prussia and his Court.