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Saturday, induces me to pursue the matter I then opened, and the more especially as the circumstance, I foresaw, is now more than likely to occur. As I purpose closing this letter at the House of Commons, and the last moment which the post may allow me, I shall have to transmit fact in lieu of probability; at present, I state briefly my grounds for the latter-namely, that the specific great question, whether the Prince shall be Regent without any limitations, and invested with the full prerogatives of royalty, will be agitated and decided upon this Monday night. The turn of debate and temper of the House on Friday, which induced me to suppose such question might be pressed upon us, have induced others to press it. This morning a printed paper hath been sent to certain members, containing a motion for addressing, and an address at length to the Prince, corroborating what Mr. Steele told me yesterday, that Fox's party had some design in view for Monday. Letters having been sent in Fox's name to several members, requesting attendance and an answer ; and that Mr. Pitt had written in like manner to such as he apprehended might be withdrawing for the Christmas holidays, with the same unusual request of answer. Two of these letters (pretty long), to Sir H. Hoghton and to Mr. Pye, I afterwards had the perusal of.
The true friendly language, and which I openly hold, is that we shall be stronger on the division than before ; such language is proper, because ordinary men consider numbers as a shelter for their opinions and conduct, and some even consider it as the test of truth. But this language hath not its origin in my judgment and feelings. There are circumstances which impress great doubt on my mind, whether the division can be so favourable to our wishes, as was the last. Taking the data of the examination of the physicians, the King's recovery therein presumed, gives a vantage-ground in argument for limitations. But I am sorry to say this ground is now shaken : the public is no longer sanguine in hopes, medical gentlemen have generally conspired to render the object of recovery much more doubtful at least, and the physicians about the King have had dissensions and disputes amongst themselves. It is now rumoured that Dr. Warren wishes to be re-examined. All this is indeed not before the House of Commons, and the report of the physicians is; I think, therefore, that though not so decisive, we yet shall have a considerable majority on the premises; but even for this dependant on other considerations—namely, how far apprehensions of the King's actual demise may operate from, I believe, the faithful report of the day, that a fever is come on, and that for a day or two past the King has had a constant sweating of the head, to which he was at no time before accustomed. According to wishes or fears, men construe this crisis to portend health or decease ; the political effect in the alternative, being in the first case uncertain, in the second case certain. The bent of this is against us, as few narrow motives and personal considerations may extend and favour the active spirit of subornation which stalks in open day, with each hand full of patents of honour and purses of money. Offers have been so prodigal that not fifty years of patronage could accomplish the performance. Those gentlemen who have rejected these kind tenders of service speak openly, and no notice is taken. In these moments of public curiosity, it may not be so well to trust names to a letter. I could give you several.
The bearing of this letter is thus unfavourable to this night's debate terminating fully as we could wish, though yet I think for us. Having thus far written, I shall pocket my paper for the purpose of adding what I can at the House of Commons.
House of Commons,
Half-past Five, Monday, Dec. 22nd, 1788. I dined at three, at a coffee-house, with my cousin, old William Lawrence, who called on me; Smith, member for Sudbury, leader of the Dissenters, joined us on the walk, and was of our dinner party. Lawrence said he wished a compromise, a limited regency for a year, and then to take up the business anew, if the King was not recovered, on the other ground, and he is a leading country gentleman of their party, Smith is in an unqualified manner with us; and Thornton, whose place in the House is next to me, being equally staunch, I augur that we have all the Dissenters' interest with us. Indeed, generally speaking, the House looks better for us than I expected, and I doubt not our majority, yet thinking it will not be great; indeed the House is not nearly so full as it was on the late question, and the apprehensions I set out with of temporizers and shirkers, as we called them at Eton, seem confirmed.
Edmund Burke arose a little after four, and is speaking yet. He has been wilder than ever, and laid himself and party open more than ever speaker did. He is Folly personified, but shaking his cap and bells under the laurel of genius ; among other things, he said Mr. Pitt's proposals could not be adopted, as gentlemen, as cavaliers : the word will not be forgot.
Fox is present, but looks very ill. Pitt looks recovered. Your brother in high glee at Burke. Burke stated the Chancellor to be like to the God Priapus, and Pitt the carpenter. He run his idea to a charming extravagance, and finished by declaring that “ he could not be a votary to Priapus, the false God! vid. Horace, &c.”
The question is an amendment of Dempster's, to follow; the Lords and Commons, &c., determine “to address the Prince of Wales, to take on him the Regency, &c.”
Adieu, my dear Lord. Your Marchioness in health, and a boy, and yourself in all good that Providence can dispense, is the prayer of your most faithfully affectionate and devoted friend, &c.
W. Young Six o'clock.
SIR WILLIAM YOUNG TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Tuesday, Dec. 23rd, 1788. MY DEAR LORD,
Never did any debate of nice discussion go off better in our eye than that of last night : never was I more agreeably surprised than by the result—having gained nine on our former majority. The House was thinner by forty at twelve at night, than the debate before at three in the morning. The shirkers I alluded to may now come in, and we may augur our future divisions to be yet stronger and more decisive: our rats having all shown their tails on last night's motion to address the Prince.
Sir John Aubrey, rat-major, receiving his emoluments of the Treasury for five years, and declaring himself unconnected with any, afforded a subject of general laugh. Master Popham, Sir Samuel Hurmery, James Macpherson, W. G. Hamilton, &c., &c., followed the illustrious Aubrey. Fox, after Pitt's reply, and his own rejoinder, paired off with Stevens of the Admiralty. The Marquis of Lansdowne's friends, Barré, &c., were with us. Masham, voting for the Address, declared himself not precluded thereby from voting for limitations. Drake, on the same head, not to preclude himself, left the House. We shall, therefore, have those two. Sir John Scott spoke with such learning, truth, and uncommon energy of reasoning and language, that he carried the House with him, and extorted from Lord North, in particular, the highest compliments ever paid to a lawyer in the House of Commons. I never heard Fox speak so temperately, or better, in point of argument. Pitt, in reply, was equally great. He stated, to conviction, “the fiction of the law, which admitted the application of the royal political authority, when the personal was disabled, as implicated in the very principles of hereditary succession, which otherwise would suffer interruption from
nonage, infirmity, dotage, and every contingency in the state of man.” Sheridan spoke very ill; very hot, injudicious, and ill-heard. Rolle, whilst adverting to Sheridan's speech, made use of a remarkable expression, and which seems to hint some future acting up to the rumours of his purpose. He said that in proper time, “He should heartily vote for the Prince's being Regent, if the Prince had done no act by which he had forfeited pretensions to executive government in this country.”
Our resolutions being carried to the Lords, in conference this day, on Friday next the Lords will debate thereon. Lords Townshend, Romney, Radnor, and many other occasional opponents, I understand to be decidedly with us on the second Whig resolution.
In speaking of our debate, I had forgot Burke, who, after I finished my last night's letter, finished his wild speech in a manner next to madness. He let out two of the new titlesFitzwilliam to be Marquis of Rockingham, and Lord G. Cavendish, jun. His party pulled him, and our friends calling “Hear, hear,” we lost the rest of the twenty-five new Peers, who would all have come out.
For the King's health, the world is yet in expectation of some crisis. The St. James's notes of last night “quiet,” or “unquiet,” are disregarded, as too general, or as of course; and accounts from ladies about the Queen, and from the physicians themselves, pass in the greater circles, still mentioning violent intermitting fevers, and profuse occasional perspirations. Having generally, in my last, stated that the faculty had conspired to render the public less sanguine, I mention to your Lordship only what T. Warner, above seventy years of age, and forty years first surgeon of Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospitals, told me, "Being at the head of these city hospitals, he has been often called in to meet the physicians of Bethlem, where a surgeon for scalping, &c., was required, and that a madness after fifty, without a clear assignable cause—and that cause to