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added, “all the powers of Government originate.” The language he held upon this occasion is remarkable not only from its constitutional soundness, but for the perspicuity with which it states the actual question in contest, stripped of all disguises and evasions. “To assert an inherent right in the Prince of Wales to assume the Government, is virtually to revive those exploded ideas of the divine and indefeasible authority of Princes, which have so justly sunk into contempt and almost oblivion. Kings and Princes derive their power from the people ; and to the people alone, through the organ of their representatives, does it appertain to decide in cases for which the Constitution has made no specific or positive provision.” It will be seen that in the end the Prince of Wales was obliged to abandon his claim of right, and that the steadfastness of Pitt finally secured the recognition of the principle which placed in the hands of Parliament the settlement of the conditions under which His Royal Highness was to enter upon the Regency.
This glance at the subject is a little in advance of the correspondence; but it will be useful as a key to the points of discussion thrown up in its progress. The fulness and freshness of the letters, written daily, and containing the most minute history of those proceedings that has yet appeared in print, requires such slight elucidation as to render it undesirable to interrupt their continuity by commentaries, except where it may become necessary to direct attention to some special matter.
Both parties were now gathering their allies around them, and preparing for a contest which was not very creditable to the political character of the Opposition. In the meanwhile a third party was forming, which, trying to reconcile hopeless antagonisms, ran its head against a crotchet, resisting the restrictions on the one hand, and supporting Mr. Pitt, as Minister, on the other, for the sake of his popularity and transcendant abilities. This line of conduct is justly described by Mr. Grenville as “ absolute nonsense."
MR. W. W. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Dec. 9th, 1788. MY DEAR BROTHER,
The messenger who carries this is sent for the purpose of collecting proxies. It is, you know, necessary that they should be renewed every session; for which reason I have desired that a blank proxy should be directed to you, which I suppose you will fill up, as before, with Fortescue's name. He is quite eager (especially for him), and came up to town for the first day. I think there is every reason to hope that we shall not stand in need of this sort of canvass, either for the House of Commons or the House of Lords; but you will certainly agree with me, that no pains are superfluous when such points are in question.
I do not learn that there is any foundation for the report which I mentioned to you of the round-robin entered into by their Royal Highnesses. The partizans of Opposition are, however, still circulating, with great industry, the idea that the Prince of Wales has positively declared his resolution not to accept the Regency under any restrictions whatever. I take this, however, to be nothing more than a bully, intended to influence votes in the House of Commons. If, however, he should be so desperate, I should hope there would be every reason to believe that the Queen would be induced to take the Regency, in order to prevent the King's hands from being fettered for the remainder of his life. Nothing has yet passed with respect to this subject. Pitt has seen her once; but the conversation was nothing more than general, although with the greatest civility, and even kindness, on her part towards him.
We receive every day new professions of attachment; and I do not yet hear of any one individual of any consequence whom we shall lose, except, probably, the Duke of Queensbury. The Duke of Grafton has declared himself explicitly. There is no longer any doubt of Thurlow; and there never has been any of Lord Stafford, Lord Weymouth, &c. Lord Lonsdale is still uncertain, and so is, I believe, the Duke of Northumberland—though this will have been brought to a point by this time. The general idea is, that he has connected himself with the Independents, of which there was some appearance last session. It is said that they mean to support Pitt as the Minister, but to oppose any restrictions on the Regent. This is not the less likely to be their conduct, on account of its being absolute nonsense.
With respect to individuals in the House of Commons, there are several who have long been wavering, and who have sent the most positive assurances of support.
There is every reason to believe that the country will continue entirely with us, and that addresses will be presented from all parts to the Regent, to continue the Government. I am afraid that, in point of time, nothing can be done of that sort in Ireland, without exposing you to much embarrassment.
I conceive that our Regent will probably be appointed, the Bill passed, &c., &c., by about the 10th or 12th of January, and that we shall then immediately be dismissed. You certainly must remain till your Parliament has met and appointed the Regent for Ireland, because there is no one else who can vacate your commission ; and I think the contrivances which you once mentioned for avoiding it, are liable to great objections. Now, you will observe, that the addresses from Ireland could not be presented to the Prince of Wales till he was Irish Regent, and that it would be a very awkward thing to have the people there addressing him to continue you in Ireland, after you had declared your own resolution to quit it in consequence of the removal of your friends here. I wish you would consider all this attentively, because, if these difficulties could be removed, it would certainly be very desirable that it should appear as far as possible to be the united sense of all the three kingdoms, as well as of both Houses of Parliament, and of the King, that the present Government should remain ; and that these Whigs should recommend the dismission in the teeth of all these.
Willis sent last night a note to Pitt about his attendance at the Committee to-day. In a postscript, he tells him that he thinks the King better and more composed than he has been since he has attended him. Ever most affectionately yours,
W. W. G.
A new question and a new embarrassment now arose, as to what was to be done about the Regency in Ireland. It was natural enough that the Prince of Wales should be popular in Ireland as a pis aller, on account of the known antipathy of the King to the Catholic claims; and it was apprehended that the Irish Parliament, acting independently of English precedent, would declare itself in favour of an unlimited Regency. The anxiety to which Lord Buckingham was exposed by this disturbing prospect (some people went so far as to cast the horoscope of an
Irish revolution), and by the delays in the receipt of intelligence, owing to the imperfect and irregular means of communication existing between the two countries, betrayed him into some expressions of impatience, against which Mr. Grenville remonstrated with his habitual temperance and good sense, throwing out at the same time some sound suggestions as to the course it was desirable the LordLieutenant should pursue. There are no qualities in these letters, wherever reference is made to the conduct of public men in great crises, more worthy of unmixed admiration than their practical sagacity and complete self-control.
MR. W. W. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Dec. 10th, 1788. MY DEAR BROTHER,
Your messenger having been, as he says, four or five days at sea, has just brought me your letter of the 2nd. I cannot avoid expressing to you the mortification I felt, on finding it filled with complaints of want of communication. It is now more than a month that I have written to you constantly seven days in the week, with the exception, I believe, of not four days in the whole time. I do this, not only without reluctance, but with pleasure, because I think it contributes to your satisfaction, and because it is a real relief to my mind to converse with you in this manner on the subjects which are, in the present moment, so interesting to us both. But I do it often under circumstances of so much other business, as makes it impossible for me to keep any copies or memoranda of what I write. I cannot, therefore, distinctly call back to my mind the thread of that correspondence; but, as far as my memory serves, I solemnly protest I know of no one fact, opinion, or conjecture, that could be of the least use to you, or could even