Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

planter in the island of Jamaica. This young gentleman, ingenuous, engaging, and accomplished, beloved and admired by all his schoolfellows, became the fast friend of Lord Morpeth (by which title the earl was of course known during his father's life-time), and they were the Pylades and Orestes of Eton. It was with such companions as these that Lord Carlisle was accustomed to spend his early days in alternate study and recreation. It was with them that he imbibed a taste for the classic page, or trundled the hoop, bowled at the wicket, or manned the galley, and was borne on the bosom of the silvery flood. It was here, too, that he probably caught the inspiration of poetry, and might have exclaimed:

« First in these fields I try the sylvan strains,

Nor blush to sport on Windsor’s blissful plains :
Fair Thames ! Aow gently from thy sacred spring,
While on thy banks Sicilian muses sing ;
Let vernal airs through trembling osiers play,

And Albion's cliffs resound the rural lay." But the time at length arrived when his Lordship was compelled to quit this retreat of the muses, and tread the busy haunts of men. He repaired to the continent, and made the grand tour. During his travels, although he was not a peer of Scotland, he was elected one of the Knights Companions of the Order of the Thistle, and was invested with the insignia of the order Feb. 27, 1763, at Turin; the King of Sardinia representing his Britannic Majesty on that occasion.

On the expiration of his minority, Lord Carlisle returned to England, and took his seat in the House of Peers. He presently became one of the gayest noblemen in the capital. Possessing a small but elegant figure, in which symmetry was happily blended with agility and strength, he shone a meteor of fashion. Elegant in his dress and manners, with his green ribband across his vest, a brilliant star sparkling on his side, and his person otherwise decorated with the greatest care, he was considered one of the chief ornaments of the court.

It is no less singular than true, that at that period Mr. Fox and Lord Carlisle were the two greatest beaus of their day : and, among other juvenilities, endeavoured strenuously, but ineffectually, to introduce the foreign foppery of red heels, But the intoxication of youth soon yielded to “maturer counsels ;” and after the lapse of a few years the country beheld them resuming the original bent of their nature and education, and contending in the lists of Parliament for the prize of eloquence, and the meed of fame.

Lord Carlisle entered on the political stage at a time when the government of his late Majesty was almost paralyzed by the selfish contests of faction. At length, however, Lord North obtained the ascendancy, and appeared to be the first minister who had enjoyed the full confidence of his Sovereign since the Earl of Bute. At this epoch the empire had attained an unexampled degree of prosperity. Our national debt was indeed large, even at that period, but our means were ample, and our resources untouched.

A glorious war, terminated by a magnanimous, if not an advantageous peace, had rendered us respected abroad; our trade at home was in a flourishing state ; and our colonies in another hemisphere appeared to regard us with a filial eye, and to look up to us for security and protection. But the differences with our trans-atlantic possessions soon put an end to all these flattering prospects. We found ourselves engaged in an unnatural and hopeless contest. During the earlier part of it, the Earl of Carlisle, who began to distinguish himself in the House of Peers, was sworn a member of the privy council, and nominated treasurer of the household ; and when it was found that measures of coercion had failed in their anticipated effect, a different plan was resorted to ; and this nobleman was selected, on account of his acknowledged temper and moderation, to act a conspicuous part during the disputes between the mother country and the insurgent colonists.

The scheme of sending commissioners to America had already been tried, and had proved unsuccessful. In 1776, a commission, at the head of which was Lord Howe, had in vain

endeavoured to restore public tranquillity in America. Notwithstanding this previous failure, Lord North persevered in his efforts ; and accordingly, in 1778, the Earl of Carlisle repaired to America, in the character of one of His Majesty's commissioners for the purpose of restoring peace. He was accompanied by Governor Johnstone, who was included in the mission, and by Mr. Eden, afterwards Lord Auckland. It is well known that their joint efforts were ineffectual ; and that all their arguments failed to persuade the Americans to return under the government of Great Britain ; but it was acknowledged by all parties that the noble Lord at the head of the embassy executed the office entrusted to him in a manner that redounded greatly to his honour.

Soon after their return, Mr. Eden published four letters, which he addressed to his patron, Lord Carlisle, on the spirit of party, the financial condition of the country, and the representations of Ireland respecting a free trade. Immediately after this, in October 1780, the Earl of Carlisle, who had been nominated lord lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire, was appointed viceroy of Ireland; whither he was accompanied by his friend, Mr. Eden, who, in the capacity of chief secretary, managed the interests of England in the Parliament of the sister kingdom.

The period at which his Lordship was called upon to preside over the affairs of Ireland was peculiarly arduous and critical. The administration of Lord North had become odious; America had boldly thrown off her allegiance; and various parts of the empire had strongly marked their disapprobation of the measures of government. Ireland having been drained of all the regular troops for the purpose of carrying on the contest in America, the inhabitants had associated for their own defence and protection ; and an army of volunteers, officered by gentlemen of rank and fortune, and headed by the Earl of Charlemont, was in complete possession of the country. The situation of a viceroy was therefore extremely delicate; more especially as a formidable and increasing party in opposition tended not a little to embarrass those

entrusted with the government, and obliged them at times to deviate from the course which had been chalked out for their conduct. Yet, notwithstanding these circumstances, the administration of the Earl of Carlisle was accompanied with many circumstances calculated to conciliate popular favour, and to meliorate the condition of an unhappy people. It was during his Lordship’s government that a national bank was established'; and many excellent plans were formed and bills passed for encreasing the trade of a portion of the empire unjustly deprived of many privileges and immunities to which it was entitled.

In the mean time, the existing British cabinet was threatened with destruction. Lord North, unfortunate in his attempts to subjugate America, and perceiving the storm that was gathering around him, wished to escape its fury by withdrawing from public affairs. The Marquis of Rockingham, the Duke of Portland, Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, and their political adherents, had, in fact, already hunted the minister into their toils, and were preparing to divide his spoils. About the end of March, 1782, an entire change took place, and the government of Ireland fell to the share of the Duke of Portland.

This event occurred at a period when the Earl of Carlisle happened to be negotiating the repeal of so much of the statute of George I. as affected the legislative independence of Ireland ; and it was accompanied with some circumstances that rendered his recal far from agreeable. The Irish parliament, however, was not unmindful of the services of the viceroy; for, after the appointment and arrival of his successor, the House of Commons, on the 15th April 1782, passed the following vote: “ That the thanks of this house be presented to the Right Honourable Frederic Earl of Carlisle, for the wisdom and prudence of his administration, and for his uniform and unremitted attention to promote the welfare of this kingdom.” Thus ended the viceregal government of Lord Carlisle in Ireland. During its continuance, great benefits appear to have been contemplated in behalf of the people of that country; and as much was achieved as the short period of the noble Lord's residence, and his sudden and unexpected recal would permit.

The demise, however, of that great and disinterested patriot, the Marquis of Rockingham, dissolved all the hopes and projects of his co-adjutors. From that moment, a spirit of personal aggrandisement, which had been checked by his virtues, appeared to infect their councils, and to spread jealousy and suspicion among their ranks. In consequence of the subsequent changes, we find the Earl of Carlisle enjoying the honourable appointment of steward of the household ; and he soon after succeeded to the still more dignified and confidential one of lord privy seal. But å variety of important altetations soon ensued. It became difficult to preserve a firm footing amidst the volcanic explosions of politics. At length the extraordinary genius of one man for a while tranquillized the tempest until the French revolution became the

prognostic of a new and still more portentous storm.

During the discussions that took place in Parliament in 1789, relative to the regency, Lord Carlisle took an active part in favour of the claims of the heir-apparent. The opinions of the people were greatly divided on this subject. In Ireland, it is true, the parliament evinced a decided inclination to consider the Prince of Wales as of right the temporary governor of the kingdom during the incapacity of his royal father. But it was otherwise in this country; for while some broadly asserted that the prince had the same hereditary right to the füll exercise of the powers of royalty, although in trust, that he would have had in the case of the actual demise of the sovereign ; others maintained the converse of that proposition, and spurned the idea of an hereditary ownership, as something savouring of the obsolete pretensions and exploded doctrines of the house of Stuart. Mr. Pitt declared, “ that the Prince of Wales had no more right to the regency than any

other subject.”

It is well known that the House of Commons passed three resolutions in conformity to the sentiments of the prime

« ForrigeFortsæt »