LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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In Whig Society 1775-1818
Chapter VI.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
‣ Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
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Late in November 1810 King George had a severe recurrence of his malady, and it was necessary again to appoint the Prince of Wales as Regent. The Prince was not at all disposed to submit to the restrictions which had curtailed his authority during his first regency, and the Whigs, who had hitherto looked on him as the main support of their party, had naturally no wish that any restraint should be placed on his power. But the Prince ultimately gave the deathblow to Whig hopes by taking the oaths in accordance with the Bill restricting his authority framed by the Tory Ministers.

The Prince had, though after considerable delay, disregarded the Tory Ministry, and sent for Lords Grey and Grenville and asked them to draw up replies to the addresses from the two Houses on his appointment as Regent. Their drafts he returned with corrections in Sheridan’s handwriting on the margins. Lord Grey refused to accept the corrections or to frame another reply; his opinion of the Prince’s answer being
that it was “in its whole tenour and character utterly objectionable.”

After most unsatisfactory interviews and communications between the Prince and Lords Grey and Grenville, they were able to announce on February 2 that the Prince would retain his Tory advisers. His excuse was that both Queen Charlotte and the physicians told him that the King was on the road to recovery, and, should he become convalescent, it would possibly throw him back if he found his old advisers out of power.

The Whig Party were completely dumbfoundered by the Prince’s change of front. They had staked all their hopes on him. Lord Albemarle had, under the impression that the Prince could be depended upon, written to Thomas Coke, Member of Parliament for Norfolk, to “quit again his own fireside to support the Prince in his last great struggle against the Regency Bill.”

Catholic Emancipation had been promised to the Roman Catholics as the price of their support of the Act of Union between Ireland and England in 1801. From George Ill’s unconquerable aversion to the passing of this measure, it had been perpetually defeated, but now in 1811 the Whigs concluded the measure would be passed should they come into power.

When Lord Albemarle learnt that the Prince had submitted to the will of the King’s Tory

1 The Bill curtailling his powers as Regent.

advisers he was furious. He foresaw that the pledge given to Ireland would not now be redeemed, and endeavoured to show the importance of the promise made at the time of the Union by England.

It is interesting to see how much the Whigs believed in the influence of Lady Melbourne over the Prince Regent, for Lord Albemarle wrote to Lady Melbourne in a way which would lead one to suppose that she was a frequent channel of communication with the Prince. He urged that the Prince should endeavour in some measure to restore the confidence of the Catholics. By opposing a Bill for Catholic Emancipation, he would gain no personal popularity, as Perceval was known to be hostile to them and would get the credit and not himself. Lord Albemarle writes:

“The chief, indeed the only point to press, if the opportunity should offer, is that of the Catholicks; and to shew how much the reputation, and even the quiet, of his future reign will depend upon his conduct towards them now: that whether the Proclamation was right or wrong, it is no matter; but the circumstances of its having been put forth and actually enforced, makes it still more incumbent on the Prince than it was before to do something which may regain the confidence of the Catholicks, which he must perceive is shaken by that measure: that he must not suppose that matters during the next Session will go on so quietly as they have done hitherto, and here it may be observed to him that the Catholick
petition will be supported by
Mr. Fox’s friends as that specifick question to which he was more distinctly pledged than to any other, and as one which he has left as a legacy to all those who acted upon his principles, and who were attached to his person.

“It would also be most useful to point out to him that if he abandons the Catholicks, the whole disgrace will be his, as Perceval’s hostility to them is already known and pronounced, and that if the measure is defeated by Parliament (which is by no means certain) whatever credit may be obtained from the high-church party for so defeating it will belong solely to Perceval.

“It would be better to say nothing about persons unless he speaks first.”

Lady Melbourne on receiving this communication must have doubted how to act for the best. She was in the country, probably at Brocket, and she could hardly ask to see the Prince without some good reason, and had he suspected her of any attempt to influence him, he might have refused to see her.

She had an excellent reason to her hand. She felt that the time had come for her third son, Frederick, to rise in his career, and she wanted a step in Diplomacy for him as soon as possible; so she wrote a letter to the Prince which received the following reply:

York House, St. James’s.
Sept. 17th, 1811.
My Dear Lady Melbourne,

I have not, until the present moment, had
hardly one moment to myself, since I received your kind Letter, to acknowledge it & to return you my best thanks for it. It is not my intention to enter into the details of it in this Letter, as I can so much better enter both into your wishes, as well as further views respecting
Frederick in a personal Interview & conversation with you, than I ever can manage to do, by even ever so long a succession of epistolary correspondance, & which at best is but a very poor succedanium for the other mode. If, therefore, in consequence of what you were so good as to write me, & if it should be attended with little or no inconvenience to yourself, you can have the goodness to come to town any Day in the course of this week, or in the commencement of the next, you will find me still stationary here, & I will do myself the pleasure of obeying your commands quand bon cela vous semblera, & when you may choose to make an appointment with me. I will not tresspass any longer upon you at present than to desire everything that is kind to Melbourne & every good wish to the Circle around you, assuring you that I am at all times, dear Lady Melbourne, ever

Your very sincere Friend
& humble Servant,
George P.R.

It happened fortunately that Lord William Bentinck, son of the 3rd Duke of Portland, who had been appointed Envoy and Commander-inchief of the British forces in Sicily in 1811, suddenly returned for further instructions after about ten days stay in the island, owing to a
dispute about the subsidy from England. The
Queen Maria Carolina, sister of Marie Antoinette, was the real ruler, as the King was notoriously incapable of reigning and was known to be intriguing with the French. When Lord William, whose behaviour was approved by the Cabinet, returned to the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, probably as a result of Lady Melbourne’s request Frederick accompanied him as Secretary of Legation, although then only 29. Lady Melbourne might well deserve the remark of an anonymous writer styled by himself “Anacharsis,” who writing to her in 1808 from the Headquarters of Sir John Moore during the Peninsular War, urged her “to undertake the patronage of a school for the education of all future Ministers of War, the Colonies, and of Foreign Affairs.”

There is no record of the interview between the Prince and Lady Melbourne, and we only know that later she was rewarded by a letter from Albemarle, who said that Frederick, who was now with Lord William Bentinck in Sicily, had better remain where he was, as he would probably receive the Embassy in time, and it would lead to Dresden, and afterwards to Vienna or one other of the great Diplomatic posts. He then proceeded to suggest—

“Certainly there is no pretence for Frederick coming away after the assurance you have re-
ceived about Mr. Gordon, and although
Lord Castlereagh’s if contains exactly what I expected it would, I think under all circumstances he had better stay; for they cannot even send another Ambassador without finding an equivalent for Frederick, & giving him pretensions at a future time to the Embassy itself. Dresden must soon be open, and a most important post it will be if anything like the Old Balance is restored. You know I always mentioned that Court to you as the best preparatory one for Vienna, or the other great Missions.1

“And now I will tell you something about myself. Lord Grenville’s speech makes me think it possible that Lord Grey may no longer object to my going to the Continent on the only terms on which I should myself agree to go, namely to consolidate a general alliance preparatory to negotiations for a general Peace. If this should be so (which it will not be long before I know) I intend making an offer of my services for that purpose; and I should in the first instance make that offer to the Prince, who is entitled to it from me considering what passed at our last interview. Neither the offer however, if successful, nor any arrangements to which it can lead, would interfere with Frederick’s future hopes for Vienna, on the contrary—in my present view of the subject, those hopes would rather be promoted by them. I will explain all this if what I have mentioned does not fall to the ground.

“I know by reputation the Baron Stein,2

1 The Hon. Frederick Lamb did eventually become Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of the two Sicilies in 1812.

2 Baron von Stein (1757-1831).

and from all I heard formerly a more difficult person to deal with (if we are to have any transactions with him) is not to be found on the continent. But I think I could counteract him in a Congress provided my confidential intercourse with leading persons in the Austrian Councils were restored. Stein is (or used to be) a thorough Prussian, and I am sure can never have the confidence of Austria.”

In 1812 the restrictions on the Regency expired. The state of the King’s health made it unlikely that he would ever be well enough to resume the duties of kingship.

The Whigs now expected with certainty to be called to power. Lords Grenville and Grey were indeed sent for, but when they demanded the right to nominate afresh the chief officers of the Household the Regent refused. An effort was made through the Duke of York to bring about a coalition with some of the Ministers in power. The Regent wrote to his brother expressing a wish that Lords Grey and Grenville should “strengthen his hands and form a part of his Government by joining the ministry of Mr. Perceval.” They replied “that the differences of opinion between them were too many and too important to admit of such a union.”

The fact was that the Prince had become satisfied with his Tory advisers; it appears that he had ceased to care for Whig surroundings from the day that the Duchess of Devonshire
had interfered with
Mrs. Fitzherbert. He still, however, often visited Melbourne House, and even though in the hands of a Tory Ministry, insisted on retaining Lord Melbourne as one of his Lords of the Bedchamber.

In 1812 Lord Boringdon moved an address to the Regent, begging him to form an administration which would command the confidence of all classes. March 19 was fixed for its discussion, and the ladies of Melbourne House assembled with their most ultimate friends to learn the earliest tidings. Lady Holland and Miss Berry and many other ladies waited there till long after midnight for their friends from the House of Lords. When they came they bore the signs of a defeat, blaming Lord Wellesley for failing them in the hour of need by refusing to speak, though he voted on their side.

But in May 1812 Mr. Perceval was assassinated, and in the House of Commons a change of Ministry became necessary.

William, who was now Member for Portarlington, a pocket borough of his father-in-law’s, had been offered a place in the Treasury by the Prince, but refused it because of his political opinions, in a letter to his father so diplomatically and yet so sincerely worded that it is possible to imagine that his mother might have been at his elbow as he wrote.

She was very unhappy about him, for her love told her more about his troubled spirit than even
his confidences, though he gave them to her fully. Perhaps he enclosed the letter to his father in the one he wrote her on the same date. This gave his views very fully and he may have sent the other for her approval. To his father
William wrote from Brocket:

26th Feb. 1812.
My dr. Father,

I have considered yr. commune, which you have this morng. made to me by command of his R.H. the P[rince] R[egent] of yr. gracious offer of a seat either now or at some future time at the present board of Treasury. For his R.H. recollection of me upon this occasion, for the flattering expressions he has been pleased to use, as well as for his condescending kindness which I have experienced during the whole course of my life, I entreat that you will humbly lay at his R.H. feet my most grateful & dutiful acknowledgments. H.R.H. will not I trust think that I intrude if I request you further respectfully to assure his R.H. of my sincere attachment to his Person, of my anxiety for the success of his Government & of my zeal in support of that Govemt. whensoever such support shall be in my opinion consistent with my duty to my Country. It would be in the highest degree indiscreet & presumptuous in me to obtrude upon his R.H. anything so insignificant as my opinion upon public affairs—it will be sufficient to observe that upon all the great questions of foreign & domestic policy except upon the question of the War in Spain & Portugal my opinion has either been expressed or manifested
directly in Oppn. to the system upon which his R.H. present Minirs. have conducted, & still profess to conduct the affairs of the country. In respectfully, under such circumstances, declining the offer made to me I throw myself with confidence upon H.R.H. own proper & generous feelings for my justification & I hope I am not too bold if I venture further to request you to add that from my knowledge of these feelings I anticipate an agreement with me in the conclusion that were I with such opinions to accede to any proposition of this nature I should by acting agst. my conscience render myself unworthy of serving H.R.H. & by degrading my character deprive myself for ever of the power of rendering to my country any efficient service. It only remains for me to request you to assure H.R.H. that his injunctions of secrecy shall be punctually obeyed.”

And to his mother from the same place:

From the Hon. Wm. Lamb to (the Viscountess Melbourne)

I am very much obliged to you for your letter, & think that you are probably right in supposing that the Prince is more anxious to strengthen the Ministry than the Ministry are to strengthen themselves. He is, however, wrong in his notion, for the more parties a Ministry is composed of, the weaker it is and the more likely to break in the places where it is spliced. The name of Canning and Huskisson is something, but I have no opinion that the present Cabinet will hold long together after they have been introduced into it. It will go on much better and more surely as it stands at present. I can
hardly believe that such an arrangement, as you mention in the beginning of your letter was ever in contemplation—it is hardly possible that
Ld. Sidmouth should consent to give up his present office & return again to the Presidentship of the Council & still more unlikely, that he should allow Ld. Buckingham to be turned out, for whom he has always fought a stout battle; but however all this is of no importance now. I think with you that the Ministers themselves are for having no change & they are right; the Prince’s fears & anxieties may force one upon him, but like all other fears, they will overshoot themselves & perhaps bring about the very event which he most dreads.

William’s seat at Portarlington was not very secure. His mother could not persuade him to take an interest in the future. George wrote to her from Durham on August 5, 1812:

“Without William means to visit his constituents to some purpose he had better not venture out of England this year, for any success in Spain or Russia will certainly produce an instant dissolution of Parliament.”

William seems to have contemplated this event, but in a letter to his mother from Ireland, where he and his wife were staying with the Bessboroughs, he said that for want of money he could not stand again. Should there be a dissolution his mother knew in any case he was unlikely to be elected, owing to the speech he made in the
House in favour of the
Prince’s unfettered Regency, which would be interpreted as against Catholic Emancipation.

To the Viscountess Melbourne, Whitehall, London, from the Hon. Wm. Lamb
September thirty 1812.

I sent you back Frederic’s letters from Bessborough some time ago, & wrote to you at that time fully upon that subject, as well as upon the dissolution of Parliament. The latter, I apprehend, has by this time taken place, the signs of such an event are more sure, than of any other. When it is very generally rumoured upon good authority, that there is to be a dissolution, depend upon it, it is then coming pretty quick,—as soon as it is certain, that it will take place, the next scheme is to deceive as much as possible about the exact time, & Beckets telling Giles, that it would be delayed until the first week in October was a strong reason for believing that it would be before the end of September. The reasons of all this are obvious. Ministers lose their advantage, if they delay the step long after it is publicly known, that they have determined upon it, & they in some measure puzzle and delude their adversaries by creating uncertainty with respect to the Moment. You say that it is a thousand pities that I have not contrived to make some interest somewhere. You know from my former letter, which by this time you have probably received, my sentiments upon this subject. It is impossible that any Body can feel the being out of Parliament more keenly for me than I feel it for myself. It is actually cutting
my throat. It is depriving me of the great object of my life at the moment, that I was near its attainment, & what is more, at a period when I cannot well turn myself to any other course or pursuit. But I have no money. I am embarrassed to a certain degree by circumstances which I am willing to explain. My income is insufficient, I am deprived of many things which I wish to have, & in many things in which I might be facilitated, I receive no assistance. Under these circumstances, I have long since determined not to diminish my own income one halfpenny—in justice to myself I cannot do it. I cannot expect my Father to bear the whole burthen, & even if he were willing to take it upon himself, I do not know whether I could justify to myself the suffering a further debt to be accumulated upon my account, which must in the end lead to serious embarrassment & to the further dismemberment of the property. This is the state of the case. I might add a hundred minor considerations to fortify the case, but these are the opinions which have led me to form a resolution which I do not name too strongly, when I call it my public ruin, but to which I do not see how I could avoid coming. I write in the dark so cannot add any more at present.

Yours ever dutifully & affectionately,
Wm. Lamb.

Lady Holland had written to Lady Melbourne asking her if anything could be done for William, and Lady Melbourne wrote thanking her and saying:

“Thank you very much Ldy. Holland for both
yr. Letters & for sending me
Mr. Tierney’s note; there is no use in thinking about a person who will not think for themselves. I have a letter fr. William this morning, who says he fully expected a dissolution, that he has no money nor no views & that he feels extremely glad that he has nothing to do with St. Albans as it would infallibly have ruin’d him. I believe on ye contrary that he might have come in for very little money & kept it at a small expence.”

Lady Holland had evidently, for the sake of the Whig Party and of the woman who had been one of the first to visit her and make her position in London easier, tried again, but Lady Melbourne’s reply was bitter and disappointing:

“It is quite impossible for me to answer yr. question. Ld. M. would do anything in his power to assist William, but to prove to you how impossible it is for us to know how to set about it I will copy some part of a letter I received from William yesterday”;

and she quoted the letter printed above, adding for herself:

“Now my opinion is, that all this is nonsense, & so I shall tell him. But I do not see at ye same time, how I can act in contradiction to sentiments so decidedly express’d. I shall be in as I wrote you word yesterday, on Friday eveg & I should notwithstanding all this, like to know if there is a possibility of doing anything—& still more to have some further conversation with you when
I could explain everything much better. I have great confidence in yr. kindness Dear
Ly. Holland, to have already tired you with this long letter.”

The Marquess of Wellesley, who had joined Perceval’s Cabinet in 1809, resigned in 1812. He was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and disapproved of the want of support his brother Sir Arthur Wellesley received in the conduct of the Peninsular War. He also disapproved of the Regent’s persistent refusal to hear anything about a Bill for Catholic Emancipation.

His full statement on this subject was probably communicated to Lady Melbourne, and was found among her papers:

Lord Wellesley’s Statement on his Resigning the Seals
19th Feby. 1812

Ld. Wellesley expressed his intention to resign, because his general opinions for a long time past on various important questions had not sufficient weight to justify him towards the Public, or towards his own Character in continuing in Office, and because he had no hope of obtaining from the Cabinet, (as then constituted) a greater portion of attention than he had already experienced.

Lord Wellesley’s objections to remaining in the Cabinet, arose, in a great degree, from the narrow & imperfect scale, on which the efforts in the Peninsula were conducted. It was always stated to him by Mr. Perceval, that it was im-
practicable to enlarge that system. The Cabinet followed Mr. Perceval implicitly. Ld. Wellesley thought that it was perfectly practicable to extend the Plan in the Peninsula & that it was neither safe nor honest towards this Country or the Allies to continue the present contracted scheme. No hope existed of converting Mr. Perceval, or any of his Colleagues; no alternative, therefore, remained for Ld. Wellesley but to resign, or to be the Instrument of ‘a System, which he never advised, & which he could not approve.

Ld. Wellesley had repeatedly, with great reluctance, yielded his opinions to the Cabinet on many other important points. He was sincerely convinced by experience that, in every such instance, he had submitted to opinions more incorrect than his own, and had sacrificed, to the object of accommodation & temporary harmony more than he could justify in point of strict public duty. In fact, he was convinced by experience, that the Cabinet neither possessed ability, nor knowledge to devise a good plan; nor temper and discernment to adopt what he now thought necessary unless Mr. Perceval should concur with Ld. Wellesley. To Mr. Perceval’s judgment, or attainments, Ld. Wellesley (under the same experience) could not pay any deference, without injury to the Public Service. With these views and sentiments, on the [blank in MS.] of January, Ld. Wellesley merely desired permission to withdraw from the Cabinet, not requiring any change in his own situation, and imploring no other favour than the facility of resignation.

This plain request was notified to the Prince Regent & to Mr. Perceval as nearly as possible at the same moment of time, with the expression
Ld. Wellesley’s wish that the precise time of his resignation might be accommodated to the pleasure of his Royal Highness, & to the convenience of Mr. Perceval, as soon as the Restrictions should expire. The P. Rt. received this notification with many gracious expressions of regret, & Mr. Perceval in writing, used expressions of regret, & also of thanks for the manner, in which Ld. W. had signified his wish to resign.

Mr. Perceval without any communication to Ld. W. instantly attempted to induce the P. Rt. to remove him before the expiration of the restrictions & repeatedly urged the attempt with great earnestness, severally proposing Ld. Castlereagh, Lord Moira, & Ld. Sidmouth or some of his party to supersede Ld. W., without an hour of delay. Mr. P. never gave any intimation to Ld. W. of these proceedings, nor even of his wish for Lord W.’s immediate retirement.

The P.R. still pressing Ld. W. to retain the Seals, he submitted to His Royal Highness’s commd. declaring at the same time his anxious desire to be liberated as soon as his R.H. should establish his Government.

When it appeared, at the expiration of the restrictions that the P. Rt. intended to continue Mr. P.’s Government, Ld. W. again tendered the Seals to His R.H. with encreased earnestness: on that occasion, being informed, that H.R.H. was still at liberty, & was resolved to form his Cabinet, according to H.R.H. own views, and being commanded to state his opinions on the subject, Ld. W. declared, that in his judgment, the Cabinet ought to be formed first on an intermediary principle respecting the Roman Catholic claims, equally exempt from the extremes of
instant, unqualified concession, & of peremptory, eternal exclusion, and secondly on an understanding that the War should be conducted with adequate vigor. Ld. W. said that he personally was ready to serve with Mr. P. on such a Basis; that he never again would serve under Mr. P. in any circumstances. He said that he would serve under
Ld. Moira or Ld. Holland on the proposed principle, but that he desired no office, & entertained no other wish, than to be instrumental in forming such an Administration for the P. Rt. as should be consistent with H.R.H.’s honor, conciliatory towards Ireland, and equal to the conduct of the War, on a scale of sufficient extent. He made no exception to any Prime Minister but Mr. P., whom he considered to be incompetent to fill that office, although sufficiently qualified for inferior stations. He offered to act under any other person approved by H.R.H., but he stated that his own views rendered him much more anxious to resign instantly.

The P. Rt. commanded Ld. W. to continue until H.R.H. should have communicated with Mr. P. through the Ld. Chancellor. Ld. W. stated, that such a communication must prove useless, but submitted to H.R.H. earnest desire; in two days afterwards, Ld. W. received through the Ld. Chancellor, the P. Rt.’s acceptance of his resignation, & accordingly delivered the Seals to H.R.H. on the 19th Feby. 1812.