George III
Posted by Admin on April 02 2013 09:36:52

George III




George IIIThe reign of George III. was a most important period in English history, marked by great vicissitudes, great wars, and great political struggles, in which the king himself took part. It was the last reign in which the personal feelings of the sovereign caused the dismissal of ministers and seriously affected the progress of events, It was the last reign in which the sovereign sided with the people as opposed. to the aristocracy and came off victorious, and finally it was the reign in which England lost her American Colonies and which saw the birth of the new nation-the United States of America.


Now that the prejudice engendered by war has passed away, it is acknowledged that throughout all the mistakes of his reign, George III. was ever governed by a strict sense of duty.


George William Frederic was the son of Frederic, Prince of Wales, and grandson of George n, He was born on the 4th of June, 1738. He was the first of the Hanoverian line born and bred in England, After the death of his father, in 1751, he was brought up privately under the care of his mother and the Earl of Bute, He succeeded to the throne in 1760. He had fallen in love with Lady Sarah Lennox, but be was induced by his constitutional advisers to marry the Princess Charlotte, of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and at the marriage, in 1761, Lady Lennox was one of the bridesmaids.


King George had been trained to high notions of the royal prerogative, and was determined to restore the Tories to power. 'the first William Pitt, who had given glory to the English name throughout the world, was therefore dismissed in 1761, and a peace policy substituted for that of hostility to France. Several ministries followed, which had but brief terms, because the " king's friends" in Parliament voted one way or the other at his bidding. The first important question which arose was concerning the right to lax America for part of the expenses of the war. Both king and people fully believed that Parliament had this right in regard to any part of the empire. During the discussion provoked by the resistance in America, Lord North became prime minister in 1770. To carry out the views of the king, he endeavored to compel the people of Boston to submit by military force, but only provoked a stronger and wider opposition. The Americans took up arms to maintain their rights as British subjects not represented in Parliament, but ere long demanded their rights as men. George III. persisted in the effort to put down the rebels, and even after Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga in 1777, was warmly supported by the mass of Englishmen in his determination. Lord North, however, convinced of the hopelessness of his task after the French had formed an alliance with the United States, wished to retire and give place to the Earl of Chatham, but the king would not allow him to do so.


The year 1780 was marked by disgraceful riots in London, in which Lord George Gordon was the leader, and the cry was, No Popery." There were other popular movements, and the demand for greater economy in the expenditures of the court was a symptom of the general discontent. The surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, soon after different expectations had been kindled by his victory at Guilford Court~house, compelled Lord North to resign, and the 'Whigs returned to power under Lord Rockingham. Lord Rodney's victory over the French Beet in the West Indies tended to remove the gloom. A provisional treaty with the United States was made in 1782, and on September 3, I783, the definitive treaties with France, Spain, and the United States, were completed at Paris. When John Adams called upon the king, as the first minister from the United States, the king frankly declared his sentiments: I Sir, I wish you to believe, and that it ma.y be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do by the duty lowed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the separation; but the separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, and say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power."


Lord Rockingham had died in 1782, and his followers, of whom Charles J. Fox was the leading spirit, wished the Duke of Portland to get the place. But the king gave it to Lord Shelburne; to drive him from power, Fox formed the famous "Coalition" "With his old enemy, North, and was successful. Their large majority in both houses of Parliament made them attempt a great innovation-the transfer of the government of India from the East India Company to commissioners appointed by Parliament. The king, however, authorized Lord Temple to let it be known that he would consider any peer who voted for the bill as his enemy. At the present day such an interference would be considered utterly reprehensible; but George had determined to with, and probably knew that the people were all his side. The bill, which had been drawn up by Burke, was accordingly rejected, and the king at once dismissed the ministry. The second ·William Pitt was made prime minister, and entered into a remarkable struggle for three months against the majority of the house of Commons. After the work of the Parliament was completed, it was dissolved in March, 1784. The elections gave the young minister a strong majority in the new Parliament.


The king, also, was strongly entrenched in the affections of the people. His private life was most exemplary, and helped to give a new impulse to religion and morality in the nation, though his own sons sought refuge from the dulness of the court in profligate courses. The king had no taste for literature or art, but he gave liberally to assist the Royal Academy then just founded. He took interest in agriculture and the promotion of industrial enterprises. In 1788 the king's mind became visibly affected with insanity, and an earnest discussion took place in the House of Commons as to the limitations of the regency rendered necessary. Before it was concluded, the king recovered, tinder the mild management of Dr. Willis. In the following April he returned thanks publicly in St. Paul's church for his recovery, and the occasion was improved by the people to give a remarkable testimonial of their personal devotion to the sovereign.


The outbreak of the French Revolution intensified this devotion. The Whig nobility who had formerly resisted him, as well as all lovers of order, acquiesced heartily in all movements for war with France, into which Pitt was forced against his own judgment; and in spite of accumulating debt and crushing defeats, returned again and again to Parliament the followers of Pitt. Under the leadership of this minister, the union of Ireland with England was accomplished by wholesale bribery. But when the king learned that Pitt was preparing to relieve the Roman Catholics of their political disabilities, his conscience revolted against a measure the acceptance of which he believed to be a violation of his coronation oath. No argument could convince him otherwise. Pitt, who had promised this measure while scheming for the union, was therefore compelled to resign, and the agitation of the whole matter brought on a return of the king's insanity. But he speedily recovered, and Mr. Addington became prime minister.


Peace with France soon followed. Yet the king, as well as the people of England, were convinced that war would soon be resumed. they watched anxiously the movements of Napoleon Bonaparte, now First Consul of France, and saw that he was even preparing for the invasion of England. In May, 1803, Parliament agreed to the declaration of war, and in the following autumn the king reviewed the London Volunteers in Hyde Park. Addington was plainly not capable of conducting the government at such a crisis, and Pitt was recalled to his former place. He wished to introduce to the administration the prominent leaders of both parties, but the king would not allow Fox to be admitted. He disliked Fox personally, as having had much to do with drawing the Prince of Wales into open profligacy. Crushed by the news of Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz, Pitt died in January, I806, and the king, overcome at last, allowed Fox to appear in the new ministry of "all the talents. Before long the king acknowledged the attractiveness of Fox's manners, but in September he was called to mourn his death. The king continued to be strenuous in his opposition to any concession to the Catholics, and would not even allow them to serve as officers in the army and navy. Finding the ministers anxious to grant some relief to the Catholics, he sought from them a pledge not to propose any measures of that kind. When they refused they were dismissed, and a new ministry under the Duke of Portland was installed. In this movement the king had also the support of the people, as was proved in the Parliamentary elections of 1807. Two years later Perceval, who had been the real leader of the Portland cabinet, was made prime minister without any change of policy.


In 1811 Princess Amelia, George's youngest and favorite daughter, died, and the king's mind finally gave way. He was also afflicted with loss of sight, yet he lingered on for nine years, a pitiable wreck. He died on the 29th of January, 1820. He had nine sons and six daughters. Two of his sons, George and William, came to the throne and another, Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, was the father of Queen Victoria.




As long as his mother lived-a dozen years after his marriage with the little spinet-player-George was a great shy, awkward boy under the tutelage of that hard parent. She must have been a clever, domineering, cruel woman. She kept her household lonely and in gloom, mistrusting almost all people who came about her children. Seeing the young Duke of Gloucester silent and unhappy once, she sharply asked him the cause of his silence. "I am thinking," said the poor child. "Thinking, sir ! and of what?" I am thinking if ever I have a son I will not make him so unhappy as you make me." The other sons were all wild, except George. Dutifully every evening George and Charlotte paid their visit to the king's mother at Carlton House. She had a throat complaint, of which she died; but to the last driving about the streets to show she was alive. before her death the resolute woman talked with persisted in The night her son and daughter-in-law as usual, went to bed, and was found dead there in the morning. "George, be a king! I were the words which she was for ever croaking in the ears of her son ; and a king the simple,stubborn, affectionate, bigoted man tried to be. He did his best; he worked according to his lights; what virtue he knew, he tried to practice; what knowledge he could master, he strove to acquire. He was forever drawing maps, for example, and learned geography with no small care and industry. He knew all about the family histories and gellealogies of h is gentry, and pretty histories he must have known. He knew the whole Army List; and all the facings, aud the exact number of the buttons, and all the tags and laces, and the cut of all the cocked-hats, pigtails, and gaiters in his army. He knew the personnel of the Universities ; what doctors were inclined to Socinianism, and who were sound Churchmen; he knew the etiquettes of his own and his grandfather's courts to a nicety, and the smallest particulars regarding the routine of ministers. secretaries, embassies, audiences ; the humblest page in the anteroom, or the meanest helper in the stables or kitchen. These parts of the royal business be was capable of learning, and he learned. But, as one thinks of all office, almost divine, performed by any mortal man-of any single being pretending to control the thoughts, to direct the faith, to order the implicit obedience of brother millions, to compel them into war at his offense or quarrel; to command, "In this way you shall trade, in this way you shall think ; these neighbors shall be your allies whom you shall help, these others your enemies whom you shall slay at my orders ; in this way you shall worship God " -who can wonder that, when such a man as George took such an office on himself, punishment and humiliation should fall upon people and chief?


Yet there is something grand about his courage. The battle of the king with hiS aristocracy remains yet to be told by the historian who shall view the reign of George more justify than the trumpery panegyrics who wrote immediately after his decease. It was he, with the people to back him who made the war with America; it was he and the people who refused justice to the Roman Catholics; and all both questions he beat the patricians. He bribed; he bullied: he darkly dissembled on occasion: he exercised a slippery perseverance, and a vindictive resolution, which one almost admires as one thinks his character over. His courage was never to be beat. It trampled North under foot: it bent the stiff neck of the younger Pitt: even his illness never conquered that indomitable spirit. As soon as his brain was clear, it resumed the scheme, only laid aside when his reason left him: as soon as his hands were out of the strait-waistcoat, they took up the pen and the plan which had engaged him up to the moment of his malady. I believe it is by persons believing themselves in the right that nine-tenths of the tyranny of this world has been perpetrated. Arguing on that convenient premise, the Dey of Algiers would Cliff off twenty heads of a morning. Protestants were roasted, Jesuits hung and quartered at Smithfield, and" wiches burned at Salem, and all by wortl1Y people, who believed they had t he best authority for their actions.


And so, with respect to on George, even Americans, whom he hated and who conquered him, may give him credit for having quite honest reasons for oppressing them. Appended to Lord Brougham biographical sketch of Lord North are some autograph notes of the king, which let us most curiously into the state of his mind. "The times certainly require," says he, the concurrence of all who wish to prevent anarchy. I have no wish but the prosperity of my own dominions, therefore I must look upon all who would not heartily assist me as bad men, as well as bad subjects. That is the way he reasoned. "I wish nothing but good, therefore every man who does not agree with me is a traitor and a scoundrel." Remember that he believed himself anointed by a Divine commission; remember that he was a mall of slow parts and imperfect education; that the same awful will of Heaven which placed a crown upon his head, which made him tender to his family, pure in his life, courageous and honest, made him dull of comprehension, obstinate of will, and at many times deprived him of reason. He was the father of his people; his rebellious children must be flogged into obedience. He was the defender of the Protestant faith i he would rather lay that stout head upon the block than that Catholics should have a share in the government of England. And you do not sup-pose that there are not honest bigots enough in all countries to back kings ill this kind of statesmanship? Without doubt the American war was popular in England. In 1775 the address in favor of coercing the colonies was carried by 304 to 105 in the Commons, by 104 to 29 in the House of Lords. Popular?-so was the Revocation of the Edict of Nautes popular in France: so was the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew: so was the Inquisition exceedingly popular in Spain.


King George's household was a model of an English gentleman's household. It was early it was kindly it was charitable; it was frugal ; it was orderly; it must have been stupid to a degree which I shudder now to contemplate. No wonder all the princes ran away from the lap of that dreary domestic virtue. It always rose, rode, dined at stated intervals. Day after day was the same. At the same hour at night the king kissed his daughters' jolly cheeks the princesses kissed. their mother's hand and Madame Thielke brought the royal nightcap. At the same hour the equerries and women in waiting had their little dinner, and cackled over their tea. The king had his backgammon or his evening concert the equerries yawned themselves to death in the anteroom or the king and his family walked on Windsor slopes, the king holding his darling little Princess Amelia by the hand i and the people crowded round quite good-naturedly and the Eton boys thrust their chubby cheeks under the crowd's elbows; and, the concert over, the king never failed to take his enormous cocked·hat off, and salute his band, and say, Thank you, gentlemen."-W. M. THACKERAY.


George III