GEORGE THE THIRD AND CHARLES FOX.*
SIR. GEORGE TREVELYAN has now given us the second volume of George the Third and Charles Fox, which is the concluding part of his History of the American Revolution. It is as fascinating a volume as any of its predecessors. There is the same urbanity, the same humour, the same quiet good spirits in the writing, the same polish, and an even greater sense of the full mind behind the full pen. One feels that Sir George knows his period to the very bottom, and that if some necromancer could bring the mighty dead of the latter half of the eighteenth century before our author, he would be able to speak with them on equal terms and in their own language about their friends and their family connexions, their social habits and customs. In the bad cases he would know exactly who bad been bribed and who had bribed them. Charles Fox would want to enter a wager with him in the betting book at Brooks's, and even Franklin would not detect any flaw of ignorance or be able to expose him as an impostor. No doubt the exact literary critics of the present age will condemn the glitter of a style founded upon that of Macaulay, and declare that it is as splintery as crystallized stone ; but we are bound to say we find its clear- ness a great relief after the tedious sinuosities of some of our modern masters. Though Sir George may sometimes assume in his readers a knowledge of the minutiae of politics which they do not possess, there is never any doubt as to his meaning. There is always clear thought behind the clear language.
The keynote of the book is to be found in the short " Address to the Reader," dated September, 1914, which tells us that the book was in print before the outbreak of the war. " The story of the manly and chivalrous spirit in which, four generations ago, the two great English-speaking nations fought out, and ended, their famous quarrel is a story that an Englishman need have no scruple about telling even at a moment when his country, with a steadfast and grounded belief in the justice of her cause, is in the throes of war." Here is the essential characteristic of the book—justice both to England and to America. The second chapter in the volume before us deals with the Irish Volunteer movement. It is a reminder of what tricky things historical analogies are. Superficially and at first sight the analogy seems curiously exact, for the home of the Volunteer movement then, as so lately, was Ulster. We are told, for example, that in the summer of 1779 almost every Ulsterman had a Tower musket on his shoulder, as he had in the summer of 1914. But then comes the essential difference. The Ulsterman then was prepared to use his weapon in the cause of " national independence." This year he was prepared to use it to prevent Ireland obtaining that independence. When the officers of Washington's army in America drank the toast, "May the Kingdom of Ireland merit a Stripe in the American Standard," the Ireland they had in their minds, as Sir George Trevelyan notes, was "not Catholic Connaught, but Protestant Ulster."
In reviewing a book like the present it is useless to try to
give a connected account of its contents. All one can do is to draw attention to a few of the most striking features. One of
the best of these, in our opinion, is the portrait of John Adams, the great American statesman. When Adams went to Paris
• George the Third and Charles Fox. Vol. IL By Sir George Otto Trevelyan. London: Longman and Co. 17s. 6d. net.] at the command of Congress to strengthen the American Embassy, he saw Voltaire for the first time. Voltaire, it appears, took little interest in the American Revolution, but he and Adams did once come into close personal contact :—
" In the last week of April 1778 Adams attended a ceremonial banquet at the Academy of Sciences, where a general demand arose that Monsieur Voltaire and Monsieur Franklin should salute each other in French fashion. With visible and rather comical reluctance the two veterans were induced to fall for one short moment upon each other's necks ; and the spectators shouted with rapture at the sight of Solon embracing Sophoeles.' "
That is an enchanting picture. How the American must have bated the ordeal !
Another excellent example of Sir George Trevelyan's power of portraiture is to be found in his study of Rigby. To most men Rigby is little more than a name, though a name over which the dark shadow of shameless corruption hovers. We learn from Sir George exactly how and why he was the arch-blackguard of politics. Sir George introduces his study of the character of Rigby by quoting Rigby's retort when the younger Pitt, following Charles Fox, declared that the nation was " weary of paying cash to a person who profited more by the war than
any four members then present "—Rigby's office was that of Paymaster of the Forces " I am tired,' Rigby replied, of the American War ; but I am by no means tired of receiving cash. And I will just venture to remark that, however lucrative my office may be, it has been held by the fathers of the two honourable gentlemen who spoke last ; and I make little doubt that, whenever I am compelled to quit it, those gentlemen themselves may have an eye to gettino. it.' Such was the line of defence Rigby thought it becoming % adopt, although he perfectly well knew that (whatever might have been the case with Lord Holland) William Pitt's famous sire, poor as he then was, had sternly and contemptuously refused to accept a single shilling over and above his legal and regular salary as Paymaster of Forces. Throughout the American War and the seven years that preceded it, Rigby was a power of the first order in Parliament. With the skill of a born actor he made himself up for the part of an inde- pendent English gentleman of the old school—a conspicuous and most characteristic figure in his close-buttoned suit of purple cloth, unrelieved by lace or embroidery, with his sword thrust carelessly through his pocket. He showed a bluff and resolute visage, with a complexion, ripened by the pick of fifty vintages, which matched the colour of his costume, and had earned him an ironical compliment from the pen of Junius. He seldom spoke from the Treasury Bench, but stood, square and sturdy, on the Opposition side of the House, patronising the Ministers when they merited his approbation, or taking them roundly to task if they displayed symptoms of what he regarded as weakness or timidity. Rigby's success as a debater is explained and analysed in one of the few good passages which occur in a book of very dubious merit. 'He seemed,' wrote Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, 'neither to fear, nor even to respect, the House, whose composition, as a body, he well knew ; and to the members of which assembly he never appeared to give credit for any portion of virtue, patriotism, or public spirit.' Rigby was always ready to assert in rough and plain language which everybody could follow, that the Middlesex electors had no claim to be represented by the man of their choice, unless that choice was acceptable to the House of Commons ; that Parliament, when called on to defray the King's debts, should abstain from put- ting impertinent questions, and should content itself with voting all the money for which His Majesty condescended to ask ; that the militiamen of Massachusetts and Connecticut were a parcel of cowards, who would run away at the first tap of a Royal drum ; and that the English squires need never expect to get quit of the Land-tax until American merchants were forced or frightened into paying the Tea-duty. The whole tribe of politicians who went by the name of the King's friends, hung upon his words, for they conjectured truly that he was interpreting for their guid- ance the secret policy and innermost wishes of their Sovereign. They cheered his easy, roistering speeches ; they voted as he bade them ; and, when the House rose, the more favoured among them marched forth at his invitation to finish up the night with a carousal at the Pay Office."
We wish we had space to quote yet one more of Sir George Trevelyan's portraits, the extremely attractive delineation of Nathaniel Greene, the American General, the most unselfish of commanders, but unfortunately the study is very full, and it would be spoiled by condensation.
We must not, however, give the impression that the book is nothing but a series of pictures of men. The descriptions of battles are equally vivacious. Excellent is the account of the campaign in the Carolinas and of the battle of the Guildford Court House, which, it may be remembered, was a British victory. One of the necessities of a story which has two such distant theatres of action as the British House of Commons and the vast terrain of the American War is that it must be disjointed. Indeed, we might almost say that there are three scenes of action, so important are the descriptions of what
was going on in Paris between the Americans and the French Government. Here is Sir George's account of how the news of Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown was received in England:—
"Only two days after the fatal tidings from America arrived in London Parliament was assembled to listen to a King's Speech which had been very hastily rewritten to snit the altered circum- stances. How deep was the despondency which prevailed in the Ministerialist ranks may be judged by a contemporary letter from a supporter of the Government who voted with his party to the very last. Anthony Storer, one of the members for the borough of Morpeth, was a man of fashion and pleasure, the best dancer and skater of his time,' and a frequent and familiar guest in the Prime Minister's household. On the evening before the Session opened Lord North, as then was customary, called together a meeting of his followers. I had attended the Cockpit to-night,' said Storer, where there were a great many long faces. What we are to do after Lord Cornwallis's catastrophe, God knows; or how anybody can think there is the least glimmering of hope for this nation surpasses my comprehension. . . . The Speech from the Throne contains the same Resolution, which appeared in times when we seemed to have a more favourable prospect of success, of continuing the war, and of claiming the aid of Parliament to sup- port the rights of Great Britain. Charles has a Cockpit to-night as well as Lord North.' On the next afternoon, in the House of Commons, when the Seconder of the Address resumed his seat, Fox plunged straight into the heart of the American question; and in due course of time he reached the topic which was upper- most in the thoughts of all his hearers. The whole conduct of Lord Cornwallis,' (he said,) was great and distinguished. While enterprise, activity, and expedition were wanted no man had more of these qualities. At last, when prudence became necessary, he took up a station which, in any former period of our history, would have been a perfect asylum, and planted himself on the edge of the sea. In former wars the sea was regarded as the country of an English commander, to which he could retire with safety, if not with fame. There he was invincible, whatever might be his strength on shore ; and there Lord Cornwallis stationed his army, in the hope of preserving his communication with New York,—nay, with the city and port of London. But even this was denied him, for the ocean was no longer the country of an Englishman ; and the noble Lord was blocked up, though planted on the borders of the sea.' The effect of those weighty and telling sentences was all the stronger because, up to that point in the speech, the name of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the real and principal culprit, had not been so much as mentioned."
The volume ends with the fall of the Ministry and concludes with these words
And thus the Ministers, who had brought our country down from the heights of glory and prosperity to the Valley of the Shadow of Disaster, at length were expelled from office, and were succeeded by a Government pledged to restore the independence of Parliament, to re-establish the naval supremacy of Great Britain, to pacify Ireland, and to end the quarrel with America.
VALETB, QUOTQuOT RSTIO, AMC' 3I5I IN IITRAgull ORA."
In spite of Sir George's Latin valedictory, we most sincerely trust that this is not his last word. Surely he will not dis- appoint us, but will give us in a concluding volume the history of the Peace, tell us how it was made, and how the foundations were laid for that rehabilitation of Britain by Pitt which was- the surprise of the world. Fifteen years after we had tasted the lowest depths of humiliation it could be said of England- that she had never been stronger, richer, or more ready to defend her honour and her independence, and to vindicate the public law of Europe, the rights of nationalities, and the
liberty of the smaller and weaker States.