Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

reign's mind, we have it upon record that, with his own'hand, he added to the Speech prepared by the Cabinet, the following sentence :

• BORN AND EDUCATED IN THIS COUNTRY, I GLORY IN THE NAME OF BRITON.' This noble feeling of patriotism never deserted him;-his whole heart and mind were British ;-his public life was devoted to the task of maintaining the power, the honour, the independence, and the internal peace of the British nation ;-his private actions were uniform illustrations of the integrity, the courage, the simplicity, and the piety, of the British character,

If the patriot feelings, and the uncorrupted morals, which George III, almost a boy, displayed on being invested with the Sovereignty of a great people, were such as to command the admiration of the most grave, and repress the malignity of the most discontented, the lighter graces of his character were such as to charm and intoxicate those who might be regardless of his more sterling qualities. His Royal grandfather never adapted his habits to the people over whom he was called to reign; he understood and spoke our language imperfectly. Imagine the effect which must have been produced by a fine and graceful young man, glorying in his birth and education, and publicly speaking the native tongue of Englishmen with singular beauty and propriety. Several distinguished persons of that day have described his engaging manners. Amongst others, Horace Walpole, an acute observer, and one generally disposed to be severe, writes thus to a friend :

The young King has all the appearance of being amiable. There is great grace to temper much dignity, and extreme good nature, whichi breaks out opon all occasions.

For the King bimself, he seems all good nature, and wishing to satisfy every body-all his speeches are obliging. I saw hiin again yesterday, and was surprised to find the Levee-room had lost so entirely the air of the lion's den. This Sovereign don't stand on one spot, with his eyes fized royally on the ground, and dropping bits of German Bews; he walks about, and speaks to every body. I saw him afterwards on the throne, where he is graceful and genteel, sits with dignity, and reads his answers well."

Within five days after his accession, the late King issued clamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for Preventing and Punishing of Vice, Profaneness, and Immorality. This important document is still constantly read at all Assizes and Quarter Sessions of the Peace. It contains a fund of useful admonition, adapted to the capacities and duties of all ranks of people.

Whilst George III. thus exacted obedience to the restraints of law and religion, he was anxious to convince his subjects that his love of their proper freedom was not confined to mere professions. Within, six months after his accession to the throne, he recommended the famous alteration of the law, by which the Judges were rendered independent of the Crown. Of the importance of this measure, we. cannot better speak than in the words of Blackstone :

• By the noble improvements of the law, in the statute of I. Geo. III, c. 23, cpacted at the carnest recommendation of the King Hiinself from the throne,

a

Pro

[ocr errors]

the Judges are continued in their offices during their good behaviour, not with. standing any demise of the Crowo (which was formerly beld immediately to vacate their seats) and their full salaries are absolutely secured to them during the contineance of tbeir commissions ; His Majesty having been pleased to declare that he looked upon the independence and uprightness of the Judges as essential to the impartial administration of Justice, as one of the best securities of the riglits and liberties of his subjecis, and as most conducive to the bononr of the Crown.'

Another sacrifice of the prerogative, if a sacrifice it could be called which strengthened the bonds of union between the Sovereign and the people, was made by the late King, in placing the hereditary revenues of the Crown at the disposal of Parliament, and receiving a settled allowance in their place. The same love of constitutional freedom, and the same desire to exercise his prerogative for the benefit of his subjects, were manifested by his Majesty throughout his life. “The King,' said Lord North, frequently, “would live on bread and water to preserve the constitution of his country. He would sacrifice his life to maintain it inviolate.'

On the 8th July, 1761, the King announced to the Privy Council his intention to marry. In thus declaring the object of his choice, he manifested the prudence which uniformly characterized him. No rumours of his determination had previously transpired. The King, by his discretion, prevented that idle curiosity which is ever busy on such occasions. The wisdom of his choice was completely proved, in the long course of happiness which his late Majesty enjoyed with a Consort, whose best pleasures, like his own, consisted in the exercise of the domestic virtues; and who so long maintained inviolate those principles, which uniformly rendered the British Court the most virtuous, as it was the most powerful in Europe. This union was completed on the 8th of the following September.

The Coronation of George III. and his august Consort took place on the 22d of September, in the same year. The journals of that period describe the magnificence of these ceremonies. To us, who are writing amidst the din of preparations for consigning the mortas remains of this revered monarch to that tomb where his Royal Consort already lies, such descriptions suggest an awful impression of the fleeting character of all human greatness.

• The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things ;
There is no armour against fate:
Death lays his icy hands on Kings :

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.'
But even amidst the gorgeous pageantries of thạt time of gladness,
we find traces of our deceased monarch's character, which offer the
best consolation at a moment like the present. During the ceremony
of the coronation in Westminster Abbey, at that part of it when the
King was to receive the Sacrament, he advised with the Archbishop
if it were not proper to take off his Crown during the solemnity. His
Grace hesitated. The King immediately removed it, and placed it

6

beside him, until this sacred solemnity was concluded. On the same night, when he retired to rest, he composed a solemn prayer, imploring a blessing on his future reign, which was seen on his table the next morning. Facts such as these direct us to apply to the present period of mourning, the concluding passage of the fine old morat stanzas which we have just quoted

• All heads must come

To the cold tomb;-
Only the actions of the just

Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust.' The commencement of his late Majesty's reign was in every respect popular. It is difficult to estimate so fleeting and uncertain a thing as the breath of public approbation; but if we may judge from the periodical works of that day, we should pronounce that no Monarch ever ascended a throne under happier auspices, or retained more entirely the love of all those who had not some factious motive for assailing his conduct and character. It would be easy to produce the most glowing descriptions of his late Majesty's virtues, from compositions of that period, whose professed object was praise; but in such evidence there is always something suspicious. We extract the following lines from the satirist Churchill; a man who rather delighted to attack the errors of the great, than to display their merits :

Stripped of her gaudy plumes and vain disguise,
See where Ambition mean and loathsome lies ;
Reflection with relentless hand pulls down
The tyrant's bloody wreath and ravish'd crówn.
In vain he tells of battles bravely won,
Of nations conquered, and of worlds nndone;
Triumphs like these but ill with manhood suit,
And sink the conqueror beneath the brate!
But if, in searching round the world, we find
Some gen'rons yonth, the friend of all mankind;
Whose anger, like the bolt of Jove is shed,
In terrors only at the guilty head:
Whose mercies, like Heaven's dew, refreshing fall,
In general love and charity to all ;
Pleas'd we bebold such worth on any thrope,

And doubly pleas'd we find it on our own.' But not even the general conviction of the late King's regard for the constitutional freedom of his subjects, nor the never-failing evidence of the purity of his domestic life, could shield him from the attacks of the most malignant spirit that perhaps ever disgraced this country. Wilkes,-a name that will remain a lasting model for all mischievous demagogues ;-a shameless profligate in principle and conduct, an unblushing libeller, but a man of wit and courage, resolved to raise himself to notoriety by a series of personal attacks upon his Sovereign. The multitude readily listened to his pretensions, and · Wilkes and liberty,' became the watch word of all those who would have preferred universal licentiousness and disorder, to well-regulated freedom. In suppressing these manifestations of a spirit of insubordination, the Ministry adopted some measures which our improved notions of constitational justice have declared to be illegal. The King's conduct, throughout this trying period, was

[ocr errors]

uniformly regulated by the cofiviction that he retained, as he had sought to merii, the affection of the people at large ; and that the turbulence of a faction only demanded the exercise of firmness and consistency, to render it powerless and contemptible. "The American war commenced in 1773. It has been generally considered, indeed we have it from the late King's own lips, that he persevered in that calamitous contest, while there was a hope of preserving his ancient hereditary dominions to the British Crown. The public character of George III. was formed of strict integrity and inflexible resolution. The conscientious principles with which he embarked in any cause supplied him with the most unyielding firmness in the prosecution of it. It was not for the King of England, who field his territories as a sacred deposit for his successors, and whose patriotism and courage impelled him to maintain that trust amidst good report and evil report, in success or danger-it was not for him tamely to surrender the sovereignty over his revolted colonies, either to the abstract justice of their quarrel, or to the intrigues of that enemy who stole this jewel from the Crown. If the King's perseverance in this calamitous contest was impolitic, it was at least unsullied by any unworthy motive. It was the struggle of a patriot prince to hold his kingdom one and undivided.' We have a distinct record of his late Majesty's opinions upon this subject, as well as his high-minded sentiments upon the conclusion of that peace which separated America for ever from Great Britain. The following is an account of the first interview of the King, with the first American Ambassador from the United States, Mr. Adams. It was written at the time by that gentleman to the American Seeretary of State, and has been recently published :

I was left with bis Ålajesty and the Secretary of State alone. I made the three reverences; one at the door, another aboot half way, and the third before the presence, according to the usage established at this and all the borthern Conrts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his Majesty in the following words :

Sir- The United States of America have appointed me Minister Plenipotentiary to your Majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your Majesty this letter, which contains the evidence of it. It is in obedience to their express commands, that I have the honour to assure your Majesty of their opanimons disposition and desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberat jätetcourse bei ween your Majesty's sabjects and their citizens, and of their best wistres for your Majesty's health and happiness,

nd for that of your Royal Family.

•The appointment of a Minister from the United States to your Majesty's Court will form an epoch in the history of England and America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow citizens, in having the distingáished hononr to be the first to stáod in yoor Majesty's Royal presence in a diploma tic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your Majesty's Royal tenevolence, and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affecfion, of, in better words, the old good natnre, and the good old humoor, between people, who though separated by an ocean, and under different Governments, have the same language, a similar religion, a kindred blood. I beg your Majesty's permission to add, that although I have sometimes before been introsted by my country, it was dever in sy whole life in a manner so agreeable to myself!

VOL. I.

L

The King listened to every word I said, with dignity it is true, but witla an apparent emotion. Whether it was the nature of the interview, or whether it was my visible agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him, I cannot say, but he was much affected, and answered me with more tremor than I had spoken with, and said

«Sir The circumstances of this audience are so extraordinary, the language you have vow held is so extremely proper, and the feelings you have disco. vered so jnstly adapted to the occasion, that I must say, that I not only receive with pleasure the assurance of the friendly disposition of the United States, bat that I am very glad the choice las fallen upon you to be their Minister. I wish you, Sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in Ame. rică, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to conform to the separation; but the separation having been made, and having become ineviiable, I have always said, as I say now, that I wonld be the first to weet the friendship of the United States as an Independent Power. The moment I see such senti. ments and language as your's prevail, and a disposition to give this country the preference, that moment I shall say, let the circumstances of language, religion, and blood, have their natural and full effect.'

I dare not say that these were the King's precise words : and it is even possible that I may have in some particular mistaken bis meaning; for althongh his pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, le hesitated sometimes between his periods, and between members of the same period. He was indeed much affected, and I was not less so, and therefore I cannot be certain that I was so attentive, heard so clearly, and understood so perfectly, as to be confident of all his words or sense; and I think that all which he said to me sbould at present be kept secret in America, .upless bis Majesty or his Secretary of State should judge proper to report it

. This is what I do say, that the foregoing is his Majesty's meaning, as I then understood it, and his own words, as nearly as I can recollect them.

The King then asked me whether I came last from France; and upon my answering in the affirmative, he put on an air of familiarity, and smiling, or rather laughing, said, " There is an opinion among some people, that yon are not the most attached of all your countrymen to the manners of France.' I was surprised at this, because I thought it an indiscretion and a descent from bis dignity. I was a little embarrassed, but determined not to deny the truth on the one liand, nor leave him to infer from it any attachment to Eogland on the other. I threw off as much gravity, as I could, and assumed an air of gaiety and a tone of decision, as far as was decent, and said, ' That opinion, Sir, is not mistaken ; I must avow to your Majesty I have no attachment but to my own country. The King replied as quick as lightning, 'An honest man will never have any other.'

The riots in London in 1780, which threatened to overturn the very foundations of the Government, called forth, in a most signal manner, the energies of the King's character. It is an undoubted fact, that when the advisers of the Sovereign were in a state of confusion and alarm, bordering on despair, he at once decided upon those necessary measures of military assistance, which effectually repressed the tremendous dangers of a populace so infuriated. The following is an interesting account of this memorable transaction :

At the Council on the morning of the 7th of June, the King assisted in person. The great question was there discussed on which hinged the protection and preservation of the Capital ; a question respecting which the first legal characters were divided ; and on which Lord Mansfield himself was with reason accused of never having clearly expressed his opinion up to that time. Doubts

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »