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sought to throw discredit on Fox's victory and to deprive him of the prestige of sitting in Parliament as the choice of the most democratic constituency in England.
This view receives further support from the fact that Pitt did not give up his efforts to wrest Westminster from the Whigs after his defeat on the scrutiny in 1785. On account of the resignation of Lord Howe and the promotion of Lord Chatham to the head of the admiralty, Lord Hood, Fox's colleague in Parliament from the capital, was called to the admiralty board in 1788. In the election which necessarily followed Pitt tried to make a victory for Hood as certain as possible by withholding from the Whigs till the last minute the knowledge that the election would take place.72 When the announcement was finally made Fox was at Newmarket, and even after he came to town was not inclined to favor contesting the seat. The Whig noblemen on whom the financial burdens of the campaign would fall thought otherwise, however, and after hurried. consultations Lord John Townshend, a personal friend of Fox, was selected to oppose Hood. The Whigs subscribed fifteen thousand pounds, and both sides were soon busy, after the usual fashion of Westminster elections of that time, in the last serious contest in which the electors of the capital took part in the lifetimes of Pitt and Fox.
The methods employed by Pitt and his henchmen in this campaign, if any wise different, were even less defensible than those used in the campaign of 1784. There was no lack of money. John Horne Tooke, who was in the employ of Hood's committee, has left a statement that twenty thousand pounds was collected from men in office and the rest furnished by the treasury. The vouchers which Hood gave to Rose to the amount of six thousand pounds are still preserved in the Chatham Manuscripts. But this does not include the vouchers for several thousand pounds expended under the more immediate supervision of Rose and Pitt. Moreover, John Frost, who at Pitt's "pressing solicitations" acted as Hood's financial agent, was bringing suit in 1796 for money that still remained unpaid. Furthermore we do not know that we have all of the vouchers for secret service money paid to Hood, nor that the secret service funds were the only means used for issuing the public money to that candidate. We do know, however, that Hood contributed 12 Wilberforce, Private Papers of William Wilberforce, p. 22; Rosebery, Pitt and Wilberforce, p. 42.
very little to the fund himself, for he wrote to Pitt in 1786 asking for some sinecure appointment on the ground that his expenses in the election of 1784 had caused him serious financial embarrassment."
Not only was the campaign of 1788 financed by Pitt; both he and Rose as well as his cousin, William Grenville, also took active personal parts in the canvass." Rose himself made contracts with the tavern-keepers, newspaper-writers, and bill-posters, and received daily reports as to their activities. In some cases, indeed, the contracts were such as only Rose with Pitt's consent could make. George Smith, for example, the proprietor of the Star and Garter, who had previously been convicted of brewing beer for sale without license, was employed by Rose in Pitt's presence to keep an open house in Hood's behalf.80 As long as he continued to be useful to Hood the excise office made no attempt to collect the fine, and only after he had been obliged to bring suit against Rose to collect the amount due him for his political services was the old offense revived against him. Another man who was held in prison under a penalty of seven hundred pounds incurred for a violation of the lottery act was released on insufficient bail, and this in part defrayed by Lord Hood, on his promise to procure sixty votes for the latter.81
But Pitt was not content with merely bringing influences of this kind to secure supporters for Hood. His agents indulged in exhibitions of violence which were exceptional even for that time. The behavior of neither party affords a creditable spectacle in this respect. Both had gangs of rowdies whose business it was to intimidate the voters of the opposite party under the pretense of keeping a way clear to the hustings.82 Nevertheless, the ministerialist ruffians seem to have been more aggressive, a fact which may in part be explained by the following affidavit made by twenty-one men on August 27, 1788, at Wapping in the county of Middlesex:83
That these deponents . . . [together with four other persons who with the twenty-one making the deposition are mentioned by name] and upwards of two hundred other persons, were each of them hired, and their names entered in a book, kept by Lieutenant Spry, on the part "Ibid., 146.
Ts Auckland, Journal and Correspondence, II. 223; French Laurence, Epistolary Correspondence of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, etc., p. 3; Buckingham, Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George III., I. 414.
Chatham MSS., 229.
Trial of George Rose, Esq. . . . for employing Mr. Smith, etc., p. 22.
81 Journals of the House of Commons, XLVII. 686-687.
Laurence, Epistolary Correspondence, pp. 1-7; A Letter to John Horne
Tooke Esq., etc. (1789); Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, I. 416-419.
Morning Chronicle, August 28, 1788; Morning Herald, August 29, 1788.
of the Right Hon. Lord Hood; to attend during the election for Westminster, at the Hustings and elsewhere in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, armed with Bludgeons, for the purpose of intimidating, and committing acts of violence and outrage upon Electors of the City of Westminster, in the interest of Lord John Townshend; and that it was thereupon agreed by the said Lieutenant Spry, that these deponents and the said several other persons should be paid for their attendance, provided with bludgeons, and allowed breakfast, dinner, supper, and three quarts of porter every day at the expence of Lord Hood, or his committee, at the House of Timothy Martin.
The deposition goes on to recite that this contract was duly carried out. These things, it will be remembered, were paid for out of the public funds.
Violence and corruption were not the only weapons to which Pitt and Rose resorted in their efforts to rescue Westminster from the Whigs. They employed cheap pamphleteers to attack Townshend and Fox personally in squibs and handbills which for slanderous indecency fortunately have few equals in English party warfare. The wife of Pitt's lately deceased personal friend, the Duke of Rutland, was freely named in these attacks as a woman whose virtue Townshend had attempted to violate. To describe the Foxites as a "needy gang of unprincipled gamblers, and desperate insolvents; some of whom, though beggars from their birth, have the impudence to vie in their expences with gentlemen of fortune "85 was mild language compared to some that was used. It would be difficult, for example, to justify an accusation like: "Who are the Canvassers for Lord John Townshend? Are not many, if not most of them, insolvent gamblers, who make their lying boasts that they are succeeding in their canvass by corrupting the morals of your wives and daughters?" But these are scarcely representative examples of the obscenities and unprintable personalities in which the opponents of Townshend indulged. And it cannot be alleged that Rose and Pitt were not responsible for them. The authors were paid by Rose himself with money out of the public treasury, and the men who wrote and distributed the handbills received daily instructions from that same politician. Perhaps the character of Hood did not lend itself so easily to such attacks. Or it may be that the Whigs were better furnished with the instincts of refinement than their opponents. At any rate their campaign literature was singularly free from matter of this sort.
84 The World, July 21, 1788; Morning Post, July 23, 1788; and various handbills preserved in the British Museum.
85 Morning Post, August 6, 1788.
86 Ibid., July 25, 1788.
87 Chatham MSS., 229.
All of Pitt's efforts were in vain, however, and at the close of the poll on August 4 Townshend had 6392 votes against 5569 for Hood. On that day The World, a ministerialist organ, appeared with wide borders of black around its pages and carried in double-column display type: "The Genius of England must Mourn on a Day like This! For This Day is the Triumph of Dullness and Depravity! The Constitution is Crippled! The Worst Wounds Rankle in her Deepest Vitals! Her Existence, If the Malignity of the Mischief be not Checked, Her Existence is no More!" Obviously, the result held out little that was encouraging to Pitt. The Whigs had multiplied their majority threefold in spite of his utmost exertions. Yet he was unwilling to give up the contest without a final effort. Accordingly Hood petitioned for a committee under Grenville's act, alleging that corrupt and illegal practices had been used against him.88
As a matter of fact no serious effort was made to unseat Town
shend, and probably none was intended. Pitt had rather hit upon a new scheme by means of which he hoped to win Westminster in the general election which was approaching. Hood's attorneys contended that their client ought to be given his seat because the suffrage had not been confined to those householders who had actually paid "scot and lot", but those who were merely liable to pay it had been admitted to vote also. Furthermore, they contended that several outlying districts which were really a part of the Duchy of Lancaster had been illegally incorporated in the city and liberties of Westminster, and that the inhabitants of these districts had no right to vote in Westminster. Should these two points be sustained they produced figures to show that Hood would have a majority of the remaining votes. Neither of these questions had been raised in 1784, when the election was held in precisely the same manner as regards these points as in 1788.89 Nevertheless, the committee, in which the friends of Pitt naturally predominated, reported on July 6, 1789, that it appeared that the merits of the petition depended "in part upon the Right of Election". The committee had, therefore, conducted an investigation and reported a verdict sustaining both of the contentions which Hood's attorneys had raised, though Townshend retained his seat since Hood had in the meantime withdrawn his petition. In this report the ministerialists manifestly had in view the general election of 1790. But the Whigs now came forward with a counter petition objecting to the decision of the committee. Pitt was unable to bring the question to a conclusion immediately, and the matter hung fire till March 16, 1795, when a
Journals of the House of Commons, XLIV. 125.
89 Chatham MSS., 237. This bundle contains the minutes of the committee and other papers relating to the contest.
new committee reported a compromise which was acceptable to both parties. This compromise accepted the contentions of the Whigs as to the extent of the city, but confined the suffrage in the future to those who had actually paid their rates."
After his failure to carry this point immediately Pitt apparently despaired of ever winning Westminster from Fox.. Fox, as we have seen, was even reluctant to make the fight in 1788, knowing how heavy the burdens would be upon his political friends, and another contest could serve no good purpose so far as he was concerned. Consequently, before the election of 1790 the parties agreed upon a truce which was recorded in the scrawling hand of Dundas :"1
On the 15th March, 1790, Lord Lauderdale and Mr. Pitt held a conversation on the subject of the Westminster election, Mr. Dundas present.
They agreed that each party should propose and support only one candidate respectively at the first general election, and during the whole of next Parliament, so long as either the Duke of Portland or Mr. Fox on the one part, and Mr. Pitt or Mr. Grenville on the other, are alive, and including every other contingency of death, vacancy, and changes of administration.
In this conversation Mr. Pitt agreed in the name of the present administration or any of which he or Mr. Grenville should be a member. Lord Lauderdale agreed in the name, and as authorised by the Duke of Portland or Mr. Fox, or any administration of which either should be a member.
It was understood that this agreement has nothing to do with any question respecting the right of election for the city of Westminster.
Both sides appear to have been faithful to the terms of this agreement, and the question of Westminster's representation in the House of Commons was thus effectually disposed of for the time being. What is more to the point in this discussion, Pitt by this settlement confessed himself unable to win the support of the electors of the capital city from the Whig leader. We have seen already that the minister did not face this disagreeable necessity till he had put forth his utmost power to avoid it. And if he could not command the support of a majority of the inhabitants of Westminster we are justified under the circumstances in demanding more conclusive proof than has yet been adduced before we agree with the popular notion that he came into power as the choice of a majority of the English people in 1784.
WILLIAM THOMAS LAPRADE.
90 Journals of the House of Commons. XLIV. 125, 264, 518-519, 646; L. 322323, 326.
1 Chatham MSS., 157; Stanhope, Life of William Pitt, II. 52.