Full Title: Continuation of the Complete History of England by T[obias] Smollett, M. D. [In two volumes] Volume the First. London: Printed for Richard Baldwin, at the Rose in Pater-noster-Row. MDCCLXVI.
[A continuation of David Hume’s History of England]
The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, however unstable or inglorious it might appear to those few who understood the interests, and felt for the honour of their country, was nevertheless not unwelcome to the nation in general. The British ministry will always find it more difficult to satisfy the people at the end of a successful campaign, than at the conclusion of an unfortunate war. The English are impatient of miscarriage and disappointment, and too apt to be intoxicated with victory. At this period they were tired of the burthens, and sick of the disgraces, to which they had been exposed in the course of seven tedious campaigns. They had suffered considerable losses and interruption in the article of commerce, which was the source of their natural opulence and power: they knew it would of necessity be clogged with additional duties, for the maintenance of a continental war, and the support of foreign subsidiaries; and they drew very faint presages of future success either from the conduct of their allies, or the capacity of their commanders.
To a people influenced by these considerations, the restoration of free trade, the respite from that anxiety and suspence [sic] which the prosecution of a war never fails to engender, and the prospect of speedy deliverance from discouraging restraint and oppressive impositions, were advantages that sweetened the bitter draught of a dishonourable treaty, and induced the majority of the nation to acquiesce in the peace, not barely without murmuring, but even with some degree of satisfaction and applause.
Immediately after the exchange of ratifications at Aix-la-Chapelle the armies were broke up: the allies in the Netherlands withdrew their several proportions of troops; the French began to evacuate Flanders; and the English forces were reimbarked [sic] for their own country. His Britannic majesty returned from his German dominions in November, having landed near Margate in Kent, after a dangerous passage; and on the twenty-ninth of the same month he opened the session of parliament. By this time the misunderstanding between the two first personages of the royal family had been increased by a fresh accession of matter. The prince of Wales had held a court of stannery, or what is called a parliament, in quality of duke of Cornwall; and revived some claims attached to that dignity, which, had they been admitted, would have greatly augmented his influence among the Cornish boroughs.
These efforts aroused the jealousy of the administration, which had always considered them as an interest wholly depending upon the crown; and therefore the pretensions of his royal highness were opposed by the whole weight of the ministry. His adherents resenting these hostilities as an injury to their royal master, immediately joined the remnant of the former opposition in parliament, and resolved to counteract all the ministerial measures that should fall under their cognizance; at least, they determined to seize every opportunity of thwarting the servants of the crown, in every scheme or proposal that had not an evident tendency to the advantage of the nation.
This band of auxiliaries was headed by the earl of E–t, Dr. Lee, and Mr. N–t. The first possessed a species of eloquence rather plausible than powerful: he spoke with fluency and fire: his spirit was bold and enterprising, his apprehension quick, and his repartee severe. Dr. Lee was a man of extensive erudition and irreproachable morals, particularly versed in the civil law, which he professed, and perfectly well acquainted with the constitution of his country. Mr. N–t was an orator of middling abilities, who harangued upon all subjects indiscriminately, and supplied with confidence what he wanted in capacity: he had been at some pains to study the business of the house, as heard, as he generally spoke with an appearance of good humour, and hazarded every whimsical idea as it rose in his imagination. But Lord Bolingbroke is said to have been the chief spring which, in secret, actuated the deliberations of the prince’s court. That nobleman, seemingly sequestered from the tumults of a public life, resided in the neighbourhood of London, at Battersea, where he was visited like a sainted shrine by all the distinguished votaries of a wit, eloquence, and political ambition. There he was cultivated and admired for the elegance of his manners, and the charms of his conversation. The prince’s curiosity was first captivated by his character, and his esteem was afterwards secured by the irresistible address of that extraordinary personage, who continued in a regular progression to insinuate himself still farther and farther into the good graces of his royal patron. How far the conduct of his royal highness was influenced by the private advice of this nobleman, we shall not pretend to determine: but, certain it is, the friends of the ministry propagated a report, that he was the dictator of those measures which the prince adopted; and that, under the specious pretext of attachment to the heir-apparent of the crown, he concealed his real aim, which was to perpetuate the breach in the royal family. Whatever his sentiments and motives might have been, this was no other than a revival of the old ministerial clamour, that a man cannot be well affected to be king, if he pretends to censure any measure of the administration.