Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hogarth's wild journey

Fascinating article in today's Telegraph about Hogarth, tying in with Tate Britain's Hogarth retrospective.

Friday, January 26, 2007

John Wilkes

John Wilkes (1725-97) was born in Clerkenwell, the second of three sons of Israel, a wealthy and pious malt distiller. Because his family were Presbyterians, he was educated (from 1734) at Hertford Academy, where he had mastered Latin and Greek by the age of 14, and (from 1744) the University of Leiden. In 1747 at his parents’ insistence he married Mary Meade, who brought him the manor of Aylesbury. Israel Wilkes settled £300 p a on him. John became a magistrate and a supporter of the local church. The marriage turned out unhappy, but Wilkes greatly loved his daughter Polly.

Wilkes spent the 1750s leading a double life of debauchery and political ambition in Buckinghamshire, where he played the role of country squire, and London. From 1752 he was associated with Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hell Fire Club and he was enrolled by Dashwood as one of the twelve ‘Franciscans’ or ‘Medmenham Monks’; one of the others was Lord Sandwich. In 1754 he wrote Essay on Woman, an obscene parody of Pope’s Essay on Man.

He also acquired the patronage of the Grenville family, who were centred round Lord Temple’s seat of Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Temple’s brother was George Grenville, his brother-in-law was William Pitt. In 1754 he stood unsuccessfully for Berwick and was made High Sheriff of Buckingham. In 1757 he separated from his wife (Polly lived with her father) and in July be became the (Pittite) MP for Aylesbury in a by-election that cost him £7,000, and became an officer in the Bucks Militia. The colonel was Sir Francis Dashwood.

In 1761 Wilkes was re-elected, avoiding a contest by bribery – offering 300 of the 500 voters £5 each. Before the new parliament met, Pitt resigned and Wilkes went into opposition with him, making his maiden speech in his favour in November 1761. On 5 June 1762 he published the first edition of the North Briton. The title was chosen to counter a pro-government paper, the True Briton, edited by Tobias Smollett (a Scotsman). The paper soon achieved a circulation of nearly 2000 and between June 1762 and April 1763 there were 45 numbers. In doing so, Wilkes made many enemies, the most formidable of whom was Hogarth, who depicted him with a leering squint. Early in 1763, the governor of Calais asked Wilkes how far the liberty of the press extended in Britain. Wilkes: ‘I don’t know, but I’m trying to find out.’

No 45 North Briton
On 19 April 1763 the king opened Parliament. His speech described the peace as ‘honourable to my crown and beneficial to my people’. On 23 April Wilkes printed no. 45 of the North Briton. This did not attack the king personally but it did attack the Princess Dowager, and the government ministers, who were described as ‘tools of despotism and corruption’ and denounced the ‘ministerial effrontery’ of obliging George III ‘to give the sanction of his sacred name’ to such ‘odious’ measures.

The government consulted the law officers of the Crown as to whether it would be possible to proceed against the publishers and printers of the North Briton for seditious libel by way of a general warrant. When the answer was in the affirmative, the warrant was issued. On 29 April the publisher and printer were brought before the Secretaries of State. They acknowledged that Wilkes was the editor. The government then sought further advice from its law officers. Wilkes was an MP. Did this mean he was immune from arrest? The law officers replied that
‘the publication of a libel, being a breach of the peace, is not a case of privilege, and that Mr Wilkes might be committed to prison for the same’.
At 6 am on 30 April Wilkes left his house, removed no 46 of the North Briton, and tore up the original MS of no 45. When he was brought before ministers he refused to answer questions. He was sent to the Tower while his house was searched for incriminating evidence. On 2 May he was granted a writ of habeas corpus. On 3 May he was brought by coach from the Tower to the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster Hall. A large and sympathetic audience heard him address the judges on the liberty of an Englishman. The proceedings were then adjourned until 6 May, and he was remanded back to the Tower, while Westminster Hall echoed to the cries of ‘Liberty!’

On 6 May the Chief Justice of Common Pleas, Charles Pratt, later Lord Camden, ruled that
‘the person of a member ought to be sacred, even if he should commit a misdemeanour. … We are all of the opinion that Mr Wilkes is entitled to the privilege of Parliament, and therefore he must be discharged.’
This verdict was a great shock to the ministry. Thousands escorted Wilkes home and the new slogan of militant radicalism was ‘Wilkes and Liberty!’ In July Wilkes successfully sued for damages for wrongful arrest and the seizure of papers. The jury ruled in his favour because of their doubts about the legality of general warrants.

But in October the foreman of Wilkes’s journeymen printers handed over to the Solicitor to the Treasury a proof copy of the first 94 lines of Essay on Woman. It was the best weapon the government could have had. On 15 November Parliament reassembled. Wilkes’s old companion in debauchery, Sandwich, read out the printed text of the Essay. Sandwich was for the rest of his life nicknamed 'Jeremy Twitcher' after the thief in the Beggars' Opera who betrays his old comrades. Meanwhile in the Commons no 45 was voted a seditious libel and ordered to be burned by the common hangman. This led to a pistol duel between Wilbes and the MP, Samuel Martin who had denounced him as a ‘cowardly rascal’. Wilkes was so badly wounded (in the stomach) that many thought there had been a plot against his life. On 25 December he crossed to France and took up residence in Paris. In January 1764 he was expelled from parliament, though the debates showed wide concern over the legality of general warrants. On 1 November the Court of Kings Bench formally pronounced him an outlaw because of his refusal to return to England to answer the charges.

But Wilkes had already won a victory. On 6 December 1763 Chief Justice Pratt had ruled in the court of Common Pleas that general warrants could not be used as search warrants of unspecified buildings. This verdict was reinforced by judgements of Chief Justice Mansfield in the Court of King’s Bench on 18 June 1764 and 8 November 1764 that ended the use of general warrants.

Meanwhile, Wilkes was enjoying his exile. He took an Italian mistress, journeyed to Naples and then Geneva, and spent two months in the company of Voltaire. However in the light of his increasingly severe money troubles he began to plan a return to England.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

George III and Bute

The new king
The death of George II on 25 October 1760 was marked by a great enthusiasm in recognition of the promise which the new king, his young grandson, seemed to offer.

George III was born on 4 June 1738 at a house in St James’s Square rented from the duke of Norfolk. He was two months’ premature and given a hasty baptism. He was the second child and first son of Frederick Prince of Wales (‘Fritz’) and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. He was born into a deeply dysfunctional family. His father was detested by his parents, George II and Caroline of Ansbach. In 1742 the Prince and Princess of Wales moved to Leicester House in Leicester Square, and there established a court in rivalry with the king’s. Leicester House was the centre of opposition politics.

In 1751 his father died unexpectedly. George II: ‘I have lost my eldest son but I was glad of it.’ George became Prince of Wales. He was brought up at Kew by his mother, taught to be hostile to his grandfather, to deplore the lax morals of his court and his dependence on the Whig oligarchy.

The influence of Bute
In the year before he reached his majority (1755) his mother called in as companion and guide John Stuart, 3rd earl of Bute (1713-92). Bute had lost his seat as one of the representative Scottish peers in the new parliament of 1741 and for a while left politics. But from 1747 he was a favourite of Frederick Prince of Wales, and when the prince died in 1751 he remained the confidant of his widow and helped her plan Kew Gardens. He was extremely handsome and the gossips believed that he was the dowager princess’s lover. When George was given his own household in November 1756, the king grumpily agreed that he should be made Groom of the Stole and it was widely assumed that he would be a candidate for high office once the prince became king.

The young George was infatuated with Bute, who, arguably, was the father he had never had. Bute wrote to George:
‘The prospect of forming your young mind is exquisitely pleasing to a heart like mine.’
In 1756 George wrote to Bute: ‘
I will with the greatest affection and tenderness be yours till death separates us.’
George's education took place at the time of the Seven Years War. Part of the policy of Newcastle, the Prime Minister, and Pitt, the Secretary of State, was to pour subsidies into Prussia in order to defend Hanover. Bute was a fierce opponent of this policy and George echoed his sentiments as his faithful pupil. In his correspondence, Newcastle was the king’s ‘knave and counsellor’ and Pitt ‘a true snake in the grass’ and the ‘blackest of hearts’. Even the king was not spared: ‘The conduct of this old king makes me ashamed of being his grandson.’ This is the true disservice Bute did the prince: he passed on his own prejudices and guaranteed that the first period of the king’s reign would be stormy. He was determined to get rid of Newcastle and Pitt and was unaware of how divisive this would be.

A ‘patriot king’?
On the day of his accession, George met the Privy Council at Carlton House. His declaration, drafted by Bute, spoke of the ‘bloody and expensive war’ in progress. Pitt insisted that this was replaced by the formula ‘expensive but just and necessary war’.

In November 1760 George declared to Parliament,
‘Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton’.
This was a reasonable statement – he was the first Prince of Wales since 1630 to have been born in England. But the word ‘Briton’ was controversial: Newcastle wrote:
‘I suppose you will think Briton remarkable. It denotes the author to all the world.’
George’s statement was a signal that he intended to be a ‘Patriot King’. What did this mean? Whig conspiracy theorists such as Horace Walpole were soon ready to believe that the king had a secret design to undermine the constitution. This was untrue. Yet with his accession there was a change of tone and policy that had profound political repercussions. He had imbibed from his mother a ‘Leicester House’ attitude along with the admonition ‘Be a King’. He seems to have decided that when he became king he must strengthen the role of the monarch and get rid of the ‘corrupt’ ‘Old Whigs’. He told Bute that he was determined not to be trampled on otherwise his subjects would come to esteem him ‘unworthy of the Crown’.

Initially George was popular. Unlike the first two Georges he had been born in England and thought of himself as an Englishman. This theme was reflected in the congratulatory addressed which flooded the columns of the newspapers. The new regime placed much emphasis on the extinction of ancient animosities. For the first time Tory country gentlemen were welcomed at court. Peerages and honours were distributed. The process of relaxing proscription was complete. The Whig oligarchies of shire and borough were finally compelled to give up some of their local influence. There was ‘an emotional home-coming for many churchmen’.
The king’s removal of their proscription finished off the old Tory party. The texture of the Whig party loosed leaving effective political control of Whig MPs in the hands of a group of political leaders. A further landmark of the past decades had also gone. The young king had no heir - there was no Leicester House around which dissidents could gather.

The ‘slaughter of the Pelhamite innocents’
The tensions between the king and his ministers were palpable. Newcastle:
‘I am the greatest cipher that ever appeared at Court. The young king is hardly civil to me ...This method of proceeding can’t last’.
In March 1761 Bute was appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department. This was a relatively junior position but his real power was much more extensive. Pitt described him as ‘the minister behind the curtain’.

Pitt was the first to leave the government. As the war wound to a close he insisted, against the wishes of other members of the Cabinet, on a peace treaty which would satisfy Frederick of Prussia and destroy France as a colonial power. When peace negotiations collapsed, France entered into a secret alliance with Spain, and this led Pitt to propose a pre-emptive strike against Spain. When the rest of the Cabinet refused to accept this, he resigned on 5 October 1761.

Though George was pleased to see him go, he had not been directly responsible for his departure, and when Pitt came to surrender his seals, he granted him a pension of £3,000 a year and bestowed a peerage (Baroness Chatham) on his wife.

At the Lord Mayor’s banquet the king and queen’s coach was watched in silence, Bute’s coach was attacked by the mob and Bute had to be rescued by the bodyguard of prize-fighters whom he now employed. However, Pitt was cheered to the echo. Bute attempted to calm tensions by declaring war on Spain in January 1762. George told Bute: ‘This fresh enemy makes my heart bleed for my poor country.’ He openly opposed maintaining troops in Germany, and this brought him into conflict with Newcastle who saw it as a betrayal of Frederick. On 26 May Newcastle was persuaded to resign and on the following day Bute became first lord of the treasury.

Bute Prime Minister
Horace Walpole: ‘The new administration begins tempestuously. My father was not more abused after twenty years than Bute after twenty days.’ Press abuse had reached fever pitch. Bute was attacked in prints as the lover of the Princess Dowager. In June a new weekly periodical, the North Briton, appeared, edited by John Wilkes, Pittite MP for Aylesbury. The title was chosen to counter a pro-government paper, the True Briton, edited by Tobias Smollett (a Scotsman). The North Briton made satirical references to Bute, attacked the Scots and the government’s peace negotiations. Johnson was satirized for accepting a pension, and the constant references to Isabella and Mortimer were a thinly veiled attack on the Princess.

On 3 November the peace preliminaries were signed at Fontainebleau. Though Britain had made very significant gains, the terms were promptly attacked by Pitt as inadequate. The preliminaries passed both the Lords and the Commons by decisive majorities and received formal ratification on 10 February. But in the country at large they were regarded as a sell-out and by the spring Bute was the most unpopular man in the country. He now believed that his life was in danger. He was lampooned in over 400 prints and broadsheets and his emblem, the ‘jackboot’ was regularly burned alongside that of Princess Augusta’s petticoat. ‘The angel Gabriel could not govern this country.’ On 9 April he resigned and on 10 April a reluctant king sent for Pitt’s brother-in-law, George Grenville (1712-70) – much to the anger of the Pitt/Grenville clan, furious at his ‘apostasy’. But Bute continued to be influential behind the scenes.

George’s relations with Grenville were extremely poor. Everyone found him tedious. Horace Walpole: ‘brevity was not his failing’. George:
‘When he has wearied me for two hours, he looks at his watch to see if he may not tire me for an hour more’.
He especially resented Grenville’s insistence that neither Bute nor his relatives play any role in policy decisions. But Grenville showed his political mettle by getting his way in this matter.
Grenville’s most notable contribution to politics was the Stamp Act (1765), which was so much resented by the American colonists. His other was the handling of the John Wilkes affair.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Remnants of Empire (benign)

This is the scene outside our house every April, the time of the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scotland in the eighteenth century

From the point of view of London, the main problem following the union of 1707 was the Jacobites, whose strongholds were in the inaccessible Highlands. Historians are divided about the extent of the Jacobite threat but however weak and ineffective the supporters of the Stuarts might have been, they could be used by hostile foreign powers. This had happened, for example, in 1719, when Spain supported an abortive invasion.

Government policy towards the Highlands was (a) to support the Campbells, the main Whig clan, (b) to support bodies such as the SPCK and (c) to keep a standing army the north centred on garrison forts like Fort William, Fort Augustus and Inverness.

In 1724 General George Wade was sent to Scotland. His subsequent report recommended the construction of military roads.
The first of these, from Dunkeld to Inverness, began in 1730. In 1739 he enlisted the loyal clans in the Black Watch regiment, its function to look out for cattle thieves and Jacobites. The men wore kilts and marched to the sound of bagpipes. In May 1745 they fought at Fontenoy.

Three months later Prince Charles Edward Stuart, raised his standard at Glenfinnan to rally the Jacobite clans. In September he entered Edinburgh with 2,000 men and defeated the army of General Cope at Prestonpans. In November the Jacobites marched into England but the English Jacobites failed to join them and having reached Derby in December the army retreated back to Scotland. In April they were defeated at Culloden.

The main reason for the Young Pretender’s failure was that he arrived in Scotland without the backing of a French force. But he also found less support in Scotland than he expected. Glasgow, which had profited from the Union, was solidly Whig and the Presbyterian clergy were adamantly opposed. Although the ’45 was subsequently constructed as a Scottish uprising against an oppressive England, in reality, Scotland was deeply divided over a Stuart restoration.

The government believed it had learned one vital lesson from Culloden: the powers of the Jacobite clans had to be broken. In 1747 the chiefs lost their hereditable jurisdictions, their lands were forfeited and the administration handed over to a Committee of Forfeited Estates, Highlanders were forbidden to bear arms, wear the kilt or play bagpipes, and all private schools were banned. For a generation, the Highlands were under an army of occupation.

The result was a dramatic social change as the clans at last submitted to the rule of law and the dictates of the British parliament. When Samuel Johnson and James Boswell visited the Highlands in 1773, they found themselves in a peaceful society, with the chiefs converted into landlords. In 1782 the wearing of the kilt was again permitted and in 1784 the forfeited estates were handed back to their previous owners. By this time clan regiments had distinguished themselves in the Seven Years War and the Highlands were coming to be seen as exotic and romantic rather than barbarous.

In 1760 James Macpherson published the English-language text Fragments of Ancient Poetry collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and later that year obtained further manuscripts. In 1761 he claimed to have found an epic on the subject of the hero Fingal, written by Ossian. He published translations of it during the next few years, culminating in a collected edition; The Works of Ossian, in 1765. The most famous of these poems was 'Fingal 'written in 1762. These poems caused a European sensation later influencing Goethe and Napoleon.

The Jacobite threat was effectively over in 1746 and by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle France gave up its support for the Stuarts. But English resentment at the Scots did not die down. The perception grew in England that the Scots were swarming south and taking English jobs. An example was William Murray who came to school in England at the age of fourteen, read for the English bar, married and Englishwoman and became Lord Chief Justice in 1757. It was with him in mind that Johnson said, ‘
Much may be made of a Scotsman, if he be caught young
When James Boswell came to London in 1762 he encountered genuine anti-Scottish hostility in a London theatre and a half-teasing, half-serious hostility from Samuel Johnson.
The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England.(6 July 1763)
Would the English tolerate a Scottish Prime Minister?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Seven Years War: reputations lost and won

As well as being a major geopolitical event, the Seven Years War impacted on British politics and provides a window into the politics and the wider culture of the mid eighteenth century. This can be seen by looking at the careers of some of the major protagonists.

The Rise of Pitt the Elder
The dominating political figure of the war was the charismatic outsider William Pitt (1708-78). His father’s family were of lesser English gentry origin until his grandfather Thomas ‘Diamond’ Pitt (1653-1726) , merchant, MP and East India Company Governor, made the family fortunes. In February 1735 he was returned for the family’s pocket borough of Old Sarum. He had first attracted attention as a ‘Patriot’ Whig, a protégé of the anti-Walpole, Lord Cobham, with his scathing speeches attacking the government. This made him one of the most notable of ‘Cobham’s cubs’. In 1741 he spoke vehemently on the motion for the king to dismiss Walpole. As the war with Spain merged into the War of the Austrian Succession, and Britain agreed to take 16,000 Hanoverian soldiers into British pay, he broadened his attacks. In November he argued that this but another instance of the way in which ‘this great, this powerful, this formidable kingdom, is considered only as a province to a despicable electorate’. This characteristic recklessness deeply offended the king, and (more importantly) the Prince of Wales.

Politically Pitt had now no secure base within a coherent political group. He could never be the social equal of the Whig grandees. He never sat for a metropolitan seat or one of the great ports; never stood for Middlesex, Westminster, London or Bristol - all of them building up a tradition of electing opposition members. His preferred world was that of the country estate. He built a new house at Hayes and added a wing at Burton Pynsent (Somerset). His extravagance landed him in serious financial difficulties. Most of his wealth came from legacies and annuities. By the death of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, 14 October 1744, inherited £10,000 ‘upon account of his merit in the noble defence he made for the support of the laws of England, and to prevent the ruin of his country’. He was an unsettling figure, unreliable and prone to manic depression, and frequently incapacitated with gout – attacks which sent him frequently to Bath - but he had the great advantage that he seemed different. He could be associated with the national interest because he seemed apart from the world of the court.

After a political crisis in 1746 George II was forced to reinstate the administration led by Henry Pelham and grudgingly appoint Pitt as Paymaster-General – a very lucrative but non-cabinet post that involved no contact with the king. Pelham’s brother the duke of Newcastle was now his patron and he sat successively for seats in the gift of the duke. His new role led him to defend the employment of Hanoverian troops as strongly as he had once opposed it. ‘If Pitt had died at any time during the next eight years he would have gone down in history as a canting patriot concerned only to raise his purchase price.’

In March 1754 Pelham died unexpectedly (through gluttony!). This led to a new period of political jockeying and a new administration was formed under Newcastle. Pitt hoped for advancement but his ambition was thwarted by the king’s hostility and by the ambitions of the new Leader of the House, Henry Fox. Meanwhile, with the defeat of Washington’s Virginia force in the Ohio valley, the country was drifting to war in America.

On 16 November 1754 he married Lady Hester Grenville (1720-1803): ‘the day from which I shall date all the real honour and happiness of my poor life’. It was a happy marriage and it allied Pitt with a powerful political family. But the honeymoon at West Wickham was short because Parliament was still in session. On 25 November he attacked Newcastle in the Commons – even though he was still in the government (though not the cabinet) and sat for Newcastle’s pocket borough of Aldeborough (Yorkshire). In the late summer of 1755 he became increasingly impatient with Newcastle’s policy of arranging subsidy treaties with Hesse-Cassel and Russia to protect Hanover in the event of war. In November he made a mocking Commons speech attacking the union of Fox and Newcastle to the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, which was ‘one of the classical orations of the unreformed Parliament’.
At Lyons, I was taken to see the place where the two rivers meet, the one gentle, feeble, languid, and though languid, yet of no depth, the other a boisterous and impetuous torrent: but different as they are, they meet at last.

On 20 November 1755, he was dismissed as Paymaster. On the following day he attacked the ministry for being more concerned about the defence of Hanover than of America and Britain. This led him to make even more vitriolic attacks on the government, leading Horace Walpole to claim that his histrionic speech mannerisms ‘would have added reputation to Garrick’. But he was battling against a government with a 200 seat majority.

Admiral John Byng
The (European) war began with a ‘diplomatic revolution’ in which the Anglo-Austrian alliance collapsed and Britain formed an alliance (the Convention of Westminster) with her former enemy Frederick the Great on 16 January 1756. War was officially declared on 17 May, though by then the fighting had already begun. And from the start everything went wrong.

In March, Admiral Byng led an expedition to reconnoitre the Mediterranean and to protect Gibraltar and Minorca from French incursions. His fleet was small, for the Admiralty had decided to concentrate its ships of the line in home waters to counter an anticipated French invasion. The British and French fleets encountered each other off Minorca, and after a confusing and inconclusive battle, Byng retreated to Gibraltar to repair his vessels. This cost Britain Minorca, an island that, because of its position on the trade rout to Italy and the Levant, was strategically important for the protection of her commercial interests in the Mediterranean.

This was regarded as a massive national humiliation, and the search for scapegoats was relentless. The governor of Gibraltar had refused to reinforce Byng and the government had provided him with an inadequate force; but they were determined to punish Byng. They selectively published his dispatch, editing it carefully to impugn his reputation, and his name became a byword for cowardice. Crowds burned his effigy before his country house in Hertfordshire; at Gravesend he was hanged in effigy; at Covent Garden his ‘execution’ was preceded by a skimmington ride in which the effigy ‘was very whimsically executed in a Cart, with his back to the Horses, accompanied by chimney sweeps riding donkeys ‘with their Faces to the Tails’. Not surprisingly the main hostility seems to have come from the areas where the press gangs had been most in operation. The Admiralty was so taken aback by the fury of the demonstrations threat they changed their plans for bringing him to Greenwich for fear he would be torn apart by the hundreds on the Portsmouth road with pitchforks and clubs.
Part of the propaganda against Byng stressed his aristocratic connections (he was the son of Sir George Byng, later Viscount Torrington). Demonstrators at Richmond in Yorkshire decked out their effigy of Byng in a ‘genteel Navy Dress, a la Mode de France’. The aristocratic state was identified with ‘French interests’ and corruption at home and timidity, effeminacy and ignominy abroad.

Though Byng had been guilty of over-caution and inept seamanship rather than cowardice, he was court-martialled. On 14 March 1757 after the king brushed aside pleas for clemency, he was shot on his own quarter deck, ‘pour encourager les autres’ (Voltaire). But another motive was the need to maintain public order. The following months saw serious food riots.
In the meantime the government had changed.

Pitt as war leader
In October 1756, in the wake of the Byng affair, the loss of Fort Oswego to Montcalm and Calcutta to Siraj-ud-Daula, Newcastle and Fox resigned and in November the king agreed very reluctantly to a new government, nominally under the Duke of Devonshire, but with Pitt as Secretary of State (Foreign Secretary) the dominant figure.

Pitt inherited the problem of what do with Byng. He did not want him executed and his failure to save him contributed to an impression of weakness. In addition he was ill and could not command a Commons majority. In April 1757 he was dismissed after failure to achieve success in war. In the three-month’s confusion that followed (a caretaker ministry in the midst of an unsuccessful war), the Tories set about glorifying Pitt as a martyr. Expressions of support came in the press and the Pittites successfully manoeuvred the ‘shower of golden boxes’ (the freedoms of thirteen cities) which forced the king to take him back. In July the Pitt-Newcastle (Whig) coalition was formed, a coalition in which Pitt ran the war and Newcastle managed parliament. This was the government that finally secured victory.

Pitt’s great achievement lay not in detailed policy but in his qualities of leadership. In the eyes of his supporters he was the great ‘patriot’ minister. This is a term that needs unpicking. Before 1757 it had been the creed of opposition to Walpole and his successors, an appeal to the country over the heads of ‘corrupt’ governments. But now, in rhetoric at least, government subscribed to the ‘patriot’ programme. Pitt appealed to a sense of national destiny that defined Britain as a maritime power with trans-oceanic concerns. But he also followed Newcastle’s European policy of taking control of and paying an army in Germany (even though his role as Secretary of State for the Southern Department gave him no official say in German policy). He was later to say that ‘America had been conquered in Germany’. This was partly true, if only because the French were forced to divert men and resources to the Continent. However it laid him open to the charge of inconsistency and Frederick found him a disappointing ally. Far fewer British troops and a much smaller proportion of costs were to be devoted to the continent than in previous wars. However in the eyes of much of the public the Prussian victory at Minden in August 1759 was also a British triumph as it guaranteed the protection of Hanover and rendered French victory in Europe improbable.

The campaigns in India and North America were unquestionably his area of responsibility. It was Pitt who devised the successful North American policy of an ambitious two-pronged attack on Canada and operations in the Ohio. Commanders were instructed to communicate directly with him and their precisely detailed instructions gave them little scope for discretion. In September 1758 news reached Britain of the capture of Louisbourg – an event that transformed Pitt’s morale. (In 1758 it was agreed to rename Fort Duquesne Pittsburgh.) His policy regarding India, seen as a subordinate theatre of war, was to respond to Company requests for help rather than to initiate policy. Although he famously described Clive as the ‘heaven-born general’ he did not respond to his requests to lure the government into acquiring more territory.

When he addressed Parliament in November 1759 Pitt was in triumphalist mood. He proposed a monument to Wolfe but asserted that he (Pitt) had done more for Britain than any orator for Rome.
And for the Grecians, their story were a pretty theme if the town of St Albans were waging war with that of Brentford.
He had become the most powerful figure in British political life.

Robert Clive (1725-1774)
For Clive's career, see here.
Like Pitt, Clive was a difficult colleague, a manic depressive who often acted erratically. But the way in which he held Arcot for fifty days in 1751 marked him out as a military genius. In 1757 he recaptured Calcutta from the forces of Siraj-ud-Dawlah. After his victory at Plassey, he replaced Siraj-ud-Dowlah as nawab of Bengal by Mir Jafir and was able to report to the directors of the East India Company that ‘this great revolution, so happily brought about, seems complete in every respect’.

Following Plassey Clive received lavish gifts from the new nawab, Mir Jafir, including a jagir, a grant of land revenue worth around £27,000 a year to the recipient. He invested £30,000 in Golconda diamonds at Madras in 1757, and was also able to negotiate the purchase of £230,000 bills to be drawn on the Dutch East India Company. Such actions later encouraged others to follow Clive's example and seek similar rewards, and they also began to attract considerable attention from those in Britain who were becoming increasingly uneasy about the ill-gotten gains being obtained by rapacious company servants, or ‘nabobs’ as they became known.

In November Clive 1757 he was appointed governor of the presidency of Bengal. Clive had not sought a position of political power in India but in January 1759 he outlined in a famous letter to Pitt, the suggestion that the British government should now take a fuller responsibility for the territories now under the company's control. Declaring that
so large a sovereignty may possibly be an object too extensive for a mercantile Company
he asked Pitt to consider whether the nation would derive greater long-term advantage from the Indian territories if they were brought under the management of the state.

Much of Clive's later career was overshadowed by controversy about how he had made his money. In the 1760s his jagir became deeply controversial, with a vigorously contested propaganda war fought out in pamphlets and newspaper articles. This did not prevent his unopposed election for Shrewsbury in 1761. He acquired substantial new properties and enriched his family.

By the early 1770s criticism was mounting and there was a growing debate about the respective roles of the government and the (now dangerously insolvent) East India Company in managing the vast new territories that had come under British control. The Commons set up a committee of inquiry in 1772, which gave Clive the opportunity to justify his conduct. His best known comment came when he recalled the riches offered to him by Mir Jafar in 1757:
Mr Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation!
In May 1773 he spoke for three hours in the Commons. Members unanimously passed a motion that ‘Robert Clive did at the same time render great and meritorious service to this country’.

Following the high drama of these proceedings, the East India Company was reformed by a series of legislative actions, most notably Lord North's Regulating Act of 1773.

In early November 1774 Clive fell ill, as a common cold steadily worsened. He travelled first to Bath for the waters and then moved on to London. By the time he arrived at Berkeley Square on 20 November he had been in considerable pain for some time, and his old ailments had returned with a vengeance. He resorted to large doses of opium, which brought some respite, but on 22 November, having abandoned a game of cards being played with friends, he was found dead on the floor of an adjoining room. There is controversy about whether he committed suicide by plunging a penknife into his throat but it has also been claimed that he was the victim of a fatal seizure after a larger than usual dose of opium.

Clive emerged as one of the heroes of the Seven Years' War, but a flawed one. He came to stand for an uneasy combination of military greatness, greed and love of power.

The sacrificial hero
For the iconic representation of the death of General James Wolfe at the moment of the taking of Quebec in September 1759, see here.

The American painter, Benjamin West, represented Wolfe in the manner traditionally associated with depictions of the body of Christ when it was taken down from the cross (Lamentation). But he departed from the traditions of history painting by depicting his characters in modern dress.