The Earl of Bute



The Earl of Bute, in 1762, became Premier, with George Grenville, who prided himself on his knowledge of the science of finance, as his chancellor of the exchequer. Pitt, who had become disgusted with the ignorance and assumptions of Bute, had left public employment the previous year and retired to his country seat at Hays, in Kent. There, though tortured by gout, he watched the drift of public affairs with intense interest, and equally intense anxiety, for he trembled at the thought of the possible fate of his country, whose destinies were held by such incompetent hands

When Pitt resigned the seals of office into the hands of the king in the autumn of 1761, the public discontent was unmistakable. Bute, in a reply to a letter from Lord Melcombe congratulating the former on being delivered of a most impracticable colleague (Mr. Pitt), said: "My situation, at all times perilous, is become much more so; for I am no stranger to the language held in this great city--` Our darling's resignation is owing to Lord Bute, and he must answer for all the consequences.'" The king, too, felt unpleasant forebodings concerning the future; and when the great statesman laid the seals before him, his majesty expressed his deep concern at the loss of so able a minister. The king showered kind words so profusely that Pitt, acknowledging the royal condescension, burst into tears. The king offered to confer a title of honor upon the retiring statesman, but Pitt was "too proud to receive any mark of the king's countenance and favor," he wrote to Bute, and declined it. He intimated, however, that he should be happy could he see those dearer to himself "comprehended in that monument of royal approbation and goodness" with which his majesty should condescend to distinguish him. The king acted upon this hint, and conferred upon Pitt's wife the honorary title of Baroness of Chatham, with a pension for Lady Chatham, her husband and their eldest son, of fifteen thousand dollars a year. With these marks of royal approbation, Pitt remained in retirement, maintaining his popularity and appearing in Parliament only when great questions came up, until 1766, when he was elevated to the peerage with the title of Viscount Pitt and Earl of Chatham. His acceptance of the title damaged his popularity. Chesterfield said: "Pitt has gone to the hospital for incurable statesmen"--the House of Lords.

When Bute became prime minister, the opposition press attacked him without mercy, and innumerable caricatures appeared: some of the latter were coarse and indecent. Intoxicated by power, the minister lavished offices upon his countrymen in profusion, as did James the First. This called out many caricatures. One of these represents a northern witch on an enormous broomstick, conveying Scotchmen through the air to the land of promotion. Another entitled "The Royal Dupe," represents the Princess of Wales seated on a sofa, lulling the young king to sleep in her lap, while Lord Bute is stealing his sceptre, and another is picking his pockets. Caricatures and satires concerning Bute's private relations with the princess were highly libellous and sometimes obscene. In the spring of 1763, his administration, which was founded on prerogative and power, was ended. He suddenly resigned, for causes never clearly understood, and was succeeded by George Grenville, Pitt's brother-in-law.





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