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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lord Shelburne, Part Two

       "Such was the man selected by George the Third as his champion against the Venetian party, after the termination of the American War.  The prosecution of that war they had violently opposed, though it had originated in their own policy.  First minister in the House of Lords, Shelburne entrusted the lead in the House of Commons to his Chancellor of the Exchequer, the youthful Pitt.  The administration was brief, but it was not inglorious.  It obtained peace, and, for the first time since the Revolution, introduced into modern debate the legitimate principles on which commerce should be conducted.  It fell before the famous Coalition with which 'the Great Revolution families' commenced their fiercest and their last contention for the patrician government of royal England.
       In the heat of that great strife, the king, in the second hazardous exercise of his prerogative, entrusted the perilous command to Pitt.  Why Lord Shelburne on that occasion was set aside, will perhaps always remain a mysterious passage of our political history, nor have we space on the present occasion to attempt to penetrate its motives.  Perhaps the monarch, with a sense of the rising sympathies of his people, was prescient of the magic power of youth in touching the heart of a nation. Yet it would not be an unprofitable speculation, if for a moment we paused to consider what might have been the consequences to our country if Mr. Pitt had been content for a season again to lead the Commons under Lord Shelburne, and to have secured for England the unrivalled knowledge and dexterity of that statesman in the conduct of our affairs during the confounding fortunes of the French Revolution.  Lord Shelburne was the only English minister competent to the task;  he was the only public man who had the previous knowledge requisite to form accurate conclusions on such a conjuncture;  his remaining speeches on the subject attest the amplitude of his knowledge and the accuracy of his views;  and in the rout of Jena, or the agony of Austerlitz, one cannot refrain from picturing the shade of Shelburne haunting the Cabinet of Pitt, as the ghost of Canning is said occasionally to linger about the Speaker's chair, and smile sarcastically on the conscientious mediocrities who pilfered his hard-earned honours."  Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil,p.16-17 (Wordsworth ed.)

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