History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 6

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIX.
PARLIAMENT WILL HAVE AN AMERI-
CAN ARMY AND AN AMERICAN REVENUE. ADMINISTRATION OF GRAFTON

MARCH–JULY 1767.

THE eclipse of Chatham left Charles Townshend the lord of the ascendant. He was a man of wonderful endowments, dashed with follies and indiscretion. Impatient of waiting, his ruling passion was present success. He was ever carried away by the immediate object of his desires. In the house of commons, his brilliant oratory took its inspiration from the prevailing opinion; and, careless of consistency, heedless whom lie deserted or whom he joined, he followed the floating indications of the loudest cheers. Applause was the temptation which he had no power to resist. Gay, volatile, and fickle, he lived for the hour and shone for the hour, without the thought of founding an enduring name. Finding Chatham not likely to reappear, his uncontrolled imagination was devising schemes to forward his own ambition, and he turned to pay the greatest court wherever political appearances were most inviting.

In the cabinet meeting, held on the twelfth of March 1767, at the house of Grafton, Townshend assumed to dictate to the ministry its colonial policy, and threatened an appeal from its disapproval to the house. A letter from Shelburne urged Chatham to remove him; but Chatham was too ill to do so, or to give advice. Shelburne continued to protect American liberty as well as he could, but was powerless to control events, for Grafton and even Camden yielded to Townshend’s impetuosity.

The disappearance of Chatham reanimated the dissatisfied factions of the aristocracy; Rockingham gave assurances that his friends, without whom, he persuaded himself, nothing

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