The End of North's Ministry: 1780-1782

The End of North's Ministry: 1780-1782

The End of North's Ministry: 1780-1782

The End of North's Ministry: 1780-1782

Excerpt

How secure in the support of parliament was the North ministry during the last two chequered years of its existence? By what process was its position undermined after Great Britain's final defeat in the American War of Independence? These are the two chief questions to which answers have been sought in this study. Domestic politics between 1780 and 1782 were dominated by the war situation. The Rockingham party and the other groups in opposition, convinced that the government's American policy was disastrous and that its members were in any case incompetent to carry it out, sought by any means to compass its overthrow. During the autumn of 1779 fortune had appeared to favour them, for the ministry seemed on the verge of dissolution. In the ensuing winter and spring, although there was insufficient support for a direct assault upon its war policy, indirect attack by the campaign for economical reform apparently came very near at one stage to destroying its parliamentary majority. Then came a check. The pendulum swung once more in favour of administration. The domestic history of the North ministry during the next two years is one of limited recovery followed by swift collapse.

Why was there a dissolution in 1780? What did the government hope to gain? The initial impulse towards a general election arose from concern at the opposition's strength in the House of Commons during the campaign for economical reform; but as spring passed into summer this motive was powerfully reinforced by other considerations. The impact of the Gordon Riots, splits in the ranks of opposition, a deceptive lull in the affairs of Ireland, better news from America -- all these events, which the ministers interpreted far too optimistically, added to the attraction of the proposal; indeed, made it appear criminal negligence to let slip so favourable an opportunity. Careful Treasury calculations seemed to confirm that a general election would greatly strengthen the government's position in the House. During August, preparations were pushed forward . . .

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