The Influence of Grenville on Pitt's Foreign Policy, 1787-1798

By Ephraim Douglass Adams | Go to book overview

THE INFLUENCE OF GRENVILLE ON PITT'S FOREIGN POLICY, 1787-1798.

INTRODUCTION.

In discussing the course of the English government during the wars of the French Revolution it has been the custom of historians to credit Pitt with responsibility for the initiation and adoption of each specific point of English policy. Pitt, it is said, was the head of the English government and the English government was Pitt. In minor matters he might defer to his colleagues, but in greater questions of policy his will was supreme and his decision final. In short histories of the period such extreme statements may be excused by the necessity for concise writing, but the tendency to overestimate the importance of Pitt is found also in more extended accounts. It amounts very nearly to an assertion of despotic control by the chief minister and of an entire subordination of the other members of the Cabinet.

In fact, however, Pitt's Cabinet was so organized as to preclude the absolutism of one man. It consisted not of the chief supporters of one fixed line of policy, as is the case today, but of a variety of elements, all of which it was necessary to harmonize by concession and compromise. At least two of the members of the Cabinet, Dundas and Grenville, asserted their authority in their own departments, and were in consequence rather the fellow-ministers of Pitt than his executive agents. Contemporary opinion, indeed, credited Grenville with a greater influence upon the general policy of government and a more complete control of his own department than were exercised by any other of Pitt's colleagues. Lord Muncaster* is authority for Grenville's independence in outlining foreign policy; Lord Sheffield considered Grenville's "head as a statesman · · · · to be at least as good as that of any of His Majesty's ministers," and Count Woronzow, the Russian ambassador, told Gouverneur Morris that Grenville

____________________
*
Stanhope, III, 4.
Auckland, III, 371.

-3-

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