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

By Ephraim Douglass Adams | Go to book overview

GRENVILLE'S OPPOSITION TO THE NEGOTIATIONS AT LILLE.

MAY TO OCTOBER, 1797.

The recall of Hammond was the first step in a policy which Grenville was now determined to urge looking toward a continuance of the war. He soon found, however, that the spirit of the English ministry and nation was not sufficiently restored to support the idea of a war in isolation against France, and his preparatory efforts were brought to a full stop by the decision of the Cabinet to make a separate offer of peace. Pitt was thoroughly disheartened, and was at last determined to impose his authority in the conduct of foreign affairs.

The negotiations of 1797 brought out the final conflict of opinion between Pitt and Grenville, on the great question of war or peace, and in their progress revealed both the extent of Grenville's influence and the sources from which it was derived. The decision of the Cabinet was reached on May 31.* Since April conditions in England had created a widespread movement for peace. The mutiny in the fleet, an army riot at Woolwich, insurrections in Ireland, the low state of the funds, the withdrawal of Grattan and his party from the Irish Parliament, and the threatened withdrawal of Fox from the English Parliament, all combined to increase the panic raised by the news of Leoben, and brought even the friends of Burke to think of peace. In Parliament the opposition was regularly supported by double the number of members it could previously count upon, and between March 27 and June 1 five distinct motions of censure and dismissal were pressed against the government. At the same time a large body of independents under the leadership of the Earl of Moira attempted to make a coalition with the Foxites, minus Fox, in order to turn out the ministry. Pitt was a sturdy political fighter, ever ready to stand up for his own opinion, but in this case his personal predilection coincided with that of his opponents, and it is therefore not surprising that after the failure of Hammond's journey he renewed overtures of peace to France. Grenville, as stubborn as ever in his opposition to peace, bent before the storm and did not object to the initial communications with France, though even from the first he was seeking to renew friendly relations with Austria in the hope that the conference which the latter was to hold with France at Berne would result in a rupture.§

____________________
*
Grenville to George III, May 31, 1797. Dropmore, III, 327.
§
Grenville to Stahremberg, June 2, 1797. Dropmore, III, 327.
Sir Gilbert Elliot to Lady Elliot, May 12, 1797. "A speedy peace seems to have become extremely necessary." Elliot, II, 392.
Letter from Moira to McMahon, June 15, 1797. Parl. Hist., XXXIII, 1210.

-55-

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