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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

King George’s Reluctant Submission

By Samuel Curwen (1715–1802)

[From Journal and Letters of the late Samuel Curwen, American Refugee in England, from 1775 to 1784. Edited by G. A. Ward. 1842.]

CALLED on Mr. Heard at Herald’s office; there learned, in a conversation with a Mr. Webb, of seeming great political knowledge, that at the time the House of Commons left the late Administration in a minority, or, in other words, refused to support Lord North’s measures, the King took it to heart, and resented it so far as to declare he would leave them (as he expressed it) to themselves, and go over to Hanover, from whence his family came, and proceeded so far as to order the Administration to provide two yachts to transport himself there; whereupon the Queen interfered, and remonstrated against such a desperate measure, so fatal to her and his family, as well as his own personal interest. Others, too, represented the distressful condition to which the nation would be reduced by the absence and want of royal authority, though it seemed to little effect, so sadly chagrined and provoked was he.

Lord Rockingham also joined the remonstrants, and showed the necessity of a change of men and measures, with no better success;—so naturally obstinate and pertinaciously bent was he on his favorite plan of subjugating his (here called) rebellious subjects in America, and bringing them to his feet, till he was told that as sure as he set his foot out of the Kingdom, the Parliament would declare the crown abdicated and the throne vacant, nor would he ever be permitted to reënter the Kingdom again,—which argument, it seems, brought him to a more cool and juster sight of the folly of such a step, and the absolute necessity of stooping to a compliance with the requisitions of the public. I do not pretend to indicate the measures of opposition, but a more unsuccessful Administration, from whatever cause it proceeded, which time will satisfactorily, perhaps, explain, was never before engaged to promote royal designs. What may be the condition of Great Britain and America at the period of the present distressful war, God knows; for my own part, I tremble at the event, as desirable as it may be, for I can view neither country without the most fearful apprehensions of dreadful distresses; whoever began and voluntarily continued this unreasonable, pernicious dispute, does and will deserve the execration of this and future ages, and in the language of…., “The child will rue, that is yet unborn, the fatal measures of Lord North’s Administration.”

Dec. 5. The King delivered his speech from the throne. I went to see him robe and sit on the throne at the House of Lords; he was clothed in green laced with gold when he came, and when he went, in red laced; it being the custom to change his garments. The tail of his wig was in a broad, flowing, loose manner, called the coronation-tail. His abode in the Lords’ chamber scarce exceeded half-an-hour, in which he read his speech of eleven pages.

As one proof among many that might be given of the restraint and disguise of real sentiments on the part of courtiers, from the highest character in the presence chamber to the lowest lounger and attendant at ministerial levees, take the following:—When the King found himself obliged to take new ministers, and give up Lord North and his associates, it is notorious that it was abhorrent to the royal mind, and being naturally of a pertinacious, obstinate temper, he was with the utmost difficulty brought to yield a reluctant consent. On the first court day after the appointment, when he was in a manner forced out of his closet into the room of audience, he received his new servants with a smile, and transacted business with them afterward with as much seeming cordiality and openness, as if they had been in his favor, and in his most intimate conceits; so seemingly satisfied and so serene was the royal countenance, that all the newspapers sounded forth the gracious monarch’s obliging, condescending goodness to the public wishes, though nothing was farther from his heart, had not the necessity of his affairs impelled him thereto. At the same time coming up to Mr. Wilkes, he said he was glad of the opportunity to thank him for his very proper and laudable behavior in the late riot; took notice of his looks, which indicated a want of health; advised him to a country air and exercise, which, said his Majesty, I find by experience an excellent expedient to procure and preserve health; all this with the same apparent sincerity as if they had been in a continued course of paying and receiving compliments, congratulations, and acknowledgments for mutual kindnesses and good offices, though all the world knows there was not a man in the three kingdoms more thoroughly hated, nor whom he had taken a more foolish and unnecessary pains to ruin. The above-mentioned interview being told of in company, Mr. Wilkes took occasion to remark in the following words:—“To have heard the King, one would have thought I was consulting a quack on the score of my health.”

Dec. 6. Read the King’s Speech, declaring his offer of independency to America, and his hopes soon of a general peace.