That in the creation of the United States the world had reached one of the turning points in its history seems at the time to have entered into the thought of not a single European statesman. What startled men most at the moment was the discovery that England herself was far from being ruined by the greatness of her defeat. She rose from it indeed stronger and more vigorous than ever. Never had she shown a mightier energy than in the struggle against France which followed only ten years after her loss of America, nor did she ever stand higher among the nations than on the day of Waterloo. Her real greatness, however, lay not in the old world but in the new. She was from that hour a mother of nations. In America she had begotten a great people, and her emigrant ships were still to carry on the movement of the Teutonic race from which she herself had sprung. Her work was to be colonization. Her settlers were to dispute Africa with the Kaffir and the Hottentot; they were to build up in the waters of the Pacific colonies as great as those which she had lost in America. And to the nations that she founded she was to give not only her blood and her speech, but the freedom which she had won.
It is the thought of this which flings its grandeur round the pettiest details of our story in the past. The history of France has little result beyond France itself. German or Italian history has no direct issue outside the bounds of Germany or Italy. But England is only a small part of the outcome of English history. Its greater issues lie not within the narrow limits of the mother island, but in the destinies of nations yet to be. The struggles of her patriots, the wisdom of her statesmen, the steady love of liberty and law in her people at large, were shaping in the past of our little island the future of mankind.
[Authorities. - Mr. Massey's account of this period may be supplemented by Lord Stanhope's "Life of Pitt," Lord Russell's "Memoirs of Fox," and the Correspondence of Lord Malmesbury, Lord Auckland, and Mr. Rose. For the Slave Trade, see the Memoirs of Wilberforce by his sons. Burke may be studied in his Life by Macknight, in Mr. Morley's valuable essay on him, and above all in his own works. The state of foreign affairs in 1789 is best seen in Von Sybel's " History of the French Revolution."]
Meanwhile the rapid developement of industrial energy and industrial wealth in England itself was telling on the conditions of English statesmanship. Though the Tories and "King's friends" had now grown to a compact body of a hundred and fifty members, the Whigs, who held office under Lord Rockingham, were superior to their rivals in numbers and political character, now that the return of the Bedford section to the general body of the party during its steady opposition to the American war had restored much of its old cohesion. But this reunion only strengthened their aristocratic and exclusive tendencies, and widened the breach which was steadily opening on questions such as Parliamentary Reform, between the bulk of the Whig party and the small fragment which remained true to the more popular sympathies of Chatham. Lord Shelburne stood at the head of the Chatham party, and it was reinforced at this moment by the entry into Parliament of the second son of Chatham himself. William Pitt had hardly reached his twenty-second year; but he left college with the learning of a ripe scholar, and his ready and sonorous eloquence had been matured by his father's teaching. "He will be one of the first men in Parliament," said a member to the Whig leader, Charles Fox, after Pitt's first speech in the House of Commons. "He is so already," replied Fox. The haughty self-esteem of the new statesman breathed in every movement of his tall, spare figure, in the hard lines of a countenance which none but his closer friends saw lighted by a smile in his cold and repulsive address, his invariable gravity of demeanour, and his habitual air of command.
How great the qualities were which lay beneath this haughty exterior no one knew; nor had any one guessed how soon this "boy,"as his rivals mockingly styled him, was to crush every opponent and to hold England at his will. He refused any minor post in the Rockingham Administration, claiming, if he took office at all, to be at once admitted to the Cabinet. But Pitt had no desire to take office under Rockingham. To him as to Chatham the main lesson of the war was the need of putting an end to those abuses in the composition of Parliament by which George the Third had been enabled to plunge the country into it. A thorough reform of the House of Commons was the only effectual means of doing this, and Pitt brought forward a bill founded on his father's plans for that purpose. But the great bulk of the Whigs could not resolve on the sacrifice of property and influence which such a reform would involve. Pitt's bill was thrown out; and in its stead the Ministry endeavoured to weaken the means of corrupt influence which the King had unscrupulously used, by disqualifying persons holding government contracts from sitting in Parliament, by depriving revenue officers of the elective franchise (a measure which diminished the influence of the Crown in seventy boroughs), and above all by a bill for the reduction of the civil establishment, of the pension list, and of the secret service fund, which was brought in by Burke. These measures were to a great extent effectual in diminishing the influence of the Crown over Parliament, and they are memorable as marking the date when the direct bribery of members absolutely ceased.
But they were absolutely inoperative in rendering the House of Commons really representative of or responsible to the people of England. The jealousy which the mass of the Whigs entertained of the Chatham section and its plans was more plainly shown on the death of Lord Rockingham in July. Shelburne was no sooner called to the head of the Ministry than Fox, who acted on personal grounds, and the bulk of Rockingham's followers resigned. Pitt on the other hand accepted office as Chancellor of the Exchequer.