A declaratory act was brought in, which asserted the supreme power of Parlia-men. over the Colonies "in all cases whatsoever." The passing of this act was followed by the introduction of a bill for the repeal of the Stamp Acts; and in spite of the resistance of the King's friends, a resistance instigated by George himself, the bill was carried by a large majority.
From this moment the Ministry was unable to stand against the general sense that the first man in the country should be its ruler, and bitter as was the King's hatred of him, he was forced to call Pitt into office. Pitt's aim was still to unite the Whig party, and though forsaken by Lord Temple, he succeeded to a great extent in the administration which he formed in the summer of 1766. Though Rockingham stood coldly aside, some of his fellow ministers accepted office, and they were reinforced by the few friends who clung to Pitt; while Pitt stooped to strengthen his Parliamentary support by admitting some even of the " King's friends " to a share in the administration. But its life lay really in Pitt himself, in his immense popularity, and in the command which his eloquence gave him over the House of Commons. His acceptance of the Earldom of Chatham removed him to the House of Lords, and for a while ruined the confidence which his reputation for unselfishness had aided him to win. But it was from no vulgar ambition that Pitt laid down his title of the Great Commoner. It was the consciousness of failing strength which made him dread the storms of debate, and in a few months the dread became a certainty.
A painful and overwhelming illness, the result of nervous disorganization, withdrew him from public affairs; and his withdrawal robbed his colleagues of all vigour or union. The plans which Chatham had set on foot for the better government of Ireland, the transfer of India from the Company to the Crown, and the formation of an alliance with Prussia and Russia to balance the Family Compact of the House of Bourbon, were suffered to drop. The one aim of the ministry which bore his name, and which during his retirement looked to the Duke of Grafton as its actual head, was simply to exist. But even existence was difficult; and Grafton saw himself forced to a union with the faction which was gathered under the Duke of Bedford, and to the appointment of a Tory noble as Secretary of State.
The force of public opinion on which Pitt had relied turned at once against the ministry which had so drifted from its former position. The elections for the new Parliament were more corrupt than any that had been yet witnessed. How bitter the indignation of the country had grown was seen in its fresh backing of Wilkes. He seized on the opening afforded by the elections to return from France, and was elected member for Middlesex, a county the large number of whose voters made its choice a real expression of public opinion. The choice of Wilkes was in effect a public condemnation of the House of Commons and the ministerial system. The ministry however and the House alike shrank from a fresh struggle with the agitator; but the King was eager for the contest. After ten years of struggle and disappointment George had all but reached his aim. The two forces which had as yet worsted him were both of them paralyzed. The Whigs were fatally divided, and discredited in the eyes of the country by their antagonism to Pitt. Pitt, on the other hand, was suddenly removed from the stage. The ministry was without support in the country; and for Parliamentary support it was forced to lean more and more on the men who looked for direction to the King himself.
One form of opposition alone remained in the public discontent; and at this he struck more fiercely than ever. "I think it highly expedient to apprise you," he wrote to Lord North, "that the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes appears to be very essential, and must be effected." The Ministers and the House of Commons bowed to his will. By his non-appearance in court when charged with libel, Wilkes had become an outlaw, and he was now thrown into prison on his outlawry. Dangerous riots broke out in London and over the whole country. The Ministry were torn with dissensions. The announcement of Lord Shelburne's purpose to resign office was followed by the resignation of Chatham himself; and his withdrawal from the Cabinet which traded on his name left the Ministry wholly dependent on the King. In 1769 Wilkes was brought before the bar of the House of Commons on a charge of libel, a crime which was cognizable in the ordinary courts of law; and was expelled from Parliament. He was at once re-elected by the shire of Middlesex. Violent and oppressive as the course of the House of Commons had been, it had as yet acted within its strict right, for no one questioned its possession of a right of expulsion. But the defiance of Middlesex led it now to go further.
It resolved, "That Mr. Wilkes having been in this session of Parliament expelled the House, was and is incapable of being elected a member to serve in the present Parliament;" and it issued a writ for a fresh election. Middlesex answered this insolent claim to limit the free choice of a constituency by again returning Wilkes; and the House was driven by its anger to a fresh and more outrageous usurpation. It again expelled the member for Middlesex; and on his return for the third time by an immense majority, it voted that the candidate whom he had defeated, Colonel Luttrell, ought to have been returned, and was the legal representative of Middlesex. The Commons had not only limited at their own arbitrary discretion the free election of the constituency, but they had transferred its rights to themselves by seating Luttrell as member in defiance of the deliberate choice of Wilkes by the freeholders of Middlesex. The country at once rose indignantly against this violation of constitutional law. Wilkes was elected an Alderman of London; and the Mayor, Aldermen, and Livery petitioned the King o dissolve the Parliament. A remonstrance from London and Westminster said boldly that "there is a time when it is clearly demonstrable that men cease to be representatives. That time is now arrived.