WINDHAM, William (1750-1810), of Felbrigg Hall, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 3 May 1750, o.s. of Col. William Windham of Felbrigg by w. Sarah neé Hicks of Tanfield, Essex, wid. of Robert Lukin of Dunmow, Essex. educ. Eton 1757-66; Glasgow Univ. 1766; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1767-71; Grand Tour 1779-80. m. 10 July 1798, Cecilia, da. of Commodore Arthur Forrest, second in command Jamaica, s.p. suc. fa. 1761.
Chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Apr.-Aug. 1783; PC [I] 9 June 1783; sec. at war with seat in cabinet July 1794-Feb. 1801; PC 16 July 1794; sec. of state for War and Colonies Feb. 1806-Mar. 1807.
Maj. Norf. militia 1778; lt.-col. commdt. 4 batt. Norf. vol. inf. 1803-4.
Member, board of agriculture 1793.
By 1790 the promise and prejudice of Windham’s character as a public figure were apparent. He had all the outward advantages: to quote Fanny Burney, who met him frequently in his capacity as a manager of Warren Hastings’s trial, he was, on first impression,
one of the most agreeable, spirited, well-bred and brilliant conversers I have ever spoken with ... a man of family and fortune, with a very pleasing though not handsome face, a very elegant figure, and an air of fashion and vivacity.
On closer acquaintance she discovered that, while he posed as ‘a man of a high and generous spirit, who considers himself as a friend of the public in bringing to justice and to punishment a public enemy’, his real driving force was ‘excess of friendship and admiration’ for Edmund Burke, his mentor in politics; and, although the matter of his speeches was ‘tremendously pointed and severe’, his delivery was crude and disagreeable, ‘for he forces it so violently either from earnestness or a fear of not being heard’. He was himself deeply unhappy about the discrepancy between his public and his private persona: his diary, the barometer of his feelings, revealed the vacillation, self-doubt and gloom, as the last of his line, about his celibacy that caused it. He described himself to his friend Mrs Crewe, 30 Oct. 1790, as being ‘from some cause or other ... now a little of two characters, and good in neither: a politician among scholars, and a scholar among politicians’. The consequences were summed up in retrospect by Brougham:
The advantages of a refined classical education, a lively wit of the most pungent and yet abstruse description, a turn for subtle reasoning, drawing nice distinctions and pursuing remote analogies, great and early knowledge of the world, familiarity with men of letters and artists, as well as politicians ... much acquaintance with constitutional history and principle, a chivalrous spirit, a noble figure, a singularly expressive countenance—all fitted this remarkable person to shine in debate; but were all, when put together, unequal to the task of raising him to the first rank; and were, besides, mingled with defects which exceedingly impaired the impression of his oratory, while they diminished his usefulness and injured his reputation as a statesman. For he was too often the dupe of his own ingenuity; which made him doubt and balance, and gave an oscitancy fatal to vigour in council, as well as most prejudicial to the effects of eloquence, by breaking the force of his blows as they fell. His nature, too, perhaps owing to this hesitating disposition, was to be a follower, if not a worshipper, rather than an original thinker or actor; as if he felt some relief under the doubts which harassed him from so many quarters, in thus taking shelter under a master’s wing ... Accordingly, first Johnson in private, and afterwards Burke on political matters, were the deities whom he adored.1
Windham was irresistibly drawn to the strong convictions of Burke: his own forcible expression of hostility to parliamentary reform during ‘this hurricane season’, 4 Mar. 1790, gained Burke’s immediate endorsement, as well as Pitt’s assent, and adumbrated his divergence from the Foxite Whigs. On the French revolution he had at first been open-minded; as an eye-witness of it in 1789, he was inclined to prophesy its success. When Burke’s Reflections appeared he merely ‘avoided any altercation’ and privately noted, 7 Nov. 1790, ‘One would think, that the author of such a work would be called to the government of his country, by the combined voice of every man in it’. On 21 May 1791 William Elliot wrote of him: ‘Windham still continues a great Foxite, but begins to be very much alarmed with the spirit of revolution which is spreading itself throughout the kingdom’. Returning to Paris, he was present at the King’s acceptance of the constitution in the National Assembly. Lord Holland recalled:
On the first publication of Mr Burke’s pamphlet, he condemned the principles and ridiculed the performance with full as much freedom as the laws of long friendship could admit. He had, too, been a warm admirer of the French revolution at its commencement. He had even urged Mr Fox to come over to France, ‘as it was right such glorious scenes should have the sanction of an eminent Englishman attached to the principles of liberty’. In the autumn, however, of 1791, when I saw much of him at Paris, this ardour had abated, though an excessive horror of the principles which he had so fervently approved had not as yet succeeded to it in his mind. He was wavering and irresolute, but full of ingenious parallels and contrasts on the subject.2
Despite a shaky start in the parliamentary session of 1790-1, Windham had found for the first time in his life that he was possessed of ‘perfect capacity for application’ in London. He was even ‘prepared to speak if necessary’ in the House, where he had hitherto been frightened by the sound of his own voice. On 13 and 14 Dec. he was a leading opposition critic of the convention with Spain: the expense of war had been incurred without satisfaction and ‘it was not true that peace was always better than war’. On 21 Feb. 1791 he seconded Mitford’s motion for English Catholic relief, exploding the supposed Catholic danger, in a ‘closely reasoned logical argument’; in April he was counted favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. On 15 Apr. he opposed the armament against Russia as an instance of cabinet bellicosity at odds with public, and especially with commercial, opinion. The rashness of war with Russia was the theme of further speeches on 2 June 1791, 20 and 29 Feb. 1792, and next day he supported Whitbread’s motion against it. He had spoken ‘remarkably well’ on 29 Feb. according to Sheridan, though in his diary he noted:
Spoke later and when I had no reason from my feel to expect that I should speak well. I did, in fact, forget much of what I had intended, and of what had been made perfectly familiar to me; and of that which I did produce all the colouring had sunk in ... So easy is credit gained, with us at least, by public speaking.
On 25 Apr. he consolidated his reputation as a foe of the slave trade: ‘those who argued for it seemed to be sensible that it was possible they might be West India planters, but they did not allow themselves to think of being African slaves’.3
When Charles Grey announced his motion for parliamentary reform, backed by the Friends of the People, on 30 Apr. 1792, Windham made
his most solemn declaration, that whenever and in whatever shape the motion for a parliamentary reform was brought forward he must oppose it ... it tended to raise and excite amongst the people an universal discontent, where none existed previously. It was easy to raise a storm ... even the slightest scratch might produce a mortal wound.
He roundly condemned associations to promote reform as subversive, well knowing that they were proliferating in his own constituency, and promised to unite with any body of men determined to resist the subversion of the constitution. Although he joined Fox in opposing the arbitrary powers bestowed on stipendiary magistrates by the Westminster police bill and protested against the abuse of dissenters in the Birmingham riots, he reinforced his divergence from the Foxites on 25 May by favouring the royal proclamation against sedition. Fanny Burney described him as ‘a new convert’ to Burke’s alarmism. Lord Loughborough, the spearhead of the Whigs seeking a merger with Pitt’s administration under the Duke of Portland’s aegis, wrote to the prime minister:
I am convinced that the declaration of Lord North and Mr Windham that they were ready to give their support to government in repressing any attempt to disturb the public tranquillity will be very fully and very generally avowed by those with whom I have acted; and it follows of course that they will be ready to deliberate on the measures which they would wish to support.
To Burke, Loughborough wrote on 13 June that Windham was ‘decidedly for’ a junction with government and in July Pitt spoke of him as a potential candidate for office. Meanwhile he had written to a constituent in self-justification:
I have in general been far from adverse to the principles and cause of the French revolution. So much otherwise indeed, that from the beginning almost, Mr Burke and I have never exchanged a word on the subject. But when an attempt is made to bring the same principles home to us, principles in a great measure extravagant and false and which at best have no practical application here, I shall ever prove myself as violent an opposer of them as Mr Burke or anyone can be.
He had no theoretical objection to some aspects of parliamentary reform, but he opposed concessions of it to prevent revolution and saw no reason why a nation ‘enjoying the most perfect liberty united with all the blessings of order’ should ‘risk the falling into universal confusion’. He went on to express these views at a county meeting in favour of the royal proclamation at Norwich, 1 July 1792, thereby alienating many of his Whig supporters. He abandoned a plan to visit Paris again that autumn.4
After the September massacres in Paris Windham developed strong apprehensions for the future of Europe and, finding himself in unison with Burke, sounded out others with a view to suspending opposition and making an approach to government. On 13 and 14 Nov., in the wake of Loughborough, he and Burke met Pitt and Lord Grenville
to profess their strong belief (though not speaking from direct authority) that there would be a determination in their principal friends to give a complete support to any vigorous measures at home or abroad and to do this thoroughly without looking to any arrangement of office.
Windham believed that he had secured Portland’s approval of this move and was sanguine; but Fox warned that they were being deluded by Pitt, who merely wished to split the Whig opposition. Moreover, some of the ‘principal friends’ he canvassed, such as Thomas Grenville* and Earl Fitzwilliam, shook him by objecting to strong measures if they entailed offensive war against France. Portland, too, had reservations and would not swallow Loughborough’s taking office. Pitt’s response was a further disappointment: after another conference with him on 24 Nov., at which Windham had to report that a ‘pretty full meeting’ of his friends had been unable to commit themselves to ‘general support’, the premier concluded that such ‘half support’ as they could offer was not enough, though it might be turned to advantage. Fox was nevertheless reported to be ‘extremely chagrined and exasperated’ by the initiative. Windham retired to the country: Burke feared that ‘his activity arising from his just alarms, is over, and he has sunk, through doubts and perplexities, into a sort of repose’. Yet before leaving town, Windham had seen Fox, whom he found ‘in no way altered’ in his opinions, and was present at an interview between Fox and Portland which probably strengthened his growing conviction that an ‘amicable separation’ from Fox was necessary. Lord Holland later accused Windham of being, with Fitzwilliam, ‘the most adverse to any accommodation, or, at least, the most explicit in avowing their sense of its impracticability’.5
Early in December 1792, following the proclamation which embodied the militia, his friend Edmund Malone reported Windham to be eager to halt the spread of revolutionary ideas and prepared to speak out on the subject. Soon afterwards, having drawn up its manifesto, he signed what Sheridan termed ‘a nonsensical association’ against sedition, and when Parliament met, according to Lord Henry Spencer: ‘Windham and Burke took the defence of the measures of government into their own hands, and they have neglected no occasion since of expressing their sentiments in the most unequivocal manner’. On 13 Dec., on the address, Windham endorsed the views of the Portland Whigs who met the day before when he said that ‘strange as it might seem, he should vote this night with those whose measures he had uniformly and conscientiously reprobated in opposition to those whose political sentiments, on almost every occasion, were in union with his own’. He added that duty and not attachment governed his conduct in view of the revolutionary plot to subvert the constitution. He defended the calling out of the militia and justified an alliance against revolutionary France, claiming that it was reasonable to interfere in the affairs of a country prepared to disturb Europe. On 15 Dec., on Fox’s motion for negotiation with the French regime, he exchanged compliments with him, but insisted that recognition of the republic would make England ‘the first country to be less shocked with massacre and murder’, discourage a confederation against France and avert war only by dishonourable means. His reply to Fox was ‘evidently crippled by his friendship for him’. Even so, on 17 Dec. he again brushed with him in debate and on 21 Dec. endorsed ‘every syllable’ of Pitt’s in justification of the recall of the ambassador from Paris. The primate commended his conduct as ‘firm and manly, and impressive to a great degree’ and Sir Gilbert Elliot alleged, ‘Windham stands higher at present, both in the House and in the country, than any man I remember. I think he might have a cabinet office if he liked.’
The ‘amicable separation’ from Fox was foremost in his mind; at a meeting at Lord Malmesbury’s on 22 Dec. he declared that the breach need not be ‘irreparable’, but agreed next day to try to persuade Portland to make a public declaration against Fox. After he, Sir Gilbert Elliot and Malmesbury had wrung a promise out of Portland on 25 Dec., which the duke evaded, he consented to support—the duke thought against his inclinations—Elliot’s manifesto in the House on Portland’s behalf. He stood by Elliot in giving moral support to Portland when Fox remonstrated with him and in evoking a general meeting on the subject. He also drafted the speech to be delivered by Portland’s son in the Commons avowing the separation from Fox, but amended by Fox, who thus ‘did away the whole effect’. On 3 Jan. 1793, at Malmesbury’s, Windham again promised to influence Portland to play ‘a more decided part’.6
Next day, in the committee on the aliens bill, Windham justified alarmism: his stance since 1784 had been ‘I will oppose administration until I see a reason why they should be supported’, but he now thought the removal of government by systematic opposition undesirable, even if a better one could be thought of than Pitt’s; he was speaking ‘no sentiments but his own, as had been the case lately’. Malmesbury thought Windham ‘too metaphysical and too refined in his speech, as he had been in his language at my house the preceding night’. Pitt informed the King, ‘Mr Windham’s speech was consistent with the whole of his line this session, though embarrassed with some metaphysical distinction respecting party’. He got a ‘dressing’ from Fox, but he thus justified himself in private as to ‘the great object of resisting the progress of French power and principles’:
If that cannot be done without letting Pitt stay in, let him stay. If to that purpose support to government is necessary they from me shall have it. Attachment to party must give way to that which is the foundation of such attachment, the good and safety of the country.
On 1 Feb. he returned Fox’s fire in support of the augmentation of the forces. The present French ‘spirit of conquest’ made war inevitable and the crusade against French principles made it a war ‘pro aris et focis’, in which invasion of France was nevertheless justified, since ‘France had an hatred to this country, not on account of ancient rivalry, but because our constitution is a perpetual contradiction to their government’. Through Loughborough, who had just accepted office, Pitt next approached Windham, Malmesbury and Elliot ‘with a clear intention of offering office’. Elliot noted, ‘Windham may be secretary of state for the Home department if he chooses’: the only office specified for any of them. He was, however, like Elliot, ‘extremely disinclined to office’ and they wished to act together, though they had no objection to Malmesbury’s going singly on a foreign mission.7
On the eve of war, anxious for concerted action, Windham organized a meeting at his house at 106 Pall Mall of Whig Members prepared to resist ‘the further progress of French principles’. He drew up a list of 86 names, of whom some 21 attended on 10 Feb. 1793, two others being absent ill, but ‘favourable’. Inviting Thomas Grenville, Windham assured him that he intended no disrespect to Portland: ‘vigorous support of the war’ and the setting aside ‘for the present all views of opposition’ was the object. He added, ‘Something may further be devised for engaging the Duke of Portland to take his old place, at the head of those who certainly will be acting upon his sentiments’. Elliot had this to say of the meeting:
As the Duke of Portland will not call us together, nor act as our chief, we have taken this method of manifesting that we are not individual deserters, but a strong body. There were only 21 present. It was only Members of the House of Commons. Windham was so dilatory and undecided about it that the cards went out only that day, and many more would have attended if they had had notice. We are to have another meeting immediately, at which, I suppose, we may muster about fifty. The company resolved unanimously on Sunday to support government. Windham, in opening the business, mentioned distinctly the difference with Fox, and the impossibility of holding any communication of counsels with him, which was unanimously assented to. He mentioned the hope, or rather the wish, that our meeting might lead to a restoration of the Duke of Portland to his natural place as our leader, which was also the general wish of the company. Windham was our leader on this occasion; I was also considered as standing forward in the business, and in general his name and mine are apt to go together. This meeting has a good effect. It silences the imputation of desertion. It must show the Duke of Portland that we are determined to take our own line even without him; and it has pledged Windham more distinctly than he was before to a separation from Fox. The Duke of Portland was informed of it by Windham before it took place, and expressed no disapprobation.
The resolution in question was:
That it is the opinion of this meeting that it is their duty as public men to oppose to the utmost of their power the alarming progress of French power and French principles both at home and abroad and for that purpose that they will give their decided and efficient support to his Majesty’s government in the present difficult crisis of public affairs.
This was declared to be ‘the unanimous sense of the meeting, but several gentlemen objected to it being committed to paper or stated as the formal resolution of the meeting and their objection was acquiesced in’. It was, however, agreed that further meetings for all interested should be held at Windham’s. Another meeting took place on 17 Feb.; Lord Sheffield, who was present, could add seven names to Windham’s 23, two of them new ones, and eight new names appeared on 28 Feb. as signatories to the secession from the Whig Club; but of these 38, only 26 were Whigs, the others being independent country gentlemen. Windham’s ‘third party’ was therefore not as numerous as he had hoped out of an opposition that numbered nearly 150, of whom over 50 preferred the Duke of Portland’s personal leadership.8
As an attempt to force Portland’s hand the formation of a pressure group misfired: but it marked the inevitability of a break with Fox. On 18 Feb. Windham confronted Fox in the House with a justification of a ‘bellum internecinum’ against revolutionary France: ‘when opinions were propagated by force of arms, it became necessary that they should be opposed’, the object being the country’s own absolute security, rather than the extermination of the enemy; and while war aims could not be specified in advance, ‘a better form of government’ in France seemed to be an essential requirement. When Portland agreed to a modified version of a vote of thanks by the Whig Club to Fox for his lead in opposing loyal associations, Windham, a founder member, was one of the 18 dissidents who met on 28 Feb. to announce their withdrawal from the Club in protest: this resolution was signed by 45 members.9 On 4 Mar., when Windham opposed Sheridan’s motion for evidence of sedition on the general grounds that there was no smoke without fire and that support for loyal associations and for government was ‘the first duty of men of every party’, Fox took him to task for canvassing a secession from the Whig Club and raising ‘a sort of independent corps’. Apropos of Windham’s ‘quick sense of alarm and his perseverance in dismay’, he quipped: ‘When fear could thus confer both profit and reputation, there was no saying to what a man might aspire by this glorious kind of magnanimous timidity’.
Portland did not acquiesce in the secession from the Whig Club and the ‘third party’ continued to sit with opposition, but on 6 Mar. 1793 Burke, Windham and Elliot had an interview with Pitt and Dundas, at their own solicitation, to discuss war preparations. They were promised any information they wished. Reflecting on recent events, Windham confided to his diary that he now enjoyed ‘habitual self-possession’, and to his friend Hippisley, 28 Mar., that owing to Portland’s irresolution, ‘much against my will I have been obliged to act as a sort of head of a party. This however can last only for a short time. It may serve to keep us together for a while.’ If Portland did not rally, they must dwindle away; and while Portland’s conduct was bad enough, Fox had dished himself: ‘nothing less than a revolution can ever make him minister’.10
After an outburst of activity, Windham was beginning to vacillate; he did not attend the last reading of the traitorous correspondence bill, for which he had proposed amendments to Pitt, in April; nor was there any offer from Pitt to tempt him. After attending the House on 9 Apr., he regretted that he had not spoken, despite preparation to do so. He was at this time a promoter in the House of his scientific friend Mudge’s longitude clock, but otherwise spoke only against the Stockbridge election bill, 10 Apr., and parliamentary reform in general on 6 May, when he made what Fox called ‘a very eloquent, but very whimsical speech’ against Grey’s motion. Fox mocked his aversion to reform, claiming that as chairman of an election committee in 1791, Windham ‘who had been so impartial as to sway the decision against the Whigs’ had been found ‘examining the divisions of burgage tenures, to be found in a trench at Downton’. His friend Elliot who attended his ‘political dining club’, launched on 3 May, feared that Windham might lose to Lord Auckland the secretaryship of state earmarked for him by Loughborough. Lord Wycombe reported Windham at this time as ‘exceedingly worn and looks prematurely old’. His half-hearted defence of the managers of Warren Hastings’s impeachment, 30 May and 12 June 1793, showed waning interest.11
Windham was roused by Fox’s motion for negotiated peace with France, 17 June 1793. Pitt had consulted him beforehand as a feeler towards his accepting office. Despite indisposition and what he thought ‘a singularly bad speech’, he maintained against Fox that there could be no bid for peace without security: the Allies should be supported until a regime was established in France with which safe negotiation was possible. He had intended to rally his friends on the eve of Fox’s motion to concert opposition to it, but found no encouragement from Portland. He promised Pitt to consider joining the cabinet in conjunction with Earl Spencer, whom he was to sound about going to Ireland as viceroy. He failed to persuade Spencer and told Pitt on 19 June ‘that his own opinion was the same’: their ground being that willing as they were ‘to give every possible effectual support to government’, it was too early to take office, as it might damage their public reputations. Of this interview he noted in his diary, ‘not wholly satisfied with my own statements, they were at least much inferior to his’. Henry Dundas reported that ‘he understood from Windham that his mind was made up to think it must come to his accepting office, but that it might be better some time hence’, and that Pitt had the more readily acquiesced in this as the secretaryship of state with a seat in the cabinet proposed for Windham would involve an awkward reshuffle. At the same time Windham wished to make no difficulties about Sir Gilbert Elliot’s accepting the Irish secretaryship. If, as Sylvester Douglas claimed, he wanted merely to bring a colleague with him into the cabinet, he was frustrated. Although he had grounds for believing that Spencer might relent, he did not press him and set off for Flanders to view the campaign there without compunction. Elliot’s comment was ‘I much fear that many things will fail in Windham’s hands from habits of unpunctuality and want of practical habits’, and, giving him due credit for avoiding ‘the chance of being wrong’, he did what he could to keep the door open for an arrangement during Windham’s absence.12
Windham returned in August; disliking what he saw of the campaign, he characteristically reproached himself for not risking his personal safety. He again consulted Spencer at Dundas’s and Elliot’s urgent request, but approved his final refusal of Ireland. To William Elliot he wrote, 15 Aug., that politics were at present more a duty than an inclination. Sir Gilbert, who was impatiently waiting for Spencer’s reaction, exploded on seeing this letter:
His neglect in not writing to me on such a subject is strong instance not only of his present unofficial habits, but of the unofficial turn of his mind. The whole tenor of his letter indeed expresses an insouciance on the affairs of this world that is hardly reconcilable with public virtue in the present state of things, and is a total disqualification for any useful exertion, either in office or out of it. He has great qualities however, and great powers.
Windham himself wrote to Sir Gilbert on 29 Aug. that he could not blame Spencer for refusing Ireland without support in the cabinet; that there was nothing for it but to continue as a separate party, with select dinners and meetings at Windham’s and other houses; and to be wary of Pitt’s offers, even if extended to Portland, as they might be intended merely to divide opposition: ‘I fear we must act towards our new friends as towards men who have nothing really in view but their own emolument and power’. This was directed at Dundas in particular. Yet William Elliot, writing to Sir Gilbert the same day, quoted Windham as being ‘ready to take the step, if others could surmount those objections as well as myself’. What irked Sir Gilbert, who was about to accept a foreign mission from government with Windham’s cheerful assent, was that Windham would not be ‘fixed’ and was now hankering after a return to Portland’s leadership. On 3 Sept. Windham informed the duke:
The situation beyond all comparison most agreeable to me would be that of a mere Member of Parliament, maintaining from time to time my own opinion in debate, and giving to ministry, in a cause which I approved, the benefits of a support which would become of some value from its total exemption from the suspicion of any undue motive. The thought of any closer connection is one from which I shrink with perfect dread: yet I am far from being convinced that it may not be necessary.
He added that he could not wish to see Fox, with his view of the war, as minister:
The only choice, therefore, that will be left to me and others who are of that opinion, will be either to remain a third body, or rather a third, independent collection of individuals, supporting ministry but not joining them, or to incorporate ourselves, at some period and in some circumstances, with those to whom, as party men, we have hitherto been opposed.
Using language congenial to the duke he went on to admit that ‘if ministry are fairly desirous on their part of establishing a government on a firm and constitutional basis, and restoring to the aristocracy of the country the influence which they have so much contributed to strip it of’, he was ‘ready but not inclined to partake’. He thought that the situation of Ireland made a decision necessary, and that if Spencer were sent to Ireland with a counterweight in the cabinet, an opportunity might be grasped which ‘may never again return with equal advantage to the country’. Sir Gilbert Elliot had written, on 30 Aug., ‘Windham’s own determination still depends on Lord Spencer’s’. From Portland, however, Windham received no guidance; Spencer told him that ‘an unconnected support of government’ was feasible but a third party ‘chimerical’; while Elliot, on the eve of his own departure to Toulon, lectured Windham on ‘action’ as ‘the first duty’ and suggested that a third party ‘even supporting government, is in effect a formidable opposition’.13
There were rumours that summer of Windham opposing ministers on the Dunkirk campaign, about which he was certainly unhappy; in the event he remained at Felbrigg, letting Burke lecture ministers on this point and putting the prosecution of war against Jacobinism first: ‘if Pitt is the man by whom this must be opposed’, he informed Mrs Crewe, 5 Oct., ‘Pitt is the man whom I shall stand by. If I do not act with them in office, it is only because I think I can be of more use as I am.’ A week later Portland at length advised him not to treat for office; Pitt expressed polite regret that Windham, with his ‘concurrence of opinion on the great questions now depending’, was not in office; Windham in turn merely congratulated Pitt on the capture of Toulon. Fitzwilliam, to whom Portland had reported Windham’s dilemma, thought Pitt was trying to catch him as ‘a straggling bird’ and that he had forfeited Portland’s confidence by courting Pitt in the first place. His friend Hippisley thought he would soon be ‘forced into office’ and Sylvester Douglas urged him to it as a concomitant to his own ambitions. Douglas used every argument to induce Windham in his letter of 21 Oct., warning him that as leader of a neutral party, he had no future since it would dwindle away: ‘Your fame is part of your power: and therefore, on the most disinterested ground, you ought to cherish and make use of it. It cannot well rise higher as a leader in the House of Commons. It may and will as a minister.’14
Burke also wished Windham to take office at once, before the ministry blundered in their conduct of the war, and was reassured by a letter from him early in November, showing him to be on the warpath again: it was the ‘miserable hypocrisy’ of Foxite pacifism that provoked Windham and, as the correspondence kindled, the declaration of allied war policy proposed by government: ‘Why is all right of interference in the affairs of another country even without the plea of aggression on the part of that country, to be universally given up?’. Then there was the indifference shown to the atheism of the French regime and to the cause of the French royalists, whose firm champion he now was. West Indian expeditions were no remedy; it was the vice of Pitt’s administration ‘to be conducting great concerns too much with an eye to small’. Meanwhile Spencer saw Pitt about his and Windham’s coming into office and again told the minister that they preferred an ‘unconnected support of government’, the time not being ‘ripe for any decisive step’; he would not come in without Windham. Pitt hoped the matter was still open; and Thomas Grenville noted that Windham was ‘more inclined to office’ than Spencer. He approved Malmesbury’s accepting a diplomatic post. Summoned to town by Burke, he joined him and Pitt for dinner at Loughborough’s on 7 Dec. It was a repeat performance of Pitt’s interview with Spencer a few weeks before, except that the conduct of the war was fully discussed. Windham agreed to concert measures with Burke, Spencer, Thomas Grenville and Thomas Pelham, on the basis of an unconnected support of the war and hostility to the Friends of the People. Lady Holland reported that Windham, Grenville and Pelham
called themselves the virtuous triumvirate, and determined not to take office, from the idea that they could more effectually serve the government by convincing the public that they quitted opposition merely from a conviction of the wisdom of maintaining the measures of administration than from the inducement of holding a place.
Yet Windham’s anxiety for the French royalists, and his wish that the princes of the blood should have an agent with the British government—a situation which he might have been tempted to consider for himself—coaxed him to maintain contact with Pitt and Dundas. His friends feared that he would be considered ‘as too much a party with administration’ to collaborate fairly with them; Pitt was non-committal. The situation remained open, therefore, when on 26 Dec. Windham informed Mrs Crewe, ‘my determination is open steady war against the whole Jacobin faction, and junction for that purpose with whomsoever it may be necessary to join’, but he would not take office alone.15
In January 1794, Portland having been stung into action, Windham was drawn by Thomas Grenville into concert with the Portland Whigs on the lines they had agreed on the previous month. He ‘as usual, fluctuated a good deal’ but, after consulting Portland and Fitzwilliam, he attended a meeting at Burlington House to seal the doom of his ‘third party’ on 20 Jan. Yet he was careful to let Pitt know that he had convinced the meeting of the need to rally to government and the Allies in support of war and to drop critical inquiries into its conduct. In the House next day, after being consulted by Pitt on the King’s speech, he again defended the war, if not to his own satisfaction, and on 10 Feb., the landing of Hessian troops in England: it was not, properly speaking, a constitutional issue (he argued against Whitbread and Grey) but an exigency of war for which there were precedents. Out of the House he continued to attend meetings at Burlington House and, assisted by Burke and Pelham, acted as an intermediary for the French royalists with government. Pelham wrote of him, 27 Feb.: ‘his share of information and literature puts me a little to the blush at times; he is grown infinitely more active in business than he used to be and I do not think that he is disinclined to take office’. He added that Windham’s principal motive in acceding to the cabinet would be to remedy ministers’ want of energy and make France and the royalist cause the keystone of the war. When on 10 Mar. Windham justified the punishment of the radicals Muir and Palmer, Fox attacked him as a renegade who had made no bones about opposing the American war; and on 28 Mar., when, eager to secure a subsidy for the émigré corps, he defended public subscriptions ‘with peculiar spirit and ability’, Sheridan reminded him that he had opposed them in 1778. Windham replied that he had not abandoned his friends, but they him, and, in a further altercation on 7 Apr., that events were not comparable. On 30 Apr. he defended the Prussian subsidy against Fox. To William Elliot he reported that he had been ‘in the most confidential habits with the ministers’ and Elliot concluded that a junction ‘would be encouraged by Windham’. With Portland he had been advising Pitt on the embodiment of an émigré corps.16
Early in May 1794 Pitt again approached Spencer, without success: the fact was that, since the last overture,
such an union took place between Lord Spencer and Mr Windham and the party attached to the Duke of Portland that it would be difficult if not impossible for Lord Spencer and Mr Windham to enter into office without the Duke of Portland and his party.
On 13 June Windham met with the Portland Whigs at Burlington House where they agreed that there was now no obstacle to a junction with Pitt and that they should negotiate. His and fellow-alarmists collaboration with government on the secret committee to counter sedition, whose work he defended in the House on 17 May, had raised the suggestion of ‘the formation of a general political arrangement’, and a dinner at Burke’s promoted it. Portland conducted the negotiation. On 19 June Windham dined with ministers at Loughborough’s; his friends hoped he would obtain the Home department with the supervision of the war, but thought that this would alienate Dundas. On 3 July he was offered the secretaryship at war with a seat in the cabinet, ‘an honourable distinction which had never before been annexed to that office’. Dundas was to become secretary for war. While pondering whether to accept and deciding against, Windham missed a meeting at Portland’s; the latter, on receipt of Windham’s decision, realizing that his chief anxiety was lest he should be deprived of all influence by Dundas, assured him that he was obtaining ‘a real efficient cabinet employment’ and sent Thomas Grenville to rally him, just in time for his meeting with the King on 4 July. Windham’s doubts continued, but he at length yielded and kissed hands on 11 July. William Elliot concluded that Portland, out of ‘latent jealousy’, had ‘nominated himself’ to the Home Office, which public opinion had designated for Windham.17
The new recruit was viewed with suspicion. George Rose wrote
The only considerable talents gained are Windham’s, and I conceive him to be an impracticable man ... My next apprehension is, that Mr Windham, who will lead that set, will induce Mr Pitt, or strengthen him in his determination to pursue the war in Flanders and on the northern frontier offensively ... when the Emperor and the King of Prussia are relaxing in their co-operation.
This, Rose thought, would make for an expensive and unpopular war. James Bland Burges of the Foreign Office wrote:
The head of this party is undoubtedly Windham, who ... will naturally look to be a leader in the House of Commons, and who—as I well know, though I fancy Pitt does not—is a man not only of very great ability, but of immense pride, ambition and resolution, who fears nothing, who will never submit to act a second part; who has abilities to sustain a first, and who naturally will be supported by the powerful aristocracy with whom he is connected; who possesses all the arts of forming and increasing a party, and who is certainly in high personal favour with the King.
He added that Windham might eclipse Lord Grenville with Pitt and that the King, if he quarrelled with Pitt, now had Windham to resort to. Not long afterwards Bland Burges wrote:
I strongly suspect our new friends begin to entertain a strong jealousy of Windham, who is become extremely intimate with Pitt, and that the Duke of Portland apprehends the consequence of taking the presidentship, and leaving the patronage of the Home Office to Windham.18
The Norwich radicals gave Windham a rowdy reelection, but his return was never in doubt. His new situation caused him painful reflections:
Such an intermission of the use of books I have never known, and reflection, I am sorry to find, has very much gone with them ... it has been a mere animal kind of existence, having neither prospect nor retrospect, but confined wholly to the pains and pleasures of the moment.
In August 1794 he undertook the delicate mission of going to Flanders to reconcile the Duke of York to his recall from his military command, in which he succeeded admirably. He had ‘in addition to his own office ... the entire conduct of the business relating to the new emigrant corps, which are now raising’. In October he faced another delicate task, when Fitzwilliam’s insistence on being lord lieutenant of Ireland and desire to go there untrammelled rocked the Portland coalition with government. Windham had too much at stake not to be an efficient mediator for Pitt with Fitzwilliam and with Portland, who was equally ready to drop out and take Windham with him; at the same time he begged Pitt not to attach himself irrevocably to the ‘Castle gang’ at Dublin. He gained his immediate point, for Fitzwilliam went to Ireland, but he knew that Pitt would support no ‘new system’ there, even when his own arguments in its favour were strongly reinforced by Burke. The latter described Windham as ‘the channel through which I should most wish my thoughts to go’, that is to ministers. He endeared himself to Burke by helping him to wind up the charges against Warren Hastings that year, by defending Burke’s management of them in the House and by pressing Pitt for a pension for Burke as part of the coalition terms.19
In December 1794 Windham joined Pitt and Dundas as the mainstay of government in debate: he severely attacked Wilberforce’s amendment to the address calling for peace. Urged by Burke to adopt a ‘high criminating tone’ against Jacobinism, he applied the phrase ‘the innocence of an acquitted felon’ to defendants discharged after the recent treason trials at home. This provoked radical enmity. On 5 Jan. 1795, after he had defended the Prussian subsidy against Fox, he countered Sheridan’s fresh charge of desertion and allegations made against him and others of having turned coat on parliamentary reform: he had consistently opposed it. He rebuked the Foxite Whigs for their ‘base and insidious incitement of the lower orders’ and for attributing to him catch phrases which were either taken out of context, such as ‘acquitted felons’, or not his at all, such as ‘Perish commerce, let the constitution live’, often used to discredit him at Norwich and elsewhere, but in fact an utterance of George Hardinge’s, as the latter confessed. On 26 Jan. too Fox delivered, by his own admission, a ‘most unfair’ attack on him alleging inconsistency on the prerequisites for peace. Windham was not particularly happy with his routine business of presenting and defending army estimates and extraordinaries, except in so far as it gave him the chance to defend aid to the French royalists and the subsidizing of the émigré corps; to justify better pay, allowances and conditions of service for subalterns, and to express his abiding dislike of the indiscriminate granting of honours for military achievements. He much preferred skirmishing with opposition, as he did on Grey’s motion of 26 Jan. 1795 and Wilberforce’s fresh motion of 27 May for a negotiated peace: he stood up to Fox’s most cutting charges without flinching and crippled Wilberforce.20
Most observers were agreed that Windham lacked something as an official man: Malone saw that he had ‘too much sensibility for a public situation’. Sir George Beaumont thought he ought to have stayed out of office, ‘as with his abilities at the head of the country gentlemen at this crisis he might have had great effect against the opposition’. The Duchess of Devonshire confided in Lady Spencer that she believed Windham
to be a good, well-meaning man—with great genius and talents for conversation and discussion, but forced by the times into a situation far above ses moyens. I think he is prejudiced and often led, and therefore unfit to lead others. If being well-meaning would alone do, he would do well.
Whig doctrinaires like Dr Samuel Parr were more fatalistic: ‘He is proud by nature; he is visionary by habit; by accident he was made treacherous; and, by situation, he will be made imperious, intolerant and inexorable’.21
Windham meant well in his efforts to avert Fitzwilliam’s recall from Ireland, but he had to admit that Fitzwilliam had exceeded his brief: Burke thought Windham had ‘done his best’ in this business. The equally well-meant Quiberon Bay expedition in the summer of 1795 to help the royalists of La Vendée, the realization of Windham’s dream, was a fiasco: his over-confidence in his French protégés was blamed. He himself wrote to Sir Gilbert Elliot on 28 Aug.:
The trial I have had of official life has not served to reconcile me to it. It is the period of my existence in which, I think, I have had the least enjoyment ... I go doggedly on, however, resolved that what good I can do shall not be lost for want of assiduity, and enjoying, in fact, the persuasion till lately that my determination in that respect had not been without effect. The failure of the expedition to Quiberon ... joined to the event of the Spanish peace, has brought things to a state in which that consolation will probably be denied me ... Should peace ever be made with the Republic, I think England will be no longer a country to live in ... I think I shall be inclined to choose Italy. If one is to submit to humiliation it had better be anywhere else than in one’s country.
Burke described him at this time as ‘marked’ for the guillotine by the Jacobins.22
At the opening of the next session ‘extreme heat and indisposition’ prevented Windham from defending the Quiberon expedition against Fox’s aspersions: he was in fact one of the ministerialists shut out of the division on the address. On 9 Nov. 1795 he was outspoken in his defence of the proclamation against seditious meetings; and on 23 Nov., justifying the sedition bills, against which Fox presented a petition from Windham’s constituency, he alleged, ‘there are circumstances in our present situation, which require a vigour more than the law in ordinary times’, another catch phrase which would be used against him, though he claimed to have been misrepresented. On 14 Dec. he reluctantly consented to vote for prosecution of the monarchist pamphleteer John Reeves, protesting that many anti-monarchical publications went unnoticed. Charles Abbot viewed him at this time as:
Subtle, unguarded, fretful, and totally unapt for the transaction of public business in a public assembly. His friends always in pain while he is speaking, and his enemies clamouring to hear him in preference to any competitor for pre-audience.23
In February 1796 Windham, the ‘apostate’, gave his blessing to the Westminster police bill; he also opposed any ‘sudden or sweeping change’ in the Game Laws and answered the Whigs’ constitutional objection to military barracks with the maxim ‘Silent leges inter arma’. Equally notable was his ‘great reluctance’ on 15 Mar. to support the bill to abolish the slave trade. He said, ‘the example of French liberty’ inhibited him, as did the timing of it, but not the fear of unilateral action by Britain. He did in fact vote for it and duly praised Burke’s blueprint for abolition in April. The damage done to his personal influence by such refinements was manifest—Farington had reported the year before:
Windham is a man of parts, but not calculated to maintain an influence in the House of Commons. His language has great strength, and is condensed; and in grammar he is remarkably correct, but in an argument he is so mathematical, and metaphysical, and his reasoning is of so unnatural a species, that instead of convincing by the evident truth of what he advances, he fills his hearers with astonishment at the strange analogies which he adduces, and the odd mode by which he proceeds to draw his conclusions.24
Although Pitt resisted an inquiry into the failure of the Quiberon expedition, Windham had to defend it against Whig critics in April and May 1796 and particularly resented their attack on the employment of the émigré corps. This was a sore point, since assistance for the royalists, as he complained to Lord Grenville, had been ‘almost entirely under my care. I have had it because nobody else would. I have become insensibly a sort of foreign minister for the Chouans ... king of the gipsies.’ He maintained, moreover, that he had lacked the means and support to make the royalists effective allies. Pitt and Dundas were not sufficiently convinced of their potential, or of the case for the restoration of monarchy in France. On 27 Apr. Windham wrote to Pitt asking to be relieved of his responsibility for the royalists: to get anything done, he had to apply to other departments and they were reluctant, seeming to think that he was taking a line of his own, not approved by the cabinet. He felt himself condemned to the situation of ‘a sort of chapel of ease to Mr Dundas’ and thought that Dundas should appoint military advisers to relieve him of the ‘painful situation of pressing importunately upon others attention what they did not at least feel to be of the same importance that I did’. To Dundas, Windham admitted that they differed in so far as he himself would have made the royalist cause ‘the principal object of the war’; unless this was effectively supported, it might as well be given up. He was therefore apprehensive that the ‘Duumvirate’, as Burke described Pitt and Dundas in a letter to him (adding ‘you will pardon me, if I do not call you a minister’), would agree to a ‘regicide peace’. He had eagerly supported Burke’s fulminating against such a measure—but William Elliot believed he was the only minister to do so. Writing to Mrs Crewe on 30 Sept., Windham alleged: ‘Peace made, and the Republic established, there is an end of the power, independence, government, morals, of this country, as well as of every other throughout Europe’. He blamed ‘the booby politicians of this country’ for courting such a humiliation. Speaker Addington described him as ‘now a greater alarmist than anyone I have met with, respecting the probability and peril of an invasion’, 13 Sept. 1796.25
Under a ‘new arrangement’ of the government, Dundas told Sylvester Douglas on 6 Oct. 1796, Windham was to be chancellor of the duchy, if Lord Liverpool agreed. As a competitor with Dundas for Pitt’s confidence he had by now failed. Dundas had just quashed a pet scheme of his for incorporating émigrés in the regular army and well knew that professional military men like the Duke of York were ‘not comfortable’ with Windham. But in November he ‘had not the manner of a man going out of office’ and William Elliot encouraged him: ‘Whilst you remain in the cabinet, you may, perhaps, have opportunities of correcting in some degree the spirit of error which seems to predominate in our councils’. This referred particularly to Malmesbury’s peace mission, denounced by Windham in private as a ‘despicable embassy’ which would have prompted his resignation if he had thought it likely to succeed. He rejoiced at its failure, which revived his hopes for the royalists in France. As usual it was the opposition who paid for his frustrations; when they took up the case of General Lafayette on 16 Dec., he rose at the same time as Pitt to reply. Opposition clamoured for him, but he gave way to Pitt:
The circumstances and manner of this call for Windham were extremely insulting, being intended to convey their conviction that he could not speak without committing some indiscretion, and laying himself open to attack.
So said Douglas, but he added that ‘Windham afterwards spoke ... his friends say with great spirit, the opposition say with great barbarity, collecting and exaggerating every circumstance in Lafayette’s history that could make against him’. French Laurence thought the speech had ‘a very considerable and good effect’ and Burke congratulated Windham on his exposure of ‘the false and spurious’.26
Apart from this outburst, into which he had certainly been goaded, Windham’s sourness was reflected in his taciturnity in the House for some time. Douglas thought he was governed by his ‘ill-humour with Pitt and Dundas, particularly the latter, against whom his dislike dates from before his accession to the present ministry’, and by his being
at present a second hand minister put in motion by Burke for the purpose of thwarting, or at least counteracting by out of doors conversation, that cabinet of which he still remains a member and of which he must be considered as adopting the measures.
Besides, he did not find that the failure of negotiations with France had convinced his colleagues of the necessity of ‘bellum internecinum whether we will or no’, or that they viewed the French royalist claims more favourably. ‘The idea of offensive war’, he lamented to Burke, 25 Apr., ‘is so totally lost.’ Only the King honoured him for his ‘firmness’ and said ‘many civil things’ to him. In the House his dislike of ‘the cant of superior purity’ led him to clash with Sheridan on the Bank committee, 1 Mar. 1797, and to make a speech, thought his best to date by Burke, against Harrison’s motion for retrenchment in government departments, which he thought could leave men no inducement to pursue public life: sinecures were ‘a provision for old age, talents, and public services’, and the ‘mean and miserable saving of the ends of candles and the parings of bits of cheese’—a graphic phrase that delighted the caricaturists—was not the answer. He also defended government on the Irish question. Burke, who encouraged him to believe that he was ‘the only person who has taken a manly part’, was assured that Windham thought nothing could be achieved through the present Dublin regime: but French Laurence and Fitzwilliam, who wished him to press ministers for a new regime and to go out if they refused, learned that he believed his colleagues were ‘more afraid of Lord Clare and the Beresfords, than of a rebellion’, and that, much as he wished to see concessions made to the Catholics, he doubted whether his colleagues or the King would agree. Windham was trapped, as Burke saw, and after the latter’s death that year, though ‘a disciple, nay an apostle’ of Burke, he had little confidence in his own judgment on Ireland.27
Horrified by the naval mutiny in April 1797, Windham was anxious to go with Spencer to face the mutineers; in moving increases of pay for subalterns, 24 May 1797, he rejoiced that the army had remained loyal. He informed Sir Gilbert Elliot that he had favoured ‘firm measures’, but had been overruled by Pitt and Dundas. Elliot noted: ‘Windham seemed leaning to what I should call desperate courses the other way, such as for joining Sheridan, or anybody that can prevent our becoming a province of France’. On 15 June at a cabinet council on the reply to be given to French overtures he found himself in a minority with Lord Grenville, Spencer and Portland as to war policy. After this ‘séance orageuse’, which adumbrated a future realignment in politics, his scepticism about ‘counsels such as those by which we are now governed’ apparently hardened. When Pitt resolved to press on without dissolving Parliament, Windham ‘took occasion from that to remark my opinion that ... concession in favour of Catholics would be desirable’ and, as a further rebellious gesture, ‘conceived the idea of offering myself for the county but shall not’. Malmesbury reported him as despondent ‘and thinks France must be master of Europe’, 24 Sept. He certainly despaired of his colleagues: Pitt, who ‘was not sufficiently acquainted with mankind’ and ‘went on by concessions’; Grenville, who for all his high-mindedness was ‘so reserved and caché’; and Dundas, who ‘ruled despotically’. Malmesbury reflected:
Windham is uncommonly and classically clever, but has the very fault he attributes to Pitt—no real knowledge of mankind; not from not living in the world, but from not being endowed with those qualities (inferior in themselves) which would enable him to judge of their real designs and character. From this reason he was the dupe of every emigrant who called on him; and he still persists in the idea of the bellum internecinum, and the invading of France. Burke spoilt him, and his genius still rules him. He is withal the most honourable and most sensible of the cabinet, and with many very great and amiable private virtues—a first-rate scholar, and quite of the right school.
In the autumn, without any conviction of success, he lobbied Pitt for a revival of aid to the French royalists; peace terms could not improve and a peace vigil was futile. Informing Grenville of his failure to stir Pitt, he prognosticated that a makeshift peace would ‘involve more certain ruin than any war’.28
On 20 Nov. 1797, presenting the army estimates, in which he adopted a recommendation on War Office salaries from the finance committee, Windham was reported to have ‘argued at considerable length in disaparagement of the very measure which he recommended the House to adopt’. He also deprecated Fitzpatrick’s proposal of enlistment for a term of years instead of for life as an idea floated by Col. Barré 20 years before: within ten years it was to be a keystone of his own military plan. On 4 and 8 Dec., on more congenial ground, he rebuked John Nicholls for seeking to discredit a just and necessary war by appeal to ‘the low passions’, when Nicholls proposed that ministers’ salaries should go to the war fund. In January 1798 he applied to Pitt for the salary of his office to be increased to £4,000 p.a., owing to its present inadequacy. (He was reported to take it ‘regularly every half quarter’ and to be ‘very fond of money’.) After a period in which his ‘infatuation in not speaking’ in the House demoralized him, he spoke on the slave trade, 3 Apr., and after arguing both ways, with a preference for abolition, advised caution and deference to the West Indian legislatures, an attitude he had foreshadowed in a speech the year before. In April, too, he came to the defence of the émigrés in debates on the aliens bill; he was then memorializing Pitt and Dundas on arming them and aiding the French royalists. Of the failure of his efforts he wrote to Lord Grenville, 17 May: ‘A radical cure of the disorder can, in my opinion, never be effected but in France itself’. His disgruntlement was interpreted by Dundas and Pitt as defeatism. In July 1798 he married Cecilia Forrest, jilted by his best friend many years before, ‘a tall, showy woman, something in the Siddons style of figure and dimensions, with a remarkably sensible as well as pleasing countenance and an engaging manner’. Sir Gilbert Elliot, who thus described her, hoped that Windham would ‘not now be dodging with the world and playing at whoop with all his friends’.29
Windham denounced the misrepresentation of debates in newspapers, 27 and 31 Dec. 1798; the House should prosecute the offending editors, as regular reporting was ‘a daily appeal to the public’ and it was ‘a very modern’ and ‘very mischievous doctrine’ to overlook anything that ‘produced heat among the lower orders’:
What was to become of the dignity of that House, he would ask, if the manners and gestures, and tone and action of each Member, were to be subject to the licence, the abuse, the ribaldry of newspapers? ... A great many of these newspapers were brought into existence, and nourished by debates in Parliament ... a poison which was circulated every twenty-four hours, and spread its venom down to the extremity of the kingdom.
Newspapers, he thought, now contributed to the overthrow of governments. He was further perplexed about the proposed union with Ireland; he thought of resigning over it, but explained his ‘difficulties’ to Pitt, 10 Jan. 1799. He feared that the ‘friends of English government’ would be the sole beneficiaries and that the Catholics would not assent. His friends dreaded his hasty objections: William Elliot urged Sir Gilbert (now Lord Minto) to stop him—he might still infuse ‘right principles into our councils’ if he remained in office; out of it, he would stand alone. Windham overcame his scruples and on 7 Feb. made one of the best speeches in the debate on the Union, arguing that Ireland was a wolf ‘which it was neither safe to hold by the ears, or safe to let go’, and that to combat the spread of French principles there the Catholic religion must be established.
Windham had just been offered the prospect of a retreat to the Mint through Canning, who informed him that he had assured Pitt that Windham would ‘not take the suggestion ill’ and added, ‘it does not matter to him, or to any arrangements, whether you accept or refuse the change’. Canning was sure that Windham was disinclined to it, ‘though it has less trouble, and more salary, than the War Office, and what recommends it to him more, was once held by Sir Isaac Newton’. On 15 Feb. Canning had another proposal, that Windham should accept a peerage, but he was equally disinclined to that. When Canning advocated the abolition of the slave trade in newly acquired West Indian islands, 1 Mar., Windham paid him compliments, but reiterated his view that the local legislatures should decide it.30
In May 1799 Windham started a fresh onslaught on Pitt and Grenville for support for the French royalists as a corollary to the frank acceptance that the support of counter-revolution in favour of a restored monarchy was the only way to end the war and that external alliances were not enough. He also broached his future pet idea of strengthening the regular army by allowing enlistment for a limited number of years and by the reduction of the militia. In the House he clashed with Tierney on 7 June over the war aims: engaged in a defensive war for the security of Europe, England could negotiate only with a stable government in France founded ‘not upon the imaginary rights of man, but on the ancient religion and morality of Europe’; while the restoration of the French monarchy was not the paramount objective, it was the most desirable thing for France and the best guarantee that peace would be less dangerous than war. On 3 July, feeling ‘obliged unexpectedly to speak again’ in reply to Tierney, he conceded that he had no objection to treating with the republican regime, if the dangers of peace were outweighed by those of war.31
Windham found that Pitt was more interested in promoting an allied expedition to Holland than one to the French provinces and on 24 July 1799 protested about this. He had tried to enlist Grenville’s support, which he did not obtain, before he had felt obliged to mark his dissent from the cabinet on the issue, a step he had hitherto avoided by ‘being absent or being entered as such’. When he brought in a bill to reduce the militia and encourage volunteers to the regular army, 26 Sept. 1799, it was doubtful whether the ‘disposable force’ thereby created would be used as he intended. The Marquess of Buckingham informed Grenville that Windham, who ‘may be a very clever man, but he is the most indiscreet man I know’, had revealed to an émigré not concerned with the project the destination and particulars of an expedition to France. In October and November he was involved in repeated consultations with his colleagues about such an expedition but found that they underestimated the risk to the royalists and still toyed with the idea of negotiation. In February 1800, however, rebuking opposition for fighting France’s war in their clamour for the restoration of habeas corpus and for negotiation, he denied that he was at odds with his colleagues and insisted that the restoration of monarchy in France was in the English, as well as in the French, interest. ‘In the French revolution, the last murderer is always the hero.’ Not surprisingly Talleyrand claimed to have convinced Buonaparte in April ‘that the French revolution has no enemy more dangerous than Mr Windham’.32
On 24 Apr. 1800 Pitt offered Windham the treasurership of the navy (retaining his seat in the cabinet) in place of Dundas, who was, however, to keep Somerset House as his residence as first commissioner for India. Pitt thought this last ‘not a very material point’ but Windham disagreed: though the new appointment would be ‘in many respects more eligible than that which I now hold’, he had ‘an insuperable objection’ to the condition. A fortnight later there was a rumour that Ryder would be appointed with the benefit of the residence, whereupon Windham was willing to change his mind, but he found that the condition remained. He had meanwhile made one of his most eccentric speeches in opposition to a bill against bull-baiting (lost by one vote), characterising it as an attack on the amusements of the poor. He rallied to government in defence of the representation awarded Ireland by the Union, 25 Apr., though privately he pointed out that, in terms of population, Ireland might have claimed 140 seats, rather than 100. On 9 May he was one of those deputed to carry the joint address to the King on the Union. It was then that he heard and noted a ‘sort of solemn admonition about the Catholics’ from the King at Windsor: the King ‘seemed to address this particularly to Windham, who made no reply’. The fear that peace might be made by Pitt ‘on terms short of what might be wished for’ was what most alarmed him; in June he threatened resignation. In August he and Malmesbury were summoned to Weymouth where the King, tired of Pitt’s and Grenville’s ‘authoritative manners’, sounded them on the possibility of Windham’s heading an administration, with Malmesbury taking the Foreign Office: but his ‘odd and unacquiescent manner’ and subsequent events ruled it out. In cabinet he stressed his objections to ‘too conciliatory and tentative’ a reply to French proposals for an armistice, and to an expedition to Egypt which risked an army only to ‘strike some stroke by which terms of peace might be prepared’, to the detriment of the royalist cause and the defence of Portugal. As usual he clashed with Dundas on this issue, but Grenville sided with him and he with Grenville in turn on a proposal for Catholic relief, Windham arguing that ‘but with a view to the Catholics, I should hardly have concurred in wishing for the Union’, 1 Oct. 1800. Whatever his reservations about the Egyptian expedition, he defended resistance to French designs there in the House. He rebuffed Sheridan’s motion for a separate peace negotiation in contempt of the Allies, 1, Dec. 1800.33
Windham was preoccupied with a firm stand against the armed neutrality of Northern Europe and against any suing for peace when Pitt resigned on the King’s refusal to hear of Irish Catholic relief. He followed suit on principle, 7 Feb. 1801. He was ‘never consulted’, but felt that he had ‘no option’. The King expressed polite regret in view of ‘the upright character Mr Windham has ever borne’. There was an idle suggestion that ‘the whole is a game, to give the go-by to the Catholic question and get rid of Windham and perhaps Lord Spencer and that Pitt then means to resume the government’: this was admitted to be ‘too refined’. ‘Shut in’ office until the King recovered from his illness, Windham was ‘like a bird set free’ thereafter and absent from the House until May. On 2 June he defended the Egyptian campaign against Grey and deplored any reduction in military expenditure, in which he was supported by Pitt; on 5 June he defended informers under the suspension of habeas corpus against the Whigs. On 29 June he deplored Tierney’s notion of a peace involving concessions to France and pointed out that while in the cabinet he had dissented from such concessions. That summer at Weymouth, the Foreign secretary Hawkesbury noted with dismay that
though the King does not like Windham as a man of business, I can perceive he is in great personal favour. Indeed I cannot wonder at it, as his conversation is very agreeable and his manners to the royal family particularly respectful.34
The advent of peace preliminaries left Windham ‘full of apprehensions’ as to what he thought must be ‘the most mistaken of measures’, 29 Sept. 1801. Addington, backed up by Hawkesbury, informed him of the event, 1 Oct., hoping he would get the better of his apprehensions, but he was implacable. ‘The country has received its death blow’, he assured Addington, ‘I lament that you should have been reserved for the instrument of this work.’ Pitt, who disappointed Windham by his acquiescence in the terms, informed Dundas next day: ‘I find Windham (as might be expected) in agonies, but the rest of the world, as far as one can yet judge, very much delighted with the peace’. Tierney wrote to Grey on 9 Oct.: ‘The little discretion Windham originally had has, as I am told, been entirely overset by this last event, and he is now absolutely raving’. He nevertheless found allies: William Cobbett echoed his views in his Porcupine; the Morning Post thought he would make a good wartime premier; the royal family were said to be on his side. Fox thought Pitt’s friends ‘admire Windham in their hearts and would imitate him if they dared’. Ministerial newspapers were instructed to denounce him. He refused Addington’s invitation to the presessional dinner. His only allies in the House were the Grenville connexion and they warned him not to take up ‘the feverish topic of the restoration of the monarchy’. Lord Guilford was reported to be
diverted with the idea of Windham shut up with a very small opposition with the Grenvilles, who he says are extremely unpopular; that Windham is thought an honest, ingenious man but a Don Quixote and that he himself never sees him without thinking he has a barber’s basin on his head.
The Times endorsed this view of the Grenvilles, but thought that Windham’s opinion carried much greater authority, ‘as it has been uniformly consistent, and no man can doubt the purity of his principles’. Charles Yorke, a member of the government, thought him too honourable to make ‘any vexatious opposition’.35
On 29 Oct. 1801 ‘as a solitary mourner in the midst of general exultation’, Windham informed the House that, unlike Pitt and Fox, he could not swallow the peace preliminaries. With ‘the solemnity of a deathbed declaration’ he protested that ‘my hon. friends, in signing this peace, have put their signatures to the death warrant of their country’. He promised a fuller exposition of his views and on 4 Nov. delivered what William Elliot described as ‘the finest and most polished piece of argument I ever heard’ against the preliminaries. Acting ‘the part of Demosthenes’, he argued that the country was ‘under the paw of the lion’: the restitution of East and West Indian territories to France when she was so aggrandized on the Continent was a prelude to ‘final destruction’. France was thereby licensed to export Jacobinism as the instrument of world domination, while England got no security and abandoned the royalists to their fate. The speech was ‘admired but disapproved’; it was deprecated by Wilberforce as ‘overcharged with anxiety’, but Lord Archibald Hamilton, on the Whig side, wrote to Lord Holland:
You will be surprised to hear that I, who have abused Windham all the war, now begin to like him—as his late speech half convinces me his support of the war has been all along the result of his judgment, and not the offspring of any interested views.
Printed in April 1802 with an appended diatribe against Buonaparte, the speech contained a rhetorical question which inspired Gillray’s caricature ‘Political dreamings’, showing Windham haunted by ‘the phantoms of my own disordered imagination’. With the Grenvilles, Windham now sat ‘on the opposition bench, near the bar of the House ... the same bench from which Mr Burke always spoke after separating from Mr Fox’ [i.e. opposite the Speaker]. Lord Glenbervie reported apropos of his first utterance of 29 Oct., ‘Some people say that Burke’s ghost must have appeared to Windham, and taught him the speech he delivered’, as it was ‘so like Burke, both in language and sentiments and in the manner of the delivery’. He was approached by boroughmongers who conceived that he wished to return some of his friends: in fact, his own seat was in danger. His friends began to think up alternatives for him and in December 1801 Lord Buckingham decided that, ‘in case of disappointment with his weavers’ (Norwich) he would return Windham for St. Mawes, in view of his agreement with the Grenvilles on the peace proposals. This Windham accepted in preference to other offers. Frustrated in their efforts to continue their campaign in the House in December, he and his coadjutors agreed to subsidize a newspaper proposed by Cobbett, the Political Register, which appeared on 16 Jan. 1802.36
Before the early session of 1802 Windham wished to move ‘some question on the present strange state of the nation’ through his young convert Lord Folkestone, but was overruled by Thomas Grenville and Minto, who advocated ‘incidental discussion’. They also dissuaded him from joining Laurence and Elliot in their attack on West Indian policy. This reduced him to ‘languor and depression’ but on 3 Mar., in the committee of supply, he argued that the peace preliminaries had already been invalidated by the course of events, which daily revealed the overweening ambitions of Buonaparte. (Buonaparte had asked apropos of Windham in January: ‘Why, if he was so fond of war, did not he take the field himself?’) On 5 Mar. he maintained that capital and confidence were no defence against France, which could destroy English commerce in peace as well as in war; he had, as Tierney admitted, ‘the best of the argument’. Seeing that Pitt remained indifferent to his views he was privately exasperated with the ex-minister, who ‘next to Fox, and even more than he ... has been the author of the ruin of the country, by the false conception, which he originally formed of the great game which he had to play’ and, he added, by his present unwillingness to exert himself. Pitt, feeling that a respite was needed in hostilities, remarked of Windham in turn:
Nothing could be so well meaning or so eloquent as he was: his speeches were the finest productions possible of warm indignation and fancy, yet still he must condemn such parts of them as hold out the French nation as the first in point of military and political abilities, and, therefore, deservedly the first in Europe. This part of it was a language he strongly reprobated as not correct, and as unbecoming the mouth of any Englishman.
On 3 May 1802 Windham secured a debate on the definitive treaty of peace, emphasizing the differences between it and the preliminaries and the unforeseen developments which made it ‘the grave digging for our greatness’. On 13 May, winding up the debate, he listed seven disadvantages of the treaty and irritated Pitt by suggesting that just as the latter had lost sight of the purpose of the war in the previous decade, the country was now enthusiastic for peace out of short-sightedness and ignorance. Against the sense of the House he insisted next day on dividing it in censure, with a plea for defence preparations. He was in a minority of 20 against 276. Cobbett warned him against appearing to be a warmonger, but henceforth he and the Grenvilles and his other friends, Fitzwilliam’s nominees and some stragglers, became ‘the sanguinary faction’. The King was thought to approve his stand. Conditional support was available from another quarter, though he had too many scruples to obtain it: Canning, wishing to rouse Pitt to active opposition, had tried to bargain with Windham for support against the slave trade in exchange for support of bull-baiting. On 20 Apr., however, Canning had advised him not to press for a division on the peace, which would force a supine majority to approve a popular measure and Pitt to defend Addington. Subsequently Canning refused to vote in favour of bull-baiting and hoped Windham would absent himself rather than oppose him on the slave trade. This was on the eve of Windham’s most celebrated outburst in favour of bull-baiting, in which he accused Jacobins and Methodists of uniting for the destruction of the old English character by abolishing rural sports in order to entice the poor to themselves. Courtenay twitted Windham with making bull-baiting appear ‘the great support of the constitution in church and state’, but the abolition bill was lost for the session. Wilberforce took it as a personal blow, but Minto described it as ‘the finest thing and highest entertainment I ever remember. It is impossible to describe it, but the effect was universal, and fairly drew the House after him, for everybody expected the bill to be carried.’37
At the dissolution of 1802 Windham expected a keen contest for Norwich, where he was put to great expense with a weak partner, whom he refused to desert for a compromise, against two friends of the peace. The ‘Norwich bull bait’ was a ‘Jacobin triumph’: but Windham lost by only 60 votes and this he blamed on Pitt’s having consistently ignored his applications to secure a postmaster friendly to him. The expense was such as to deter him from contemplating a come-back; he did momentarily consider standing for the county, but on reflection, despite promises of subscriptions and good prospects, he declined the risk of a further contest for ‘a petty gratification of vanity’. He informed Thomas Grenville that county Member status was not what it had been: ‘the world must now be governed by higher causes’. He fell back on Lord Buckingham’s Cornish borough: his patron had returned him without waiting for the result at Norwich.38
Windham disapproved strongly of the Foxite exodus to Paris in the summer of 1802. Not surprisingly, Buonaparte, whose aspersions on Windham’s character Fox had resisted, informed another of his visitors (Francis) that he hoped the new English Parliament would ‘not offer themselves to be misled by Mr Windham and his partisans’. The French official newspaper Le Moniteur was unsparing in its attacks on him. He was anxious for concert with his ‘partisans’ the Grenvilles before Parliament met. Impeded by a minor operation, he promised Lord Grenville
to give a lecture to the country upon the nature of its situation, the errors of its former opinions and conduct, and the necessity of its preparing itself, not physically but in spirit ... for a more dreadful struggle.
He thought a mere change of ministry was not in itself the answer, though the Grenvilles were considering at this time a coalition in which, in Buckingham’s view, Windham should have the Home Office, as he would be too dangerous a choice for the War Office. Windham was reported to favour ‘parties of principles not persons’ by French Laurence, who added:
Windham has no sort of eagerness for place. He speculates a little favourably of Grey and Sheridan and would more readily I believe acquiesce in some concert with them or either of them, than with Mr Pitt or Mr Fox, because they would have less the masterdom of those with whom they might undertake to act, and be consequently less able to overrule their principles.
He and his partisans met to concert measures on 18 Nov. 1802, and on 23 Nov. he delivered his promised lecture in reply to the address. It was directed principally against Fox, whom he accused of minimizing the alarm warranted by French policy since the peace and of pampering merchants incapable of taking the statesmanlike view that France could, if unchecked, proscribe England’s commerce. Fox was provoked, it was said, almost to the point of committing ‘a personal assault upon Windham, who being an adept in the noble science of boxing, would certainly have showed much sport on this occasion’; but he uttered only ‘a few words in explanation’ and left it to his friends to abuse Windham, who was only repaying the Whig leader in kind. Lord Grenville feared that, though ‘very ingenious and full of point against Fox’, the speech did not sufficiently emphasize the inadequacy of the Addington administration, but this was Windham’s first public repudiation of them. In the altercations with Fox that ensued then and on 8 Dec., he denied that he was a warmonger, asserting his objection not only to French principles, but to French hegemony, whether exercised by the Bourbons or by a republic: it would be the ruination of England and ‘we must be a great nation, or nothing’. He rebuked Addington for falling back on the commercial interest for support, 13 Dec., and joined William Elliot in deploring the long adjournment, which left the country without defence precautions. He had been ‘quite eager’ for a motion on the state of the nation before the adjournment.39
Windham and ‘the sectators of Burke’ were thought by the Grenville squad to be too aggressive against a government with which they themselves contemplated the possibility of coalition. Nevertheless he renewed his attack on administration in March 1803, complaining of their unreadiness for the renewal of hostilities. He reiterated his reservations about too much reliance on the militia in preference to regular troops: he preferred recruitment for the regulars by bounty to that for the militia by ballot. In April when Pitt and Addington discussed a coalition but got nowhere owing to Pitt’s insistence on including Grenville and Windham in the arrangement, he was apprehensive. His inclination was to remain ‘where he is’ and to bargain for Fitzwilliam’s inclusion instead, though he realized that Grenville might insist on his inclusion. Lord Hardwicke claimed that Windham had ‘no particular wish to return to his former office, and was said to have been intended for that of privy seal’. He was ‘less warlike ... than usual’ in the debate of 6 May, supported Grey’s motion of 19 May for information on French armaments and privately suggested to Sheridan that ‘old friends’ should meet and ‘try to do something for the country in these difficult times’. But he attacked Fox for his reluctance to renew hostilities, 24 May, describing him as the surgeon who opposed the operation which was the last hope for the patient and comparing him unfavourably with Pitt. He was favourable to Canning’s efforts to preclude Pitt from any arrangement with Addington by forcing him into the open against the prime minister. Accordingly the ‘Windhamites’ were supporters of Patten’s censure motion of 3 June.40
On 6 June 1803, in debate, Windham raised the alarm of invasion and went on to oppose Secretary Yorke’s army of reserve plan as augmenting only the militia, when what was needed was a disposable force for general service; he countered Pitt’s defence of Yorke’s plan, 23 June. His private wish was for ‘the experiment of an attack upon France and the revolution ... and now is the moment, for to the royalists of La Vendée you can add the patriots of Holland, Switzerland and Italy’. As it was, ‘whether we had peace or war the country was gone’. He ‘attacked government with much asperity’, 30 June and 6 July, but denied on 18 July that he was despondent, and welcomed signs that administration were awakening to the needs of national security. In this he was in unison with both Pitt and Fox, though more with the latter, ‘who spoke very civilly to Windham’, thought his ‘notions as to defence ... the best of any I have heard’ and had the Prince of Wales’s encouragement to join forces with him. Moreover, he supported Fox’s motion for a council of general officers, 2 Aug. As he explained in the debates of 4 and 10 Aug., he deplored a defence system that relied on the extension of the volunteer intake only as ‘a refuge from compulsory service’. He also clashed with Addington, who was by now bold enough to return his fire in an ‘insolent manner’, about Irish unrest. He thought government was acting with premature severity; but as he was the only critic on this subject and ‘very rough’, Charles Yorke claimed that he had ‘injured himself very much in the esteem of the House, by his absurd conduct’. He was in bad odour in other quarters: Thomas Grenville thought he had gone too far on defence; Fox found that his adherents were less willing than himself to act with him, while Windham was warned that Fox was leaving it to him to attack the minister and ‘grow unpopular’. His gloom about public affairs was a demerit. The journalist Gifford, observing that he was ‘easily elated or depressed by circumstances that happened, and he acted under those impressions’, thought that
At present he is all alarm and apprehension, and full of such notions of danger as seem not likely to enter the mind of one who has always been reckoned personally courageous. But the fact is it is from a want of firmness of mind and justness of thinking that his apprehensions carry him so away, and not from want of manly spirit ... His conduct of late in the House of Commons has been generally disapproved.41
With the courage of his conviction of the need for ‘a very general arming and training of the people’, which was frustrated in Parliament, Windham turned in the summer of 1803 to the local defence of Norfolk. He raised the Felbrigg volunteers and exposed the inadequacies of coastal defence, persuading a county meeting to adopt the more moderate of two resolutions he had drawn up. After concerting measures with the Grenvilles, he spoke on the address, 23 Nov. 1803, explaining that while he assented to it for the country’s sake, he thought more was to be feared from ‘the little band which we see before us on the Treasury bench’, who collectively were ‘weakness itself’, than from ‘Buonaparte and his legions’, adding, ‘I really believe the country will perish in their hands’. He endorsed Fox’s view that Ireland was vulnerable in its present unsettled state and emphasized that, though he had not convinced the Norfolk gentry of their openness to invasion, he had drawn public attention to the subject. No reply was made to him in a House of about 200: Sir Richard Hill had advised Addington to treat him like Rabshakeh: ‘Answer him not a word’.
Windham’s belief that Buonaparte might make his ‘principal attack’ on Ireland had revived his notions of a new policy there, ‘meaning undoubtedly Catholic emancipation etc.’ This led to closer links with the Foxites and to talk of a junction between him and Fox during Pitt’s absence from Parliament. His status was somewhat precarious: while his friends warned him that his association with the unpopular Grenvillites was dragging him down, he was represented to Fox by Grey as even more unpopular than the Grenvilles. Nevertheless when on 5 Dec. he expressed his reservations about the renewal of martial law in Ireland, Fox’s friend Fitzpatrick was observed ‘sitting among the Windhamites’ and encouraging them; and on 9 Dec., when Windham offered a complete critique and alternative to ministers’ defence plans, Fox ‘said there was no one thing in Windham’s speech ... in which he did not agree’. A coalition between them was envisaged for a ‘tremendous conjoint attack upon [Addington], left wholly to himself by the neutrality of Pitt’. Windham’s speech condemned Addington for doing too little too late and making defence the ‘utmost horizon’: army of reserve, militia and volunteers were nothing compared with a disposable force of regulars, and he championed the latter. On 12 Dec. he defended himself against Pitt and others on his alleged aspersions against the volunteers, but next day opposed the volunteer exemption bill: either exemptions or volunteers should be abolished. Fox thought that ‘Windham and I exposed the volunteer system pretty well, and I think the House were rather with us’, and assured Grey that Windham and the Grenvilles, if encouraged, were ‘capable of becoming good party men’. To less interested observers Windham appeared to be the sole opposition: Thomas Creevey reported that, when the House was empty, ministers ‘rally and fall in a body upon Windham, call him all kinds of names, and adopt all kinds of the most unfounded representations of his sentiments ... but rely upon it, the bitterest enemy Windham has in the world, who is possessed of any sense and any character, turns with disgust from the sound of these low-lived philippics’. Sir Robert Barclay reported ‘The manly opposition of Mr Windham has increased the numbers of his bench’.42
In anticipation of his rapprochement with Fox in politics, Windham was caricatured early in 1804 as ‘a modern weathercock’, but writing to his agent on 5 Jan., he justified a coalition with a right-thinking Fox as more effective than a union of the ‘underlings’ of all parties. On 2 Feb. he arranged a meeting with Fox, to lay ‘the foundation of a more extensive and permanent agreement’. By 18 Feb. the alliance was public property. Windham ‘does everything in the spirit of chivalry’, remarked Pitt, who had ‘too much sense to join’ and remained aloof ‘to pounce upon them all in due time’. Windham described the venture as ‘a joint co-operation for removing the present ministry on the ground of incapacity’ and, to satisfy his friends’ quibbles, issued a statement for the press, denying that there was any ‘coalition’ beyond ‘an agreement to co-operate in their opposition to the present ministry’. There could be no doubt, however, that the resumption of old friendships with the Whigs was congenial to Windham. In February and March 1804 he attacked the volunteer consolidation bill at every stage. He voted silently for Pitt’s motion on naval strength on 15 Mar., but was unsparing in his criticism of Pitt’s defence of the volunteers. On the other hand he and his friends joined forces with the Foxites in calling for an inquiry into the Irish insurrection, 7 Mar., and they joined him in supporting the recommittal of the volunteer bill, 19 Mar., and in opposing the Irish militia proposals on 10, 11, 13 and 16 Apr. On 23 Apr. he and his friends supported Fox’s motion on defence and on 25 Apr. Pitt’s question on the army reserve suspension bill. Addington was driven from the helm, perhaps ‘principally by the battery of Mr Windham’s eloquence’.43
Windham had reservations about Pitt’s defence proposals, whereas he and Fox were in unison, and now that Pitt was given the initiative in forming a new administration in which he would probably be included, he had to be satisfied that it was a fair attempt at a ‘comprehensive’ administration. When Pitt mentioned his name to the King, the latter ‘did not object; but said he thought he had better not be placed in any situation of business, though if he had been in the House of Commons, he should have voted with him on some of his questions’. The negotiation foundered with the King’s veto of Fox, which Windham, in conclave with the Grenvilles on 7 May, found inadmissible. He had no time for subsequent efforts to renew the attempt. Although he decried systematic opposition, he opposed Pitt’s defence proposals from the start, complaining of his having shifted his ground in his additional force bill, 5 June. He called it ‘a constructive vagrancy act’, 8 June: Pitt informed the King of the debates that ‘no one took much part but Windham’. Indeed he was admitted on all sides to be in top form: his statement of hostility to the abolition of the slave trade, 7 June, was his baldest to date, but his opposition to the Irish chancellor of the exchequer bill, 11 July, and subsequently to the stamp duties bill was popular. Moreover, as he was often ill reported (because, he thought, ‘of digression and parenthesis which, though belonging to his subject seemed not to have it clearly in view’, or as others put it of his ‘refining too much’), he was prepared at this time to publish his various speeches on defence. Fox claimed on 24 July: ‘What could hardly be expected at his time of life, Windham has improved in speaking as much as any young man ever did in a session’.44
When in November 1804 the Prince of Wales played the statesman in promoting a negotiation through Lord Moira for a comprehensive government, Windham was in his confidence, but, unlike his Grenville associates and even more than Fox, objected to a junction with Pitt. So he welcomed the failure of the move. He looked forward to national regeneration on the ruins of Pitt’s system: Addington’s reunion with Pitt in December 1804 was therefore ‘a fine humbug’. Before the next session he met first with his own associates and then with the Foxites and they agreed not to amend the address. Like Fox, he spoke on it but ‘slurred over the question’, approving Fox’s mooting the topic of Catholic relief and regretting that Fox had not renewed his motion for a committee of national defence. A week later he postponed his own motion for its renewal. Meanwhile he spoke and this time voted against the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland, 8 and 15 Feb. 1805. He opposed the war with Spain, but missed his chance to give his views fully on 12 Feb.: privately he described it as ‘one of the greatest stigmas ... that was ever fixed upon our national character’. His defence motion of 21 Feb., which was the same as Fox’s previous one for a committee to review the national defence measures of the past two sessions, condemned Pitt’s Additional Force Act as a failure and proposed enlistment for a term of years to make up the regulars. He spoke for three-and-a-half hours and was ‘if any fault too brilliant’, but it ‘fell flat’, being ably replied to by Canning, and was lost by 242 votes to 96: the Prince of Wales felt that Windham did not take the right ground and withheld his support. On 6 Mar., on Sheridan’s motion for the repeal of Pitt’s ‘parish bill’, he replied to Pitt eloquently ‘full of wit, not jokes, but fine elegant wit, and most sarcastic and severe, and certainly much felt by Pitt’. (Sheridan, who dreaded Windham’s ‘getting an ascendancy over Fox’, thought it ‘too witty’.) On 26 Mar., he opposed the militia enlisting bill as a revival of the ballot system which Pitt had abandoned in the ‘parish bill’ and as creating a bad leaven of professional and amateur soldiers.45
Windham was perplexed by the censure of Melville for malversation; his animosity towards Melville in the past was known. Privately he regarded it as ‘a severe reverse, but a most merited one’ and desirable that the Admiralty should be taken out of hands that ‘would soon have given us a Scotch navy’. On 8 Apr., while he voted for Whitbread’s censure, he was anxious that the wording should be ‘ambiguous’; on 10 Apr. he was more firmly against any rescinding of the House’s decision. To a friend of Melville’s who had appealed to him he wrote that he would not shield public men against their misdeeds, only against any exaggeration of them. Rough handling of Windham in ministerial newspapers ensued and on 26 Apr. he lashed out in the House at the injuring of public men’s reputations as an abuse of freedom of the press. On 29 Apr. he pronounced in favour of criminal prosecution of Melville, though he wished the mode of trial had been left to the decision of a select committee. Next day he opposed his own inclusion in the ballot for the committee on the 11th naval report, owing to his past association with Melville; but the attorney-general insisted that Windham’s ‘sturdy morality’ ruled this objection out and he was voted in by 207 votes to 80. On 25 June he opposed the substitution of impeachment for criminal prosecution, for which he had voted silently on 12 June.46 Having overcome his initial reluctance to act against Melville and joined the committee to investigate the charges against him, he extended his hostility to abuses to the Duke of Atholl’s ‘job’, as well as to Pitt’s dealings with Boyd and Benfield, 14 June: his treatment of Pitt was resented and he was nearly ‘coughed down’. On 20 June he supported Grey’s motion on the state of public affairs, opposing prorogation. He also supported Paull’s motion reflecting on the conduct of Lord Wellesley in India, 25 June, and his protégé Col. Craufurd’s army motion, 28 June, advocating enlistment for a period of years.
When in July 1805 there was talk of Pitt’s extending his administration and including Windham, ‘if he must’, together with Fox and Grenville, it was thought that Windham might refuse and that Fox would encourage him to do so. He continued to associate with the Grenvilles, but he saw more of the Whigs, and Creevey thought him ‘decidedly the most agreeable and witty in conversation of all these great men’. In May when they met to discuss the Irish Catholic petition, Windham had advised postponement, but was a staunch friend to the measure in the ensuing debate. This support, together with local disadvantages, proved a handicap to him soon afterwards when, upon rumours of a vacancy, he sounded his friends at Oxford University and sent his nephew to canvass for him. In his Whig days he had treated the idea of representing his alma mater with scorn but since 1799, at least, he had considered the idea. He found it ironical that ‘after being turned out of Norwich as an enemy to the dissenters, I should now be in danger of being rejected at Oxford, as not sufficiently friendly to the church’. No vacancy arose, but Fox promised to look out for another seat for him.47
In the autumn of 1805, having given up all expectation of any overture from Pitt, Windham collaborated with Fox in tempting Lord Sidmouth into opposition with them, but emphasized that he had not recanted his former opinions. The crushing of continental resistance to Buonaparte led to renewed concert with the Grenvilles: in December Windham and Buckingham patronized Hunt’s newspaper, the Morning Star, to express their views. When Parliament met in January 1806, unlike Fox he spoke ‘like a gentleman’ in waiving an amendment to the address during Pitt’s illness; the Morning Star had infuriated him by a fabricated account of a pre-sessional meeting between Fox, himself and their friends. Nevertheless on 23 Jan. he was believed to favour, with Fox and Grey, a motion on the state of the nation. On Pitt’s death he was provoked by Lascelles’s parliamentary tribute to him: apart from his known dislike of exaggerated honours, he anticipated that Pitt would be given full credit for withstanding the French revolution to the exclusion of his hero Burke, whom he had previously described as worthy of a ‘statue of gold’. Ignoring therefore the embarrassment which must be caused to Lord Grenville as Pitt’s cousin, he opposed a state funeral for Pitt on 27 Jan., claiming that Pitt was ‘eminently unsuccessful’ in his last years and adding his complaint that, unlike Fox, Pitt had begrudged recognition to Burke. After an acrimonious rejoinder from Pitt’s friends, he carried his own supporters and Fox into the division lobby: they were outnumbered by 258 votes to 89. To Grenville he disclaimed any personal motive, and confided to his diary, ‘Did not execute my task to my own satisfaction’. His speech was seen as a guarantee of the exclusion of Pitt’s friends from office, though had they succeeded in retaining it, they did not expect to be able to exclude him: he was now regarded, with Grenville, as ‘the least likely of all our politicians to yield one inch to Buonaparte’. His own view was: ‘That is the best ministry which will best succeed in putting the country in a good state of defence’. When therefore he became secretary of War in the government formed by Grenville, to which the King conceded a free hand with military policy, he saw himself given a crucial role.48
Windham had reservations about the new administration from the outset: the inclusion of Sidmouth was ‘the fatal resolution’. He disliked the provision for Sidmouth’s friends at a time when Grenville could not easily find places for Windham’s friends, Minto, William Elliot, French Laurence, Lords Folkestone and Kensington, and Hippisley. On the other hand he was described, with Grey, as the chief opponent of the inclusion of any of Pitt’s friends, because they would be a threat to the Foxites. Sidmouth, for his part, was among the first to express private misgivings about Windham’s fitness for the War Office and others agreed with him. On 3 Feb. Windham somewhat redeemed his attack on Pitt by acquiescing readily in the payment of his debts and acknowledging Pitt’s disinterestedness as to profit. The King was ‘rather kind’ to him when he kissed hands on 5 Feb., but he found the Queen ‘most ungracious’ and George III’s ‘entire approbation’ was doubted. There were other difficulties: he complained of receiving a lower salary than his colleagues and, having ‘much to do with the colonies and great patronage’, began a dispute with Grenville about the Treasury claim to appoint colonial agents which impaired their relations. Admittedly, he finally severed his links with his former chief press ally Cobbett precisely because Cobbett had insisted on attacking Grenville’s sinecure auditorship of the Exchequer; but this was offset by the irritation the premier’s brother Buckingham felt at Windham’s inability to obtain a suitable governorship for his protégé Sir William Young. This in turn made Windham fretful about his obligation to the marquess for his seat for St. Mawes and increased his determination to find another. After his attack on Pitt, whose funeral he did not attend, his popularity at Oxford was ‘totally gone’, but he had hopes of a county seat for Norfolk.49
In March 1806 Windham was criticized in the House for his delay in presenting his military plan. He blamed this on Pitt’s friends because of the failure of their policy and was stung by Canning into admitting that Pitt’s Additional Force Act had no part in his own scheme. He was anxious to present his plan entire, without previous hints as to its contents. Lord Grenville was asked to facilitate this and he and his colleagues to swallow their objections to parts of it, such as the minimal role left to the volunteers. On 3 Apr. he presented it and obtained leave to repeal Pitt’s Act. He was ‘particularly diffuse in his proposals’, speaking for four hours to a House of about 350. He proposed enlistment to the regulars for up to 21 years instead of for life, with pay increases and rewards for long service, including a pension scheme costing £200,000 p.a.; gradual reduction of the militia and of the volunteers; and a disembodied conscription of all men between 18 and 40. This was the implementation of his view that a professional army of quality would be more formidable to the enemy than any mixed system of recruitment. He would have liked to offer regular soldiers as such the vote in their counties (except in Scotland) as an additional privilege. The volunteers certainly got the message, for many of them resigned at once.
Lord Holland thus summarized the reaction, pointing out that the proposal was based on an idea of Richard Fitzpatrick’s but had been reduced to a system by Windham’s genius:
the plan was itself disagreeable to the King and the Duke of York; and the author of it, Mr Windham, was popular neither in the party nor in the country. Many, just tasting the sweets of office, were unwilling to endanger them, out of compliment, as they thought and said, to the man in the government most obnoxious to the Court, and most unpopular in the country. Among them were the Marquess of Buckingham and Lord Erskine ... Mr Fox was not less inflexible about Mr Windham and his plan. He told all who spoke to him, and Lord Erskine in particular, that the fate of the administration depended on it, that he would not stay in one hour after it was dropped. He was even concerned at Mr Windham’s conceding a point or two in the detail, to which he suspected the objections had been urged with a view of embarrassing rather than improving the plan....
The firmness of Mr Fox was ... necessary to its success ...; but for that Mr Windham would have been basely abandoned by his friends ... Mr Windham was not insensible to the noble-minded conduct, on all occasions, of Mr Fox to him, or to his cordial and disinterested support of this plan in particular ... his personal inclinations were from this moment obviously more directed to Mr Fox and his immediate adherents, than to any other branch of the political association with whom he acted.
Canning vowed obstruction to Windham’s plan, as it did away ‘with every vestige of Mr Pitt’s system ... particularly the volunteers’. Grenville was anxious to counteract the latter impression but Windham disliked alterations proposed as a sop to the volunteers. He countered Charles Yorke’s canvass of professional opinion on his recruitment scheme by showing a slight majority in favour of it, 17 Apr., though he did not reveal that opposition came from some Whig generals; and answered Perceval’s motion accusing him of abandoning the volunteers by asserting that he wished merely to prevent their abuse, 22 Apr. He amended his limited service proposals only to please the King, 29 May.50
Windham further irritated Grenville, a close friend of Lord Wellesley, by speaking and voting with a minority of 27 in favour of Hamilton’s motion reflecting on Wellesley’s conduct in India, 21 Apr. 1806. Fox did not do so, but the question revived in Windham Burkean associations, which were reinforced by his disgruntlement at Grenville’s refusal to consider sending Philip Francis to India. Wellesley’s impression that he was his only enemy in the government was reinforced on 28 Apr. when Windham (this time joined by Fox) favoured Paull’s motion against Wellesley. In revenge Grenville refused to reward French Laurence, who had joined Windham on this question, and both men continued their attack on Wellesley.51
‘Recruiting sergeant’ Windham was occupied for the next three months with the defence of his military measures; his limited enlistment proposals passed as a clause in the annual Mutiny Act on 6 June. At times he avoided discussion: William Lamb claimed that, despite his eloquence, ‘if he attempts stating or detailing, he gets puzzled and confused, and neither he or any one else can understand what he means’. Canning reported that ‘Windham if he ever attempts to get up, is pulled back by his colleagues’. The opposition harassed him over his Chelsea Hospital bill, his training bill and his militia officers bill, designed to ensure that no professional officer should be placed under a militia officer. He sat upon St. John Mildmay’s motion for a vote of thanks to the volunteers, 11 July, treating it as a mere provocation.52
Windham faced a more personal harassment on 11 June when George Rose moved for the unaudited accounts of Robert Lukin, Windham’s nephew, as agent to the foreign corps 1794-1801. In reproving Rose, he rejected any imputation of irregularity but was not hypocritical enough to deny nepotism: indeed, from a characteristic quirk, he defended it. (In 1803 he was reported to have an income of £4,000-£5,000 a year and to have saved nothing while in office, ‘but he amply provided for several relatives, the children etc. of his mother by her first marriage. The provision he obtained for them while he was in office is said to amount to £8,000 a year.’) Nepotism apart, he was anxious to preserve the patronage attached to his office: in June 1806 when Grenville forced him to yield to Treasury appointment of colonial agents, he complained that the ‘sacrifice’ was ‘considerable’: ‘It is not pleasant to stand recorded in an office as the chief in whose time patronage was lost to the office’.53
When Fox became gravely ill, Grenville was nudged by Buckingham to ‘prevail upon Windham to assist government by going into opposition’, 23 July. Grenville, however, anticipated that Windham would refuse a peerage, and added that ‘although his speeches are sometimes indiscreet, yet I believe we should, on the whole, feel the want of him in the House of Commons’. Buckingham wished Windham could be ‘induced to consider what is best for government instead of following every wild fancy that comes across him’; what he most disliked was the prospect of Windham’s taking the lead in the Commons when Howick succeeded to his dying father’s title, which would be bestowing it on ‘the most capricious mind, the worst judgment, the most insulated opinions, and the most systematic unpopularity, that can be found in that House’. He believed Windham to be incapable of concerting measures with his colleagues and the only solution, he informed his brother Thomas on 7 Sept., was for Howick to take the lead while he could, with Thomas himself in reserve; and since all three secretaries of state could not sit in the Commons, Windham must ‘go to the House of Lords, or see the whole public cause sacrificed to his views’. Thomas Grenville reported back that Windham had disclaimed to Lord Grenville ‘all idea of leading’ and was anxious for Howick to lead, but they could not force him to accept a peerage and he doubted if he would, 10 Sept. On 13 Sept. he was able to report that Windham had declined a peerage, ‘but with perfect good humour and complacency, and without any soreness as to the offer having been made’. In making the offer on 11 Sept., Lord Grenville had assured Windham that ‘the slightest intimation’ of his wishes would ‘outweigh ... all other considerations’. Windham recalled that he had been offered a peerage once before, but now, as then, had no hesitation in declining. A week later, however, Grenville informed Howick that he was convinced that Windham’s accepting a peerage was ‘indispensable’, the only means by which the government could continue. Windham doubted this and, after William Elliot had stated Grenville’s case to him, said he would yield ‘only as it is said sometimes to be in the power of a daughter to make her parents happy by marrying the man she abhors’, 19 Sept. On the same day Grenville renewed his plea, reinforcing it with those of their colleagues and Lord Moira’s mediation. Perhaps he hoped that Windham ‘might bite at it, to escape from the Norfolk election’. Windham replied:
I cannot see what end could be answered by my removal to the House of Peers that would not equally be answered by my withdrawing altogether from an official situation, and I have not a hesitation in saying which of the two I should prefer.
He saw no benefit from either and called into question the basis of Grenville’s argument, the need to reinforce his weight in the Commons by giving his brother Thomas the Home Office. Howick sympathized: ‘We are not acting kindly to him; and if he should reject this proposal, I cannot concur in pressing it to his exclusion from office’. He thought Windham’s language in refusing reflected ‘the utmost kindness’, though the refusal might topple the government. Lord Holland in his memoirs disagreed:
That plan was rejected with some marks of displeasure by that gentleman. It did not tend to allay his growing discontent with the Grenvilles. He thought that they proposed to remove him from his field of battle rather with a view of lessening his power than that of increasing his dignity. ‘They want ordnance’, said he, ‘and yet would begin by spiking one of their great guns.’
Windham’s conviction that the proposal was ‘whimsical’ and that he was being asked to make a sacrifice of credit was not without a basis au dessous des cartes. The hostility of Buckingham and his son Temple was something he might have expected but the Pittite opposition in their feelers to government through Canning also hinted what they were reluctant to stipulate: ‘Undoubtedly the removal of Windham, from the office which he now holds, at least, would have been by far the most effectual step toward the conciliation of the whole body of Mr Pitt’s friends’. There was some indication of Windham’s resentment in the renewal of the dispute between him and Grenville over patronage: if constrained to yield the auditorship of the Cape to Treasury nomination, he threatened, on 27 Sept., ‘in the event of any future vacancy, I will sooner quit my situation than allow of any appointment being made otherwise than in the way heretofore practised’. Being made to realize that the tangled history of Cape patronage was a legacy from Dundas, Windham so far relented as to offer a voluntary concession as long as it was not regarded as ‘a forced surrender of the right, as well for oneself, as for all who are to succeed one’. Grenville returned a firm but placatory answer, and when questioned about Canning’s terms for a Pittite junction with government retorted, 17 Oct., ‘I should indeed be sorry to be thought to have admitted a discussion of which Windham’s removal formed a part’.54
The dissolution of 1806 ended Windham’s tenure of his seat for St. Mawes. Norwich and, for the present, Oxford University were out of the question, Fox’s promise in the grave with him and Lord Sidmouth reluctant to let him fall back on Harwich. In August he therefore accepted Coke of Norfolk’s offer to stand in coalition with him for the county. Thanks to Coke’s exertions, he was returned ‘rich in votes, but somewhat reduced in cash’: his own reputation was far from sufficient. Many of the Norfolk gentry thought as little of him as he did of them and his exploitation of government influence was resented. He bungled its application at Yarmouth, where his alienation of Lord Townshend’s family cost him their support and government both seats. His ‘unexpected and most undeserved triumph’ was in any case short lived; after the failure of an attempt to compromise a petition, which would have cost him his seat anyway, he and Coke were unseated for bribery and treating, 19 Feb. 1807. He had, for security, been returned on the Treasury interest for New Romney.55
Windham must now either keep quiet so as not to rock the boat, or, as Cobbett advised, retire for his own honour. His ‘eminent personal unpopularity’ damaged the reputation of the government; his prediction that his military measures ‘were not likely to have a speedy operation’ had been ‘completely verified’. Relations between himself and his colleagues were uneasy on the subject of South America: the capture of Buenos Aires had not been authorized by the cabinet, but he had become a convert to quixotic schemes for extending a sphere of influence in the sub-continent which his colleagues did not share. Another source of friction was his dissent from the cabinet minute of 23 Dec. 1806, which in his view did not adequately exonerate the Princess of Wales, to whom he had long been well disposed, from the charges raised against her; it was only after several days of altercation that he agreed to tone down his protest.56
The falling off of Windham’s activity in the ensuing session answered to these dissensions. In January 1807 he was faced with Castlereagh’s attacks on the army estimates and military policy in South America, but he ‘replied in good heart and as usual amused by his jokes’. He was overruled when he advocated Sir John Stuart as commander of the expedition for the relief of Buenos Aires. He was ill and absent from the House before and after he renewed his opposition to the abolition of the slave trade on 27 Feb. Believing that it would spell the ruin of the country, he clashed bitterly with Wilberforce, not least about Burke’s views on the subject, 16 Mar. Meanwhile he held out hopes that his military plan was winning recruits for the regulars, 12 Mar., and could only hope that they would not be sacrificed to indiscriminate expeditions. He was adamant against any concessions to the King over the proposed Catholic relief bill, thinking the King should be told explicitly what was intended by it. Like Howick and Holland he was for immediate resignation rather than compromise. In Whig circles the report was that the Duke of York had urged the King to resist the bill, so as to get rid of Windham. His determination not to belong to ‘a set of very shabby people’ was reinforced by a further squabble with Grenville over Cape patronage, which, if he kept his word, would in any case have led to his resignation; it would not have taken Grenville by surprise and would have opened up a place acceptable to Canning, as a prelude to a Pittite junction with government. As it was, Windham left a parting memorial for the colonial department protesting against Treasury encroachment on its patronage. This was the basis of Lord Holland’s story that Windham was ‘actually on the point of resigning on other grounds when we were all dismissed’: while they were waiting to offer their resignations to the King, he had explained to him his quarrel with Grenville over patronage.
He inveighed so bitterly against the grasping spirit of the family, and spoke with such emphasis and gesticulation, that I grew alarmed lest the lords of the bedchamber and other sycophants (the growth of courts), who were at the door and enjoying, no doubt, the business which had brought us there that day, should imagine that it was vexation at the loss of our places which occasioned the vociferation and agitation which they witnessed ... But I learnt enough to know that had our ministry continued, he would have resigned, and that Lord Grenville for some good and for some bad reasons would not have been sorry to accept his resignation.
Lady Holland had reported, 21 Mar. 1807, that
Windham, in a sudden fit of disgust, told Lord Grenville that he desired he might no longer be considered as connected with him, as he meant to attach himself to Lds. Howick and Holland solely. This rash declaration was ill-timed, and nothing could be more ill-judged than to do this at a moment when unanimity is so requisite, and when all jealousies should be laid aside.
On 9 Apr. he voted for Brand’s motion following their replacement by the Portland ministry, and on 15 Apr. denounced the doctrine that the King might act without a responsible adviser.57
Windham was now ‘upon the world for a seat’: he had failed to induce Astley, his replacement for Norfolk, to surrender what should have been a safe seat for life. His first thought was of Sudbury, where he had for 30 years had some personal influence and a past assurance of Hippisley’s backing, but this was clutching at a straw. His agent found that he was de trop at Norwich. He was relieved to be promised by Earl Fitzwilliam on 29 Apr. that, if his son succeeded for Yorkshire, he might be able to accommodate Windham. He replied next day that he would probably need to take advantage of the offer and that their ‘perfect identity’ of views made him feel the more ‘comfortable in being so obliged’. On 3 May French Laurence informed Fitzwilliam that Windham (who had made inquiries about Maidstone and Bristol) had failed to find ‘a seat in some snug corner on the usual terms’ and that he
would not choose to be obliged to any man, if he could avoid it, but yourself, and in such a connection, he would even feel a positive satisfaction. He would consider it as an union of all who remained more immediately representing the sentiments of Lord Rockingham and Mr Burke.
Laurence added that Windham was willing to wait for a seat, or he and William Elliot, Members for Peterborough, would themselves have resigned rather than see Windham out of Parliament, if it could have been done without inconvenience to Fitzwilliam’s patronage there. He begged accommodation for Windham until he could buy another seat. Fitzwilliam then offered Higham Ferrers which Windham accepted, hoping to vacate it in due course; having spent over £11,000 on elections since the 1802 contest, he banked on an opening for Norfolk rather than risk his purse again. There was a report of Lord Thanet’s returning him for Appleby, which would serve as a standby if Milton lost Yorkshire and fell back on Higham Ferrers, but neither event materialized.58
Windham did not shine as an opposition speaker in the summer session of 1807, being necessarily on the defensive; he was laughed at when, deprecating the recent dissolution and opposing the address, 26 June, he said that ‘all the talents’ of the country would yet be needed. On 15 July he deplored the cry of ‘No Popery’. A week later he sprang to the defence of his military plan when Castlereagh proposed a militia transfer bill, and at the same time denied that late ministers were responsible for the failure of Whitelocke’s expedition to relieve Buenos Aires. (Windham, who was deeply disappointed by his friend Craufurd’s failure to save the day there, was widely, but wrongly, credited with the bestowal of the command on Whitelocke.) He went on to oppose Castlereagh’s bill at every stage, claiming he sought no other monument as a statesman than the system he had introduced. On 31 July and 7 Aug. he attempted, but ‘with little effect’, a defence of his ministry’s foreign policy, and on 13 Aug. introduced resolutions in favour of his military plan, which were countered by Castlereagh. He spoke and voted with opposition on the state of Ireland. He opposed the parochial schools bill, having explained, when Whitbread introduced his plan for the education of the poor on 24 Apr., that he thought it would only promote dissatisfaction with their lot, and sedition. Sir Samuel Romilly commented that this would have excited great astonishment ‘if one did not recollect his eager opposition a few months ago to the abolition of the slave trade’.59
When Howick succeeded as Earl Grey in November 1807, Windham, who had attached himself to him in opposition, lamented the loss to the House and had little spirit for the ‘greater exertion’ that might be required of him. ‘I shall keep as close to my present friends,’ he informed Tierney, ‘as my opinions on different questions that may arise will possibly let me, and more I could not have done in any case.’ While his name had to be considered for the leadership of opposition in the Commons, Grey thought he would be ‘excluded by a sort of general veto’; nor was he expected to give trouble about it, though Lord Grenville pointed out that he would be more likely to accept Ponsonby’s leadership than Petty’s. In fact he put himself out of the question and acquiesced entirely in Ponsonby’s lead. He informed his agent, Amyot, on 12 Dec.:
I shrink from the prospect of returning to parliamentary duty, much more to that of office ... As to ... leading the House of Commons, it is a situation which I have no reason to think will ever be offered me, but which infallibly I would never accept.
He even thought that he should perhaps have accepted a peerage, as his old love of rural retreat began to revive.60
Windham’s indignation at the Copenhagen expedition, which he described to Fitzwilliam in November 1807 as having ‘sullied ... our national character and injured irreparably our estimation upon the Continent’, inspired him to attack it repeatedly in debate, 21 Jan.-4 Mar. 1808. It was on this subject that he made one of his best speeches, 8 Feb. He was less effective in attempting to counter the official justification of the orders in council, 5 Feb., but voted against them on 3 Mar. On 11 Feb. he voted for Burdett’s motion on the droits of Admiralty, though he had opposed Burdett’s inclusion in the finance committee the previous June. On 8 and 14 Mar. he spoke and voted against any alteration to his military system. He seemed to be in tune with his colleagues in opposition and had resumed relations with the Grenvilles. He opposed Whitbread’s peace resolutions, though on 8 Apr. he supported his motion for information on Russian policy. In the debate on the abolition of reversions of office, while voting for Burdett’s amendments, 11 Apr.,
to save himself from the imputation of voting with Burdett upon common grounds, he delivered in a regular discourse the most extravagant defence of government influence and corruption turning chiefly upon the notable sophism that in corruption there are necessarily two parties, and that the people must be bad before the government can corrupt.
Thus Francis Horner alleged, but Perceval informed the King that Windham ‘very manfully opposed all the extravagant opinions by which the bill had been recommended as promising relief to the people, and as leading to further reform’. Opposing Castlereagh’s local militia bill, 12 Apr., 2 and 13 May, he claimed that it undermined his Training Act as surely as government had already destroyed his plan for enlistment for a term of years. He ‘wittily and bitterly’ supported the Irish Catholic petition and a larger grant to Maynooth College: the appointment to the Irish privy council of Patrick Duigenan he described as ‘a red flag held out to the Irish Catholics’. He opposed the Scottish judges pension bill, 4 May, but became a spokesman for the financial claims on government of John Palmer*, denying that it was a party question. On 15 June, sharing the young Whigs’ enthusiasm for the Spanish cause, he defended Sheridan’s motion, favouring a demonstration of support for the Spanish rising as a prelude to the ‘restoration of Europe’, without mixing ‘little British interests’ in it. Soon afterwards, he ‘appeared to great advantage’ when he was introduced to the Spanish deputies in England, according to William Smith*; ‘but then certainly Windham is one of the most gentlemanly men in appearance that is to be found in England’. Having on 22 Feb. resumed his strictures on Wellesley’s conduct in India, he tackled the Carnatic question on 17 June in Burkean language:
For the enormities committed by the British power in India, in all the enormities under all the successive variations of the French revolution, and by no means recently under Buonaparte, no parallel was to be found.
His last speech of the session was for the conservation of Hyde Park against property developers. Samuel Rogers maintained at this time that ‘There were now only three good speakers in the House of Commons—Grattan, Windham and Canning’.61
Deteriorating health detained Windham at Bath when Parliament next met. He felt uneasy—‘like an old dragoon horse at the sound of a trumpet’ at ‘not being in the battle’. He communicated with Thomas Grenville about the parliamentary campaign for 1809, hoping that Catholic relief would not be forgotten and pressing his view that the Spanish war should be conducted rather as a coastal operation than a drive into the interior. When he returned to Westminster, his main object was the convention of Cintra. On 21 Feb. he exonerated Sir Arthur Wellesley*, in whose ability as a commander he firmly believed, and blamed ministers for arresting Wellesley’s progress by changing commanders. He voted in censure of them. On 24 Feb. he further criticized them for mismanagement of the campaign. On 14 Mar., claiming that he had hitherto abstained on the subject, he expressed his belief in the Duke of York’s innocence of the charges against him, but added that the duke’s most honourable course was to resign. He voted against Perceval’s and in favour of Bankes’s motion on the subject, but faute de mieux. On 21 Mar. he supported reform of the victualling board. He continued to oppose Castlereagh’s militia arrangements but refused to vote on the charge of corruption against him, 25 Apr. He regarded it as an implied plea for parliamentary reform: ‘The moment a single brick was taken out of the building ... the entire ruin of the edifice must follow’. On Curwen’s motion, 4 May, he said:
There were some measures which ought to be rejected in limine ... such was, in his opinion, the measure of parliamentary reform ... This measure was said to favour the landed interest against the monied interest—that was not the tendency out of doors.
Perceval thought Windham’s a ‘very able speech’, noting that his opposition to the bill was stronger even than his own. He could no longer be counted on for party meetings; his support in the House was considered ‘powerful but irregular’: he no longer waited to vote in the sense that he had spoken. Greenhill, Member for Thirsk, claimed that he had ‘fallen low, as a political character, on every side the House. His wavering indecision—his splitting straws and his inconsistency have left him a character not to be looked to.’ On 11 May, when Madocks renewed the charge of corruption against Castlereagh, he again repudiated it, thinking corruption ‘as inevitable as the poison in the air we breathe’ and insisting that it was stronger at the bottom of society than at the top. He did not vote. On 26 May he further attacked Curwen’s bill: parliamentary reform was unthinkable without the reform of the people; abuses began among them and gradually became ‘the bribes which government pays to the people, directly or indirectly, to prevent them from pulling the government to pieces’. Those who got into Parliament by purchase or influence were at least not ‘the mere slaves of popular opinion’. With reference to Burdett, he rebuked reforming mischief-makers whose patriotism was based on the maxim ‘I am the only honest man, all others are rogues’. Lord Grey, who felt bound to disagree with his views, admitted readily that he ‘spoke beautifully’ on this subject. On 12 and 13 June he successfully took the lead against Erskine’s cruelty to animals bill, which showed ‘a false and spurious kind of humanity’ in leaving the animal sports of the rich out of the question and dictated behaviour which should be a matter of manners.62 His aversion to animal slaughter had however been the subject of a speech of 21 Apr. 1800.
When in September 1809 Perceval made overtures to Grey and Grenville, Windham wrote, ‘I have not virtue enough to wish the ministers out, at the risk of being one of those who may be called upon to succeed them’. He was relieved when the two lords rejected the offer. To Grey he wrote, 29 Sept.:
it is indeed difficult to say what good we could do, if we had the affair all in our own hands. Much service may undoubtedly be rendered by an upright and well disposed ministry, by a just distribution of patronage, by encouraging merit, and repressing intrigue and presumption, by producing a great deal of individual good and improving all the efficient departments of the State, not to mention the benefit of the example. But I am not sure that we should be better in that respect than our neighbours. And for great and beneficial measures I know not what they are to be.
He went on to say that he saw no distinctive contribution that they could make to foreign affairs, ‘now that Spain is lost’. Internally he would wish to repair his military system, but felt less sure about Catholic relief. Above all he wished to resist democracy, by checking the licence of the press to abuse Parliament. On the whole he thought it better ‘to reserve our strength’ until ‘more distinctly called for’. To Thomas Grenville he wrote on 1 Oct. that he supposed the business would end there and spare ‘the necessity of so formidable a responsibility’: there was ‘a degree of virtue’ in their refusal. To his agent he wrote next day, ‘I feel but little stomach to return to office, unless I can have carte blanche as to my military plans’. Sidmouth, who had recently extracted from him the admission that ‘if it had not been for the peace of Amiens this country could never have maintained the struggle to the present period’, found him equally ‘reasonable’ on the Catholic question in October, though he saw the point of Windham’s proviso as to ‘the necessity of keeping up the hopes of the Catholics for the sake of inducing them to look for relief from their own countrymen instead of the enemy’.63
At Bath over Christmas, though he felt ‘a decay of strength since last year’, Windham was observed to be ‘in excellent looks and great spirits, and very angry, like a staunch aristocrat at the compromise with the OPs’ (those who were sticklers for the ‘old prices’ at Covent Garden theatre). The reason was that he regarded ‘this disgraceful and mischievous triumph of the OPs’ as ‘a rehearsal of what is meant for higher performances ... a presage of the fate of the country’. Writing to Thomas Grenville on 4 Jan. 1810 he referred to his ‘unwillingness to go back to school after the holidays’ and feared he would miss the pre-sessional party meeting, though he felt he could concur in it. He saw no hope for the improvement of the ministry by the introduction of new men, as the danger to the country from ‘within’ was beyond ministerial control. On 23 Jan. he attended to vote against the address. His hostility to the Walcheren expedition, which had diverted military effort from Spain, was already known to his friends: on 26 Jan. he supported Porchester’s motion for inquiry. After justifying further votes with opposition on 23 Feb. and 5 Mar. he ‘spoke well’ for two hours and again voted in censure of the expedition on 30 Mar. He also opposed the army estimates, 26 Feb., taking the line that the army was neglected compared with the navy and was wasted in futile expeditions. On 16 Feb., he endorsed the thanks to Wellington for the victory at Talavera voted in his absence on 1 Feb., but opposed a pension for him: Canning thought his ‘distinctions were very rational and just, between this vote and the thanks’. Wellington’s brother Wellesley Pole wrote, ‘though he voted against us he was Arthur’s strongest advocate’, having delivered ‘a most beautiful panegyric ... on him’. On 23 Feb. he presented the English Catholics’ petition for relief.64
During that session Windham’s known animosity towards the press as a stimulus to democracy came to a head: on 6 Feb. he had opposed Sheridan’s motion against the exclusion of strangers on the grounds that the reporting of debates was a favour, not a right. On 23 Mar. they clashed when he moved the exclusion of strangers in the debate on the rejection of journalists seeking admission to the inns of court and, twitted by Sheridan, withdrew in a huff. Whenever he subsequently rose to speak, all the reporters struck work. Detailed reporting of his speeches was not resumed until 10 Apr., but apart from his strictures on the Walcheren expedition, he is known to have spoken for the postponement of the case of Sir Francis Burdett on 28 Mar. and 5 Apr., on the expulsion of Joseph Hunt on 7 Apr., and in criticism of the Speaker for his mismanagement of Burdett’s arrest on 9 and 10 Apr., at the same time indicating his entire disapproval of Burdett’s proceedings. On 16 Apr. he opposed the release of the radical John Gale Jones, whom he styled Barabbas. On 1 May when Romilly proposed to amend the criminal law on stealing, Windham, having previously objected to his penal reform schemes, was ‘most strenuous in opposition to the bill’. On 7 May he spoke in favour of a select committee to examine Burdett’s breach of privilege. He did not himself wish to sit on it, as he disapproved of its composition, though not for party reasons: he left it to the House to safeguard its privileges. ‘If our reformers continue their madness’, he wrote on 16 May, ‘it will be anarchy or Buonaparte-probably both in turn.’65
In declining to attend the committee, Windham referred to ‘very peculiar private reasons’ which might excuse him: he was alluding to the ‘sentence of operation’ passed on him on 7 May, which he insisted on undergoing. On 8 July 1809 he had injured his hip while helping to rescue Frederick North’s* valuable library from a fire; he ignored the injury, but a tumour developed, and the operation on 17 May, though apparently successful, was too much for a constitution already greatly impaired. Windham died resigned to his fate on 4 June 1810, ‘a sad loss to society’. Thomas Grenville voted him ‘a model of an English gentleman’, and Canning ‘the best bred man in England’. Brougham asserted that ‘his spirits were, in advanced life, so gay, that he was always younger than the youngest of his company’. In conversation, Wilberforce admitted, Windham was ‘facile princeps’ and added, ‘it is very remarkable, that with an imagination far more fertile and combining than any I ever knew, he never seemed to allude to any scriptural facts or ideas. Burke did continually.’ Twelve years later Wilberforce reflected:
Windham’s mind was in the last degree copious, the soul was so fertile, scratch where you pleased, up came white clover. He had many of the true characteristics of a hero, but he had one great fault as a statesman, he hated the popular side of any question ... I had a melancholy proof of it in the instance of the slave trade. When the abolition had but few friends, he was all on our side, but as the nation drew towards us, he retreated, and at last on the division in 1807, he was one of the sixteen who voted against us.
Other instances of this, as Brougham noted, were the volunteer system, military rewards, the amusements of the people, cruelty to animals, criminal law reform and popular education. Sir James Mackintosh commented that
if prudence had limited his logic and mitigated his expressions, they would have been acknowledged to be no more than those views of different sides of an object, which, in the changes of politics, must present themselves to the mind of a statesman.
This characteristic made him a dubious asset to the Whigs in opposition from 1807: uncertain and unpopular, unable to ‘sit still in the boat’, he evoked their admiration but not their confidence, and they could not think of a suitable office for him if they returned to power; nor could he. Pitt had described him as one of those persons ‘whom he never could decide whether it was better to have in opposition, or as his friend’. What Sheridan called his ‘nice, delicate, refined, fastidious understanding’, which found expression in unpopular paradoxes enunciated in an ‘old pronunciation’, and led him to glory ‘in his own indiscreet phrases’ and in opposing his own reason, also made Windham an unreliable collaborator in council. He took the view that ‘the management of civil affairs, depending as they do, on the consent of others, is liable to be thwarted at every step by their sordidness and folly’.66
At the time of his death, Windham’s intellectual aspirations, so long restricted to confidences to his diary, to haphazard mathematical speculations and to the cultivation of men of science for whose achievements he lent public support, appeared as mere vagaries of his restless temper. Lord Byron was shocked when Richard Sharp informed him that
Windham, half his life an active participator in the events of the earth, and one of those who governed nations—he regretted—and dwelt much on that regret, that ‘he had not entirely devoted himself to literature and science’!!! His mind certainly would have carried him to eminence there, as elsewhere; but I cannot comprehend what debility of that mind could suggest such a wish ... What! would he have been a plodder? a metaphysician? perhaps a rhymer? a scribbler? Such an exchange must have been suggested by illness.
Tribute was paid to Windham by Grey in the Lords, 6 June, and by Milton and Canning in the Commons on 7 June. The King lamented his loss as ‘a genuine patriot, and a truly honest man’. As such, Windham insisted on a private burial at Felbrigg, where his memorial stated:
His views and councils were directed more to raising the glory than increasing the wealth of his country. He was above all things anxious to preserve untainted the national character, and even those national manners which long habit had associated with that character. As a statesman, he laboured to exalt the courage, to improve the comforts, and ennoble the profession of a soldier.
Lord Holland, while prepared to descant upon the weaknesses in Windham’s character, concluded:
However, on the whole, he was one of the brightest ornaments of his time; and if more splendid than useful in public, if more capable of hatred than of love in private, and if more indulgent to his inferiors than affectionate to his equals, he never permitted such blemishes to swell into vices, nor forfeited either in political or domestic life the character of a good as well as a brilliant man.67
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
There is still no complete biography. Soon after Windham's death his friend Edmund Malone published a memoir (see Gent. Mag. (1810), i. 588) described by Lord Holland as 'a most miserable performance'. His executors delegated the task to George Ellis*, who died in 1815 without accomplishing it. Windham's agent and secretary, Thomas Amyot, published his speeches in 3 volumes in 1812 with a prefatory memoir. Some of his diaries (1784-1810) were published in 1866, probably incompletely, and are partly lost. His correspondence with Mrs Crewe was published at the same time in the Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Soc., vol. ix. The Windham Papers edited by S. Benjamin in 1913, not always reliably, but with a notable introduction by Lord Rosebery, drew on the mss collection acquired by the BL in 1909 (Add. 37842-37935), as did J. P. Gilson in his Corresp. of E. Burke and W. Windham (1910) and 'Lewis Melville' in his Life of William Cobbett (1913). R. W. Ketton-Cremer drew on his own Windham mss (now in the Norf. RO, except for Add. 50851 in the BL) for The Early Life and Diaries of William Windham (1930) and wrote an extended essay on Windham in his Felbrigg (1962).
- 1. Diary of Madame d’Arblay ed. Dobson, iii. 419, 436; iv. 259, 368, 380, 381, 384, 400; Windham Diary, 205, 207; Windham Pprs. i. 96; Brougham, Hist. Sketches, i. 210.
- 2. Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xxxiv. 65-7; Windham Pprs. i. 89; Windham Diary, 212; Burke Corresp. vi. 142, 194; Minto, i. 379; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 564; Windham Pprs. i. 98; HMC Fortescue, ii. 150; Holland, Mems. Whig Party, i. 16.
- 3. Windham Diary 212-14, 220, 245; Diary of Madame d’Arblay, iii. 455; Sheridan Letters ed. Price, i. 238.
- 4. Diary of Madame d’Arblay, v. 75; PRO 30/8/153, f. 83; Burke Corresp. vii. 149; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 469; Add. 51705, Pelham to Lady Webster, 28 May 1792; Windham Pprs. i. 100; Windham Speeches ed. Amyot, i. 153; Fitzwilliam mss, box 44, Grenville to Fitzwilliam, 29 Aug. ; Windham Diary, 257; Blair Adam mss, Windham to Adam, 13 July 1792.
- 5. Windham Diary, 261; Burke Corresp. vii. 288, 289, 305, 315, 318; Fitzwilliam mss, box 44, Grenville to Fitzwilliam, 15, 17 Nov., Windham to same, 17 Nov.; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 15, 25 Nov. 1792; Geo. III Corresp. i. 807; Portland mss PwF9229; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 450, 478; Add. 37844, f. 1; 37873, f. 181; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/4; Holland, i. 23.
- 6. HMC Charlemont, ii. 203, 207; Sheridan Letters i. 264; Auckland Jnl. ii. 474, 476; Minto, ii. 87, 90, 97, 100; Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 479-95, 497; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/5.
- 7. Malmesbury Diaries, ii. 498; Geo. III Corresp. i. 819; Records of Stirring Times ed. Montgomery-Campbell, 27; Minto, ii. 112; NLS mss 11048, f. 168.
- 8. Add. 34448, f. 296; 37873, ff. 201-2; 41854, f. 296; 42058, f. 115; Minto, ii. 113; NLS mss 11196, ff. 95, 97, 98; F. O’Gorman, The Whig Party and the French Revolution, 127.
- 9. NLS mss 11196, f. 102; Add. 53804, f. 117.
- 10. Burke Corresp. vii. 349; Minto, ii. 121; Windham Diary, 272; Add. 37848, f. 55.
- 11. Minto, ii. 127, 139, 147; Windham Diary, 226, 273, 274; NLS mss 11048, f. 278; Lansdowne mss, Wycombe to Lansdowne, 11 June 1793.
- 12. Windham Pprs. i. 137, 140-5; Windham Diary, 278; Lansdowne mss, Wycombe to Lansdowne, 18 June; NLS mss 11048, ff. 288, 292, 304; 11138, f. 15; 11139, f. 7; Spencer mss, Spencer to his mother, 18 June 1793; Minto, ii. 150; Glenbervie Jnls. 116.
- 13. Windham Diary, 279; NLS mss 11049, f. 5; 11111, ff. 267, 269; 11139, ff. 24, 34; Minto, ii. 159, 167; Windham Pprs. i. 146, 151, 153, 155; Add. 37845, f. 15.
- 14. Windham Pprs. i. 157-9, 165; Burke Corresp. vii. 438-9; Add. 37844, f. 11; 37848, f. 71; 38743, ff. 216, 224, 264; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/9; Fitzwilliam mss, box 45, Portland to Fitzwilliam, 26 Sept. 1793.
- 15. Burke Corresp. iv. 201; vii. 440, 469, 478, 487; Windham Pprs. 167, 169, 173, 176, 184, 186; Add. 33629, ff. 2, 5, 13; 37845, f. 119; 42058, ff. 98, 128; 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 7 Dec. 1793; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 6; Windham Diary, 296, 299, 302; Spencer mss, Windham to Spencer, 9 Dec., Grenville to same, 27 Dec. 1793; NLS mss 11138, f. 42; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 118; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 8-9, 15; PRO 30/8/190, f. 220; Camden mss C255/1.
- 16. NLS mss 11138, ff. 57, 63; Windham Pprs. i. 199; Burke Corresp. vii. 525, 530; Add. 33129, f. 232; 33630, f. 1, 11-32; 33631, f. 4; 37844, f. 19; 42058, f. 100; 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 16 Jan., 21 [Jan.], 4, 20 Feb., [27 Feb.], 7 Apr. 1794; Windham Diary, 301-2; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1039.
- 17. Camden mss O256/1; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/15; Windham Diary, 308, 312, 314; Windham Pprs. i. 216; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 843; Gent. Mag. (1810), i. 588; Portland mss PwF4398-9, 9538; Add. 42058, f. 161; 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 19 June 1794; NLS mss 11138, f. 71.
- 18. Rose Diaries, i. 194; Bland Burges Pprs. ed. Hutton, 260, 273.
- 19. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1110, 1113, 1118, 1120; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, ii. 275; Windham Pprs. i. 239-46, 256-62, 273-5; NLS mss 11138, f. 79; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/32, 33, 74, 75; Windham Diary, 321-33; Minto, ii. 387; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 12 Oct. ; PRO 30/8/102, ff. 264-6; 190, ff. 240, 248; 330, f. 326; Stanhope, Pitt. ii. 287-8; Burke Corresp. viii. 101; Farington, i. 51, 54.
- 20. Burke Corresp. viii. 105, 122; Farington, i. 85-6; Add. 51706, Pelham to Lady Webster, 26 Jan. 1795; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1250; Life of Wilberforce (1838), ii. 90.
- 21. Farington, i. 90; Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire to her mother, Tues. [12 Apr. 1795]; Field, Mems. Samuel Parr. i. 319.
- 22. Add. 37875, ff. 2-5; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F31/82; Burke Corresp. viii. 181, 268-9, 273, 304; Windham Pprs. i. 287, 301; Minto, ii. 330-2.
- 23. Colchester, i. 4, 22; Farington, i. 111, 119; HMC Fortescue, iii. 137, 141, 162.
- 24. Holland, i. 21; Farington, i. 140.
- 25. HMC Fortescue, iii. 174; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 731/9, Windham to Pitt, 31 Jan. 1796; Windham Pprs. ii. 5, 8, 19; Burke Corresp. viii. 375-6, 447; ix. 65; NLS mss 11138, f. 120; Pellew, Sidmouth, i. 175.
- 26. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 79, 97, 105; Add. 37876, ff. 214, 218; Windham Pprs. ii. 27, 31-3, 34; Misc. Philobiblon Soc. ix. 39; Burke Corresp. ix. 185-7, 203; Fitzwilliam mss, box 50, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 20 Dec. 1796.
- 27. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 114, 121; Windham Pprs. ii. 40, 42, 46; Windham Diary, 348, 357, 378; Morning Chron. 7 Jan., 1 Feb. 1797; M. D. George, Cat. Pol. and Personal Satires, vii. 9735; Burke Corresp. ix. 287, 299-300, 313, 339, 349, 368; Add. 37877, f. 118; Fitzwilliam mss, box 51, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 16 May 1797.
- 28. Windham Pprs. ii. 47, 61, 64; Minto, ii. 396; HMC Fortescue, iii. 330, 362; Stanhope, iii. 53; Windham Diary, 367-8, 373, 380; Malmesbury Diaries, iii. 590.
- 29. Windham Diary, 383, 385; Colchester, i. 120; Life of Wilberforce, ii. 244; PRO 30/8/190, f. 256; Farington, i. 199; Add. 37877, ff. 296, 310-11; HMC Fortescue, iv. 207; Windham Pprs. ii. 71, 74, 77, 78; Minto, iii. 16.
- 30. Windham Diary, 404-5, 406; NLS mss 11139, f. 130; Sidmouth mss, Windham to Addington, 29 Jan.; Chatsworth mss, Lady E. Foster jnl., 8 Feb.; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 9 Feb. 1799; Windham Pprs. ii. 92.
- 31. Add. 37884, f. 185; 37923, f. 6; 41854, f. 304; HMC Fortescue, iv. 85; Windham Diary, 410.
- 32. Windham Pprs. ii. 102, 112, 132, 143; HMC Fortescue, v. 306, 346, 359, 382, 407; Add. 37883, f. 262; 37923, ff. 8-46.
- 33. Windham Pprs. ii. 152; Add. 37844, ff. 237, 239; 37847, f. 208; 37879, f. 148; 37924, ff. 48-66; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 3/26, 32; HMC Fortescue, vi. 218, 220, 341; NLS mss 11139, f. 141; Windham Diary, 423, 424, 430-1; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 152, 157; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 22-3; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2143, 2234n, 2256.
- 34. Add. 37924, ff. 85-90; 38235, f. 172; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 7; HMC Fortescue, vi. 436, 445, 449; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2348; Windham Pprs. ii. 169; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 159; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 132; Minto, iii. 201; The Times, 2 May 1801.
- 35. Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 59; Windham Pprs. ii. 172-3, 176; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 2 Oct. 1801; Add. 35701, f. 126; 37844, f. 253; 37880, f. 160; 47574, f. 163; Grey mss; Melville, Cobbett, i. 137; Morning Post, 2 Oct. 1801; HMC Fortescue, vii. 66; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 266; The Times, 31 Oct. 1801.
- 36. Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire jnl. [5 Nov.]; Malmesbury mss, Elliot to Malmesbury, 5 Nov. 1801; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 272, 276; Add. 37880, ff. 193, 197, 210, 214, 224, 226, 251; 41854, f. 308; 51570, Hamilton to Holland, Tues. [6 Nov. 1801]; Colchester, i. 377; Courier, 5 Nov. 1801; M. D. George, viii. 9735; Windham Pprs. ii. 178, 180; Buckingham, iii. 180; HMC Fortescue, vii. 71; Fitzwilliam mss X516, Laurence to Fitzwilliam [17 Dec. 1801]; Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 5 Jan. 1802; Farington, ii. 97.
- 37. Fitzwilliam mss, box 60, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 24 Feb.; Add. 37880, ff. 249, 263; 37884, f. 288; 41854, f. 312; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 6 Mar. 1802; Jackson Diaries, i. 44; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 66; Windham Pprs. ii. 183, 184, 187, 188; Malmesbury mss, Leveson Gower to Malmesbury, Fri. [?14 May 1802]; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 9; PRO 30/29/8/3, f. 243; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 48; Minto, iii. 250.
- 38. Bucks. RO, Hobart mss H96, 97, 99; Norf. RO, Colman Lib. mss 632, f. 31; M. D. George, viii. 9879; HMC Fortescue, vii. 99; Buckingham, iii. 205; Stanhope mss 731/9, Windham to Pitt, 6 July; The Times, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16 July; Norf. Chron. 17 July 1802; Add. 37881, f. 1; 37885, f. 10; 37906, ff. 1, 5, 11; 41854, ff. 315, 317, 318, 320, 322; Windham Pprs. ii. 193, 195, 199.
- 39. Windham Pprs. ii. 196-9; Leveson Gower, i. 355; Sidmouth mss, Glenbervie to Addington, 26 Sept. 1802; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 337; Ketton-Cremer, Felbrigg, 210; Courier, 5 Jan. 1803; HMC Fortescue, vii. 117, 124, 128, 131; Add. 37846, ff. 190, 192; 38236, f. 231; 41854, f. 324; Dublin SPO 520/129/40; Fitzwilliam mss, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 15 Nov.; Herts. RO, Spencer Cowper mss, box 13, Lady Melbourne to Cowper, 26 Nov. 1802; Buckingham, iii. 219; Farington, ii. 65.
- 40. Chatsworth mss. Fox to Duchess of Devonshire, 16 Dec. 1802; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 167; HMC Fortescue, vii. 155; Pellew, ii. 122; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife [?18 Apr.], 20 May; Fitzwilliam mss, box 62, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 15 Apr.; Lansdowne mss, Petty to Lansdowne, 7 May 1803; Add. 35772, f. 160; 38833, f. 149; 41856, f. 100; Farington, ii. 101.
- 41. Add. 35702, ff. 268, 326; 47566, f. 141; 51686, Petty to Holland, 6 June 1803; Farington, ii. 104, 114, 117, 129; Fitzwilliam mss, box 63, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 11 Aug. 1803; Fox Corresp. iii. 417; iv. 5; HMC Fortescue, vii. 176; Buckingham, iii. 311.
- 42. Norf. RO, Ketton-Cremer mss, Windham to Lukin, 20 July, 25 Aug., 18, 25 Nov. 1803; Minto, iii. 292; HMC Fortescue, vii. 180, 187; Windham Diary, 443; Windham Pprs. ii. 211, 216; Colchester, i. 463, 464, 468; Pellew, ii. 230-3; Add. 35704, f. 145; 35743, f. 254; 35744, f. 49; 37849, f. 267; 37853, f. 96; 41854, f. 326; 51570, Hamilton to Lady Holland [16 Dec.]; Grey mss, Grey to Fox, 3 Dec.; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 10 Dec. 1803; Fox Corresp. iii. 443; Creevey Pprs. i. 19; Sinclair mss, Barclay to Sinclair, 15 Dec. 1803.
- 43. M. D. George, viii. 10221; Windham Pprs. ii. 227, 230; Farington, ii. 181, 192; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 368; Minto, iii. 303; Malmesbury mss, memo 19 Feb. 1804; Add. 35747, f. 44; 37843, f. 225; 37882, ff. 77, 90; 37906, f. 159; Ketton-Cremer mss, Windham to Lukin, 21 Mar. 1804; Gent. Mag. (1810), i. 588.
- 44. Colchester, i. 497, 507; Add. 35706, f. 13; 37853, f. 129; 37906, f. 163; Windham Pprs. ii. 232; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Melville, 14 Apr. ; Rose Diaries, ii. 122-3; PRO 30/8/112, f. 50; Minto, iii. 335; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2888; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 379; Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 20 June 1804; Farington, ii. 78, 80; Fox Corresp. iv. 57.
- 45. Buckingham, iii. 375, 410; Windham Pprs. ii. 239, 242; HMC Fortescue, vii. 241, 243, 250, 251; Add. 37849, f. 261; 47569, ff. 186, 192; Auckland Jnl. iv. 229; Colchester, i. 536, 541; Harrowby mss, Bathurst to Harrowby, 27 Jan., [Mar.], [?9 Apr.] 1805; Windham Diary, 446-8; Leveson Gower, ii. 23; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3030.
- 46. Windham Pprs. ii. 252; Farington, iii. 225; Pol. Reg. 5, 12 Oct. 1805; Add. 37882, ff. 162, 167; 37884, f. 265; Melville, Cobbett, i. 271; Colchester, ii. 9.
- 47. Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 15, 16 June; E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 15 July; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 11 July 1805; Add. 37843, ff. 245, 249; 37849, ff. 200, 276; 37909, passim; Minto, iii. 354; Creevey Pprs. i. 38; HMC Fortescue, vii. 268, 285; Windham Pprs. ii. 193, 255-7, 260-1, 264-7, 269; Sidmouth mss, Churton to Sidmouth, 5 Aug. 1805; Holland, i. 21; The Times, 22 Jan. 1802.
- 48. Pellew, ii. 395; Windham Pprs. ii. 270, 273, 284; Buckingham, iii. 450-1; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 11 Jan. 1806; Add. 35706, ff. 311, 316; 37883, ff. 5, 6, 8, 10; HMC Fortescue, vii. 308, 310, 317, 335, 338, 345, 349, 351; Farington, iii. 160, 170; Auckland Jnl. iv. 268; HMC Lonsdale, 161; Paget Pprs. ii. 271; Windham Diary, 456.
- 49. Windham Diary, 457-8; Add. 37847, ff. 1, 3, 5, 9, 13; 37849, f. 36; 37883, f. 84; 37906, f. 226; HMC Fortescue, vii. 346; viii. 9, 12, 18, 30, 56; SRO GD51/1/195/6; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 31 Jan.; Glos. RO, Redesdale mss, Long to Redesdale, 3 Feb.; Bodl. Eng. letters c.60, C. P. to Sir J. S. Yorke, 3 Mar.; Dorset RO, Bond mss D413, Bankes to Bond, 3 Feb.; Bankes mss, Bond to Bankes, Thurs. [Feb. 1806]; Auckland Jnl. iv. 275; Buckingham, iv. 21; Windham Pprs. ii. 294-8; Farington, iii. 196; Minto, iii. 378-9; HMC Lonsdale, 179.
- 50. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 7, 18, 20, 27 Mar. 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 60, 62, 66-67, 77, 113, 134, 149-50; HMC Lonsdale, 178, 182; Windham Diary, 460; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 4 Apr. 1806; Colchester, ii. 49; Romilly, Mems. ii. 141, 149; Holland, i. 220; Add. 47569, ff. 284, 297; Windham Pprs. ii. 301, 309; Grey mss, Buckingham to Howick, 6 Apr. 1806; Portland mss PwH417; Perceval (Holland) mss 11, f. 10a; J. W. Fortescue, County Lieutenancies and the Army 1803-14, pp. 162, 173, 203.
- 51. HMC Fortescue, vii. 337; viii. 34, 35, 171-6; Add. 37847, ff. 67, 73; 37883, ff. 143-52; Colchester, ii. 85.
- 52. M. D. George, viii. 10572; Pol. Reg. 7 June; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 7, 21 May, 18, 27 June 1806; Leveson Gower, ii. 199.
- 53. Farington, ii. 80; HMC Fortescue, viii. 183, 187-9, 208; Windham Pprs. ii. 310.
- 54. HMC Fortescue, viii. 242, 303, 307, 316, 319, 320, 338, 340, 342, 344, 360, 361, 363, 374-5, 389; Buckingham, iv. 54, 68, 72; Spencer mss, Buckingham to Spencer, 28 July 1806; Add. 34457, f. 33; 37847, ff. 127, 132-8; Windham Pprs. ii. 316, 319; Grey mss, Howick to Whitbread, 20 Sept.; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Moira, 22 Sept. 1806; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2229, 2232; Holland, ii. 52; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 183, 184; PRO 30/29/8/3, f. 374; HMC Lonsdale, 209, 211; Wellesley Pprs. i. 214, 221, 228.
- 55. Lonsdale mss, Stonard to Lowther, 22 Oct.; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, [21 Oct.]; Bevan Trust mss, Buxton to Glyn, 19 Nov. 1806; Farington, iii. 246; HMC Fortescue, viii. 393-414; Spencer mss, Windham to Spencer, Wed.; NLS mss 3795, ff. 155-6; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 193-4, 197.
- 56. Pol. Reg. 25 Oct.; St. Germans mss, Perceval to Eliot, 20 Nov.; Sidmouth mss, J.H. Addington to Sidmouth, 1 Dec.; Lonsdale mss, Mulgrave to Lowther, 22 Dec. 1806; Pellew, ii. 441; Add. 37847, ff. 113, 160-72; 37883, ff. 178-80; 37885, f. 39; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3297; HMC Fortescue, viii. 418, 482-5; Hist. Jnl. xv. (4), 619-48; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2338; Windham Pprs. ii. 335.
- 57. Windham Diary, 467; Harrowby mss, Ryder to Harrowby, 25 Jan.; Grey mss, Windham to Howick [Jan.], [23, 26 Feb.], [2 Mar.] 1807; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F64/33; Buckingham, iv. 139; HMC Fortescue, ix. 119, 133; Add. 37847, ff. 200-2; 37886, ff. 204-6; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 10 Feb., 6, 10 Mar.; NLS mss 12920, Windham to Elliot, 16 Mar. 1807; Holland, ii. 196-7, 200, 204; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 205, 210, 224, 226.
- 58. NLS mss 11139, f. 178; Add. 37849, f. 256; 37886, ff. 235, 272, 276; Grey mss. Windham to Howick, 30 Apr.; Colman Lib. mss 632, ff. 40-45; Fitzwilliam mss, box 71, Windham to Fitzwilliam, 26, 30 Apr., to Milton, 30 Apr.; box 72, Laurence to Fitzwilliam [3 May], Windham to same, 5, 8, 20 May 1807; Farington, iv. 144.
- 59. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3505; Grey mss, Tierney to Howick, 29 Sept. 1807; Leveson Gower, ii. 285; Add. 34457, f. 369; HMC Fortescue, ix. 139, 151; Romilly, ii. 222-3; Farington, iv. 186.
- 60. Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 23 Nov., Tierney to same, 28 Nov., 14 Dec., Grey to Holland, 6 Dec. 1807; Hants. RO, Tierney mss 33d; Whitbread mss W1/2434-5; Add. 37887, ff. 182, 184; 41852, f. 323; 51534, Grenville to Holland [?11 Dec. 1807]; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F32/62; Windham Pprs. ii. 335, 337.
- 61. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F32/58; HMC Fortescue, ix. 145; Farington, v. 20, 69, 85; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 9 Feb.; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 27 Feb., 1 Mar. 1808; Horner mss 3, f. 234; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3643; Add. 51549, Lady Holland to Grey, [27 May 1808].
- 62. Windham Pprs. ii. 337-8, 340, 343-4; Whitbread mss W1/373/11; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 19 Jan., 10 Feb. 1809; Add. 41853, f. 30; 41854, f. 365; Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 62; Windham Diary, 491; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3873, 3890; Romilly, ii. 288, 294; Farington, v. 147; HMC Fortescue, ix. 294.
- 63. Windham Pprs. ii. 353-65; Grey mss, Windham to Grey, 29 Sept., 17 Oct. 1809; HMC Fortescue, ix. 333; Pellew, ii. 52-3; iii. 2; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 30 Oct. 1809; Add. 37888, f. 192; 41854, f. 370.
- 64. Windham Diary, 492, 500-3; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 44; Windham Pprs. ii. 347, 365-6; Add. 37906, f. 344; 41854, f. 377; Windham Speeches, iii. 355; Ward, 95; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4124; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 17 Feb. 1810; NLI, Richmond mss 73/1718.
- 65. Colchester, ii. 240, 258, 261; Farington, vi. 28; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4122, 4126, 4130, 4133, 4138; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 6 Apr. 1810; Romilly, ii. 322; Windham Pprs. ii. 368-9.
- 66. Add. 37849, f. 312; 37889, f. 107; Farington, iv. 230; v. 208; vi. 63; Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 10 Feb., 28 May 1810; Minto in India, 236; Corresp. of Lady Lyttelton, 107; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 5 June 1810; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 447; v. 139; Brougham, Hist. Sketches, i. 224-5; Mackintosh Mems. ii. 59; Ward, 82; HMC Fortescue, x. 23; Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 4 Mar. 1810; John Taylor, Recs. of My Life, ii. 188; Windham Diary, 336, 504.
- 67. Moore, Byron Letters (1875), 341; Gent. Mag. (1810), i. 588; Windham Pprs. ii. 370-1; Holland, ii. 205.