GRENVILLE, George (1753-1813).
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Family and Education
b. 17 June 1753, 1st s. of George Grenville, and bro. of Thomas and W. W. Grenville. educ. Eton 1764-70; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1770; Grand Tour (Italy and Austria) 1774. m. 16 Apr. 1775, Lady Mary Elizabeth Nugent, da. and coh. of Robert, 1st Earl Nugent [I], 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 13 Nov. 1770; and his uncle as 3rd Earl Temple 11 Sept. 1779 and took names of Nugent-Temple before that of Grenville; cr. Mq. of Buckingham 4 Dec. 1784; K.G. 2 June 1786.
Teller of the Exchequer Mar. 1764- d.; ld. lt. Bucks. 1782- d.; P.C. 31 July 1782, ld. lt. Ireland July 1782-June 1783, Nov. 1787-Oct. 1789; sec. of state for foreign affairs 19-22 Dec. 1783.
In 1774 Grenville was returned unopposed for Buckinghamshire. His first recorded vote in the House was with Opposition on the Address, 5 Dec. 1774, which supported Administration’s coercive measures in America—‘in effect’, wrote Horace Walpole, ‘against his own father’s famous Stamp Act’. In fact Grenville was thoroughly independent, but during the next few years was involved in a struggle to reconcile his father’s views on American taxation with the subsequent course of events. On 2 Feb. 1775, when Fox ‘threw some reflections’ on Grenville’s father as author of the Stamp Act, Grenville, according to Walpole,
defended his father both with spirit and decency, and gained great favour with the House by his pleasing manner. Yet he would not, he said, blame those who had repealed the Stamp Act, and owned the charter bill had united all America against us.1
And though he ‘spoke very well in support of the legislative power and controlling power of Parliament’, he ‘entirely disapproved of the present measures, as every way improper, intemperate and impolitic’, and abstained from voting.2 On 29 Feb. 1776 he observed that ‘he had scarcely been long enough in public life to fix before now his sentiments relating to America. That he had no doubt of the right of Parliament to tax America, and consequently must concur in the coercive measures. He was far from approving all the steps the ministry had taken’, but he believed the most important step now was to recover British sovereignty over America.3 The news of Saratoga, which reached England in December 1777, increased Grenville’s dilemma: at the beginning of February 1778 he told Rockingham that ‘though he could never depart from the principle of England’s right of taxation, yet he totally disagreed with ministers on every other part of the war’.4 In the House on 11 Feb. 1778 he declared that
he should ever continue to think, be the outcome of the present contest what it may, that Parliament had a right to have a control over America, to levy taxes, to regulate its trade, and secure the monopoly of its commerce ... it was upon these principles that he had supported the war ... These principles were now merely matter of speculation, such as they were, however, he should ever retain them: he therefore did not mean by his vote of that day to abandon them, but meant to consider the question of expediency which must decide upon the war.
Though he deplored the circumstances ‘he must yield, but ... hoped the day of retribution would come, when ministers might be called to severe account for the infamy which they have brought upon this country’. And he suggested that Chatham should be recalled.5
On 27 Nov., while still ‘of the opinion that America might be regained’, he urged the removal of the ministry as ‘an indispensable preliminary to any overtures for a reconciliation’.6 At length, on 8 Mar. 1779, he declared:7
he was now convinced that the measures respecting America were wrong at the outset; that they were worse conducted, that instead of resting the claims of this country over her colonies on grounds truly constitutional, we had set up demands, which if attended with success, must have terminated in tyranny and oppression. That instead of putting an end to the first complaints, by adopting measures of persuasion and of a lenient nature, we increased the public discontents, and irritated and inflamed; that when things arose afterwards to the alarming height they did, we fed the disease by weak and irresolute measures, instead of acting with vigour; and that finally, when we resolved to adopt a conduct, which if proper or necessary at all, should have taken place much earlier, we found ourselves totally inadequate to the task.
As a peer he adhered to Shelburne and next to Pitt. In November 1783 he carried the notorious message of George III to the Lords declaring against Fox’s East India bill.
He died 11 Feb. 1813.