English Xenophobia in the 18th Century: the Case of Lord Bute

English Xenophobia in the 18th Century: the Case of Lord Bute

Schweizer, Karl W. (New Jersey Institute of Technology)

Scottish Tradition, Volume 22 (1997)


No figure of Hanoverian politics – not even Walpole – was so generally disliked, distrusted and abused by contemporaries as John Stuart, 3rd. Earl of Bute, political adviser to George III, Secretary of State from 1761 to May 1762 and Head of the Treasury from May 1762 to April 1763, the first Scotsman ever to attain this eminent position. Controversy hounded Bute whatever his pursuits: “whether in office or out,” to quote one author: “he was attacked by the mob, threatened with assassination, vilified in pam- phlets, prints, newspapers, songs, plays, handbills and effectively rejected as a potential ally by all the leading politicians of the day.

The bulk of this criticism was levelled in the 1760s but even after 1770, the so called “Northern Machiavel” was under withering if increasingly sporadic fire and as late as the 1780s, vestigial elements of the old hostility remained.” Historians seeking a high level political explanation of Bute’s extraordinary unpopularity have commonly cited constitutional factors – issues centred on the belief, nearly universal at the time, that Bute was in the fullest sense the “favourite,” a man without true credentials for office, his position and status solely dependent upon royal support, corruption and the illicit expansion of monarchial power by unconstitutional means.

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