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LETTER VI.: TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE. - John Millar, Letters of Crito, on the Causes, Objects, and Consequences, of the Present War 
Letters of Crito, on the Causes, Objects, and Consequences, of the Present War, Second Edition (Edinburgh:the Office of the Scots Chronicle, 1796).
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TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE.
June 24. 1796.
It is impossible to conceive a situation more deplorable and desperate than that into which the French, from the circumstances mentioned in my former letter, were now reduced. Invaded by a force which they could have no hope of being able to resist, and prosecuted with a degree of animosity and rancour which would be satisfied with nothing less than utter extermination, they appeared to have no other alternative, than either to submit implicitly to their enemies, or to sell their lives and liberties at the highest price, and to die in the last ditch. Without hesitation they chose the latter; and, by the impulse of that determination, they were exalted to a pitch of heroic enthusiasm, which rendered them superior to all the nations of the earth.
The first measure that seemed indispensible in this dreadful conjuncture, was to establish a pure democracy. Their king, according to their unanimous opinion, was not to be trusted. His slight to Varennes, from which he was brought back by force, and his disputes with the National Assembly, concerning the appointment of his ministers, and concerning the interposition of his negative to the public decrees, had prepared the way to an immediate rupture. The manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick appeared in Paris about the 7th of August 1792. Alarm and terror seized the inhabitants; and, on the 10th of that month, produced a violent attack upon the king’s palace, with the destruction of the Swiss guards. This was followed by the bloody tragedy exhibited on the 2d of September, which appears to have been the effect of sudden rage and resentment excited by the progress of the danger.
The friends of republican government, who now gained the ascendant, were divided into two factions. The Parisian populace, who, feeling the influence which, from their numbers, and their vicinity to the seat of government, they were likely to maintain over the legislature, wished as much as possible to equalize the different ranks, to expel or extinguish the superior class of inhabitants, and to annihilate every monument or vestige of the ancient distinctions. The people in the provinces, who possessed no such influence, adopted a milder system of policy; and being jealous of the authority likely to be attained by the capital, were suspected of intending to divide the monarchy into independent districts, and to connect them by a federal union. The leaders of the latter party were men of great liberality and benevolence, and some of them not without eloquence and talents; but they seem to have been destitute of that capacity, vigour, and boldness, which their perilous situation demanded. The opposite party were directed by persons of a different description; men of a lower education, but of greater intrepidity, and who seemed to scruple at nothing, in order to attain their purposes. At the head of these was the noted Robespierre, a man possessed of no brilliant accomplishments, but of deep penetration, and boundless ambition; awed by no principle; restrained by no feelings of humanity. This man courted the populace with unwearied attention; and he seems to have obtained their implicit confidence. He adopted all their peculiar interests and opinions. He seems to have been a real enthusiast; and, however strongly actuated by the love of power, was never suspected of pecuniary corruption. Though his character as a man has been held in deserved execration, it may, perhaps, be affirmed with truth, that he was the only person in the nation capable, in that critical period, of defending his country from its numerous enemies. To gratify the Parisian mob, as well as to establish his own authority, he shed without mercy the blood of every person who opposed his designs. But such was the unhappy situation of France, that an absolute submission to the executive government was become indispensibly necessary. Had any opposite party to that which was uppermost been suffered to raise its head, it would immediately have been joined and supported by the foreign powers; and this would have produced such internal commotion, as would have prevented the extraordinary exertions which the preservation of the constitution required.
It is not my intention to vindicate these violent measures, but to point out the persons at whose door the principal guilt must lie; and, however we may blame the numerous violations of justice and humanity, exhibited in those scenes of blood and horror, we must always remember that they proceeded, in a great measure, from the hostile powers who threatened France with inevitable destruction. By them a great part of those cruelties had been rendered unavoidable. The enemies of the first revolution, in that devoted country, were in reality the authors of the second. Had the French been left to settle their own government according to their own ideas of expediency, the mild and inoffensive character of their sovereign would, probably, never have rendered him the object of their distrust and resentment; and the form of government, suggested and established by their own free choice, would have remained with little alteration or disturbance. Had they not been terrified, and reduced to despair, by an invasion, which no ordinary force could resist, conducted by an unrelenting and sanguinary enemy, who did not seem to look upon them as fellow creatures, but as beasts of prey, to be hunted down, and exterminated from the face of the globe, there is no ground to believe that those tragical and shocking events, so inconsistent with the character of a polished nation, would ever have appeared. These are truths which ought to be seriously considered by those persons who declaim with so much noise upon the barbarity of the late transactions in France, and who exult with such indecent triumph, in the reflection that the revolution in that country, instead of being an object of imitation, is now beheld, by the rest of Europe, with disgust and aversion.
The unfortunate issue of the Duke of Brunswick’s invasion must have tended to convince the surrounding nations of two important facts: The first, that the attachment of the French nation to liberty, and their hatred to the old government, were insuperable: The second, that the enthusiasm with which that people were animated, was sufficient to counterbalance the advantages of military skill and discipline, and had, in fact, rendered their new levied militia superior to the most regular armies which Europe could produce.
The world has been long dazzled by the eclat of military glory, and led, it should seem, to estimate military talents above their just value. Mr. Hume was thought to indulge in his usual love of paradox, when he wrote an essay to prove, that a higher exertion of genius is requisite to form a great poet than to form a great general, and that Homer and Milton were greater men than Alexander or Cæsar. This essay has been suppressed in the latter editions of his works; but were that acute author now alive, he would own that his assertion falls greatly short of the truth. The late military events in Europe have reduced the Turennes, the Marlboroughs, and the Ferdinands, to mere ordinary men. Experience has shown, in how short a time an army may be equipt, both in point of officers and men, and taught to conquer the best appointed and disciplined troops in the world. But surely we cannot entertain very lofty ideas of a profession, in which eminence may be so easily and so quickly attained. It seems to require intrepidity and cool judgment, but no extraordinary abilities.
The decisive battle of Jemappe, which followed the Duke of Brunswick’s retreat, afforded conviction to every man of common sense, not misled by prejudice, that all attempts to conquer France, with a view of restoring the old monarchy, must be idle and chimerical. I am, &c.