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LETTER IX.: 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.
July 19. 1796.
The cruelties committed by the French, together with the danger apprehended to the lives of the king and the royal family, were also strongly urged as a reason for going to war with that barbarous people. This became a topic of declamation, upon which the unfledged orator was happy to try his wings, and the crafty politician found an opportunity of displaying, at an easy rate, both his humanity and his loyalty.
Every person possessed of common feeling must be shocked with a recital of those barbarities; and human nature revolts against any attempt to excuse or to palliate them. We cannot, however, sufficiently express our astonishment at the effrontery with which the ultimate authors of these enormities, the framers of the treaty of Pilnitz, who, by their invasion of France, had driven the people to these desperate measures, were studiously kept out of view and concealed. I am very far from thinking that every murder, or act of cruelty, committed by the French, was absolutely necessary, or even expedient for extricating them from their difficulties. But a general course of extreme severity was rendered unavoidable; and in such a case it is not surprising that the administrators, thrown into consternation by the magnitude of the danger, should sometimes act from precipitate rashness, and sometimes lay hold of the occasion to gratify their own passions, or to court popularity by such rigorous punishments as were agreeable to the lower class of citizens. The foreign potentates, therefore, who enabled those leaders to acquire and to exercise such extraordinary powers, and who put them into a situation where such abuses were naturally to be expected, are certainly answerable for that guilt which was incurred.
Though this consideration will not always justify the immediate agents, it must, in every case, throw the principal blame upon those who could not miss to foresee the consequences, and yet persisted in that line of conduct which infallibly produced them.
But whatever may be thought of the speculative humanity and loyalty of the inhabitants of this country, in declaiming against the cruelty and injustice committed by their neighbours, it does not appear that those who recommended a war with France, upon that account, were actuated by a real principle of benevolence, or by a regard for the life of Louis the XVIth; since nothing could be more evidently calculated to augment and to extend the cruelties complained of, and the mischiefs that were apprehended. By joining the league for compelling the French to restore the old government, the British Ministers could not fail to increase the despair, and desire of vengeance, which had produced such revolutionary powers in the leaders of the multitude, and which furnished a reason for the murder of those who had incurred any suspicion of assisting the enemy. Had Britain, on the contrary, declared against a war, and offered her mediation between the contending parties, those evils might have been greatly abated; and the lives of the king and the royal family might, in all probability, have been preserved. It is well known, that a numerous party in the Convention wished to save the life of the King; and it can hardly be doubted that a great majority would have concurred in this object, if they could have purchased by it the interposition of Britain for stopping the progress of their enemies. Why did our humane and loyal orators neglect to suggest such an obvious and salutary measure? I am unwilling to credit, what has been insinuated with some colour of probability, that many, who censured with so much acrimony the conduct of the French, were secretly pleased with such barbarity and cruelty, as being calculated to throw an odium upon the Revolution, and to prevent, what was dreaded as the effect of it in this country, the reform of parliamentary representation. In this view, I cannot help recollecting an observation, said to have been imprudently hazarded by a person of some note, that the wretched Marat was the hen who laid golden eggs.
The preservation of the Christian religion was another motive, by which those who had resolved upon a war with France endeavoured to rouse the nation, and to procure its unanimous exertions in seconding that measure.
It is a circumstance not the least remarkable in the history of the great political events of the present age, that the late important revolutions in America, and in France, unlike those in preceding periods, have not been dictated, or promoted, by any religious enthusiasm. It may even be observed, that in France, men of letters, from the wantonness of speculation, or from the affectation of contradicting received opinions, have of late frequently admitted a vein of irreligion and scepticism into their writings. We are not, however, to conclude from hence that the people in general are tainted with principles of infidelity; nor even, perhaps, that those very writers have seriously formed any practical system hostile to religion. The first revolution in France, by attempting a radical reform in the prodigious inequality of church livings, had provoked, as we may easily suppose, the indignation and resentment of the higher orders of churchmen; and multitudes of the clergy, who thought it incumbent upon them to resign their functions, rather than submit to a degradation which they hoped would not be permanent, communicated, in the countries to which they fled, an alarm that the French, among other changes, intended nothing less than the total overthrow of the Christian religion. Even the clergy who had been content to remain in their own country, were led to propagate similar representations; and thus a stated opposition and animosity was created between them and the leaders of the revolution; while the former employed their whole remaining power and influence in support of the old government, and the latter, irritated by repeated provocations, became more and more disposed to limit or destroy that authority which the church had formerly enjoyed.
It was, perhaps, with a view of diminishing the influence of churchmen, though partly, too, from an ostentation of singularity, more than from those considerations of utility which were avowed, that that the French Convention afterwards introduced a new calendar, dividing every month into decades, instead of the former division into weeks of seven days, and in this manner pointing out one day in ten, instead of the one day in seven, which by the practice of early Christians had been set apart for the public observances of religion.
The impropriety and folly of this new regulation is obvious enough. For though the difference between one day and another, in a matter of mere external observance, is in itself not very material; and though there be no particular precept of the Gospel recommending the first day of the week for the peculiar purpose of public worship, yet the alteration of a practice, in every respect so useful, and confirmed by the usage of many centuries, was totally inconsistent with prudence, and might prove a stumbling-block to many well disposed Christians.
It would be great weakness, however, to believe, that the Christian religion in general, or even in France, can be materially injured, either by this regulation, or by the petulant and absurd opposition and derision which the vanity, or the malice, of some individuals appears to have suggested. Christianity is founded upon a rock; and neither Thomas Paine with his Age of Reason, nor Anarchasis Cloots, with his Representative of all Religions, nor Fabre D’Eglantine, the abolisher of Sunday, with his New Calendar, nor even that profound philosopher who stood up in the French Assembly, and professed himself an Atheist, shall ever, as we are assured, from the best authority, prevail against our holy religion. Christianity is an enlightened system, which introduced a purer morality than had formerly prevailed in the world, and more distinct views of a future state of rewards and punishments, by which the efforts of human laws for the suppression of crimes are better enforced and promoted. The more the light of truth is spread over the world, the more clearly are mankind enabled to see their true interest; and the more will they be convinced of the utility of supporting a religion by which all the bands of human society are thus maintained and strengthened.
But though the genuine principles of Christianity are in no danger, the adventitious trappings in which it has been decked, for the purpose of dazzling the multitude, are likely to be stripped off, and thrown away as mere useless rags; mysterious tenets, the invention of priestcraft in the dark ages, by which that religion was so unworthily debased, and rendered the instrument of undue influence and corruption, are likely to be exploded; and the unbounded authority and dominion which an ambitious and interested clergy have so long exercised over the rights of private judgment and of conscience, are likely to crumble down, and to be trodden under foot. The Roman Catholic superstition, that gigantic monster which has drunk so much human blood, that dragon which has long guarded the den of ignorance, and held more than the half of Europe in the chains of moral and political slavery, seems now to be fast approaching his last agonies.
With regard to the religious opinions entertained in France, it cannot escape observation, that how disagreeable soever they may be to us, it is the height of imprudence and absurdity to make war upon our neighbours for the purpose of producing a reformation in this particular. The world has too long experienced the effects of religious persecutions and wars, not to have learned the salutary lesson, that mankind, those especially who belong to different nations, should bear with one another in their differences of religious opinion. It seems evident, at the same time, that the system of policy to which the French government is now rapidly advancing, is that of allowing an unbounded liberty of conscience; of protecting all different sects, provided they are not enemies to the civil constitution; and of leaving to the members of every sect the privilege of choosing, and the task of maintaining their own religious teachers. This, every one knows, is conformable to the principles of the independents in England, a sect, whose uniform zeal in the cause of pure and genuine Christianity is unquestionable; and it seems to be the system of religious policy which is now realised in the North American States. For my own part, though I feel, from education, an attachment to the forms of religion established in this country, and am sensible that innovation, in matters of this kind, ought never to be attempted without very cogent reasons; yet, were I the inhabitant of a country, where, from good grounds, the old establishment had been abolished, I should, without hesitation, prefer this very liberal and apparently beneficial system.
It is easy to see, however, that the aversion discovered by the leading people in France to religious establishments, has tended to excite a jealousy in the established clergy of other countries, and to produce a set of religious alarmists, willing to represent the whole nation as hostile to Christianity, and even to all religion. In such a situation, it is not surprising, that many individuals of our established church, whether in consequence of their own apprehensions, or in the capacity of stipendiaries to the executive government, should be ready, upon this point, to distinguish themselves in the service of administration. Even in Scotland, where the very moderate provision of the clergy allows very scanty rewards to extraordinary merit, many laudable attempts have not been wanting to rouse the people on account of the dangers to religion arising from the French Revolution. It should seem, however, that the populace in this country, though certainly not suspected of lukewarmness in matters of religion, yet, whether from an acquaintance with the real state of the facts, or from a want of confidence in the intentions of those political pastors, or from whatever causes, have hitherto paid very little attention to such publications. I am, &c.