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LETTER X.: 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.
August 2. 1796.
The chief reasons which were given for involving us in a French war have now been considered; and I cannot help thinking, that, though they have been turned and twisted into a great variety of shapes, and presented in different lights, with all the address which human ingenuity could employ, their futility and absurdity must, at the first glance, be apparent. They were fit only to make an impression upon imaginations already disordered by fear, and warped by prejudice. There were two other topics employed on this occasion, of which a very slight notice will be sufficient; because, though they were much insisted upon, both in public and in private discourse, and had probably some weight at the time, they seem now to be universally and completely disregarded.
The first was the decree of the French Convention for opening the navigation of the Scheldt from Antwerp, intended to promote the trade of the Belgic provinces, now in the possession of France. This measure is capable of being viewed in different lights; as, on the one hand, it put an end to a monopoly which, like all restrictions of that nature, was, doubtless, hurtful to the general interest of commerce; and, on the other, it was held prejudicial to the peculiar trade of the Dutch, to whom, by some old treaties, that monopoly had been secured. Which of these considerations is of the greatest importance I shall not pretend to determine; but certain it is, that the British ministry, in 1786, had concurred in the views of the Emperor, who then, for the benefit of the Netherlands, had thoughts of establishing the free navigation of that river. A British Ambassador was then sent to Antwerp, for the purpose of exciting the inhabitants to bestir themselves in soliciting the Emperor for the attainment of this commercial object; so different were the political views entertained by the same persons within so short a period. That nations, that is, ministers, as well as private individuals, should change their opinions, and their systems of conduct, according to their different political combinations, is agreeable to common experience; but that so frivolous a matter, an injury so entirely diplomatic, should be regarded as a solid ground for rushing immediately into a dangerous and expensive war, is truly surprising. It might be a proper subject of remonstrance or complaint, but could never afford, to persons, not visited with insanity, an inducement for plunging a great nation into an abyss of blood and misery, without attempting, by a previous negociation, to avert that calamity. The States of Holland themselves, it is well known, the parties understood to be immediately injured, but who had not our private reasons, were much less captious; and it was with the utmost difficulty that, by the authority of the Stadtholder, under the influence of the British Court, they could be prevailed upon to second our designs.
In mentioning the state of the Dutch, upon whose account we professed that we were led immediately into the war, it seems impossible to avoid remarking, that our behaviour to that people, from first to last, appears not a little extraordinary; and nothing, it should seem, but the ancient commercial jealousy, through which we are apt to view their circumstances, could prevent us from reflecting upon it with shame and regret. Having dragged them into the war, we no sooner found it inconvenient to persist in the defence of their country, than we left them to shift for themselves; not for the purpose of making peace, for that might have been excusable, but with a view to carry on the war in a different manner, by subsidizing Prussia and the Emperor. When the Dutch were, of consequence, reduced under the power of their enemies, and did what, in those hard circumstances, imperious necessity compelled them to do, we immediately seized their property, subjected them to every species of hostility, and have at this day scarce any other acquisitions to boast of but those which we have obtained from the plunder of these our ancient allies. In what manner we can vindicate our conduct to that long-suffering people, it were to be wished that our minister, when he can spare so much time under the pressure of his present financial difficulties, would have the goodness to explain.
The other topic which I proposed to mention is one, to which, in private conversation, men have usually resorted after trying, unsuccessfully, to vindicate the war upon every other ground. The French, it is said, were the first to make war upon us. We had no choice, but were reduced to the fatal necessity of defending ourselves. Those ambitious republicans had formed the design of extending their dominion, and of planting their tree of liberty over the whole of Europe, if not over the whole globe. In pursuance of this object they made war upon us, whenever it suited their purpose; and we had no alternative left, but that of implicit submission, or of providing for our own safety by a timely resistance. Whether any person ever believed this assertion, I very much doubt. It is at least pretty clear that nobody believes it at present.
For enabling us to judge of this point, a very slight review of the circumstances of the case will be sufficient. That the first verbal declaration of war proceeded from the French Convention, on the 1st of February 1793, is indisputable. But the conduct of the British Court, long before that period, had been such as clearly to evince its hostile intentions, and in reality amounted to an unequivocal declaration of hostilities. Soon after the 10th of August 1792, the British Ambassador to the French Court was recalled. Upon the meeting of Parliament about the end of that year, the debates were carried on in a strain of arrogant invective and declamation against the French, which abundantly showed a resolution to keep no measures with that people. The proposal of negociation, which had been urged by Opposition, was again and again rejected with disdain, as disgraceful to the British Crown; and Mr. Burke repeatedly declared, without the least contradiction, or mark of disapprobation from his ministerial friends, that the two states might already be considered as actually engaged in war. From an idea of starving the inhabitants, our ministry, in the mean time, laid an embargo upon the exportation of corn to that country, though the market was then open to other nations. The Alien Bill, soon after, was introduced into parliament, which being considered as an infraction of the commercial treaty with France, M. Chauvelin, the French Ambassador, in very respectful terms, remonstrated against it; but so far from meeting with any attention from our ministers, he was peremptorily ordered to quit the kingdom within eight days; and the order was inserted by authority in the London Gazette.
It is here worthy of remark, that by the commercial treaty above referred to, concluded in 1786, it was expressly declared, that, in case any subject of misunderstanding should arise between the two nations, the sending away the Ambassador of one of them should be deemed a rupture.
It is further to be observed, that in regard to the two measures of France which had given offence to the British Court, the decree for the opening of the Scheldt, and that which offered fraternity to other nations, M. Chauvelin had, in explanation of these measures, delivered an official note to the Secretary of State, on the 27th of December; and, upon the refusal of the Ministry to treat with them, his explanation was confirmed by an immediate communication, in another note from the French Executive Council. In this note they declare, “that the decree of fraternization could not be applicable, but to the single case, when the general will of a nation, clearly and unequivocally expressed, should call for the assistance and fraternity of the French nation;” and, with respect to their interference in the navigation of the Scheldt, they declare, as “the French nation has renounced all conquest, and only occupies the Netherlands during the war; that as soon as the Belgic nation shall find itself in full possession of its liberty, and when its general will may be declared legally and unfettered, then, if England and Holland shall affix any importance to the opening of the Scheldt, the Executive Council will leave that affair to a direct negociation with the Belgians themselves.”
From an anxiety, as it should seem, to avoid a rupture with England, the French Ministry, perceiving the reluctance of the British Court to treat with M. Chauvelin, dispatched M. Maret, under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to enter into a negociation with our Ministers. It has been asserted, that M. Maret was instructed to offer to our Ministers; first, that the claim for opening the Scheldt should be given up; secondly, that the French troops should not advance beyond a certain distance from the Dutch territories; and, thirdly, that the offensive decree of fraternization should be repealed. The proposal of negociation with M. Maret, however, was rejected by our Ministry in the same haughty and contemptuous manner as that with M. Chauvelin; notwithstanding which, that Commissioner was sent from France a second time, with enlarged powers, and with instructions, it is said, to offer still greater concessions, with respect to their possessions in the West Indies. His second mission, however, was equally unsuccessful with the first; and he was ordered immediately to depart from the kingdom.
Considering all these different circumstances, it was certainly with a bad grace that our Ministry pretended to be taken unawares, and to be driven from a system of neutrality, by the declaration of war upon the part of France. Candour must oblige us to confess, that our behaviour was in the highest degree offensive and provoking; and that it marked a determined purpose of proceeding to immediate hostilities; while, on the contrary, the conduct of the French testified an eager desire to avoid any rupture with Britain. In such a case, the verbal declaration of war by the French was a mere matter of ceremony; though perhaps it would have been more politic in them to have, for some time longer, avoided this measure.
I am, &c.