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LETTER XII.: 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 16. 1796.
After examining the real, and the pretended objects of the war, as well as the reasons which have been given for inducing the nation to engage in it, I cannot forbear adding a few remarks, concerning the injustice, and concerning the impolicy of that undertaking. With respect to its injustice I shall say but little; because I am sensible that justice is too apt to be little regarded in the disputes between different nations.
It seems to be universally admitted by writers upon the law of nature, and, so far as I can observe, is not disputed by our ministers themselves, that every independent state has an exclusive right to legislate for itself, and to settle its own internal government. This is a principle which makes its way directly to the understanding, and to the feelings of every enlightened mind. It is supported, not only by the immediate sense of justice, but by the clearest and strongest considerations of expediency. Every nation is best acquainted with its own peculiar circumstances, and having invariably its own interest in view, is the best qualified to judge of those measures by which its welfare is likely to be promoted. But the interest and views of different nations are always different, and frequently opposite to one another; and if a foreign state were permitted to interfere in making laws, or framing a constitution for its neighbours, there can be no doubt that it would, in such cases, be directed by very improper motives; that the advancement of its own power or emolument would often be the real object; and that the happiness or prosperity of the nation for whom it acted would be merely a pretence. To allow such interference, therefore, would be to sacrifice the welfare, and even sometimes the existence, of one independent state, to the caprice, the ambition, or the avarice of its neighbours; to afford a perpetual colour and pretext for invasion and oppression; and to give an open and regular license to anarchy, rebellion, robbery, and murder.
That, in the conduct of nations, this principle has frequently been violated, and that powerful states have, in many cases, produced revolutions in the constitution of their weaker neighbours, upon pretence of consulting the general interest or safety, is a melancholy truth. We may mention, as one instance of such an attempt, in our own country, the partition treaty, planned by King William, but which, being disapproved of by the great and good Lord Somers, or from whatever causes, was never carried into execution; and as another, the war about the succession to the crown of Spain, which took place at the beginning of the present century. But the frequency of such violations of the rules of justice only shows, that great bodies of men, where multitudes act in concert with each other, have less sensibility to the feelings of morality than private and unconnected individuals. The number of persons embarked in the same undertaking, and actuated by the same passions, keep one another in countenance; they meet with nobody that is cool and impartial, to censure their conduct, or to represent its enormity and baseness; and having in view a common interest among themselves, they appear to act, in part at least, not from selfish motives, but from a sort of benevolence or public spirit. This observation, however, though it may explain, is very far from being intended to vindicate such proceedings.
The attempts to justify the war with France appear to have rested upon two different grounds, which are, in reality, incompatible with each other. First, it has been pretended, that we entered into that war from absolute necessity, the French having declared hostilities against us; or, at least, that we acted merely upon the defensive, having had no other means of preventing the progress of their arms. This view, which represents the present contest as founded upon similiar grounds to those which have produced the greater part of quarrels among nations, I had formerly occasion to examine, in stating the reasons which were alleged for our engaging in the war; and to add any thing further upon it would be superfluous. Though the French made the first verbal declaration of war, yet our behaviour had previously been fully equivalent to an actual declaration of hostilities. It is, at the same time, well known, that the British ministry avowed their purpose of prosecuting the contest upon other grounds than that of self-defence; that France had both an interest and an inclination to maintain a good understanding with Britain; and that she made several attempts to terminate the dispute by an amicable negociation.
I shall at present consider the contest in its peculiar, and true light; as a war founded upon a determined purpose to interfere in the internal government of France, to pull down that constitution which the people themselves had established, and to restore an order and system of policy which the people, by an almost unanimous consent, had reprobated.
This interference, the supporters of the war have endeavoured to vindicate upon two different principles. It has been said, in the first place, that Britain, from a regard to the French themselves, and to the general interests of human nature, had a right to interfere in the internal policy of France, to defend the rights of the sovereign, and those of the emigrants, to put a stop to the cruelties and to the anarchy prevailing in the country, to assume the guardianship of the Christian religion, and of the rules of morality, which were openly exploded, and treated with every mark of scorn and indignity.
The question is, whether we are entitled to new-model the government or policy of a neighbouring nation from pretences of this nature? From what I formerly observed, it must be evident, that the permission of such interference would open a door to much worse evils than those which we should propose to redress. The pretence of generous, humane, or virtuous motives, would always be at hand to cover secret and unwarrantable designs. The majority of an independent state will commonly act with propriety in promoting their own interest; or if, in a singular emergency, they should happen to do otherwise, they are likely soon to correct their mistakes, and to rectify their conduct. But the interposition of foreigners, by a military force, instead of removing, is most likely to aggravate the disorders which have been committed. Can any thing be more absurd than for Great Britain to imagine that, by means of her sleets and armies, she is capable of maintaining in France the virtues of humanity and benevolence, or of enforcing the principles of morality and the Christian religion? Does any person believe, that, by attempting to do so, she would not produce more harm than good?
But in reality the evils complained of in France have arisen, at least in a great measure, not so much from the fault of the French themselves, as from the conduct of Britain and her allies. Had it not been for the Treaty of Pilnitz, and its consequences, there would have been no such disorders in that country. The limited monarchy, established in 1789, would have remained; the lives of the Sovereign, and of the Royal Family, would have been preserved; the bloodshed, in accomplishing so great a revolution, would have been wonderfully little; and there would have been no emigrants but such as voluntarily abandoned their native country rather than submit to the new constitution. We resemble a physician, therefore, who having previously administered a poisonous drug to occasion a violent disease, kindly offers his best endeavours in curing the patient; and who, instead of waiting till he is called for that purpose, endeavours, as in some German farces, to seize the unhappy sufferer, and follows him from place to place, attempting in vain to force his medicine upon him.
The other ground, upon which we have pretended to the right of overturning the present government of France, is a regard to our own interest; and in this we are probably more sincere. The interested supporters of the abuses in our own government pretend, and our honest well-meaning alarmists appear to be convinced, that our own political system is endangered by the French Revolution.
It is certain that the late changes in the government of France have had a tendency to excite, in this island, as well as over all Europe, an attention to the general principles of government, and a disposition to rescue mankind from slavery and oppression. I shall even admit, for the sake of argument, that the example of a republican system in France may have some effect upon the inhabitants of this, and of other countries, in recommending to them that form of government: But will any person take upon him to assert, that the hazard arising from thence to Great Britain is of such magnitude, or so direct and immediate, as to justify our interference, by force, to overturn or alter the internal government of France? Does the establishment of a republic in France, together with the enthusiastic spirit which prevails among the people, threaten the government of this country with such immediate destruction as to excuse our violating the ordinary rules of justice, and invading our neighbours upon the mere principle of indispensible self-preservation? According to this mode of reasoning, every country in the world would be entitled to quarrel with its neighbours for establishing among themselves a different political system. Louis XIV. acted meritoriosly in his attempts to conquer Holland, where a republican government was established; most divinely, in supporting the two rebellions against the House of Hanover, by whose accession we, in this country, were secured in a limited monarchy, very adverse to the despotism in France. The King of Prussia, and the Empress of Russia, who have lately crushed in the bud the liberties of Poland, are two angels sent from heaven, to prevent the progress of political innovation, and to defend mankind from the pernicious attempts of republicans and levellers.
Citizens of Britain, know your own good fortune, and learn to prize the inestimable blessings of that Constitution which has been handed down by your forefathers. Are you in earnest in wishing to preserve it to the latest posterity? Be assured, that force and violence are not the proper means for effecting this important purpose. This purpose is not to be effected, either by attempting to overthrow the political system of your neighbours, or by punishing with immoderate severity such of your countrymen as take the liberty of censuring your own; but by mending your own Constitution where it is defective, by submitting it with full confidence to the free examination of all the world, and by conducting its administration in such a manner as, instead of marking jealousy and distrust, or inspiring discontent and resentment, will conciliate the love and affection, the lively gratitude and zealous attachment of the people. The British Constitution is an old fabric, strong, massy, and well contrived, equally fitted to defend against the winter storm and the summer’s heat. It would surely be madness, as well as the grossest injustice, to demolish the more splendid or fashionable house of your neighbour, lest by its newfangled ornaments it should put you out of conceit with your own; but sound reason should teach you, as soon as possible, to repair the injuries which time and accidents have occasioned to your own building. Covet not the frippery of modern embellishments, the fancied improvements of speculative architects; but let the reparation be executed in that style of plainness and simplicity which is agreeable to the original plan; bestowing upon it, at the same time, all the accommodation, all the free intercourse of apartments, all the light and cheerfulness of which that plan is susceptible. If you act in this reasonable and liberal manner; there is no ground to fear that this venerable pile will ever be thrown down by its inhabitants, or that its household gods will ever be deserted.
To conclude, with respect to the injustice of the war, I wish I could avoid remarking, that the weight of this charge lies chiefly upon us. We were not, indeed, the first to invade France; but we took arms whenever we saw that the country could not be conquered without our assistance; and we soon became the leaders and directors of the undertaking. We over-persuaded Holland to take a share in the contest; we subsidised Sardinia; we subsidised Prussia; we did what is equivalent to subsidising the Emperor. Whatever was the object of our ministry in the beginning, they have since pursued it with an inflexible resolution, which no change of circumstances, no motives of national interest or safety, have been able to slacken or divert. After a long and incessant acoumulation of disappointment, mortification, and calamity, they continue, like the animal in the fable, to gnaw the file, mistaking or misrepresenting the blood that appears for that of their enemies. Not contented with becoming the prime mover and soul of the combination against France, they have tried to force into the confederacy those few powers of Europe who had resolved to maintain a neutrality. The operations of our ambassador at Copenhagen, of Mr. Drake, our envoy at Genoa, and of Lord Hervey, our envoy at Florence, are sufficiently known. The Genoese resisted the rough attacks that were made upon them with a degree of spirit, which, from so inconsiderable a state, could hardly have been expected. The Grand Duke of Tuscany, much against his interest and his opinion, found it necessary to yield, and to declare hostilities against the common enemy. Upon what principle of morality they ventured to treat independent states in this manner, it is not easy to say. The barbarity of compelling a sovereign to involve his subjects in all the miseries and calamities of war, and this in opposition to his own sense of right and wrong, is something that outrages the feelings of justice in a very uncommon degree. I am, &c.