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LETTER XIV.: 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.
September 2. 1796.
After the reflections which have been suggested concerning the impolicy of the war, I shall make no apology for considering a little more particularly the situation to which it has reduced us, and the means most likely to deliver us from the difficulties and dangers with which we appear to be surrounded. Our situation is highly critical and alarming. Our prospect is gloomy; and the clouds appear still to gather around us, without discovering a rack, in any corner of the sky, to indicate the approach of sunshine and serenity. We set out, three years ago, in this unprosperous war, with high hopes and arrogant pretensions. Our allies were numerous and powerful. We thought of no less than uniting all the states of Europe, whether great or small, against the French Republic; and we expected to employ successfully the two great engines of force and famine for effecting our purposes. What a dreadful reverse of fortune have we sustained! The Stadtholder, for whose interest we at first pretended to commence hostilities, is now an exile, stripped of his dominions; and the Dutch, from being the enemies, are converted into the firm and zealous allies of the French. Spain and Prussia are nearly in the same situation. Russia supports our cause only by declarations; and the Emperor, after shrinking into a mere auxiliary, dependent upon the pecuniary assistance of Britain, is no longer able to hold up his head even in that subordinate capacity, or to bestow that protection which is requisite for maintaining any authority or influence in the Germanic body. Sardinia, who, engaged in the war in consequence of a subsidy from us, has, from absolute necessity, submitted to the law of the conquerer; and all Italy has, in the most humble manner, petitioned for peace. So completely have the tables been turned, that France is now imitating the example we formerly set them, by seizing our merchandize in the vessels of neutral nations; and is even threatening to exclude our foreign trade from those ports and markets to which it has hitherto been destined. In short, we are evidently upon the point of being reduced to grapple alone with an enemy who has proved too powerful for almost all Europe; and in this desperate conjuncture, we have reason to fear that many of the neighbouring states will rejoice in seeing, or perhaps in promoting the downfall of a maritime power which they have long regarded with envy and jealousy. What is now become of the big words of our minister? What is become of his promise, that the French would not be able to continue their efforts for a month or a fortnight? What is become of his calculations founded upon the debasement of the assignats? His promises, his predictions, his calculations, have all vanished in smoke. In vain would he attempt any longer to impose upon us. His swelling tones can no longer be heard; his threatening aspect remains in the form of a ridiculous grimace; and he appears, like the counterfeit musician in the play, continuing to move his fingers, in the same order and method, after the music has completely ceased.
The most alarming circumstance, perhaps, in our present melancholy situation, is that dejection and despondency in which the nation appears to be sunk, by the dangers with which she is threatened, and by the long train of mortification and disappointment which she has met with. Our faculties seem to be overwhelmed in a stupid lethargy, which renders us incapable of any active exertion, and even of examining the extent of our misfortunes. Our politicians now hardly read the newspapers, and are unwilling to speak of the public transactions. Have you heard any thing to-day? No! It seems to be all going the same way! Need I observe, that this feeble and cowardly spirit is inconsistent with the duty which, as faithful subjects and good citizens, we owe to ourselves, to our king, and to our country; and that its consequences, in all these different views, must be equally ruinous. It is, indeed, the mere counterpart of those unprincipled and arrogant pretensions which were so lately exhibited. But in order to guard against the impending evils, we must look our danger in the face. We must probe our wounds; we must not shrink at the appearance of the incision knife, if it be necessary to remove the malady which we have contracted.
If France shall conclude a Peace with the Emperor, which is likely to happen very soon, there are three different ways by which that formidable enemy will probably endeavour to distress Great Britain.
In the first place, she will endeavour to exclude our commodities from all the foreign markets to which they have hitherto been carried. The effect of this measure is said to be already felt, in some degree, by the French having taken possession of Frankfort and Leghorn; and the reports, in circulation, of their pursuing a similar policy with respect to Hamburg and Lisbon, and even with respect to the whole of the Baltic and Mediterranean, have become the subject of universal apprehension. That they will succeed, to the full extent of their views, in a project of this nature, I have no conception; for as, according to the proverb, there is no friendship in trade, so we may hold it equally certain that there is no enmity. Merchants will trade with all the world, whether friend or foe, wherever they find an advantageous market. But though this disposition will, in the long-run, overcome every obstacle, it cannot be supposed to operate all at once; and a length of time, doubtless, will be requisite for devising proper expedients to evade those prohibitions and discouragements with which our commerce is likely to be encumbered. The extent of the pecuniary loss which this may occasion can hardly be estimated; because it is impossible to ascertain the effects of a sudden, though but a temporary interruption to the trade of our great mercantile companies; and because the indirect methods, by which only the trade can be continued, must be attended with different degrees of expence, which will contribute more or less to diminish the profits.
There is ground, also, to believe, that France, when she has concluded a peace with the Emperor, will send a great force to the West Indies, and attempt to conquer the British colonies in that part of the globe. The distance, and the extent of our possessions, in that quarter, make it extremely difficult for us to guard them effectually; and the measure of proclaiming liberty to the Negroes, which the French are said to have already executed in St. Domingo, and which they probably will extend to all the islands of which they acquire the possession, must hold out an encouragement to join their standard, which cannot fail to be of great service in promoting their designs. Whatever may be the effects of this policy with respect to the power of France in the West Indies, there can be no doubt of its tendency to annihilate the dominion of Great Britain, and to produce a total change in the political state and government of the country, as well as in the condition of its inhabitants. To say the truth, if the consequences of a violent and sanguinary contest could be avoided, if the immediate destruction of lives, and of property, which is likely to occur in that part of the world, could be prevented, I am disposed to think that the final issue of the revolution to be expected would not be so hurtful as may, at first view, be apprehended. The total independence of those colonies, and their complete emancipation from those restrictions, in point of trade, to which they have hitherto been subjected; an event which every person of discernment will consider at no great distance; will in all probability be a change highly advantageous, both to them, and to the several European nations with whom they have been connected; as, by a greater competition, it will bestow upon the former much greater encouragement, and a better direction to industry; and will furnish the latter, in greater abundance, and at an easier rate, with the different productions of the West Indies. The experience of the present age has demonstrated the absurdity of many regulations to which the commercial intercourse of the world had long been subjected, and which were thought indispensibly requisite. It was apprehended, not many years ago, that the emancipation and independence of our North American colonies would give a mortal blow to the commerce of the mother country; whereas the trade of Britain never attained such prosperity as it has enjoyed since the accomplishment of that great revolution.
Lastly, It is probable that the French, when they have no other enemy to cope with, will concentrate their force, and direct their principal views to the invasion of Britain, or of Ireland, or of both together. That our fleets, notwithstanding their great superiority, being obliged to keep in large bodies for the purpose of guarding against any considerable defeat, or, from adverse winds, being occasionally rendered incapable of acting, as happened at the revolution 1688, may not be, at all times, able to prevent the enemy from pouring a multitude of troops upon different parts of a coast so extensive, and so near both to France and Holland, there is too much reason to fear; and though I am firmly persuaded that such a descent would meet with no countenance or assistance from the inhabitants of this country, and that in the end it would be entirely unsuccessful, it is impossible not to foresee numberless inconveniences and disasters, which an enterprize of that nature is likely to produce, in an open country, where mercantile transactions are so numerous and complicated, and where the shaking of the public credit is apt to be attended with an immediate convulsion. We should then, indeed, have, in one respect, the same advantage over our enemies which they formerly had over us. We should act with the resolution and firmness of men fighting in their own defence, and endeavouring to maintain their independence. The great body of the people, upon whom the chief stress of the contest must be devolved, would then have an opportunity of wiping off the aspersions which formerly were cast upon them; of showing how far the suspicions entertained, concerning their polititical sentiments, had any foundation; and of resisting those attempts to subvert our constitution, which, from what we have lately seen in Holland, and what we now see in Lombardy, might with too much reason be expected.
In whatever light we regard our present circumstances, every person, who is not entirely divested of the capacity of reflection, will be convinced, that we ought, before it is too late, to make every exertion for putting an end to this calamitous war. But the question is, how this can be accomplished; since the pretensions of the French will naturally rise in proportion to their astonishing success; and considering, that they probably entertain a mortal resentment against Britain, whom they cannot fail to look upon as the chief author and conductor of hostilities prosecuted with such implacable animosity and rancour?
That we should accept of a dishonourable peace, even in our disastrous circumstances, I hope no British subject, whose opinion is worthy of the least attention, will ever propose. On the other hand, that we should obtain an advantageous one, can hardly be expected. For this we must thank that Ministry, by whose wretched policy in undertaking the war, and by whose incapacity in conducting it, we have been brought into this perilous fituation. I am far from thinking, however, that the French are not, as well as every reasonable man in this country, desirous of terminating the war; and that even, if proper means are employed, a peace may not be procured upon reasonable terms. The administrators of that country, if they are guided by sound views of policy, cannot surely entertain a wish to dismember the British dominions, or to insist upon such conditions as would hazard that desperate effort which Britain is capable of making in defence of her national existence. The French ministry may be supposed to have no farther aim than the obtaining of such a treaty as is likely to be permanent, and as may be expected to secure their new constitution against any future attempts, upon our part, to overturn it. The idea of universal fraternization imputed to them, if ever it existed, has probably been long since abandoned as impracticable. It would be the height of madness to require that our government should be rendered exactly conformable to theirs; but they may reasonably, perhaps, demand, that we should give some evidence of our entertaining sentiments which are not inimical to their constitution; and that, for this purpose, the authors of our late political measures, those who have conducted the force of Britain in such a manner as to demonstrate an implacable hatred to the French Republic, should be instantly dismissed from the helm. Without such a change upon our part, it is impossible that there should be the appearance of a sincere reconciliation; and the proposal of a peace could lead to nothing more than a temporary armistice, to be broken as soon as Britain has recovered her exhausted resources. Whoever talks of a peace, without this preliminary step, is a mere party man, the adherent of that miserable junto by whom the nation has been exposed to such dangers, and involved in such calamities.
In another letter, I shall consider the expediency, or rather the absolute necessity of this change, from circumstances relating to the internal state and government of the country.
I am, &c.