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letter ii: On the Genius and Character of the French Revolution as it regards other Nations - Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 3 
Select Works of Edmund Burke. A New Imprint of the Payne Edition. Foreword and Biographical Note by Francis Canavan (Indianapolis: :Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 3.
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On the Genius and Character of the French Revolution as it regards other Nations
My Dear Sir,
I closed my first Letter with serious matter; and I hope it has employed your thoughts. The system of peace must have a reference to the system of the war. On that ground, I must therefore again recal your mind to our original opinions, which time and events have not taught me to vary.
My ideas and my principles led me, in this contest, to encounter France, not as a State, but as a Faction. The vast territorial extent of that country, it’s immense population, it’s riches of production, it’s riches of commerce and convention—the whole aggregate mass of what, in ordinary cases, constitutes the force of a State, to me were but objects of secondary consideration. They might be balanced; and they have been often more than balanced. Great as these things are, they are not what make the faction formidable. It is the faction that makes them truly dreadful. The faction is the evil spirit that possesses the body of France; that informs it as a soul; that stamps upon it’s ambition, and upon all it’s pursuits, a characteristic mark, which strongly distinguishes them from the same general passions, and the same general views, in other men and in other communities. It is that spirit which inspires into them a new, a pernicious, and desolating activity. Constituted as France was ten years ago, it was not in that France to shake, to shatter, and to overwhelm Europe in the manner that we behold. A sure destruction impends over those infatuated Princes, who, in the conflict with this new and unheard-of power, proceed as if they were engaged in a war that bore a resemblance to their former contests; or that they can make peace in the spirit of their former arrangements or pacification. Here the beaten path is the very reverse of the safe road.
As to me, I was always steadily of opinion that this disorder was not in it’s nature intermittent. I conceived that the contest, once begun, could not be laid down again to be resumed at our discretion; but that our first struggle with this evil would also be our last. I never thought we could make peace with the system; because it was not for the sake of an object we pursued in rivalry with each other, but with the system itself, that we were at war. As I understood the matter, we were at war, not with it’s conduct, but with it’s existence; convinced that it’s existence and it’s hostility were the same.
The faction is not local or territorial. It is a general evil. Where it least appears in action, it is still full of life. In it’s sleep it recruits it’s strength, and prepares it’s exertion. It’s spirit lies deep in the corruptions of our common nature. The social order which restrains it, feeds it. It exists in every country in Europe; and among all orders of men in every country, who look up to France as to a common head. The centre is there. The circumference is the world of Europe wherever the race of Europe may be settled. Everywhere else the faction is militant; in France it is triumphant. In France is the bank of deposit, and the bank of circulation, of all the pernicious principles that are forming in every State. It will be a folly scarcely deserving of pity, and too mischievous for contempt, to think of restraining it in any other country whilst it is predominant there. War, instead of being the cause of it’s force, has suspended it’s operation. It has given a reprieve, at least, to the Christian World.
The true nature of a Jacobin war, in the beginning, was, by most of the Christian Powers, felt, acknowledged, and even in the most precise manner declared. In the joint manifesto, published by the Emperor and the King of Prussia, on the 4th of August 1792, it is expressed in the clearest terms, and on principles which could not fail, if they had adhered to them, of classing those monarchs with the first benefactors of mankind. This manifesto was published, as they themselves express it, “to lay open to the present generation, as well as to posterity, their motives, their intentions, and the disinterestedness of their personal views; taking up arms for the purpose of preserving social and political order amongst all civilized nations, and to secure to each state its religion, happiness, independence, territories, and real constitution.” “On this ground, they hoped that all Empires, and all States, ought to be unanimous; and becoming the firm guardians of the happiness of mankind, that they cannot fail to unite their efforts to rescue a numerous nation from it’s own fury, to preserve Europe from the return of barbarism, and the Universe from the subversion and anarchy with which it was threatened.” The whole of that noble performance ought to be read at the first meeting of any Congress which may assemble for the purpose of pacification. In that piece “these Powers expressly renounce all views of personal aggrandizement,” and confine themselves to objects worthy of so generous, so heroic, and so perfectly wise and politick an enterprise. It was to the principles of this consideration, and to no other, that we wished our Sovereign and our Country to accede, as a part of the commonwealth of Europe. To these principles, with some trifling exceptions and limitations, they did fully accede.1 And all our friends who did take office acceded to the Ministry (whether wisely or not) as I always understood the matter, on the faith and on the principles of that declaration.
As long as these powers flattered themselves that the menace of force would produce the effect of force, they acted on those declarations: but when their menaces failed of success, their efforts took a new direction. It did not appear to them that virtue and heroism ought to be purchased by millions of rix-dollars. It is a dreadful truth, but it is a truth that cannot be concealed; in ability, in dexterity, in the distinctness of their views, the Jacobins are our superiors. They saw the thing right from the very beginning. Whatever were the first motives to the war among politicians, they saw that it is in it’s spirit, and for it’s objects, a civil war; and as such they pursued it. It is a war between the partizans of the ancient, civil, moral, and political order of Europe against a sect of fanatical and ambitious atheists which means to change them all. It is not France extending a foreign empire over other nations: it is a sect aiming at universal empire, and beginning with the conquest of France. The leaders of that sect secured the centre of Europe; and that secured, they knew, that whatever might be the event of battles and sieges, their cause was victorious. Whether it’s territory had a little more or a little less peeled from it’s surface, or whether an island or two was detached from it’s commerce, to them was of little moment. The conquest of France was a glorious acquisition. That once well laid as a basis of empire, opportunities never could be wanting to regain or to replace what had been lost, and dreadfully to avenge themselves on the faction of their adversaries.
They saw it was a civil war. It was their business to persuade their adversaries that it ought to be a foreign war. The Jacobins every where set up a cry against the new crusade; and they intrigued with effect in the cabinet, in the field, and in every private society in Europe. Their talk was not difficult. The condition of Princes, and sometimes of first Ministers too, is to be pitied. The creatures of the desk, and the creatures of favour, had no relish for the principles of the manifestoes. They promised no governments, no regiments, no revenues from whence emoluments might arise, by perquisite or by grant. In truth, the tribe of vulgar politicians are the lowest of our species. There is no trade so vile and mechanical as government in their hands. Virtue is not their habit. They are out of themselves in any course of conduct recommended only by conscience and glory. A large, liberal and prospective view of the interests of States passes with them for romance; and the principles that recommend it for the wanderings of a disordered imagination. The calculators compute them out of their senses. The jesters and buffoons shame them out of every thing grand and elevated. Littleness, in object and in means, to them appears soundness and sobriety. They think there is nothing worth pursuit, but that which they can handle; which they can measure with a two-foot rule; which they can tell upon ten fingers.
Without the principles of the Jacobins, perhaps without any principles at all, they played the game of that faction. There was a beaten road before them. The Powers of Europe were armed; France had always appeared dangerous; the war was easily diverted from France as a faction, to France as a state. The Princes were easily taught to slide back into their old habitual course of politicks. They were easily led to consider the flames that were consuming France, not as a warning to protect their own buildings, (which were without any party wall, and linked by a contignation into the edifice of France,) but as an happy occasion for pillaging the goods, and for carrying off the materials of their neighbour’s house. Their provident fears were changed into avaricious hopes. They carried on their new designs without seeming to abandon the principles of their old policy. They pretended to seek, or they flattered themselves that they sought, in the accession of new fortresses, and new territories, a defensive security. But the security wanted was against a kind of power, which was not so truly dangerous in it’s fortresses nor in it’s territories, as in it’s spirit and it’s principles. They aimed, or pretended to aim, at defending themselves against a danger, from which there can be no security in any defensive plan. If armies and fortresses were a defence against Jacobinism, Louis the Sixteenth would this day reign a powerful monarch over an happy people.
This error obliged them, even in their offensive operations, to adopt a plan of war, against the success of which there was something little short of mathematical demonstration. They refused to take any step which might strike at the heart of affairs. They seemed unwilling to wound the enemy in any vital part. They acted through the whole, as if they really wished the conservation of the Jacobin power; as what might be more favourable than the lawful Government to the attainment of the petty objects they looked for. They always kept on the circumference; and the wider and remoter the circle was, the more eagerly they chose it as their sphere of action in this centrifugal war. The plan they pursued, in it’s nature, demanded great length of time. In it’s execution, they, who went the nearest way to work, were obliged to cover an incredible extent of country. It left to the enemy every means of destroying this extended line of weakness. Ill success in any part was sure to defeat the effect of the whole. This is true of Austria. It is still more true of England. On this false plan, even good fortune, by further weakening the victor, put him but the further off from his object.
As long as there was any appearance of success, the spirit of aggrandizement, and consequently the spirit of mutual jealousy seized upon all the coalesced Powers. Some sought an accession of territory at the expence of France, some at the expence of each other; some at the expence of third parties; and when the vicissitude of disaster took it’s turn, they found common distress a treacherous bond of faith and friendship.
The greatest skill conducting the greatest military apparatus has been employed; but it has been worse than uselessly employed, through the false policy of the war. The operations of the field suffered by the errors of the Cabinet. If the same spirit continues when peace is made, the peace will fix and perpetuate all the errors of the war; because it will be made upon the same false principle. What has been lost in the field, in the field may be regained. An arrangement of peace in it’s nature is a permanent settlement; it is the effect of counsel and deliberation, and not of fortuitous events. If built upon a basis fundamentally erroneous, it can only be retrieved by some of those unforeseen dispositions, which the all-wise but mysterious Governor of the World sometimes interposes, to snatch nations from ruin. It would not be pious error, but mad and impious presumption, for any one to trust in an unknown order of dispensations, in defiance of the rules of prudence, which are formed upon the known march of the ordinary providence of God.
It was not of that sort of war that I was amongst the least considerable, but amongst the most zealous advisers; and it is not by the sort of peace now talked of, that I wish it concluded. It would answer no great purpose to enter into the particular errours of the war. The whole has been but one errour. It was but nominally a war of alliance. As the combined powers pursued it, there was nothing to hold an alliance together. There could be no tie of honour, in a society for pillage. There could be no tie of a common interest where the object did not offer such a division amongst the parties, as could well give them a warm concern in the gains of each other, or could indeed form such a body of equivalents, as might make one of them willing to abandon a separate object of his ambition for the justification of any other member of the alliance. The partition of Poland offered an object of spoil in which the parties might agree. They were circumjacent; and each might take a portion convenient to his own territory. They might dispute about the value of their several shares: but the contiguity to each of the demandants always furnished the means of an adjustment. Though hereafter the world will have cause to rue this iniquitous measure, and they most who were most concerned in it, for the moment there was wherewithal in the object to preserve peace amongst confederates in wrong. But the spoil of France did not afford the same facilities for accommodation. What might satisfy the House of Austria in a Flemish frontier afforded no equivalent to tempt the cupidity of the King of Prussia. What might be desired by Great Britain in the West-Indies, must be coldly and remotely, if at all, felt as an interest at Vienna; and it would be felt as something worse than a negative interest at Madrid. Austria, long possessed with unwise and dangerous designs on Italy, could not be very much in earnest about the conservation of the old patrimony of the House of Savoy: and Sardinia, who owed to an Italian force all her means of shutting out France from Italy, of which she has been supposed to hold the key, would not purchase the means of strength upon one side by yielding it on the other. She would not readily give the possession of Novara for the hope of Savoy. No continental Power was willing to lose any of it’s continental objects for the encrease of the naval power of Great Britain; and Great Britain would not give up any of the objects she sought for as the means of an encrease to her naval power, to further their aggrandizement.
The moment this war came to be considered as a war merely of profit, the actual circumstances are such, that it never could become really a war of alliance. Nor can the peace be a peace of alliance, until things are put upon their right bottom.
I don’t find it denied, that when a treaty is entered into for peace, a demand will be made on the Regicides to surrender a great part of their conquests on the Continent. Will they, in the present state of the war, make that surrender without an equivalent? This continental cession must of course be made in favour of that party in the alliance, that has suffered losses. That party has nothing to furnish towards an equivalent. What equivalent, for instance, has Holland to offer, who has lost her all? What equivalent can come from the Emperor, every part of whose territories contiguous to France, is already within the pale of the Regicide dominion? What equivalent has Sardinia to offer for Savoy and for Nice, I may say for her whole being? What has she taken from the faction of France? She has lost very nearly her all; and she has gained nothing. What equivalent has Spain to give? Alas! she has already paid for her own ransom the fund of equivalent, and a dreadful equivalent it is, to England and to herself. But I put Spain out of the question. She is a province of the Jacobin Empire, and she must make peace or war according to the orders she receives from the Directory of Assassins. In effect and substance, her Crown is a fief of Regicide.
Whence then can the compensation be demanded? Undoubtedly from that power which alone has made some conquests. That power is England. Will the allies then give away their ancient patrimony, that England may keep Islands in the West-Indies? They never can protract the war in good earnest for that object; nor can they act in concert with us, in our refusal to grant any thing towards their redemption. In that case we are thus situated. Either we must give Europe, bound hand and foot, to France; or we must quit the West Indies without any one object, great or small, towards indemnity and security. I repeat it—without any advantage whatever: because, supposing that our conquest could comprize all that France ever possessed in the tropical America, it never can amount, in any fair estimation, to a fair equivalent for Holland, for the Austrian Netherlands, for the lower Germany, that is, for the whole antient kingdom or circle of Burgundy, now under the yoke of Regicide, to say nothing of almost all Italy under the same barbarous domination. If we treat in the present situation of things, we have nothing in our hands that can redeem Europe. Nor is the Emperor, as I have observed, more rich in the fund of equivalents.
If we look to our stock in the Eastern world, our most valuable and systematick acquisitions are made in that quarter. Is it from France they are made? France has but one or two contemptible factories, subsisting by the offal of the private fortunes of English individuals to support them, in any part of India. I look on the taking of the Cape of Good Hope as the securing of a post of great moment. It does honour to those who planned, and to those who executed that enterprize: but I speak of it always as comparatively good; as good as any thing can be in a scheme of war that repels us from a center, and employs all our forces where nothing can be finally decisive. But giving, as I freely give, every possible credit to these eastern conquests, I ask one question—On whom are they made? It is evident, that if we can keep our eastern conquests, we keep them not at the expence of France, but at the expence of Holland, our ally; of Holland, the immediate cause of the war, the nation whom we had undertaken to protect; and not of the Republic which it was our business to destroy. If we return the African and the Asiatick conquests, we put them into the hands of a nominal State, (to that Holland is reduced) unable to retain them; and which will virtually leave them under the direction of France. If we withhold them, Holland declines still more as a State; and she loses so much carrying trade and that means of keeping up the small degree of naval power she holds; for which policy, and not for any commercial gain, she maintains the Cape, or any settlement beyond it. In that case, resentment, faction, and even necessity will throw her more and more into the power of the new mischievous Republick. But on the probable state of Holland, I shall say more, when in this correspondence I come to talk over with you the state in which any sort of Jacobin peace will leave all Europe. So far as to the East Indies.
As to the West Indies, indeed as to either, if we look for matter of exchange in order to ransom Europe, it is easy to shew that we have taken a terrible roundabout road. I cannot conceive, even if, for the sake of holding conquests there, we should refuse to redeem Holland, and the Austrian Netherlands, and the hither Germany, that Spain, merely as she is Spain, (and forgetting that the Regicide Ambassador governs at Madrid) will see with perfect satisfaction Great Britain sole mistress of the Isles. In truth it appears to me, that, when we come to balance our account, we shall find in the proposed peace only the pure, simple, and unendowed charms of Jacobin amity. We shall have the satisfaction of knowing that no blood or treasure has been spared by the allies for support of the Regicide system. We shall reflect at leisure on one great truth, that it was ten times more easy totally to destroy the system itself, than when established, it would be to reduce it’s power: and that this Republick, most formidable abroad, was, of all things, the weakest at home. That her frontier was terrible, her interior feeble; that it was matter of choice to attack her where she is invincible, and to spare her where she was ready to dissolve by her own internal disorders. We shall reflect, that our plan was good neither for offence nor defence.
It would not be at all difficult to prove that an army of a hundred thousand men, horse, foot, and artillery, might have been employed against the enemy on the very soil which he has usurped, at a far less expense than has been squandered away upon tropical adventures. In these adventures it was not an enemy we had to vanquish, but a cemetery to conquer. In carrying on the war in the West Indies, the hostile sword is merciful: the country in which we engage is the dreadful enemy. There the European conqueror finds a cruel defeat in the very fruits of his success. Every advantage is but a new demand on England for recruits to the West Indian grave. In a West India war, the Regicides have for their troops a race of fierce barbarians, to whom the poisoned air, in which our youth inhale certain death, is salubrity and life. To them the climate is the surest and most faithful of allies.
Had we carried on the war on the side of France which looks towards the Channel or the Atlantick, we should have attacked our enemy on his weak and unarmed side. We should not have to reckon on the loss of a man, who did not fall in battle. We should have an ally in the heart of the country, who to our hundred thousand, would at one time have added eighty thousand men at the least, and all animated by principle, by enthusiasm, and by vengeance: motives which secured them to the cause in a very different manner from some of our allies whom we subsidized with millions. This ally, or rather this principal in the war, by the confession of the Regicide himself, was more formidable to him than all his other foes united. Warring there, we should have led our arms to the capital of Wrong. Defeated, we could not fail (proper precautions taken) of a sure retreat. Stationary, and only supporting the Royalists, an impenetrable barrier, an impregnable rampart, would have been formed between the enemy and his naval power. We are probably the only nation who have declined to act against an enemy, when it might have been done in his own country; and who having an armed, a powerful, and a long victorious ally in that country, declined all effectual cooperation, and suffered him to perish for want of support. On the plan of a war in France, every advantage that our allies might gain would be doubled in its effect. Disasters on the one side might have a fair chance of being compensated by victories on the other. Had we brought the main of our force to bear upon that quarter, all the operations of the British and Imperial crowns would have been combined. The war would have had system, correspondence, and a certain direction. But as the war has been pursued, the operations of the two crowns have not the smallest degree of mutual bearing or relation.
Had acquisitions in the West Indies been our object, or success in France, every thing reasonable in those remote parts might be demanded with decorum, and justice, and a sure effect. Well might we call for a recompense in America for those services to which Europe owed its safety. Having abandoned this obvious policy connected with principle, we have seen the Regicide power taking the reverse course, and making real conquests in the West Indies, to which all our dear-bought advantages, if we could hold them, are mean and contemptible. The noblest island within the tropicks, worth all that we possess put together, is by the vassal Spaniard delivered into her hands. The island of Hispaniola, of which we have but one poor corner, by a slippery hold, is perhaps equal to England in extent, and in fertility is far superior. The part possessed by Spain of that great island, made for the seat and center of a tropical empire, was not improved, to be sure, as the French division had been, before it was systematically destroyed by the cannibal republick: but it is not only the far larger, but the far more salubrious and more fertile part.
It was delivered into the hands of the barbarians without, as I can find, any public reclamation on our part, not only in contravention of one of the fundamental treaties that compose the public law of Europe, but in defiance of the fundamental colonial policy of Spain herself. This part of the Treaty of Utrecht was made for great general ends, unquestionably: but whilst it provided for those general ends, it was an affirmance of that particular policy. It was not to injure but to save Spain, by making a settlement of her estate which prohibited her to alienate it to France. It is her policy not to see the balance of West Indian power overturned, by France or by Great Britain. Whilst the monarchies subsisted, this unprincipled cession was what the influence of the elder branch of the House of Bourbon never dared attempt on the younger. But cannibal terror has been more powerful than family influence. The Bourbon monarchy of Spain is united to the republic of France by what may be truly called the ties of blood.
By this measure the balance of power in the West Indies is totally destroyed. It has followed the balance of power in Europe. It is not alone what shall be left nominally to the assassins, that is theirs. Theirs is the whole empire of Spain in America. That stroke finishes all. I should be glad to see our suppliant negotiator in the act of putting his feather to the ear of the Directory; and by his tickling, to charm that rich prize out of the iron gripe of robbery and ambition! It does not require much sagacity to discern that no power wholly baffled and defeated in Europe can flatter itself with conquests in the West Indies. In that state of things it can neither keep nor hold. No! It cannot even long make war, if the grand bank and deposit of its force is at all in the West Indies. But here a scene opens to my view too important to pass by, perhaps too critical to touch. Is it possible that it should not present itself, in all its relations, to a mind habituated to consider either war or peace on a large scale, or as one whole?
Unfortunately other ideas have prevailed. A remote, an expensive, a murderous, and in the end, an unproductive adventure, carried on upon ideas of mercantile knight-errantry, without any of the generous wildness of Quixotism, is considered as sound, solid sense: and a war in a wholesome climate, a war at our door, a war directly on the enemy, a war in the heart of his country, a war in concert with an internal ally, and in combination with the external, is regarded as folly and romance.
My dear Friend, I hold it impossible that these considerations should have escaped the Statesmen on both sides of the water, and on both sides of the house of Commons. How a question of peace can be discussed without having them in view, I cannot imagine. If you or others see a way out of these difficulties I am happy. I see indeed a fund from whence equivalents will be proposed. I see it. But I cannot just now touch it. It is a question of high moment. It opens another Iliad of woes to Europe.
Such is the time proposed for making a common political peace, to which no one circumstance is propitious. As to the grand principle of the peace, it is left, as if by common consent, wholly out of the question.
Viewing things in this light, I have frequently sunk into a degree of despondency and dejection hardly to be described: yet out of the profoundest depths of this despair, an impulse which I have in vain endeavoured to resist has urged me to raise one feeble cry against this unfortunate coalition which is formed at home, in order to make a coalition with France, subversive of the whole ancient order of the world. No disaster of war, no calamity of season, could ever strike me with half the horror which I felt from what is introduced to us by this junction of parties, under the soothing name of peace. We are apt to speak of a low and pusillanimous spirit as the ordinary cause by which dubious wars terminate in humiliating treaties. It is here the direct contrary. I am perfectly astonished at the boldness of character, at the intrepidity of mind, the firmness of nerve, in those who are able with deliberation to face the perils of Jacobin fraternity.
This fraternity is indeed so terrible in it’s nature, and in it’s manifest consequences, that there is no way of quieting our apprehensions about it, but by totally putting it out of sight, by substituting for it, through a sort of periphrasis, something of an ambiguous quality, and describing such a connection under the terms of “ the usual relations of peace and amity. ” By this means the proposed fraternity is hustled in the crowd of those treaties, which imply no change in the public law of Europe, and which do not upon system affect the interior condition of nations. It is confounded with those conventions in which matters of dispute among sovereign powers are compromised, by the taking off a duty more or less, by the surrender of a frontier town, or a disputed district on the one side or the other; by pactions in which the pretensions of families are settled, (as by a conveyancer, making family substitutions and successions), without any alteration in the laws, manners, religion, privileges and customs of the cities or territories which are the subject of such arrangements.
All this body of old conventions, composing the vast and voluminous collection called the corps diplomatique, forms the code or statute law, as the methodized reasonings of the great publicists and jurists form the digest and jurisprudence, of the Christian world. In these treasures are to be found the usual relations of peace and amity in civilized Europe; and there the relations of ancient France were to be found amongst the rest.
The present system in France is not the ancient France. It is not the ancient France with ordinary ambition and ordinary means. It is not a new power of an old kind. It is a new power of a new species. When such a questionable shape is to be admitted for the first time into the brotherhood of Christendom, it is not a mere matter of idle curiosity to consider how far it is, in it’s nature, alliable with the rest, or whether “the relations of peace and amity” with this new State are likely to be of the same nature with the usual relations of the States of Europe.
The Revolution in France had the relation of France to other nations as one of it’s principal objects. The changes made by that Revolution were not the better to accommodate her to the old and usual relations, but to produce new ones. The Revolution was made, not to make France free, but to make her formidable; not to make her a neighbour, but a mistress; not to make her more observant of laws, but to put her in a condition to impose them. To make France truly formidable it was necessary that France should be new-modelled. They who have not followed the train of the late proceedings, have been led by deceitful representations (which deceit made a part in the plan) to conceive that this totally new model of a state in which nothing escaped a change, was made with a view to it’s internal relations only.
In the Revolution of France two sorts of men were principally concerned in giving a character and determination to it’s pursuits; the philosophers and the politicians. They took different ways: but they met in the same end. The philosophers had one predominant object, which they pursued with a fanatical fury, that is, the utter extirpation of religion. To that every question of empire was subordinate. They had rather domineer in a parish of Atheists, than rule over a Christian world. Their temporal ambition was wholly subservient to their proselytizing spirit, in which they were not exceeded by Mahomet himself.
They who have made but superficial studies in the Natural History of the human mind, have been taught to look on religious opinions as the only cause of enthusiastick zeal, and sectarian propagation. But there is no doctrine whatever, on which men can warm, that is not capable of the very same effect. The social nature of man impels him to propagate his principles, as much as physical impulses urge him to propagate his kind. The passions give zeal and vehemence. The understanding bestows design and system. The whole man moves under the discipline of his opinions. Religion is among the most powerful causes of enthusiasm. When any thing concerning it becomes an object of much meditation, it cannot be indifferent to the mind. They who do not love religion, hate it. The rebels to God perfectly abhor the Author of their being. They hate him “ with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, and with all their strength.” He never presents himself to their thoughts but to menace and alarm them. They cannot strike the Sun out of Heaven, but they are able to raise a smouldering smoke that obscures him from their own eyes. Not being able to revenge themselves on God, they have a delight in vicariously defacing, degrading, torturing, and tearing in pieces his image in man. Let no one judge of them by what he has conceived of them, when they were not incorporated, and had no lead. They were then only passengers in a common vehicle. They were then carried along with the general motion of religion in the community, and without being aware of it, partook of it’s influence. In that situation, at worst, their nature was left free to counterwork their principles. They despaired of giving any very general currency to their opinions. They considered them as a reserved privilege for the chosen few. But when the possibility of dominion, lead, and propagation presented themselves, and that the ambition, which before had so often made them hypocrites, might rather gain than lose by a daring avowal of their sentiments, then the nature of this infernal spirit, which has “ evil for it’s good,” appeared in it’s full perfection. Nothing, indeed, but the possession of some power, can with any certainty discover what at the bottom is the true character of any man. Without reading the speeches of Vergniaux, Français of Nantz, Isnard, and some others of that sort, it would not be easy to conceive the passion, rancour, and malice of their tongues and hearts. They worked themselves up to a perfect phrenzy against religion and all it’s professors. They tore the reputation of the Clergy to pieces by their infuriated declamations and invectives, before they lacerated their bodies by their massacres. This fanatical atheism left out, we omit the principal feature in the French Revolution, and a principal consideration with regard to the effects to be expected from a peace with it.
The other sort of men were the politicians. To them who had little or not at all reflected on the subject, religion was in itself no object of love or hatred. They disbelieved it, and that was all. Neutral with regard to that object, they took the side which in the present state of things might best answer their purposes. They soon found that they could not do without the philosophers; and the philosophers soon made them sensible that the destruction of religion was to supply them with means of conquest, first at home, and then abroad. The philosophers were the active internal agitators, and supplied the spirit and principles: the second gave the practical direction. Sometimes the one predominated in the composition, sometimes the other. The only difference between them was in the necessity of concealing the general design for a time, and in their dealing with foreign nations; the fanaticks going strait forward and openly, the politicians by the surer mode of zigzag. In the course of events this, among other causes, produced fierce and bloody contentions between them. But at the bottom they thoroughly agreed in all the objects of ambition and irreligion, and substantially in all the means of promoting these ends.
Without question, to bring about the unexampled event of the French Revolution, the concurrence of a very great number of views and passions was necessary. In that stupendous work, no one principle by which the human mind may have it’s faculties at once invigorated and depraved, was left unemployed: but I can speak it to a certainty, and support it by undoubted proofs, that the ruling principle of those who acted in the Revolution as statesmen, had the exterior aggrandizement of France as their ultimate end, in the most minute part of the internal changes that were made. We, who of late years have been drawn from an attention to foreign affairs by the importance of our domestic discussions, cannot easily form a conception of the general eagerness of the active and energetick part of the French nation itself, the most active and energetick of all nations previous to it’s Revolution, upon that subject. I am convinced that the foreign speculators in France, under the old Government, were twenty to one of the same description then or now in England; and few of that description there were, who did not emulously set forward the Revolution. The whole official system, particularly in the diplomatic part, the regulars, the irregulars, down to the clerks in office, (a corps, without all comparison, more numerous than the same amongst us) co-operated in it. All the intriguers in foreign politicks, all the spies, all the intelligencers, actually or late in function, all the candidates for that sort of employment, acted solely upon that principle.
On that system of aggrandizement there was but one mind: but two violent factions arose about the means. The first wished France, diverted from the politicks of the continent, to attend solely to her marine, to feed it by an encrease of commerce, and thereby to overpower England on her own element. They contended, that if England were disabled, the Powers on the continent would fall into their proper subordination; that it was England which deranged the whole continental system of Europe. The others, who were by far the more numerous, though not the most outwardly prevalent at Court, considered this plan for France as contrary to her genius, her situation, and her natural means. They agreed as to the ultimate object, the reduction of the British power, and if possible, it’s naval power; but they considered an ascendancy on the continent as a necessary preliminary to that undertaking. They argued that the proceedings of England herself had proved the soundness of this policy. That her greatest and ablest Statesmen had not considered the support of a continental balance against France as a deviation from the principle of her naval power, but as one of the most effectual modes of carrying it into effect. That such had been her policy ever since the Revolution; during which period the naval strength of Great Britain had gone on encreasing in the direct ratio of her interference in the politicks of the continent. With much stronger reason ought the politicks of France to take the same direction; as well for pursuing objects which her situation would dictate to her, though England had no existence, as for counteracting the politicks of that nation; to France continental politicks are primary; they looked on them only of secondary consideration to England, and however necessary, but as means necessary to an end.
What is truly astonishing, the partizans of those two opposite systems were at once prevalent, and at once employed, and in the very same transactions, the one ostensibly, the other secretly, during the latter part of the reign of Lewis XV. Nor was there one Court in which an Ambassador resided on the part of the Ministers, in which another as a spy on him did not also reside on the part of the King: they who pursued the scheme for keeping peace on the continent, and particularly with Austria, acting officially and publickly, the other faction counteracting and opposing them. These private agents were continually going from their function to the Bastille, and from the Bastille to employment, and favour again. An inextricable cabal was formed, some of persons of rank, others of subordinates. But by this means the corps of politicians was augmented in number, and the whole formed a body of active, adventuring, ambitious, discontented people, despising the regular Ministry, despising the Courts at which they were employed, despising the Court which employed them.
The unfortunate Louis the Sixteenth1 was not the first cause of the evil by which he suffered. He came to it, as to a sort of inheritance, by the false politicks of his immediate predecessor. This system of dark and perplexed intrigue had come to it’s perfection before he came to the throne: and even then the Revolution strongly operated in all it’s causes.
There was no point on which the discontented diplomatic politicians so bitterly arraigned their Cabinet, as for the decay of French influence in all others. From quarrelling with the Court, they began to complain of Monarchy itself; as a system of Government too variable for any regular plan of national aggrandizement. They observed, that in that sort of regimen too much depended on the personal character of the Prince; that the vicissitudes produced by the succession of Princes of a different character, and even the vicissitudes produced in the same man, by the different views and inclinations belonging to youth, manhood, and age, disturbed and distracted the policy of a country made by nature for extensive empire, or what was still more to their taste, for that sort of general over-ruling influence which prepared empire or supplied the place of it. They had continually in their hands the observations of Machiavel on Livy. They had Montesquieu’s Grandeur & Décadence des Romains as a manual; and they compared with mortification the systematic proceedings of a Roman senate with the fluctuations of a Monarchy. They observed the very small additions of territory which all the power of France, actuated by all the ambition of France, had acquired in two centuries. The Romans had frequently acquired more in a single year. They severely and in every part of it criticised the reign of Louis the XIVth, whose irregular and desultory ambition had more provoked than endangered Europe. Indeed, they who will be at the pains of seriously considering the history of that period will see, that those French politicians had some reason. They who will not take the trouble of reviewing it through all it’s wars and all it’s negociations, will consult the short but judicious criticism of the Marquis de Montalembert on that subject. It may be read separately from his ingenious system of fortification and military defence, on the practical merit of which I am unable to form a judgment.
The diplomatick politicians of whom I speak, and who formed by far the majority in that class, made disadvantageous comparisons even between their more legal and formalising Monarchy, and the monarchies of other states, as a system of power and influence. They observed, that France not only lost ground herself, but through the languor and unsteadiness of her pursuits, and from her aiming through commerce at naval force which she never could attain without losing more on one side than she could gain on the other, three great powers, each of them (as military states) capable of balancing her, had grown up on the continent. Russia and Prussia had been created almost within memory; and Austria, though not a new power, and even curtailed in territory, was by the very collision in which she lost that territory, greatly improved in her military discipline and force. During the reign of Maria Theresa the interior oeconomy of the country was made more to correspond with the support of great armies than formerly it had been. As to Prussia, a merely military power, they observed that one war had enriched her with as considerable a conquest as France had acquired in centuries. Russia had broken the Turkish power by which Austria might be, as formerly she had been, balanced in favour of France. They felt it with pain, that the two northern powers of Sweden and Denmark were in general under the sway of Russia; or that at best, France kept up a very doubtful conflict, with many fluctuations of fortune, and at an enormous expence, in Sweden. In Holland, the French party seemed, if not extinguished, at least utterly obscured, and kept under by a Stadtholder, sometimes leaning for support on Great Britain, sometimes on Prussia, sometimes on both, never on France. Even the spreading of the Bourbon family had become merely a family accommodation; and had little effect on the national politicks. This alliance, they said, extinguished Spain by destroying all it’s energy, without adding any thing to the real power of France in the accession of the forces of it’s great rival. In Italy, the same family accommodation, the same national insignificance, were equally visible. What cure for the radical weakness of the French Monarchy, to which all the means which wit could devise, or nature and fortune could bestow, towards universal empire, was not of force to give life, or vigour, or consistency, but in a republick? Out the word came; and it never went back.
Whether they reasoned right or wrong, or that there was some mixture of right and wrong in their reasoning, I am sure, that in this manner they felt and reasoned. The different effects of a great military and ambitious republick, and of a monarchy of the same description were constantly in their mouths. The principle was ready to operate when opportunities should offer, which few of them indeed foresaw in the extent in which they were afterwards presented; but these opportunities, in some degree or other, they all ardently wished for.
When I was in Paris in 1773, the treaty of 1756 between Austria and France was deplored as a national calamity; because it united France in friendship with a Power, at whose expence alone they could hope any continental aggrandizement. When the first partition of Poland was made, in which France had no share, and which had farther aggrandized every one of the three Powers of which they were most jealous, I found them in a perfect phrenzy of rage and indignation. Not that they were hurt at the shocking and uncoloured violence and injustice of that partition; but at the debility, improvidence, and want of activity in their Government, in not preventing it as a means of aggrandizement to their rivals, or in not contriving, by exchanges of some kind or other, to obtain their share of advantage from that robbery.
In that or nearly in that state of things and of opinions, came the Austrian match; which promised to draw the knot, as afterwards in effect it did, still more closely between the old rival houses. This added exceedingly to their hatred and contempt of their monarchy. It was for this reason that the late glorious Queen, who on all accounts was formed to produce general love and admiration, and whose life was as mild and beneficent as her death was beyond example great and heroic, became so very soon and so very much the object of an implacable rancour, never to be extinguished but in her blood. When I wrote my letter in answer to M. de Menonville, in the beginning of January, 1791, I had good reason for thinking that this description of revolutionists did not so early nor so steadily point their murderous designs at the martyr King as at the Royal Heroine. It was accident, and the momentary depression of that part of the faction, that gave to the husband the happy priority in death.
From this their restless desire of an over-ruling influence, they bent a very great part of their designs and efforts to revive the old French party, which was a democratick party, in Holland, and to make a revolution there. They were happy at the troubles which the singular imprudence of Joseph the Second had stirred up in the Austrian Netherlands. They rejoiced, when they saw him irritate his subjects, profess philosophy, send away the Dutch garrisons, and dismantle his fortifications. As to Holland, they never forgave either the King or the Ministry, for suffering that object, which they justly looked on as principal in their design of reducing the power of England, to escape out of their hands. This was the true secret of the commercial treaty, made, on their part, against all the old rules and principles of commerce, with a view of diverting the English nation, by a pursuit of immediate profit, from an attention to the progress of France in it’s designs upon that Republic. The system of the oeconomists, which led to the general opening of commerce, facilitated that treaty, but did not produce it. They were in despair when they found that by the vigour of Mr. Pitt, supported in this point by Mr. Fox and the opposition, the object, to which they had sacrificed their manufactures, was lost to their ambition. This eager desire of raising France from the condition into which she had fallen, as they conceived, from her monarchical imbecility, had been the main spring of their precedent interference in that unhappy American quarrel, the bad effects of which to this nation have not, as yet, fully disclosed themselves.
These sentiments had been long lurking in their breasts, though their views were only discovered now and then, in heat and as by escapes; but on this occasion they exploded suddenly. They were professed with ostentation, and propagated with zeal. These sentiments were not produced, as some think, by their American alliance. The American alliance was produced by their republican principles and republican policy. This new relation undoubtedly did much. The discourses and cabals that it produced, the intercourse that it established, and above all, the example, which made it seem practicable to establish a Republick in a great extent of country, finished the work, and gave to that part of the Revolutionary faction a degree of strength, which required other energies than the late King possessed, to resist, or even to restrain. It spread every where; but it was no where more prevalent than in the heart of the Court. The palace of Versailles, by it’s language, seemed a forum of democracy. To have pointed out to most of those politicians, from their dispositions and movements, what has since happened, the fall of their own Monarchy, of their own Laws, of their own Religion, would have been to furnish a motive the more for pushing forward a system on which they considered all these things as incumbrances. Such in truth they were. And we have seen them succeed, not only in the destruction of their monarchy, but in all the objects of ambition that they proposed from that destruction.
When I contemplate the scheme on which France is formed, and when I compare it with these systems, with which it is, and ever must be, in conflict, those things which seem as defects in her polity are the very things which make me tremble. The States of the Christian World have grown up to their present magnitude in a great length of time, and by a great variety of accidents. They have been improved to what we see them with greater or less degrees of felicity and skill. Not one of them has been formed upon a regular plan or with any unity of design. As their Constitutions are not systematical, they have not been directed to any peculiar end, eminently distinguished, and superseding every other. The objects which they embrace are of the greatest possible variety, and have become in a manner infinite. In all these old countries the state has been made to the people, and not the people conformed to the state. Every state has pursued, not only every sort of social advantage, but it has cultivated the welfare of every individual. His wants, his wishes, even his tastes have been consulted. This comprehensive scheme virtually produced a degree of personal liberty in forms the most adverse to it. That liberty was found, under monarchies stiled absolute, in a degree unknown to the ancient commonwealths. From hence the powers of all our modern states meet in all their movements with some obstruction. It is therefore no wonder, that when these states are to be considered as machines to operate for some one great end, that this dissipated and balanced force is not easily concentered, or made to bear with the whole nation upon one point.
The British State is, without question, that which pursues the greatest variety of ends, and is the least disposed to sacrifice any one of them to another, or to the whole. It aims at taking in the entire circle of human desires, and securing for them their fair enjoyment. Our legislature has been ever closely connected, in it’s most efficient part, with individual feeling and individual interest. Personal liberty, the most lively of these feelings and the most important of these interests, which in other European countries has rather arisen from the system of manners and the habitudes of life, than from the laws of the state, (in which it flourished more from neglect than attention) in England has been a direct object of Government.
On this principle England would be the weakest power in the whole system. Fortunately, however, the great riches of this kingdom, arising from a variety of causes, and the disposition of the people, which is as great to spend as to accumulate, has easily afforded a disposeable surplus that gives a mighty momentum to the state. This difficulty, with these advantages to overcome it, has called forth the talents of the English financiers, who, by the surplus of industry poured out by prodigality, have outdone every thing which has been accomplished in other nations. The present Minister has outdone his predecessors; and as a Minister of revenue, is far above my power of praise. But still there are cases in which England feels more than several others, (though they all feel) the perplexity of an immense body of balanced advantages, and of individual demands, and of some irregularity in the whole mass.
France differs essentially from all those Governments which are formed without system, which exist by habit, and which are confused with the multitude, and with the complexity of their pursuits. What now stands as Government in France is struck out at a heat. The design is wicked, immoral, impious, oppressive; but it is spirited and daring: it is systematick; it is simple in it’s principle; it has unity and consistency in perfection. In that country entirely to cut off a branch of commerce, to extinguish a manufacture, to destroy the circulation of money, to violate credit, to suspend the course of agriculture, even to burn a city, or to lay waste a province of their own, does not cost them a moment’s anxiety. To them, the will, the wish, the want, the liberty, the toil, the blood of individuals is as nothing. Individuality is left out of their scheme of Government. The state is all in all. Every thing is referred to the production of force; afterwards every thing is trusted to the use of it. It is military in it’s principle, in it’s maxims, in it’s spirit, and in all it’s movements. The state has dominion and conquest for it’s sole objects; dominion over minds by proselytism, over bodies by arms.
Thus constituted with an immense body of natural means, which are lessened in their amount only to be increased in their effect, France has, since the accomplishment of the Revolution, a complete unity in it’s direction. It has destroyed every resource of the State which depends upon opinion and the good-will of individuals. The riches of convention disappear. The advantages of nature in some measure remain; even these, I admit, are astonishingly lessened; the command over what remains is complete and absolute. We go about asking when assignats will expire, and we laugh at the last price of them. But what signifies the fate of those tickets of despotism? The despotism will find despotick means of supply. They have found the short cut to the productions of Nature, while others, in pursuit of them, are obliged to wind through the labyrinth of a very intricate state of society. They seize upon the fruit of the labour; they seize upon the labourer himself. Were France but half of what it is in population, in compactness, in applicability of it’s force, situated as it is, and being what it is, it would be too strong for most of the States of Europe, constituted as they are, and proceeding as they proceed. Would it be wise to estimate what the world of Europe, as well as the world of Asia, had to dread from Jinghiz Khân, upon a contemplation of the resources of the cold and barren spot in the remotest Tartary, from whence first issued that scourge of the human race? Ought we to judge from the excise and stamp duties of the rocks, or from the paper circulation of the sands of Arabia, the power by which Mahomet and his tribes laid hold at once on the two most powerful Empires of the world; beat one of them totally to the ground, broke to pieces the other, and, in not much longer space of time than I have lived, overturned governments, laws, manners, religion, and extended an empire from the Indus to the Pyrenees?
Material resources never have supplied, nor ever can supply, the want of unity in design and constancy in pursuit. But unity in design, and perseverance, and boldness in pursuit, have never wanted resources, and never will. We have not considered as we ought the dreadful energy of a State, in which the property has nothing to do with the Government. Reflect, my dear Sir, reflect again and again on a Government, in which the property is in complete subjection, and where nothing rules but the mind of desperate men. The condition of a commonwealth not governed by it’s property was a combination of things, which the learned and ingenious speculator Harrington, who has tossed about society into all forms, never could imagine to be possible. We have seen it; the world has felt it; and if the world will shut their eyes to this state of things, they will feel it more. The rulers there have found their resources in crimes. The discovery is dreadful: the mine exhaustless. They have every thing to gain, and they have nothing to lose. They have a boundless inheritance in hope; and there is no medium for them, betwixt the highest elevation, and death with infamy. Never can they who from the miserable servitude of the desk have been raised to Empire, again submit to the bondage of a starving bureau, or the profit of copying music, or writing plaidoyers by the sheet. It has made me often smile in bitterness, when I have heard talk of an indemnity to such men, provided they returned to their allegiance.
From all this, what is my inference? It is, that this new system of robbery in France, cannot be rendered safe by any art; that it must be destroyed, or that it will destroy all Europe; that to destroy that enemy, by some means or other, the force opposed to it should be made to bear some analogy and resemblance to the force and spirit which that system exerts; that war ought to be made against it in its vulnerable parts. These are my inferences. In one word, with this Republick nothing independent can co-exist. The errors of Louis the XVIth. were more pardonable to prudence, than any of those of the same kind into which the Allied Courts may fall. They have the benefit of his dreadful example.
The unhappy Louis XVI. was a man of the best intentions that probably ever reigned. He was by no means deficient in talents. He had a most laudable desire to supply by general reading, and even by the acquisition of elemental knowledge, an education in all points originally defective; but nobody told him (and it was no wonder he should not himself divine it) that the world of which he read, and the world in which he lived, were no longer the same. Desirous of doing every thing for the best, fearful of cabal, distrusting his own judgment, he sought his Ministers of all kinds upon public testimony. But as Courts are the field for caballers, the publick is the theatre for mountebanks and impostors. The cure for both those evils is in the discernment of the Prince. But an accurate and penetrating discernment is what in a young Prince could not be looked for.
His conduct in it’s principle was not unwise; but, like most other of his well-meant designs, it failed in his hands. It failed partly from mere ill fortune, to which speculators are rarely pleased to assign that very large share to which she is justly entitled in all human affairs. The failure, perhaps, in part was owing to his suffering his system to be vitiated and disturbed by those intrigues, which it is, humanly speaking, impossible wholly to prevent in Courts, or indeed under any form of Government. However, with these aberrations, he gave himself over to a succession of the statesmen of publick opinion. In other things he thought that he might be a King on the terms of his predecessors. He was conscious of the purity of his heart and the general good tendency of his Government. He flattered himself, as most men in his situation will, that he might consult his ease without danger to his safety. It is not at all wonderful that both he and his Ministers, giving way abundantly in other respects to innovation, should take up in policy with the tradition of their monarchy. Under his ancestors the Monarchy had subsisted, and even been strengthened by the generation or support of Republicks. First, the Swiss Republicks grew under the guardianship of the French Monarchy. The Dutch Republicks were hatched and cherished under the same incubation. Afterwards, a Republican constitution was under it’s influence established in the Empire against the pretensions of it’s chief. Even whilst the Monarchy of France, by a series of wars and negotiations, and lastly by the treaties of Westphalia, had obtained the establishment of the Protestants in Germany as a law of the Empire, the same Monarchy under Louis the XIIIth. had force enough to destroy the Republican system of the Protestants at home.
Louis the XVIth. was a diligent reader of history. But the very lamp of prudence blinded him. The guide of human life led him astray. A silent revolution in the moral world preceded the political, and prepared it. It became of more importance than ever what examples were given, and what measures were adopted. Their causes no longer lurked in the recesses of cabinets, or in the private conspiracies of the factious. They were no longer to be controlled by the force and influence of the grandees, who formerly had been able to stir up troubles by their discontents, and to quiet them by their corruption. The chain of subordination, even in cabal and sedition, was broken in it’s most important links. It was no longer the great and the populace. Other interests were formed, other dependencies, other connexions, other communications. The middle classes had swelled far beyond their former proportion. Like whatever is the most effectively rich and great in society, these classes became the seat of all the active politicks; and the preponderating weight to decide on them. There were all the energies by which fortune is acquired; there the consequence of their success. There were all the talents which assert their pretensions, and are impatient of the place which settled society prescribes to them. These descriptions had got between the great and the populace; and the influence on the lower classes was with them. The spirit of ambition had taken possession of this class as violently as ever it had done of any other. They felt the importance of this situation. The correspondence of the monied and the mercantile world, the literary intercourse of academies, but, above all, the press, of which they had in a manner, entire possession, made a kind of electrick communication every where. The press, in reality, has made every Government, in it’s spirit, almost democratick. Without the great, the first movements in this revolution could not, perhaps, have been given. But the spirit of ambition, now for the first time connected with the spirit of speculation, was not to be restrained at will. There was no longer any means of arresting a principle in it’s course. When Louis the XVIth. under the influence of the enemies to Monarchy, meant to found but one Republic, he set up two. When he meant to take away half the crown of his neighbour, he lost the whole of his own. Louis the XVIth. could not with impunity countenance a new Republick: yet between his throne and that dangerous lodgment for an enemy, which he had erected, he had the whole Atlantick for a ditch. He had for an out-work the English nation itself, friendly to liberty, adverse to that mode of it. He was surrounded by a rampart of Monarchies, most of them allied to him, and generally under his influence. Yet even thus secured, a Republick erected under his auspices, and dependent on his power, became fatal to his throne. The very money which he had lent to support this Republick, by a good faith, which to him operated as perfidy, was punctually paid to his enemies, and became a resource in the hands of his assassins.
With this example before their eyes, do any Ministers in England, do any Ministers in Austria, really flatter themselves, that they can erect, not on the remote shores of the Atlantick, but in their view, in their vicinity, in absolute contact with one of them, not a commercial but a martial Republick—a Republick not of simple husbandmen or fishermen, but of intriguers, and of warriors—a Republick of a character the most restless, the most enterprizing, the most impious, the most fierce and bloody, the most hypocritical and perfidious, the most bold and daring that ever has been seen, or indeed that can be conceived to exist, without bringing on their own certain ruin?
Such is the Republick to which we are going to give a place in civilized fellowship. The Republick, which with joint consent we are going to establish in the center of Europe, in a post that overlooks and commands every other State, and which eminently confronts and menaces this kingdom.
You cannot fail to observe, that I speak as if the allied powers were actually consenting, and not compelled by events to the establishment of this faction in France. The words have not escaped me. You will hereafter naturally expect that I should make them good. But whether in adopting this measure we are madly active, or weakly passive, or pusillanimously panick-struck, the effects will be the same. You may call this faction, which has eradicated the monarchy—expelled the proprietary, persecuted religion, and trampled upon law1 —you may call this France if you please: but of the ancient France nothing remains but it’s central geography; it’s iron frontier; it’s spirit of ambition; it’s audacity of enterprize; it’s perplexing intrigue. These and these alone remain; and they remain heightened in their principle and augmented in their means. All the former correctives, whether of virtue or of weakness, which existed in the old Monarchy, are gone. No single new corrective is to be found in the whole body of the new institutions. How should such a thing be found there, when every thing has been chosen with care and selection to forward all those ambitious designs and dispositions, not to controul them? The whole is a body of ways and means for the supply of dominion, without one heterogeneous particle in it.
Here I suffer you to breathe, and leave to your meditation what has occurred to me on the genius and character of the French Revolution. From having this before us, we may be better able to determine on the first question I proposed, that is, how far nations, called foreign, are likely to be affected with the system established within that territory? I intended to proceed next on the question of her facilities, from the internal state of other nations, and particularly of this, for obtaining her ends: but I ought to be aware, that my notions are controverted. I mean, therefore, in my next letter, to take notice of what, in that way, has been recommended to me as the most deserving of notice. In the examination of those pieces, I shall have occasion to discuss some others of the topics I have recommended to your attention. You know, that the Letters which I now send to the press, as well as a part of what is to follow, have been long since written. A circumstance which your partiality alone could make of importance to you, but which to the publick is of no importance at all, retarded their appearance. The late events which press upon us obliged me to make some few additions; but no substantial change in the matter.
This discussion, my Friend, will be long. But the matter is serious; and if ever the fate of the world could be truly said to depend on a particular measure, it is upon this peace. For the present, farewell.
A Third Letter to A Member of the Present Parliament, on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France by the late right honourable Edmund Burke
[Third Edition. Rivingtons, 1797.]
In the conclusion of Mr. Burke’s second Letter on the Proposals of Peace, he threw out some intimation of the plan which he meant to adopt in the sequel. A third Letter was mentioned by him, as having been then in part written. “He intended to proceed next on the question of the facilities possessed by the French Republick, from the internal State of other Nations, and particularly of this, for obtaining her ends; and, as his notions were controverted, to take notice of what, in that way, had been recommended to him.”
But the abrupt and unprecedented conclusion of Lord Malmesbury’s first negociation induced him to make some change in the arrangement of his matter. He took up the question of his Lordship’s mission, as stated in the papers laid before Parliament, his Majesty’s Declaration, and in the publick comments upon it; he thought it necessary to examine the new basis of compensation proposed for this treaty; and having heard it currently whispered about, that the foundation of all his opinions failed in this essential point, that he had not shewn what means and resources we possessed to carry them into effect, he also determined to bring forward the consideration of the “absolute necessity of peace,” which he had postponed at the end of his first letter. This was the origin of the letter now offered to the Publick.
The greater part of this pamphlet was actually revised in print by the Author himself, but not in the exact order of the pages. He enlarged his first draft, and separated one great member of his subject for the purpose of introducing some other matter between. Two separate parcels of manuscript, designed to intervene, were found among his papers. One of them he seemed to have gone over himself, and to have improved and augmented. The other (fortunately the smaller) was much more imperfect, just as it was taken from his mouth by dictation. Of course it was necessary to use a more ample discretion in preparing that part for the press.
There is, however, still a very considerable member, or rather there are large fragments and pieces of a considerable member, to which the candour and indulgence of the Publick must be respectfully intreated. Mr. Burke had himself chalked out an accurate outline. There were loose papers found, containing a summary and conclusion of the whole. He had preserved some scattered hints, documents, and parts of a correspondence on the state of the country. He had been long anxiously waiting for some authentick and official information, which he wanted, to ascertain to the Publick, what with his usual sagacity he had fully anticipated from his own observation to his own conviction. When the first Reports of the Finance Committee of the House of Commons, and the Great Reports of the Secret Committee of both Houses, were procured and were printed, he read them with much avidity; but the Supreme Disposer of all, in his inscrutable counsels, did not permit the complete execution of the task which he meditated.
Under these circumstances his friends originally inclined to lop off altogether that member which he had left so lame and mutilated; but from a consideration how much the ultimate credit of all his opinions might possibly depend on that main branch of his question not being wholly suppressed, it was thought best that some use should be made of the important materials which he had so far in readiness. It was then conceived that it might in some degree answer the purpose, to draw out mere tables of figures, with short observations under each of them; and they were actually printed in that form. These would still however have remained an unseemly chasm, very incoherently and aukwardly filled. At length, therefore, it was resolved, after much hesitation, and under a very unpleasant responsibility, to make a humble attempt at supplying the void with some continued explanation and illustration of the documents, agreeably to Mr. Burke’s own Sketch. In performing with reverential diffidence that duty of friendship, no one sentiment has been attributed to Mr. Burke, which is not most explicitly known, from repeated conversations and from correspondence, to have been entertained by that illustrious man. Some passages from his own private letters, and some from letters to him, which he was pleased to commend and to preserve, have been interwoven.
From what has been thus fairly submitted, it will be seen, that it is impossible to indicate every period or sentence in the latter part of this letter, which is, and which is not, from the hand of Mr. Burke. It would swell this advertisement to a long preface. In general, the style will too surely declare the author. Not only his friends, but his bitterest enemies (if he now has any enemies) will agree, that he is not to be imitated: he is, as Cowley says, “a vast species alone.”
The fourth Letter, which was originally designed for the first, has been found complete, as it was first written. The friends of the Author trust that they shall be able to present it to the Publick nearly as it came from his pen, with little more than some trifling alterations of temporary allusions to things now past, and in this eventful crisis already obsolete.
In the Advertisement originally prefixed to this Publication, it was supposed that enough had been said to point out generally the only part of the Letter, in which any considerable additions had been made by another hand. The attention of the Reader was directed to the last member of it, especially to the arrangement and illustrations of the documents there inserted, as having been supplied agreeably to an outline marked out by Mr. Burke himself. Strange mistakes, however, have been committed by some of our Criticks in the Publick Prints. One of them, wholly forgetting how large a proportion of the work was stated to have been given untouched to the Publick, and applying to the whole what was expressly limited to pieces and fragments of one considerable member, was pleased to represent the Advertisement as giving notice of “a manufactory for pamphlets under the title of Edmund Burke.” A second more handsomely selected the supplement alone for observation, and gave it distinguished praise, as being written with all Mr. Burke’s “depth of research.” A third pronounced the Letter to be “evidently a work of shreds and patches,” and then sagaciously produced, as perhaps “the most curious part” of the whole, what was in reality a shred from the most imperfect parcel of the authentick Manuscript; and he crowned all by speaking in the same handsome manner with the former, of the supplement, to which he ascribed Mr. Burke’s “usual superiority.” Some have levelled innocent pleasantries at a wrong mark, and others have bestowed commendation on detached sentiments and phrases, under the influence of similar errour. No deception of this kind was intended; but what has happened seems to indicate that some further explanation may be acceptable.
All the beginning, nearly down to the end of the fifty-sixth page* was revised in print by the illustrious Authour. What follows to the end of the seventy-fourth page,† is printed from a parcel of manuscript, which appeared to have been re-considered, and in part re-written. Very little alteration was made in those eighteen pages, except of a mere mechanical kind, in re-modelling two or three sentences, which, having been much interlined, were in consequence rather clogged and embarrassed in their movement; a sort of correction, which the Authour himself was accustomed to postpone, till he saw and read the proof-sheets. The succeeding twelve pages and a half, to the end of the paragraph in page eighty-seven,‡ are all that rest on the authority of the more imperfect manuscript. The true order was ascertained by the circumstance, that full two pages at the beginning of the latter contained a rude and meagre draft of the same subject with the concluding pages of the former parcel; to the head of which it was necessary, on the other hand, to transfer a single short paragraph of six lines and a half, which is to be found in the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh pages.§ In the more imperfect parcel, a blank was left in the middle of one sentence, which was filled up from conjecture, and several other sentences were a little dilated and rounded, but without any change in the sentiment.
All the first part of the great member which follows, on the question of necessity, was revised in print by Mr. Burke, down to the middle of the hundred and tenth page.* The brilliancy and solidity of the oeconomical and moral philosophy, with which those pages abound, manifest at once the inimitable Authour. His Friends at first thought of supplying a short conclusion at the end of the hundred and second page,† but in addition to the reasons formerly mentioned, a desire to preserve the beautiful and truly philanthropick branch of the argument, which relates to the condition of the poor, induced the attempt to complete, what the great master had left unfinished.
It is the enquiry into the condition of the higher classes, which was principally meant to be submitted to the candour and indulgence of the Publick. The summary of the whole topick indeed, nearly as it stands in the hundred and sixty-first and hundred and sixty-second pages,‡ contains the substance of all the preceding details: and that, with a marginal reference to the bankrupt list, was found in Mr. Burke’s own hand-writing. The censure of our defensive system, in page a hundred and fourteen§ and the two following pages, is taken from a letter, of which he never wrote more than the introduction. He intended to have comprised in it the short results of his opinions, when he despaired of living to proceed with his original plan; but he abandoned it, when his health for a short time seemed to improve, about two months before his death. The actual conclusion of the present Pamphlet is also from his dictation. But for some intermediate passages, which were indispensably requisite to connect and introduce these noble fragments, and for the execution of the details produced to prove the flourishing state of the higher classes, and the general prosperity of the country, his reputation is not responsible. The Publick have been already informed, with all humility, upon what ground they stand.
*∗* An errour of some magnitude has been discovered at the end of the note in page 123.‖ The money actually received into the Exchequer on the new assessed takes of 1796 has been deducted instead of the gross assessment, which is £401,652; leaving still an increase of upwards of one fourth more than the whole increase of the preceding three years, notwithstanding so heavy an additional burthen.
I thank you for the bundle of State-papers, which I received yesterday. I have travelled through the Negotiation; and a sad, founderous road it is. There is a sort of standing jest against my countrymen, that one of them on his journey having found a piece of pleasant road, he proposed to his companion to go over it again. This proposal, with regard to the worthy traveller’s final destination, was certainly a blunder. It was no blunder as to his immediate satisfaction; for the way was pleasant. In the irksome journey of the Regicide negotiations, it is otherwise: our “paths are not paths of pleasantness, nor our ways the ways to peace.” All our mistakes (if such they are) like those of our Hibernian traveller, are mistakes of repetition; and they will be full as far from bringing us to our place of rest, as his well considered project was from forwarding him to his inn. Yet I see we persevere. Fatigued with our former course; too listless to explore a new one; kept in action by inertness; moving only because we have been in motion; with a sort of plodding perseverance, we resolve to measure back again the very same joyless, hopeless, and inglorious track. Backward and forward; oscillation not progression; much going in a scanty space; the travels of a postillion, miles enough to circle the globe in one short stage; we have been, and we are yet to be jolted and rattled over the loose, misplaced stones, and the treacherous hollows, of this rough, ill kept, broken up, treacherous French causeway!
The Declaration, which brings up the rear of the papers laid before Parliament, contains a review and a reasoned summary of all our attempts, and all our failures; a concise but correct narrative of the painful steps taken to bring on the essay of a treaty at Paris; a clear exposure of all the rebuffs we received in the progress of that experiment; an honest confession of our departure from all the rules and all the principles of political negotiation, and of common prudence, in the conduct of it; and to crown the whole, a fair account of the atrocious manner in which the Regicide enemies had broken up what had been so inauspiciously begun and so feebly carried on, by finally, and with all scorn, driving our suppliant Ambassador out of the limits of their usurpation.
Even after all that I have lately seen, I was a little surprized at this exposure. A minute display of hopes formed without foundation, and of labours pursued without fruit, is a thing not very flattering to self-estimation. But truth has it’s rights; and it will assert them. The Declaration, after doing all this with a mortifying candour, concludes the whole recapitulation with an engagement still more extraordinary than all the unusual matter it contains. It says, “That his Majesty, who had entered into this negotiation with good faith, who has suffered no impediment to prevent his prose, cuting it with earnestness and sincerity, has now only to lament it’s abrupt termination, and to renew in the face of all Europe the solemn declaration, that whenever his enemies shall be disposed to enter upon the work of a general pacification in a spirit of conciliation and equity, nothing shall be wanting on his part to contribute to the accomplishment of that great object.”
If the disgusting detail of the accumulated insults we have received, in what we have very properly called our “solicitation,” to a gang of felons and murderers, had been produced as a proof of the utter inefficacy of that mode of proceeding with that description of persons, I should have nothing at all to object to it. It might furnish matter conclusive in argument, and instructive in policy: but with all due submission to high authority, and with all decent deference to superiour lights, it does not seem quite clear to a discernment no better than mine, that the premises in that piece conduct irresistibly to the conclusion. A laboured display of the ill consequences which have attended an uniform course of submission to every mode of contumelious insult, with which the despotism of a proud, capricious, insulting and implacable foe has chosen to buffet our patience, does not appear, to my poor thoughts, to be properly brought forth as a preliminary to justify a resolution of persevering in the very same kind of conduct, towards the very same sort of person, and on the very same principles. We state our experience, and then we come to the manly resolution of acting in contradiction to it. All that has passed at Paris, to the moment of our being shamefully hissed off that stage, has been nothing but a more solemn representation, on the theatre of the nation, of what had been before in rehearsal at Basle. As it is not only confessed by us, but made a matter of charge on the enemy, that he had given us no encouragement to believe there was a change in his disposition, or in his policy at any time subsequent to the period of his rejecting our first overtures, there seems to have been no assignable motive for sending Lord Malmesbury to Paris, except to expose his humbled country to the worst indignities and the first of the kind, as the Declaration very truly observes, that have been known in the world of negotiation.
An honest neighbour of mine is not altogether unhappy in the application of an old common story to a present occasion. It may be said of my friend, what Horace says of a neighbour of his, “ garrit aniles ex re fabellas. ” Conversing on this strange subject, he told me a current story of a simple English country ’Squire, who was persuaded by certain dilettanti of his acquaintance to see the world, and to become knowing in men and manners. Among other celebrated places, it was recommended to him to visit Constantinople. He took their advice. After various adventures, not to our purpose to dwell upon, he happily arrived at that famous city. As soon as he had a little reposed himself from his fatigue, he took a walk into the streets; but he had not gone far, before a “malignant and a turban’d Turk” had his choler roused by the careless and assured air with which this infidel strutted about in the metropolis of true believers. In this temper, he lost no time in doing to our traveller the honours of the place. The Turk crossed over the way, and with perfect good-will gave him two or three lusty kicks on the seat of honour. To resent, or to return the compliment in Turkey, was quite out of the question. Our traveller, since he could not otherwise acknowledge this kind of favour, received it with the best grace in the world—he made one of his most ceremonious bows, and begged the kicking Mussulman “to accept his perfect assurances of high consideration.” Our countryman was too wise to imitate Othello in the use of the dagger. He thought it better, as better it was, to assuage his bruised dignity with half a yard square of balmy diplomatick diachylon. In the disasters of their friends, people are seldom wanting in a laudable patience. When they are such as do not threaten to end fatally, they become even matter of pleasantry. The English fellow-travellers of our sufferer, finding him a little out of spirits, entreated him not to take so slight a business so very seriously. They told him it was the custom of the country; that every country had its customs; that the Turkish manners were a little rough; but that in the main the Turks were a good-natured people; that what would have been a deadly affront any where else, was only a little freedom there; in short, they told him to think no more of the matter, and to try his fortune in another promenade. But the ’Squire, though a little clownish, had some homebred sense. What! have I come, at all this expence and trouble, all the way to Constantinople only to be kicked? Without going beyond my own stable, my groom, for half a crown, would have kicked me to my heart’s content. I don’t mean to stay in Constantinople eight and forty hours, nor ever to return to this rough, good-natured people, that have their own customs.
In my opinion the ’Squire was in the right. He was satisfied with his first ramble and his first injuries. But reason of state and common-sense are two things. If it were not for this difference, it might not appear of absolute necessity, after having received a certain quantity of buffetings by advance, that we should send a Peer of the realm to the scum of the earth, to collect the debt to the last farthing; and to receive, with infinite aggravation, the same scorns which had been paid to our supplication through a Commoner. But it was proper, I suppose, that the whole of our country, in all its orders, should have a share of the indignity; and, as in reason, that the higher orders should touch the larger proportion.
This business was not ended, because our dignity was wounded, or because our patience was worn out with contumely and scorn. We had not disgorged one particle of the nauseous doses with which we were so liberally crammed by the mountebanks of Paris, in order to drug and diet us into perfect tameness. No; we waited, till the morbid strength of our boulimia for their physick had exhausted the well-stored dispensary of their empiricism. It is impossible to guess at the term to which our forbearance would have extended. The Regicides were more fatigued with giving blows than the callous cheek of British Diplomacy was hurt in receiving them. They had no way left for getting rid of this mendicant perseverance, but by sending for the Beadle, and forcibly driving our Embassy “of shreds and patches,” with all it’s mumping cant, from the inhospitable door of Cannibal Castle—
I think we might have found, before the rude hand of insolent office was on our shoulder, and the staff of usurped authority brandished over our heads, that contempt of the suppliant is not the best forwarder of a suit; that national disgrace is not the high road to security, much less to power and greatness. Patience, indeed, strongly indicates the love of peace. But mere love does not always lead to enjoyment. It is the power of winning that palm which insures our wearing it. Virtues have their place; and out of their place they hardly deserve the name. They pass into the neighbouring vice. The patience of fortitude, and the endurance of pusillanimity, are things very different, as in their principle, so in their effects.
In truth this Declaration, containing a narrative of the first transaction of the kind (and I hope it will be the last) in the intercourse of nations, as a composition, is ably drawn. It does credit to our official style. The report of the Speech of the Minister in a great Assembly, which I have read, is a comment upon the Declaration. Without enquiry how far that report is exact, (inferior I believe it may be to what it would represent,) yet still it reads as a most eloquent and finished performance. Hardly one galling circumstance of the indignities offered by the Directory of Regicide, to the supplications made to that junto in his Majesty’s name, has been spared. Every one of the aggravations attendant on these acts of outrage is, with wonderful perspicuity and order, brought forward in it’s place, and in the manner most fitted to produce it’s effect. They are turned to every point of view in which they can be seen to the best advantage. All the parts are so arranged as to point out their relation, and to furnish a true idea of the spirit of the whole transaction.
This Speech may stand for a model. Never, for the triumphal decoration of any theatre, not for the decoration of those of Athens and Rome, or even of this theatre of Paris, from the embroideries of Babylon or from the loom of the Gobelins, has there been sent any historick tissue so truly drawn, so closely and so finely wrought, or in which the forms are brought out in the rich purple of such glowing and blushing colours. It puts me in mind of the piece of tapestry, with which Virgil proposed to adorn the theatre he was to erect to Augustus, upon the banks of the Mincio, who now hides his head in his reeds, and leads his slow and melancholy windings through banks wasted by the barbarians of Gaul. He supposes that the artifice is such, that the figures of the conquered nations in his tapestry are made to play their part, and are confounded in the machine:
Or as Dryden translates it somewhat paraphrastically, but not less in the spirit of the Prophet than of the Poet,
It is something wonderful, that the sagacity shown in the Declaration and the Speech (and, so far as it goes, greater was never shown) should have failed to discover to the writer and to the speaker the inseparable relation between the parties to this transaction; and that nothing can be said to display the imperious arrogance of a base enemy, which does not describe with equal force and equal truth the contemptible figure of an abject embassy to that imperious Power.
It is no less striking, that the same obvious reflexion should not occur to those gentlemen who conducted the opposition to Government. But their thoughts were turned another way. They seem to have been so entirely occupied with the defence of the French Directory, so very eager in finding recriminatory precedents to justify every act of it’s intolerable insolence, so animated in their accusations of Ministry for not having, at the very outset, made concessions proportioned to the dignity of the great victorious Power we had offended, that every thing concerning the sacrifice in this business of national honour, and of the most fundamental principles in the policy of negotiation, seemed wholly to have escaped them. To this fatal hour, the contention in Parliament appeared in another form, and was animated by another spirit. For three hundred years and more, we have had wars with what stood as Government in France. In all that period the language of Ministers, whether of boast or of apology, was, that they had left nothing undone for the assertion of the national honour; the Opposition, whether patriotically or factiously, contending that the Ministers had been oblivious of the national glory, and had made improper sacrifices of that publick interest, which they were bound not only to preserve, but by all fair methods to augment. This total change of tone on both sides of your house, forms itself no inconsiderable revolution; and I am afraid it prognosticates others of still greater importance. The Ministers exhausted the stores of their eloquence in demonstrating, that they had quitted the safe, beaten high-way of treaty between independent Powers; that to pacify the enemy they had made every sacrifice of the national dignity; and that they had offered to immolate at the same shrine the most valuable of the national acquisitions. The Opposition insisted, that the victims were not fat nor fair enough to be offered on the altars of blasphemed Regicide; and it was inferred from thence, that the sacrifical ministers, (who were a sort of intruders in the worship of the new divinity) in their schismatical devotion, had discovered more of hypocrisy than zeal. They charged them with a concealed resolution to persevere in what these gentlemen have (in perfect consistency, indeed, with themselves, but most irreconcileably with fact and reason) called an unjust and impolitick war.
That day was, I fear, the fatal term of local patriotism. On that day, I fear, there was an end of that narrow scheme of relations called our country, with all it’s pride, it’s prejudices, and it’s partial affections. All the little quiet rivulets that watered an humble, a contracted, but not an unfruitful field, are to be lost in the waste expanse, and boundless, barren ocean of the homicide philanthropy of France. It is no longer an object of terror, the aggrandizement of a new power, which teaches as a professor that philanthropy in the chair; whilst it propagates by arms, and establishes by conquest, the comprehensive system of universal fraternity. In what light is all this viewed in a great assembly? The party which takes the lead there has no longer any apprehensions, except those that arise from not being admitted to the closest and most confidential connexions with the metropolis of that fraternity. That reigning party no longer touches on it’s favourite subject, the display of those horrours that must attend the existence of a power, with such dispositions and principles, seated in the heart of Europe. It is satisfied to find some loose, ambiguous expressions in it’s former declarations, which may set it free from it’s professions and engagements. It always speaks of peace with the Regicides as a great and an undoubted blessing; and such a blessing, as if obtained, promises, as much as any human disposition of things can promise, security and permanence. It holds out nothing at all definite towards this security. It only seeks, by a restoration, to some of their former owners, of some fragments of the general wreck of Europe, to find a plausible plea for a present retreat from an embarrassing position. As to the future, that party is content to leave it covered in a night of the most palpable obscurity. It never once has entered into a particle of detail of what our own situation, or that of other powers must be, under the blessings of the peace we seek. This defect, to my power, I mean to supply; that if any persons should still continue to think an attempt at foresight is any part of the duty of a Statesman, I may contribute my trifle to the materials of his speculation.
As to the other party, the minority of to-day, possibly the majority of to-morrow, small in number, but full of talents and every species of energy, which, upon the avowed ground of being more acceptable to France, is a candidate for the helm of this kingdom, it has never changed from the beginning. It has preserved a perennial consistency. This would be a never-failing source of true glory, if springing from just and right; but it is truly dreadful if it be an arm of Styx, which springs out of the profoundest depths of a poisoned soil. The French maxims were by these gentlemen at no time condemned. I speak of their language in the most moderate terms. There are many who think that they have gone much further; that they have always magnified and extolled the French maxims; that not in the least disgusted or discouraged by the monstrous evils, which have attended these maxims from the moment of their adoption, both at home and abroad, they still continue to predict, that in due time they must produce the greatest good to the poor human race. They obstinately persist in stating those evils as matter of accident; as things wholly collateral to the system.
It is observed, that this party has never spoken of an ally of Great Britain with the smallest degree of respect or regard; on the contrary, it has generally mentioned them under opprobrious appellations, and in such terms of contempt or execration, as never had been heard before, because no such would have formerly been permitted in our public assemblies. The moment, however, that any of those allies quitted this obnoxious connexion, the party has instantly passed an act of indemnity and oblivion in their favour. After this, no sort of censure on their conduct; no imputation on their character! From that moment their pardon was sealed in a reverential and mysterious silence. With the Gentlemen of this minority, there is no ally, from one end of Europe to the other, with whom we ought not to be ashamed to act. The whole College of the States of Europe is no better than a gang of tyrants. With them all our connexions were broken off at once. We ought to have cultivated France, and France alone, from the moment of her Revolution. On that happy change, all our dread of that nation as a power was to cease. She became in an instant dear to our affections, and one with our interests. All other nations we ought to have commanded not to trouble her sacred throes, whilst in labour to bring into an happy birth her abundant litter of constitutions. We ought to have acted under her auspices, in extending her salutary influence upon every side. From that moment England and France were become natural allies, and all the other States natural enemies. The whole face of the world was changed. What was it to us if she acquired Holland and the Austrian Netherlands? By her conquests she only enlarged the sphere of her beneficence; she only extended the blessings of liberty to so many more foolishly reluctant nations. What was it to England, if by adding these, among the richest and most peopled countries of the world, to her territories, she thereby left no possible link of communication between us and any other Power with whom we could act against her? On this new system of optimism, it is so much the better—so much the further are we removed from the contact with infectious despotism. No longer a thought of a barrier in the Netherlands to Holland against France. All that is obsolete policy. It is fit that France should have both Holland and the Austrian Netherlands too, as a barrier to her against the attacks of despotism. She cannot multiply her securities too much; and as to our security, it is to be found in her’s. Had we cherished her from the beginning, and felt for her when attacked, she, poor good soul, would never have invaded any foreign nation; never have murdered her Sovereign and his family; never proscribed, never exiled, never imprisoned, never been guilty of extrajudicial massacre, or of legal murder. All would have been a golden age, full of peace, order, and liberty! and philosophy, raying out from Europe, would have warmed and enlightened the universe: but unluckily, irritable philosophy, the most irritable of all things, was put into a passion, and provoked into ambition abroad and tyranny at home. They find all this very natural and very justifiable. They chuse to forget, that other nations struggling for freedom, have been attacked by their neighbours; or that their neighbours have otherwise interfered in their affairs. Often have neighbours interfered in favour of Princes against their rebellious subjects; and often in favour of subjects against their Prince. Such cases fill half the pages of history, yet never were they used as an apology, much less as a justification, for atrocious cruelty in Princes, or for general massacre and confiscation on the part of revolted subjects; never as a politick cause for suffering any such powers to aggrandize themselves without limit and without measure. A thousand times have we seen it asserted in publick prints and pamphlets, that if the nobility and priesthood of France had staid at home, their property never would have been confiscated. One would think that none of the clergy had been robbed previous to their deportation, or that their deportation had, on their part, been a voluntary act. One would think that the nobility and gentry, and merchants and bankers, who staid at home, had enjoyed their property in security and repose. The assertors of these positions well know, that the lot of thousands who remained at home was far more terrible; that the most cruel imprisonment was only a harbinger of a cruel and ignominious death; and that in this mother country of freedom, there were no less than Three Hundred Thousand at one time in prison. I go no further. I instance only these representations of the party as staring indications of partiality to that sect, to whose dominion they would have left this country nothing to oppose but her own naked force, and consequently subjected us, on every reverse of fortune, to the imminent danger of falling under those very evils in that very system, which are attributed, not to it’s own nature, but to the perverseness of others. There is nothing in the world so difficult as to put men in a state of judicial neutrality. A leaning there must ever be, and it is of the first importance to any nation to observe to what side that leaning inclines—whether to our own community, or to one with which it is in a state of hostility.
Men are rarely without some sympathy in the sufferings of others; but in the immense and diversified mass of human misery, which may be pitied, but cannot be relieved, in the gross, the mind must make a choice. Our sympathy is always more forcibly attracted towards the misfortunes of certain persons, and in certain descriptions: and this sympathetic attraction discovers, beyond a possibility of mistake, our mental affinities, and elective affections. It is a much surer proof, than the strongest declaration, of a real connexion and of an over-ruling bias in the mind. I am told that the active sympathies of this party have been chiefly, if not wholly attracted to the sufferings of the patriarchal rebels, who were amongst the promulgators of the maxims of the French Revolution, and who have suffered, from their apt and forward scholars, some part of the evils, which they had themselves so liberally distributed to all the other parts of the community. Some of these men, flying from the knives which they had sharpened against their country and it’s laws, rebelling against the very powers they had set over themselves by their rebellion against their Sovereign, given up by those very armies to whose faithful attachment they trusted for their safety and support, after they had compleatly debauched all military fidelity in it’s source—some of these men, I say, had fallen into the hands of the head of that family, the most illustrious person of which they had three times cruelly imprisoned, and delivered in that state of captivity to those hands, from which they were able to relieve, neither her, nor their own nearest and most venerable kindred. One of these men connected with this country by no circumstance of birth; not related to any distinguished families here; recommended by no service; endeared to this nation by no act or even expression of kindness; comprehended in no league or common cause; embraced by no laws of publick hospitality; this man was the only one to be found in Europe, in whose favour the British nation, passing judgment, without hearing, on it’s almost only ally, was to force, (and that not by soothing interposition, but with every reproach for inhumanity, cruelty, and breach of the laws of war,) from prison. We were to release him from that prison out of which, in abuse of the lenity of Government amidst it’s rigour, and in violation of at least an understood parole, he had attempted an escape; an escape excuseable if you will, but naturally productive of strict and vigilant confinement. The earnestness of gentlemen to free this person was the more extraordinary, because there was full as little in him to raise admiration, from any eminent qualities he possessed, as there was to excite an interest, from any that were amiable. A person, not only of no real civil or literary talents, but of no specious appearance of either; and in his military profession, not marked as a leader in any one act of able or successful enterprize—unless his leading on (or his following) the allied army of Amazonian and male cannibal Parisians to Versailles, on the famous fifth of October, 1789, is to make his glory. Any other exploit of his, as a General, I never heard of. But the triumph of general fraternity was but the more signalized by the total want of particular claims in that case; and by postponing all such claims, in a case where they really existed, where they stood embossed, and in a manner forced themselves on the view of common short-sighted benevolence. Whilst, for its improvement, the humanity of these gentlemen was thus on it’s travels, and had got as far off as Olmutz, they never thought of a place and a person much nearer to them, or of moving an instruction to Lord Malmesbury in favour of their own suffering countryman, Sir Sydney Smith.
This officer, having attempted, with great gallantry, to cut out a vessel from one of the enemy’s harbours, was taken after an obstinate resistance; such as obtained him the marked respect of those who were witnesses of his valour, and knew the circumstances in which it was displayed. Upon his arrival at Paris, he was instantly thrown into prison; where the nature of his situation will best be understood, by knowing, that amongst its mitigations, was the permission to walk occasionally in the court, and to enjoy the privilege of shaving himself. On the old system of feelings and principles, his sufferings might have been entitled to consideration, and even in a comparison with those of Citizen la Fayette, to a priority in the order of compassion. If the Ministers had neglected to take any steps in his favour, a declaration of the sense of the House of Commons would have stimulated them to their duty. If they had caused a representation to be made, such a proceeding would have added force to it. If reprisal should be thought adviseable, the address of the House would have given an additional sanction to a measure, which would have been, indeed, justifiable without any other sanction than it’s own reason. But no. Nothing at all like it. In fact, the merit of Sir Sydney Smith, and his claim on British compassion, was of a kind altogether different from that which interested so deeply the authors of the motion in favour of Citizen la Fayette. In my humble opinion, Captain Sir Sydney Smith has another sort of merit with the British nation, and something of a higher claim on British humanity than Citizen de la Fayette. Faithful, zealous, and ardent in the service of his King and Country; full of spirit; full of resources; going out of the beaten road, but going right, because his uncommon enterprize was not conducted by a vulgar judgment—in his profession, Sir Sydney Smith might be considered as a distinguished person, if any person could well be distinguished in a service in which scarce a Commander can be named without putting you in mind of some action of intrepidity, skill, and vigilance, that has given them a fair title to contend with any men and in any age. But I will say nothing farther of the merits of Sir Sydney Smith. The mortal animosity of the Regicide enemy supersedes all other panegyrick. Their hatred is a judgment in his favour without appeal. At present he is lodged in the tower of the Temple, the last prison of Louis the Sixteenth, and the last but one of Maria Antonietta of Austria; the prison of Louis the Seventeenth; the prison of Elizabeth of Bourbon. There he lies, unpitied by the grand philanthropy, to meditate upon the fate of those who are faithful to their King and Country. Whilst this prisoner, secluded from intercourse, was indulging in these cheering reflections, he might possibly have had the further consolation of learning (by means of the insolent exultation of his guards) that there was an English Ambassador at Paris; he might have had the proud comfort of hearing, that this Ambassador had the honour of passing his mornings in respectful attendance at the office of a Regicide pettifogger; and that in the evening he relaxed in the amusements of the opera, and in the spectacle of an audience totally new; an audience in which he had the pleasure of seeing about him not a single face that he could formerly have known in Paris; but in the place of that company, one indeed more than equal to it in display of gaiety, splendour and luxury; a set of abandoned wretches, squandering in insolent riot the spoils of their bleeding country. A subject of profound reflection both to the prisoner and to the Ambassador.
Whether all the matter upon which I have grounded my opinion of this last party be fully authenticated or not, must be left to those who have had the opportunity of a nearer view of it’s conduct, and who have been more attentive in their perusal of the writings, which have appeared in it’s favour. But for my part, I have never heard the gross facts on which I ground my idea of their marked partiality to the reigning Tyranny in France, in any part, denied. I am not surprized at all this. Opinions, as they sometimes follow, so they frequently guide and direct the affections; and men may become more attached to the country of their principles, than to the country of their birth. What I have stated here is only to mark the spirit which seems to me, though in somewhat different ways, to actuate our great party-leaders; and to trace this first pattern of a negotiation to it’s true source.
Such is the present state of our publick councils. Well might I be ashamed of what seems to be a censure of two great factions, with the two most eloquent men, which this country ever saw, at the head of them, if I had found that either of them could support their conduct by any example in the history of their country. I should very much prefer their judgment to my own, if I were not obliged, by an infinitely overbalancing weight of authority, to prefer the collected wisdom of ages to the abilities of any two men living. I return to the Declaration, with which the history of the abortion of a treaty with the Regicides is closed.
After such an elaborate display had been made of the injustice and insolence of an enemy, who seems to have been irritated by every one of the means which had been commonly used with effect to soothe the rage of intemperate power, the natural result would be, that the scabbard, in which we in vain attempted to plunge our sword, should have been thrown away with scorn. It would have been natural, that, rising in the fulness of their might, insulted majesty, despised dignity, violated justice, rejected supplication, patience goaded into fury, would have poured out all the length of the reins upon all the wrath which they had so long restrained. It might have been expected, that, emulous of the glory of the youthful hero1 in alliance with him, touched by the example of what one man, well formed and well placed, may do in the most desperate state of affairs, convinced there is a courage of the Cabinet full as powerful, and far less vulgar than that of the field, our Minister would have changed the whole line of that unprosperous prudence, which hitherto had produced all the effects of the blindest temerity. If he found his situation full of danger, (and I do not deny that it is perilous in the extreme) he must feel that it is also full of glory; and that he is placed on a stage, than which no Muse of fire that had ascended the highest heaven of invention, could imagine any thing more awful and august. It was hoped, that in this swelling scene, in which he moved with some of the first Potentates of Europe for his fellow actors, and with so many of the rest for the anxious spectators of a part, which, as he plays it, determines for ever their destiny and his own, like Ulysses, in the unravelling point of the epic story, he would have thrown off his patience and his rags together; and stripped of unworthy disguises, he would have stood forth in the form, and in the attitude of an hero. On that day, it was thought he would have assumed the port of Mars; that he would bid to be brought forth from their hideous kennel (where his scrupulous tenderness had too long immured them) those impatient dogs of war, whose fierce regards affright even the Minister of Vengeance that feeds them; that he would let them loose, in famine, fever, plagues, and death, upon a guilty race, to whose frame, and to all whose habit, order, peace, religion, and virtue, are alien and abhorrent. It was expected that he would at last have thought of active and effectual war; that he would no longer amuse the British Lion in the chace of mice and rats; that he would no longer employ the whole naval power of Great Britain, once the terrour of the world, to prey upon the miserable remains of a pedling commerce, which the enemy did not regard, and from which none could profit. It was expected that he would have re-asserted the justice of his cause; that he would have re-animated whatever remained to him of his allies, and endeavoured to recover those whom their fears had led astray; that he would have re-kindled the martial ardour of his citizens; that he would have held out to them the example of their ancestry, the assertor of Europe, and the scourge of French ambition; that he would have reminded them of a posterity, which if this nefarious robbery, under the fraudulent name and false colour of a government, should in full power be seated in the heart of Europe, must for ever be consigned to vice, impiety, barbarism, and the most ignominious slavery of body and mind. In so holy a cause it was presumed, that he would, (as in the beginning of the war he did) have opened all the temples; and with prayer, with fasting, and with supplication, better directed than to the grim Moloch of Regicide in France, have called upon us to raise that united cry, which has so often stormed Heaven, and with a pious violence forced down blessings upon a repentant people. It was hoped that when he had invoked upon his endeavours the favourable regard of the Protector of the human race, it would be seen that his menaces to the enemy, and his prayers to the Almighty, were, not followed, but accompanied, with correspondent action. It was hoped that his shrilling trumpet should be heard, not to announce a shew, but to sound a charge.
Such a conclusion to such a Declaration and such a Speech, would have been a thing of course; so much a thing of course, that I will be bold to say, if in any ancient history, the Roman for instance, (supposing that in Rome the matter of such a detail could have been furnished) a Consul had gone through such a long train of proceedings, and that there was a chasm in the manuscripts by which we had lost the conclusion of the speech and the subsequent part of the narrative, all criticks would agree, that a Freinshemius would have been thought to have managed the supplementary business of a continuator most unskilfully, and to have supplied the hiatus most improbably, if he had not filled up the gaping space, in a manner somewhat similar (though better executed) to what I have imagined. But too often different is rational conjecture from melancholy fact. This exordium, as contrary to all the rules of rhetorick, as to those more essential rules of policy which our situation would dictate, is intended as a prelude to a deadening and disheartening proposition; as if all that a Minister had to fear in a war of his own conducting, was, that the people should pursue it with too ardent a zeal. Such a tone as I guessed the Minister would have taken, I am very sure, is the true, unsuborned, unsophisticated language of genuine natural feeling under the smart of patience exhausted and abused. Such a conduct as the facts stated in the Declaration gave room to expect, is that which true wisdom would have dictated under the impression of those genuine feelings. Never was there a jar or discord, between genuine sentiment and sound policy. Never, no, never, did Nature say one thing and Wisdom say another. Nor are sentiments of elevation in themselves turgid and unnatural. Nature is never more truly herself, than in her grandest forms. The Apollo of Belvedere (if the universal robber has yet left him at Belvedere) is as much in Nature, as any figure from the pencil of Rembrandt, or any clown in the rustic revels of Teniers. Indeed it is when a great nation is in great difficulties, that minds must exalt themselves to the occasion, or all is lost. Strong passion under the direction of a feeble reason feeds a low fever, which serves only to destroy the body that entertains it. But vehement passion does not always indicate an infirm judgment. It often accompanies, and actuates, and is even auxiliary to a powerful understanding; and when they both conspire and act harmoniously, their force is great to destroy disorder within, and to repel injury from abroad. If ever there was a time that calls on us for no vulgar conception of things, and for exertions in no vulgar strain, it is the awful hour that Providence has now appointed to this nation. Every little measure is a great errour; and every great errour will bring on no small ruin. Nothing can be directed above the mark that we must aim at. Every thing below it is absolutely thrown away.
Except with the addition of the unheard-of insult offered to our Ambassador by his rude expulsion, we are never to forget that the point on which the negotiation with De la Croix broke off, was exactly that which had stifled in it’s cradle the negotiation we had attempted with Barthélémy. Each of these transactions concluded with a manifesto upon our part: but the last of our manifestoes very materially differed from the first. The first Declaration stated, that “ nothing was left but to prosecute a war equally just and necessary. ” In the second, the justice and necessity of the war is dropped: The sentence importing that nothing was left but the prosecution of such a war, disappears also. Instead of this resolution to prosecute the war, we sink into a whining lamentation on the abrupt termination of the treaty. We have nothing left but the last resource of female weakness, of helpless infancy, of doting decrepitude—wailing and lamentation. We cannot even utter a sentiment of vigour. “ His Majesty has only to lament.” A poor possession, to be left to a great Monarch! Mark the effect produced on our councils by continued insolence, and inveterate hostility. We grow more malleable under their blows. In reverential silence, we smother the cause and origin of the war. On that fundamental article of faith, we leave every one to abound in his own sense. In the Minister’s speech, glossing on the Declaration, it is indeed mentioned; but very feebly. The lines are so faintly drawn as hardly to be traced. They only make a part of our consolation in the circumstances which we so dolefully lament. We rest our merits on the humility, the earnestness of solicitation, and the perfect good faith of those submissions, which have been used to persuade our Regicide enemies to grant us some sort of peace. Not a word is said, which might not have been full as well said, and much better too, if the British nation had appeared in the simple character of a penitent convinced of his errours and offences, and offering, by penances, by pilgrimages, and by all the modes of expiation ever devised by anxious, restless guilt, to make all the atonement in his miserable power.
The Declaration ends as I have before quoted it, with a solemn voluntary pledge, the most full and the most solemn that ever was given, of our resolution (if so it may be called) to enter again into the very same course. It requires nothing more of the Regicides, than to furnish some sort of excuse, some sort of colourable pretext, for our renewing the supplications of innocence at the feet of guilt. It leaves the moment of negotiation, (a most important moment,) to the choice of the enemy. He is to regulate it according to the convenience of his affairs. He is to bring it forward at that time when it may best serve to establish his authority at home, and to extend his power abroad. A dangerous assurance for this nation to give, whether it is broken or whether it is kept. As all treaty was broken off, and broken off in the manner we have seen, the field of future conduct ought to be reserved free and unincumbered to our future discretion. As to the sort of condition prefixed to the pledge, namely, “that the enemy should be disposed to enter into the work of general pacification with the spirit of reconciliation and equity,” this phraseology cannot possibly be considered otherwise than as so many words thrown in to fill the sentence, and to round it to the ear. We prefixed the same plausible conditions to any renewal of the negotiation, in our manifesto on the rejection of our proposals at Basle. We did not consider those conditions as binding. We opened a much more serious negotiation without any sort of regard to them; and there is no new negotiation, which we can possibly open upon fewer indications of conciliation and equity, than were to be discovered, when we entered into our last at Paris. Any of the slightest pretences, any of the most loose, formal, equivocating expressions, would justify us, under the peroration of this piece, in again sending the last, or some other Lord Malmesbury to Paris.
I hope I misunderstand this pledge; or, that we shall shew no more regard to it, than we have done to all the faith that we have plighted to vigour and resolution in our former declaration. If I am to understand the conclusion of the declaration to be what unfortunately it seems to me, we make an engagement with the enemy, without any correspondent engagement on his side. We seem to have cut ourselves off from any benefit which an intermediate state of things might furnish to enable us totally to overturn that power, so little connected with moderation and justice. By holding out no hope, either to the justly discontented in France, or to any foreign power, and leaving the re-commencement of all treaty to this identical junto of assassins, we do in effect assure and guarantee to them the full possession of the rich fruits of their confiscations, of their murders of men, women, and children, and of all the multiplied, endless, nameless iniquities by which they have obtained their power. We guarantee to them the possession of a country, such and so situated as France, round, entire, immensely perhaps augmented.
Well! some will say, in this case we have only submitted to the nature of things. The nature of things is, I admit, a sturdy adversary. This might be alleged as a plea for our attempt at a treaty. But what plea of that kind can be alleged, after the treaty was dead and gone, in favour of this posthumous declaration? No necessity has driven us to that pledge. It is without a counterpart even in expectation. And what can be stated to obviate the evil which that solitary engagement must produce on the understandings or the fears of men? I ask, what have the Regicides promised you in return, in case you should shew what they would call dispositions to conciliation and equity, whilst you are giving that pledge from the throne, and engaging Parliament to counter-secure it? It is an awful consideration. It was on the very day of the date of this wonderful pledge,* in which we assumed the directorial Government as lawful, and in which we engaged ourselves to treat with them whenever they pleased; it was on that very day, the Regicide fleet was weighing anchor from one of your harbours, where it had remained four days in perfect quiet. These harbours of the British dominions are the ports of France. They are of no use, but to protect an enemy from your best Allies, the storms of Heaven, and his own rashness. Had the West of Ireland been an unportuous coast, the French naval power would have been undone. The enemy uses the moment for hostility, without the least regard to your future dispositions of equity and conciliation. They go out of what were once your harbours, and they return to them at their pleasure. Eleven days they had the full use of Bantry Bay, and at length their fleet returns from their harbour of Bantry to their harbour of Brest. Whilst you are invoking the propitious spirit of Regicide equity and conciliation, they answer you with an attack. They turn out the pacifick bearer of your “how-do-you-do’s,” Lord Malmesbury; and they return your visit, and their “thanks for your obliging enquiries,” by their old practised assassin Hoche. They come to attack—What? A town, a fort, a naval station? They come to attack your King, your Constitution, and the very being of that Parliament, which was holding out to them these pledges, together with the entireness of the Empire, the Laws, Liberties, and Properties of all the people. We know that they meditated the very same invasion, and for the very same purposes, upon this Kingdom; and had the coast been as opportune, would have effected it.
Whilst you are in vain torturing your invention to assure them of your sincerity and good faith, they have left no doubt concerning their good faith, and their sincerity towards those to whom they have engaged their honour. To their power they have been true to the only pledge they have ever yet given to you, or to any of yours; I mean the solemn engagement which they entered into with the deputation of traitors who appeared at their bar, from England and from Ireland, in 1792. They have been true and faithful to the engagement which they had made more largely; that is, their engagement to give effectual aid to insurrection and treason, wherever they might appear in the world. We have seen the British Declaration. This is the counter-declaration of the Directory. This is the reciprocal pledge which Regicide amity gives to the conciliatory pledges of Kings! But, thank God, such pledges cannot exist single. They have no counterpart; and if they had, the enemy’s conduct cancels such declarations; and I trust, along with them, cancels every thing of mischief and dishonour that they contain.
There is one thing in this business which appears to be wholly unaccountable, or accountable on a supposition I dare not entertain for a moment. I cannot help asking, Why all this pains to clear the British Nation of ambition, perfidy, and the insatiate thirst of war? At what period of time was it that our country has deserved that load of infamy, of which nothing but preternatural humiliation in language and conduct can serve to clear us? If we have deserved this kind of evil fame from any thing we have done in a state of prosperity, I am sure, that it is not an abject conduct in adversity that can clear our reputation. Well is it known that ambition can creep as well as soar. The pride of no person in a flourishing condition is more justly to be dreaded, than that of him who is mean and cringing under a doubtful and unprosperous fortune. But it seems it was thought necessary to give some out-of-the-way proofs of our sincerity, as well as of our freedom from ambition. Is then fraud and falsehood become the distinctive character of Englishmen? Whenever your enemy chooses to accuse you of perfidy and ill faith, will you put it into his power to throw you into the purgatory of self-humiliation? Is his charge equal to the finding of the grand jury of Europe, and sufficient to put you upon your trial? But on that trial I will defend the English Ministry. I am sorry that on some points I have, on the principles I have always opposed, so good a defence to make. They were not the first to begin the war. They did not excite the general confederacy in Europe, which was so properly formed on the alarm given by the Jacobinism of France. They did not begin with an hostile aggression on the Regicides or any of their allies. These parricides of their own country, disciplining themselves for foreign by domestick violence, were the first to attack a power that was our ally, by nature, by habit, and by the sanction of multiplied treaties. Is it not true, that they were the first to declare war upon this kingdom? Is every word in the declaration from Downing-Street, concerning their conduct, and concerning ours and that of our allies, so obviously false, that it is necessary to give some new invented proofs of our good faith, in order to expunge the memory of all this perfidy?
We know that over-labouring a point of this kind, has the direct contrary effect from what we wish. We know that there is a legal presumption against men quando se nimis purgitant; and if a charge of ambition is not refuted by an affected humility, certainly the character of fraud and perfidy is still less to be washed away by indications of meanness. Fraud and prevarication are servile vices. They sometimes grow out of the necessities, always out of the habits of slavish and degenerate spirits: and on the theatre of the world, it is not by assuming the mask of a Davus or a Geta that an actor will obtain credit for manly simplicity and a liberal openness of proceeding. It is an erect countenance: it is a firm adherence to principle; it is a power of resisting false shame and frivolous fear, that assert our good faith and honour, and assure to us the confidence of mankind. Therefore all these Negotiations, and all the Declarations with which they were preceded and followed, can only serve to raise presumptions against that good faith and public integrity, the fame of which to preserve inviolate is so much the interest and duty of every nation.
The pledge is an engagement “to all Europe.” This is the more extraordinary, because it is a pledge, which no power in Europe, whom I have yet heard of, has thought proper to require at our hands. I am not in the secrets of office; and therefore I may be excused for proceeding upon probabilities and exteriour indications. I have surveyed all Europe from the east to the west, from the north to the south, in search of this call upon us to purge ourselves of “subtle duplicity and a Punick style” in our proceedings. I have not heard that his Excellency the Ottoman Ambassador has expressed his doubts of the British sincerity in our Negotiation with the most unchristian Republic lately set up at our door. What sympathy, in that quarter, may have introduced a remonstrance upon the want of faith in this nation, I cannot positively say. If it exists, it is in Turkish or Arabick, and possibly is not yet translated. But none of the nations which compose the old Christian world have I yet heard as calling upon us for those judicial purgations and ordeals, by fire and water, which we have chosen to go through; for the other great proof, by battle, we seem to decline.
For whose use, entertainment, or instruction, are all those over-strained and over-laboured proceedings in Council, in Negotiation, and in Speeches in Parliament, intended? What Royal Cabinet is to be enriched with these high-finished pictures of the arrogance of the sworn enemies of Kings, and the meek patience of a British Administration? In what heart is it intended to kindle pity towards our multiplied mortifications and disgraces? At best it is superfluous. What nation is unacquainted with the haughty disposition of the common enemy of all nations? It has been more than seen, it has been felt; not only by those who have been the victims of their imperious rapacity, but, in a degree, by those very powers who have consented to establish this robbery, that they might be able to copy it, and with impunity to make new usurpations of their own. The King of Prussia has hypothecated in trust to the Regicides his rich and fertile territories on the Rhine, as a pledge of his zeal and affection to the cause of liberty and equality. He has seen them robbed with unbounded liberty, and with the most levelling equality. The woods are wasted; the country is ravaged; property is confiscated; and the people are put to bear a double yoke, in the exactions of a tyrannical Government and in the contributions of an hostile irruption. Is it to satisfy the Court of Berlin, that the Court of London is to give the same sort of pledge of it’s sincerity and good faith to the French Directory? It is not that heart full of sensibility—it is not Luchesini, the Minister of his Prussian Majesty, the late ally of England, and the present ally of it’s enemy, who has demanded this pledge of our sincerity, as the price of the renewal of the long lease of his sincere friendship to this kingdom.
It is not to our enemy, the now faithful ally of Regicide, late the faithful ally of Great Britain, the Catholick King, that we address our doleful lamentation. It is not to the Prince of Peace, whose declaration of war was one of the first auspicious omens of general tranquillity, which our dove-like Ambassador, with the olive branch in his beak, was saluted with at his entrance into the ark of clean birds at Paris.
Surely it is not to the Tetrarch of Sardinia, now the faithful ally of a power who has seized upon all his fortresses, and confiscated the oldest dominions of his house; it is not to this once powerful, once respected, and once cherished ally of Great Britain, that we mean to prove the sincerity of the peace which we offered to make at his expence. Or is it to him we are to prove the arrogance of the power who, under the name of friend, oppresses him, and the poor remains of his subjects, with all the ferocity of the most cruel enemy?
It is not to Holland, under the name of an ally laid under a permanent military contribution, filled with their double garrison of barbarous Jacobin troops and ten times more barbarous Jacobin clubs and assemblies, that we find ourselves obliged to give this pledge.
Is it to Genoa, that we make this kind promise; a state which the Regicides were to defend in a favourable neutrality, but whose neutrality has been, by the gentle influence of Jacobin authority, forced into the trammels of an alliance; whose alliance has been secured by the admission of French garrisons; and whose peace has been for ever ratified by a forced declaration of war against ourselves?
It is not the Grand Duke of Tuscany who claims this Declaration; not the Grand Duke, who for his early sincerity, for his love of peace, and for his entire confidence in the amity of the assassins of his House, has been complimented in the British Parliament with the name of “ the wisest Sovereign in Europe ” —it is not this pacifick Solomon, or his philosophick cudgelled Ministry, cudgelled by English and by French, whose wisdom and philosophy between them, have placed Leghorn in the hands of the enemy of the Austrian family, and driven the only profitable commerce of Tuscany from its only port. It is not this Sovereign, a far more able Statesman than any of the Medici in whose chair he sits; it is not the philosopher Carletti, more ably speculative than Galileo, more profoundly politick than Machiavel, that call upon us so loudly to give the same happy proofs of the same good faith to the Republick, always the same, always one and indivisible.
It is not Venice, whose principal cities the enemy has appropriated to himself, and scornfully desired the State to indemnify itself from the Emperor, that we wish to convince of the pride and the despotism of an enemy, who loads us with his scoffs and buffets.
It is not for his Holiness we intend this consolatory declaration of our own weakness and of the tyrannous temper of his grand enemy. That Prince has known both the one and the other from the beginning. The artists of the French Revolution, had given their very first essays and sketches of robbery and desolation against his territories, in a far more cruel “murdering piece” than had ever entered into the imagination of painter or poet. Without ceremony, they tore from his cherishing arms the possessions which he held for five hundred years, undisturbed by all the ambition of all the ambitious Monarchs who, during that period, have reigned in France. Is it to him, in whose wrong we have in our late negotiation ceded his now unhappy countries near the Rhone, lately amongst the most flourishing (perhaps the most flourishing for their extent) of all the countries upon earth, that we are to prove the sincerity of our resolution to make peace with the Republick of barbarism? That venerable Potentate and Pontiff is sunk deep into the vale of years; he is half disarmed by his peaceful character; his dominions are more than half disarmed by a peace of two hundred years, defended, as they were, not by force but by reverence; yet in all these straits, we see him display, amidst the recent ruins and the new defacements of his plundered capital, along with the mild and decorated piety of the modern, all the spirit and magnanimity of ancient Rome. Does he, who, though himself unable to defend them, nobly refused to receive pecuniary compensations for the protection he owed to his people of Avignon, Carpentras, and the Venaissin—does he want proofs of our good disposition to deliver over that people, without any security for them, or any compensation to their Sovereign, to this cruel enemy? Does he want to be satisfied of the sincerity of our humiliation to France, who has seen his free, fertile and happy city and state of Bologna, the cradle of regenerated law, the seat of sciences and of arts, so hideously metamorphosed, whilst he was crying to Great Britain for aid, and offering to purchase that aid at any price? Is it him, who sees that chosen spot of plenty and delight converted into a Jacobin ferocious Republick, dependent on the homicides of France—is it him, who, from the miracles of his beneficent industry, has done a work which defied the power of the Roman Emperors, though with an enthralled world to labour for them, is it him, who has drained and cultivated the Pontine Marshes, that we are to satisfy of our cordial spirit of conciliation, with those who, in their equity, are restoring Holland again to the seas, whose maxims poison more than the exhalations of the most deadly fens, and who turn all the fertilities of nature and of art into an howling desert? Is it to him, that we are to demonstrate the good faith of our submissions to the cannibal Republick; to him who is commanded to deliver up into their hands Ancona and Civita Vecchia, seats of commerce, raised by the wise and liberal labours and expences of the present and late Pontiffs—ports not more belonging to the Ecclesiastical State than to the commerce of Great Britain—thus wresting from his hands the power of the keys of the centre of Italy, as before they had taken possession of the keys of the northern part from the hands of the unhappy King of Sardinia, the natural ally of England? Is it to him we are to prove our good faith in the peace which we are soliciting to receive from the hands of his and our robbers, the enemies of all arts, all sciences, all civilization, and all commerce?
Is it to the Cispadane or to the Transpadane Republicks, which have been forced to bow under the galling yoke of French liberty, that we address all these pledges of our sincerity and love of peace with their unnatural parents?
Are we by this declaration to satisfy the King of Naples, whom we have left to struggle as he can, after our abdication of Corsica, and the flight of the whole naval force of England out of the whole circuit of the Mediterranean, abandoning our allies, our commerce, and the honour of a nation, once the protectress of all other nations, because strengthened by the independence, and enriched by the commerce of them all? By the express provisions of a recent treaty, we had engaged with the King of Naples to keep a naval force in the Mediterranean. But, good God! was a treaty at all necessary for this? The uniform policy of this kingdom as a state, and eminently so as a commercial State, has at all times led us to keep a powerful squadron and a commodious naval station in that central sea, which borders upon, and which connects, a far greater number and variety of States, European, Asiatick, and African, than any other. Without such a naval force, France must become despotick mistress of that sea, and of all the countries whose shores it washes. Our commerce must become vassal to her, and dependent on her will. Since we are come no longer to trust to our force in arms, but to our dexterity in negotiation, and begin to pay a desperate court to a proud and coy usurpation, and have finally sent an Ambassador to the Bourbon Regicides at Paris; the King of Naples, who saw that no reliance was to be placed on our engagements, or on any pledge of our adherence to our nearest and dearest interests, has been obliged to send his Ambassador also to join the rest of the squalid tribe of the representatives of degraded Kings. This Monarch, surely, does not want any proof of the sincerity of our amicable dispositions to that amicable Republick, into whose arms he has been given by our desertion of him.
To look to the powers of the North, it is not to the Danish Ambassador, insolently treated, in his own character and in ours, that we are to give proofs of the Regicide arrogance, and of our disposition to submit to it.
With regard to Sweden, I cannot say much. The French influence is struggling with her independence; and they who consider the manner in which the Ambassador of that Power was treated not long since at Paris, and the manner in which the father of the present King of Sweden (himself the victim of Regicide principles and passions) would have looked on the present assassins of France, will not be very prompt to believe that the young King of Sweden has made this kind of requisition to the King of Great Britain, and has given this kind of auspice of his new government.
I speak last of the most important of all. It certainly was not the late Empress of Russia at whose instance we have given this pledge. It is not the new Emperour, the inheritour of so much glory, and placed in a situation of so much delicacy and difficulty for the preservation of that inheritance—who calls on England, the natural ally of his dominions, to deprive herself of her power of action, and to bind herself to France. France at no time, and in none of it’s fashions, least of all in it’s last, has been ever looked upon as the friend either of Russia or of Great Britain. Every thing good, I trust, is to be expected from this Prince, whatever may be, without authority, given out of an influence over his mind possessed by that only Potentate from whom he has any thing to apprehend, or with whom he has much even to discuss.
This Sovereign knows, I have no doubt, and feels, on what sort of bottom is to be laid the foundation of a Russian throne. He knows what a rock of native granite is to form the pedestal of his statue, who is to emulate Peter the Great. His renown will be in continuing with ease and safety, what his predecessor was obliged to atchieve through mighty struggles. He is sensible that his business is not to innovate, but to secure and to establish; that reformations at this day are attempts at best of ambiguous utility. He will revere his father with the piety of a son; but in his government he will imitate the policy of his mother. His father, with many excellent qualities, had a short reign; because, being a native Russian, he was unfortunately advised to act in the spirit of a foreigner. His mother reigned over Russia three and thirty years with the greatest glory; because, with the disadvantage of being a foreigner born, she made herself a Russian. A wise Prince like the present will improve his country; but it will be cautiously and progressively, upon it’s own native ground-work of religion, manners, habitudes, and alliances. If I prognosticate right, it is not the Emperour of Russia that ever will call for extravagant proofs of our desire to reconcile ourselves to the irreconcileable enemy of all Thrones.
I do not know why I should not include America among the European Powers; because she is of European origin, and has not yet, like France, destroyed all traces of manners, laws, opinions, and usages which she drew from Europe. As long as that Europe shall have any possessions either in the southern or the northern parts of that America, even separated as it is by the ocean, it must be considered as a part of the European system. It is not America, menaced with internal ruin from the attempts to plant Jacobinism instead of Liberty in that country; it is not America, whose independence is directly attacked by the French, the enemies of the independence of all nations, that calls upon us to give security by disarming ourselves in a treacherous peace. By such a peace, we shall deliver the Americans, their liberty, and their order, without resource, to the mercy of their imperious allies, who will have peace or neutrality with no state which is not ready to join her in war against England.
Having run round the whole circle of the European system wherever it acts, I must affirm, that all the foreign powers who are not leagued with France for the utter destruction of all balance through Europe and throughout the world, demand other assurances from this kingdom than are given in that Declaration. They require assurances, not of the sincerity of our good dispositions towards the usurpation in France, but of our affection towards the College of the ancient States of Europe, and pledges of our constancy, of our fidelity, and of our fortitude in resisting to the last the power that menaces them all. The apprehension from which they wish to be delivered cannot be from any thing they dread in the ambition of England. Our power must be their strength. They hope more from us than they fear. I am sure the only ground of their hope, and of our hope, is in the greatness of mind hitherto shewn by the people of this nation, and it’s adherence to the unalterable principles of it’s antient policy, whatever Government may finally prevail in France. I have entered into this detail of the wishes and expectations of the European Powers, in order to point out more clearly, not so much what their disposition, as (a consideration of far greater importance) what their situation demands, according as that situation is related to the Regicide Republick and to this Kingdom.
Then if it is not to satisfy the foreign Powers we make this assurance, to what Power at home is it that we pay all this humiliating court? Not to the old Whigs or to the antient Tories of this Kingdom; if any memory of such antient divisions still exists amongst us. To which of the principles of these parties is this assurance agreeable? Is it to the Whigs we are to recommend the aggrandisement of France, and the subversion of the balance of power? Is it to the Tories we are to recommend our eagerness to cement ourselves with the enemies of Royalty and Religion? But if these parties, which by their dissensions have so often distracted the Kingdom, which by their union have once saved it, and which by their collision and mutual resistance, have preserved the variety of this Constitution in it’s unity, be (as I believe they are) nearly extinct by the growth of new ones, which have their roots in the present circumstances of the times—I wish to know, to which of these new descriptions this Declaration is addressed? It can hardly be to those persons, who, in the new distribution of parties, consider the conservation in England of the antient order of things, as necessary to preserve order every where else, and who regard the general conservation of order in other countries, as reciprocally necessary to preserve the same state of things in those Islands. That party never can wish to see Great Britain pledge herself to give the lead and the ground of advantage and superiority to the France of to-day, in any treaty which is to settle Europe. I insist upon it, that so far from expecting such an engagement, they are generally stupefied and confounded with it. That the other party which demands great changes here, and is so pleased to see them every where else, which party I call Jacobin, that this faction does from the bottom of it’s heart, approve the declaration, and does erect it’s crest upon the engagement, there can be little doubt. To them it may be addressed with propriety, for it answers their purposes in every point.
The party in Opposition within the House of Lords and Commons, it is irreverent, and half a breach of privilege, (far from my thoughts) to consider as Jacobin. This party has always denied the existence of such a faction; and has treated the machinations of those, whom you and I call Jacobins, as so many forgeries and fictions of the Minister and his adherents, to find a pretext for destroying freedom, and setting up an arbitrary power in this Kingdom. However, whether this Minority has a leaning towards the French system, or only a charitable toleration of those who lean that way, it is certain that they have always attacked the sincerity of the Minister in the same modes, and on the very same grounds, and nearly in the same terms, with the Directory. It must, therefore, be at the tribunal of the Minority, (from the whole tenour of the speech) that the Minister appeared to consider himself obliged to purge himself of duplicity. It was at their bar that he held up his hand. It was on their sellette that he seemed to answer interrogatories; it was on their principles that he defended his whole conduct. They certainly take what the French call the haute du pavé. They have loudly called for the negotiation. It was accorded to them. They engaged their support of the war with vigour, in case Peace was not granted on honourable terms. Peace was not granted on any terms, honourable or shameful. Whether these judges, few in number but powerful in jurisdiction, are satisfied; whether they to whom this new pledge is hypothecated, have redeemed their own; whether they have given one particle more of their support to Ministry, or even favoured them with their good opinion, or their candid construction, I leave it to those, who recollect that memorable debate, to determine.
The fact is, that neither this Declaration, nor the negotiation which is it’s subject, could serve any one good purpose, foreign or domestick; it could conduce to no end either with regard to allies or neutrals. It tends neither to bring back the misled; nor to give courage to the fearful; nor to animate and confirm those, who are hearty and zealous in the cause.
I hear it has been said (though I can scarcely believe it) that a distinguished person in an Assembly, where if there be less of the torrent and tempest of eloquence, more guarded expression is to be expected, that, indeed, there was no just ground of hope in this business from the beginning.
It is plain that this noble person, however conversant in negotiation, having been employed in no less than four embassies, and in two hemispheres, and in one of those negotiations having fully experienced what it was to proceed to treaty without previous encouragement, was not at all consulted in this experiment. For his Majesty’s principal Minister declared, on the very same day, in another House, “his Majesty’s deep and sincere regret at it’s unfortunate and abrupt termination, so different from the wishes and hopes that were entertained”; and in other parts of the speech speaks of this abrupt termination as a great disappointment, and as a fall from sincere endeavours and sanguine expectation. Here are, indeed, sentiments diametrically opposite, as to the hopes with which the negotiation was commenced and carried on, and what is curious is, the grounds of the hopes on the one side and the despair on the other are exactly the same. The logical conclusion from the common premises is indeed in favour of the noble Lord, for they are agreed that the enemy was far from giving the least degree of countenance to any such hopes; and that they proceeded in spite of every discouragement which the enemy had thrown in their way. But there is another material point in which they do not seem to differ; that is to say, the result of the desperate experiment of the noble Lord, and of the promising attempt of the Great Minister, in satisfying the people of England, and in causing discontent to the people of France; or, as the Minister expresses it, “in uniting England and in dividing France.”
For my own part, though I perfectly agreed with the noble Lord that the attempt was desperate, so desperate indeed, as to deserve his name of an experiment, yet no fair man can possibly doubt that the Minister was perfectly sincere in his proceeding, and that, from his ardent wishes for peace with the Regicides, he was led to conceive hopes which were founded rather in his vehement desires than in any rational ground of political speculation. Convinced as I am of this, it had been better, in my humble opinion, that persons of great name and authority had abstained from those topics which had been used to call the Minister’s sincerity into doubt, and had not adopted the sentiments of the Directory upon the subject of all our negotiations; for the noble Lord expressly says that the experiment was made for the satisfaction of the country. The Directory says exactly the same thing. Upon granting, in consequence of our supplications, the passport to Lord Malmesbury, in order to remove all sort of hope from it’s success, they charged all our previous steps, even to that moment of submissive demand to be admitted to their presence, on duplicity and perfidy; and assumed that the object of all the steps we had taken was that “of justifying the continuance of the war in the eyes of the English nation, and of throwing all the odium of it upon the French”: “The English nation (said they) supports impatiently the continuance of the war, and a reply must be made to it’s complaints and it’s reproaches; the Parliament is about to be opened, and the mouths of the orators who will declaim against the war must be shut; the demands for new taxes must be justified; and to obtain these results, it is necessary to be able to advance, that the French Government refuses every reasonable proposition for peace. ” I am sorry that the language of the friends to Ministry and the enemies to mankind should be so much in unison.
As to the fact in which these parties are so well agreed, that the experiment ought to have been made for the satisfaction of this country, (meaning the country of England) it were well to be wished, that persons of eminence would cease to make themselves representatives of the people of England without a letter of attorney, or any other act of procuration. In legal construction, the sense of the people of England is to be collected from the House of Commons; and, though I do not deny the possibility of an abuse of this trust as well as any other, yet I think, without the most weighty reasons, and in the most urgent exigencies, it is highly dangerous to suppose that the House speaks any thing contrary to the sense of the people, or that the representative is silent when the sense of the constituent strongly, decidedly, and upon long deliberation, speaks audibly upon any topic of moment. If there is a doubt whether the House of Commons represents perfectly the whole Commons of Great Britain, (I think there is none) there can be no question but that the Lords and the Commons together represent the sense of the whole people to the Crown, and to the world. Thus it is, when we speak legally and constitutionally. In a great measure, it is equally true, when we speak prudentially; but I do not pretend to assert, that there are no other principles to guide discretion than those which are or can be fixed by some law, or some constitution; yet before the legally presumed sense of the people should be superseded by a supposition of one more real (as in all cases, where a legal presumption is to be ascertained) some strong proofs ought to exist of a contrary disposition in the people at large, and some decisive indications of their desire upon this subject. There can be no question, that, previously to a direct message from the Crown, neither House of Parliament did indicate any thing like a wish for such advances as we have made, or such negotiations as we have carried on. The Parliament has assented to Ministry; it is not Ministry that has obeyed the impulse of Parliament. The people at large have their organs through which they can speak to Parliament and to the Crown by a respectful petition, and, though not with absolute authority, yet with weight, they can instruct their Representatives. The freeholders and other electors in this kingdom have another, and a surer mode of expressing their sentiments concerning the conduct which is held by Members of Parliament. In the middle of these transactions, this last opportunity has been held out to them. In all these points of view, I positively assert, that the people have no where, and in no way, expressed their wish of throwing themselves and their Sovereign at the feet of a wicked and rancorous foe, to supplicate mercy, which, from the nature of that foe, and from the circumstances of affairs, we had no sort of ground to expect. It is undoubtedly the business of Ministers very much to consult the inclinations of the people, but they ought to take great care that they do not receive that inclination from the few persons who may happen to approach them. The petty interests of such gentlemen, their low conceptions of things, their fears arising from the danger to which the very arduous and critical situation of publick affairs may expose their places; their apprehensions from the hazards to which the discontents of a few popular men at elections may expose their seats in Parliament—all these causes trouble and confuse the representations which they make to Ministers of the real temper of the nation. If Ministers, instead of following the great indications of the Constitution, proceed on such reports, they will take the whispers of a cabal for the voice of the people, and the counsels of imprudent timidity for the wisdom of a nation.
I well remember, that when the fortune of the war began, and it began pretty early, to turn, as it is common and natural, we were dejected by the losses that had been sustained, and with the doubtful issue of the contests that were foreseen. But not a word was uttered that supposed peace upon any proper terms, was in our power, or therefore that it should be in our desire. As usual, with or without reason, we criticised the conduct of the war, and compared our fortunes with our measures. The mass of the nation went no further. For I suppose that you always understood me as speaking of that very preponderating part of the nation, which had always been equally adverse to the French principles, and to the general progress of their Revolution throughout Europe; considering the final success of their arms and the triumph of their principles as one and the same thing.
The first means that were used, by any one professing our principles, to change the minds of this party upon that subject, appeared in a small pamphlet circulated with considerable industry. It was commonly given to the noble person himself, who has passed judgment upon all hopes of negotiation, and justified our late abortive attempt only as an experiment made to satisfy the country; and yet that pamphlet led the way in endeavouring to dissatisfy that very country with the continuance of the war, and to raise in the people the most sanguine expectations from some such course of negotiation as has been fatally pursued. This leads me to suppose (and I am glad to have reason for supposing) that there was no foundation for attributing the performance in question to that authour; but without mentioning his name in the title-page, it passed for his, and does still pass uncontradicted. It was entitled “Remarks on the apparent Circumstances of the War in the fourth Week of October, 1795.”
This sanguine little king’s-fisher (not prescient of the storm, as by his instinct he ought to be) appearing at that uncertain season, before the riggs of old Michaelmas were yet well composed, and when the inclement storms of winter were approaching, began to flicker over the seas, and was busy in building it’s halcyon nest, as if the angry ocean had been soothed by the genial breath of May. Very unfortunately this auspice was instantly followed by a speech from the Throne, in the very spirit and principles of that pamphlet.
I say nothing of the newspapers, which are undoubtedly in the interest, and which are supposed by some to be directly or indirectly under the influence of Ministers, and which, with less authority than the pamphlet I speak of, had indeed for some time before held a similar language, in direct contradiction to their more early tone: in so much, that I can speak it with a certain assurance, that very many who wished to Administration as well as you and I do, thought that in giving their opinion in favour of this peace, they followed the opinion of Ministry—they were conscious that they did not lead it. My inference therefore is this, that the negotiation, whatever it’s merits may be, in the general principle and policy of undertaking it, is, what every political measure in general ought to be, the sole work of Administration; and that if it was an experiment to satisfy any body, it was to satisfy those, whom the Ministers were in the daily habit of condemning, and by whom they were daily condemned; I mean, the Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament. I am certain that the Ministers were then, and are now, invested with the fullest confidence of the major part of the nation, to pursue such measures of peace or war as the nature of things shall suggest as most adapted to the publick safety. It is in this light therefore, as a measure which ought to have been avoided, and ought not to be repeated, that I take the liberty of discussing the merits of this system of Regicide Negotiations. It is not a matter of light experiment, that leaves us where it found us. Peace or war are the great hinges upon which the very being of nations turns. Negotiations are the means of making peace or preventing war, and are therefore of more serious importance than almost any single event of war can possibly be.
At the very outset I do not hesitate to affirm, that this country in particular, and the publick law in general, have suffered more by this negotiation of experiment, than by all the battles together that we have lost from the commencement of this century to this time, when it touches so nearly to it’s close. I therefore have the misfortune not to coincide in opinion with the great Statesman who set on foot a negotiation, as he said, “in spite of the constant opposition he had met with from France.” He admits, “that the difficulty in this negotiation became most seriously increased indeed, by the situation in which we were placed, and the manner in which alone the enemy would admit of a negotiation.” This situation so described, and so truly described, rendered our solicitation not only degrading, but from the very outset evidently hopeless.
I find it asserted, and even a merit taken for it, “that this country surmounted every difficulty of form and etiquette which the enemy had thrown in our way.” An odd way of surmounting a difficulty by cowering under it! I find it asserted that an heroick resolution had been taken, and avowed in Parliament, previous to this negotiation, “that no consideration of etiquette should stand in the way of it.”
Etiquette, if I understand rightly the term, which in any extent is of modern usage, had it’s original application to those ceremonial and formal observances practised at Courts, which had been established by long usage, in order to preserve the sovereign power from the rude intrusion of licentious familiarity, as well as to preserve Majesty itself from a disposition to consult it’s ease at the expence of it’s dignity. The term came afterwards to have a greater latitude, and to be employed to signify certain formal methods used in the transactions between sovereign States.
In the more limited as well as in the larger sense of the term, without knowing what the etiquette is, it is impossible to determine whether it is a vain and captious punctilio, or a form necessary to preserve decorum in character and order in business. I readily admit, that nothing tends to facilitate the issue of all public transactions more than a mutual disposition, in the parties treating, to waive all ceremony. But the use of this temporary suspension of the recognised modes of respect consists in it’s being mutual, and in the spirit of conciliation in which all ceremony is laid aside. On the contrary, when one of the parties to a treaty intrenches himself up to the chin in these ceremonies, and will not, on his side, abate a single punctilio, and that all the concessions are upon one side only, the part so conceding does by this act place himself in a relation of inferiority, and thereby fundamentally subverts that equality which is of the very essence of all treaty.
After this formal act of degradation, it was but a matter of course, that gross insult should be offered to our Ambassador, and that he should tamely submit to it. He found himself provoked to complain of the atrocious libels against his publick character and his person, which appeared in a paper under the avowed patronage of that Government. The Regicide Directory, on this complaint, did not recognise the paper; and that was all. They did not punish, they did not dismiss, they did not even reprimand the writer. As to our Ambassador, this total want of reparation for the injury was passed by under the pretence of despising it.
In this but too serious business, it is not possible here to avoid a smile. Contempt is not a thing to be despised. It may be borne with a calm and equal mind, but no man by lifting his head high can pretend that he does not perceive the scorns that are poured down upon him from above. All these sudden complaints of injury, and all these deliberate submissions to it, are the inevitable consequences of the situation in which we had placed ourselves; a situation wherein the insults were such as nature would not enable us to bear, and circumstances would not permit us to resent.
It was not long, however, after this contempt of contempt upon the part of our Ambassador (who by the way represented his Sovereign) that a new object was furnished for displaying sentiments of the same kind, though the case was infinitely aggravated. Not the Ambassador, but the King himself was libelled and insulted; libelled, not by a creature of the Directory, but by the Directory itself. At least so Lord Malmesbury understood it, and so he answered it in his note of the 12th December, 1796, in which he says, “With regard to the offensive and injurious insinuations which are contained in that paper, and which are only calculated to throw new obstacles in the way of that accommodation, which the French Government profess to desire, THE KING HAS DEEMED IT FAR BENEATH HIS DIGNITY to permit an answer to be made to them on his part, in any manner whatsoever.”
I am of opinion, that if his Majesty had kept aloof from that wash and off-scouring of every thing that is low and barbarous in the world, it might be well thought unworthy of his dignity to take notice of such scurrilities. They must be considered as much the natural expression of that kind of animal, as it is the expression of the feelings of a dog to bark; but when the King had been advised to recognise not only the monstrous composition as a Sovereign Power, but, in conduct, to admit something in it like a superiority— when the Bench of Regicide was made, at least, co-ordinate with his Throne, and raised upon a platform full as elevated—this treatment could not be passed by under the appearance of despising it. It would not, indeed, have been proper to keep up a war of the same kind, but an immediate, manly, and decided resentment ought to have been the consequence. We ought not to have waited for the disgraceful dismissal of our Ambassador. There are cases in which we may pretend to sleep: but the wittol rule has some sense in it, Non omnibus dormio. We might, however, have seemed ignorant of the affront; but what was the fact? Did we dissemble or pass it by in silence? When dignity is talked of, (a language which I did not expect to hear in such a transaction,) I must say what all the world must feel, that it was not for the King’s dignity to notice this insult, and not to resent it. This mode of proceeding is formed on new ideas of the correspondence between Sovereign Powers.
This was far from the only ill effect of the policy of degradation. The state of inferiority in which we were placed in this vain attempt at treaty, drove us headlong from errour into errour, and led us to wander far away, not only from all the paths which have been beaten in the old course of political communication between mankind, but out of the ways even of the most common prudence. Against all rules, after we had met nothing but rebuffs in return to all our proposals, we made two confidential communications to those in whom we had no confidence, and who reposed no confidence in us. What was worse, we were fully aware of the madness of the step we were taking. Ambassadors are not sent to a hostile power, persevering in sentiments of hostility, to make candid, confidential, and amicable communications. Hitherto the world has considered it as the duty of an Ambassador in such a situation to be cautious, guarded, dexterous, and circumspect. It is true that mutual confidence and common interest dispense with all rules, smooth the rugged way, remove every obstacle, and make all things plain and level. When, in the last century, Temple and De Witt negotiated the famous Triple Alliance, their candour, their freedom, and the most confidential disclosures, were the result of true policy. Accordingly, in spite of all the dilatory forms of the complex Government of the United Provinces, the treaty was concluded in three days. It did not take a much longer time to bring the same State (that of Holland) through a still more complicated transaction, that of the Grand Alliance. But in the present case, this unparalleled candour, this unpardonable want of reserve, produced what might have been expected from it, the most serious evils. It instructed the enemy in the whole plan of our demands and concessions. It made the most fatal discoveries.
And first, it induced us to lay down the basis of a treaty which itself had nothing to rest upon; it seems, we thought we had gained a great point in getting this basis admitted—that is, a basis of mutual compensation and exchange of conquests. If a disposition to peace, and with any reasonable assurance, had been previously indicated, such a plan of arrangement might with propriety and safety be proposed, because these arrangements were not, in effect, to make the basis, but a part of the superstructure, of the fabrick of pacification. The order of things would thus be reversed. The mutual disposition to peace would form the reasonable base upon which the scheme of compensation, upon one side or the other, might be constructed. This truly fundamental base being once laid, all differences arising from the spirit of huckstering and barter might be easily adjusted. If the restoration of peace, with a view to the establishment of a fair balance of power in Europe, had been made the real basis of the treaty, the reciprocal value of the compensations could not be estimated according to their proportion to each other, but according to their proportionate relation to that end: to that great end the whole would be subservient. The effect of the treaty would be in a manner secured before the detail of particulars was begun, and for a plain reason, because the hostile spirit on both sides had been conjured down. But if in the full fury, and unappeased rancour of war, a little traffick is attempted, it is easy to divine what must be the consequence to those who endeavour to open that kind of petty commerce.
To illustrate what I have said, I go back no further than to the two last Treaties of Paris, and to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which preceded the first of these two Treaties of Paris by about fourteen or fifteen years. I do not mean here to criticise any of them. My opinions upon some particulars of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, are published in a pamphlet,* which your recollection will readily bring into your view. I recur to them only to shew that their basis had not been, and never could have been a mere dealing of truck and barter, but that the parties being willing, from common fatigue or common suffering, to put an end to a war, the first object of which had either been obtained or despaired of, the lesser objects were not thought worth the price of further contest. The parties understanding one another, so much was given away without considering from whose budget it came, not as the value of the objects, but as the value of peace to the parties might require. At the last treaty of Paris, the subjugation of America being despaired of on the part of Great Britain, and the independence of America being looked upon as secure upon the part of France, the main cause of the war was removed; and then the conquests which France had made upon us (for we had made none of importance upon her) were surrendered with sufficient facility. Peace was restored as peace. In America the parties stood as they were possessed. A limit was to be settled, but settled as a limit to secure that peace, and not at all on a system of equivalents, for which, as we then stood with the United States, there were little or no materials.
At the preceding treaty of Paris, I mean that of 1763, there was nothing at all on which to fix a basis of compensation from reciprocal cession of conquests. They were all on one side. The question with us was not what we were to receive, and on what consideration, but what we were to keep for indemnity or to cede for peace. Accordingly no place being left for barter, sacrifices were made on our side to peace; and we surrendered to the French their most valuable possessions in the West Indies without any equivalent. The rest of Europe fell soon after into it’s antient order; and the German war ended exactly where it had begun.
The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was built upon a similar basis. All the conquests in Europe had been made by France. She had subdued the Austrian Netherlands, and broken open the gates of Holland. We had taken nothing in the West Indies, and Cape Breton was a trifling business indeed. France gave up all for peace. The allies had given up all that was ceded at Utrecht. Louis the Fourteenth made all, or nearly all, the cessions at Ryswick, and at Nimeguen. In all those treaties, and in all the preceding, as well as in the others which intervened, the question never had been that of barter. The balance of power had been ever assumed as the known common law of Europe at all times, and by all powers: the question had only been (as it must happen) on the more or less inclination of that balance.
This general balance was regarded in four principal points of view: the great middle balance, which comprehended Great Britain, France, and Spain; the balance of the north; the balance, external and internal, of Germany; and the balance of Italy. In all those systems of balance, England was the power to whose custody it was thought it might be most safely committed.
France, as she happened to stand, secured the balance, or endangered it. Without question she had been long the security for the balance of Germany, and under her auspices the system, if not formed, had been at least perfected. She was so in some measure with regard to Italy, more than occasionally. She had a clear interest in the balance of the North, and had endeavoured to preserve it. But when we began to treat with the present France, or more properly to prostrate ourselves to her, and to try if we should be admitted to ransom our allies, upon a system of mutual concession and compensation, we had not one of the usual facilities. For first, we had not the smallest indication of a desire for peace on the part of the enemy; but rather the direct contrary. Men do not make sacrifices to obtain what they do not desire: and as for the balance of power, it was so far from being admitted by France either on the general system, or with regard to the particular systems that I have mentioned, that, in the whole body of their authorized or encouraged reports and discussions upon the theory of the diplomatic system, they constantly rejected the very idea of the balance of power, and treated it as the true cause of all the wars and calamities that had afflicted Europe: and their practice was correspondent to the dogmatick positions they had laid down. The Empire and the Papacy it was their great object to destroy, and this, now openly avowed and stedfastly acted upon, might have been discerned with very little acuteness of sight, from the very first dawnings of the Revolution, to be the main drift of their policy. For they professed a resolution to destroy every thing which can hold States together by the tie of opinion.
Exploding, therefore, all sorts of balances, they avow their design to erect themselves into a new description of Empire, which is not grounded on any balance, but forms a sort of impious hierarchy, of which France is to be the head and the guardian. The law of this their Empire is any thing rather than the publick law of Europe, the antient conventions of it’s several States, or the antient opinions which assign to them superiority or pre-eminence of any sort, or any other kind of connexion in virtue of antient relations. They permit, and that is all, the temporary existence of some of the old communities; but whilst they give to these tolerated States this temporary respite in order to secure them in a condition of real dependence on themselves, they invest them on every side by a body of Republicks, formed on the model, and dependent ostensibly, as well as substantially, on the will, of the mother Republick to which they owe their origin. These are to be so many garrisons to check and controul the States which are to be permitted to remain on the old model, until they are ripe for a change. It is in this manner that France, on her new system, means to form an universal empire, by producing an universal revolution. By this means, forming a new code of communities according to what she calls the natural rights of man and of States, she pretends to secure eternal peace to the world, guaranteed by her generosity and justice, which are to grow with the extent of her power. To talk of the balance of power to the governors of such a country, was a jargon which they could not understand even through an interpreter. Before men can transact any affair, they must have a common language to speak, and some common recognised principles on which they can argue. Otherwise, all is cross-purpose and confusion. It was, therefore, an essential preliminary to the whole proceeding, to fix, whether the balance of power, the liberties and laws of the Empire, and the treaties of different belligerent powers in past times, when they put an end to hostilities, were to be considered as the basis of the present negotiation.
The whole of the enemy’s plan was known when Lord Malmesbury was sent with his scrap of equivalents to Paris. Yet, in this unfortunate attempt at negotiation, instead of fixing these points, and assuming the balance of power and the peace of Europe as the basis to which all cessions on all sides were to be subservient, our solicitor for peace was directed to reverse that order. He was directed to make mutual concessions, on a mere comparison of their marketable value, the base of treaty. The balance of power was to be thrown in as an inducement, and a sort of make-weight, to supply the manifest deficiency which must stare him and the world in the face, between those objects which he was to require the enemy to surrender, and those which he had to offer as a fair equivalent.
To give any force to this inducement, and to make it answer even the secondary purpose of equalizing equivalents having in themselves no natural proportionate value, it supposed, that the enemy, contrary to the most notorious fact, did admit this balance of power to be of some value, great or small; whereas it is plain, that in the enemy’s estimate of things, the consideration of the balance of power, as we have said before, was so far from going in diminution of the value of what the Directory was desired to surrender, or of giving an additional price to our objects offered in exchange, that the hope of the utter destruction of that balance became a new motive to the junto of Regicides for preserving, as a means for realizing that hope, what we wished them to abandon.
Thus stood the basis of the treaty on laying the first stone of the foundation. At the very best, upon our side, the question stood upon a mere naked bargain and sale. Unthinking people here triumphed when they thought they had obtained it, whereas when obtained as a basis of a treaty, it was just the worst we could possibly have chosen. As to our offer to cede a most unprofitable, and, indeed, beggarly, chargeable counting-house or two in the East-Indies, we ought not to presume that they would consider this as any thing else than a mockery. As to any thing of real value, we had nothing under Heaven to offer (for which we were not ourselves in a very dubious struggle) except the Island of Martinico only. When this object was to be weighed against the directorial conquests, merely as an object of a value at market, the principle of barter became perfectly ridiculous. A single quarter in the single city of Amsterdam was worth ten Martinicos; and would have sold for many more years’ purchase in any market overt in Europe. How was this gross and glaring defect in the objects of exchange to be supplied? It was to be made up by argument. And what was that argument? The extreme utility of possessions in the West-Indies to the augmentation of the naval power of France. A very curious topick of argument to be proposed and insisted on by an Ambassador of Great Britain. It is directly and plainly this— “Come, we know that of all things you wish a naval power, and it is natural you should, who wish to destroy the very sources of the British greatness, to overpower our marine, to destroy our commerce, to eradicate our foreign influence, and to lay us open to an invasion, which, at one stroke, may complete our servitude and ruin, and expunge us from among the nations of the earth. Here I have it in my budget, the infallible arcanum for that purpose. You are but novices in the art of naval resources. Let you have the West-Indies back, and your maritime preponderance is secured, for which you would do well to be moderate in your demands upon the Austrian Netherlands.”
Under any circumstances, this is a most extraordinary topick of argument; but it is rendered by much the more unaccountable, when we are told, that, if the war has been diverted from the great object of establishing society and good order in Europe by destroying the usurpation in France, this diversion was made to increase the naval resources and power of Great-Britain, and to lower, if not annihilate, those of the marine of France. I leave all this to the very serious reflexion of every Englishman.
This basis was no sooner admitted, than the rejection of a treaty upon that sole foundation was a thing of course. The enemy did not think it worthy of a discussion, as in truth it was not; and immediately, as usual, they began, in the most opprobrious and most insolent manner, to question our sincerity and good faith. Whereas, in truth, there was no one symptom wanting of openness and fair dealing. What could be more fair than to lay open to an enemy all that you wished to obtain, and the price you meant to pay for it, and to desire him to imitate your ingenuous proceeding, and in the same manner to open his honest heart to you? Here was no want of fair dealing: but there was too evidently a fault of another kind. There was much weakness; there was an eager and impotent desire of associating with this unsocial power, and of attempting the connexion by any means, however manifestly feeble and ineffectual. The event was committed to chance; that is, to such a manifestation of the desire of France for peace, as would induce the Directory to forget the advantages they had in the system of barter. Accordingly, the general desire for such a peace was triumphantly reported from the moment that Lord Malmesbury had set his foot on shore at Calais.
It has been said, that the Directory was compelled against it’s will to accept the basis of barter (as if that had tended to accelerate the work of pacification!) by the voice of all France. Had this been the case, the Directors would have continued to listen to that voice to which it seems they were so obedient: they would have proceeded with the negotiation upon that basis. But the fact is, that they instantly broke up the negotiation, as soon as they had obliged our Ambassador to violate all the principles of treaty, and weakly, rashly, and unguardedly, to expose, without any counter-proposition, the whole of our project with regard to ourselves and our allies, and without holding out the smallest hope that they would admit the smallest part of our pretensions.
When they had thus drawn from us all that they could draw out, they expelled Lord Malmesbury, and they appealed for the propriety of their conduct, to that very France which, we thought proper to suppose, had driven them to this fine concession; and I do not find, that in either division of the family of thieves, the younger branch, or the elder, or in any other body whatsoever, there was any indignation excited, or any tumult raised; or any thing like the virulence of opposition which was shewn to the King’s Ministers here, on account of that transaction.
Notwithstanding all this, it seems a hope is still entertained, that the Directory will have that tenderness for the carcase of their country, by whose very distemper, and on whose festering wounds, like vermin, they are fed; that these pious patriots will of themselves come into a more moderate and reasonable way of thinking and acting. In the name of wonder, what has inspired our Ministry with this hope any more than with their former expectations?
Do these hopes only arise from continual disappointment? Do they grow out of the usual grounds of despair? What is there to encourage them, in the conduct, or even in the declarations of the Ruling Powers in France, from the first formation of their mischievous Republic to the hour in which I write? Is not the Directory composed of the same junto? Are they not the identical men, who, from the base and sordid vices which belonged to their original place and situation, aspired to the dignity of crimes; and from the dirtiest, lowest, most fraudulent, and most knavish of chicaners, ascended in the scale of robbery, sacrilege, and assassination in all it’s forms, till at last they had imbrued their impious hands in the blood of their Sovereign? Is it from these men that we are to hope for this paternal tenderness to their country, and this sacred regard for the peace and happiness of all nations?
But it seems there is still another lurking hope, akin to that which duped us so egregiously before, when our delightful basis was accepted: we still flatter ourselves that the publick voice of France will compel this Directory to more moderation. Whence does this hope arise? What publick voice is there in France? There are, indeed, some writers, who, since this monster of a Directory has obtained a great regular military force to guard them, are indulged in a sufficient liberty of writing, and some of them write well undoubtedly. But the world knows that in France there is no publick, that the country is composed but of two descriptions; audacious tyrants and trembling slaves. The contest between the tyrants is the only vital principle that can be discerned in France. The only thing which there appears like spirit, is amongst the late associates, and fastest friends of the Directory, the more furious and untameable part of the Jacobins. This discontented member of the faction does almost balance the reigning divisions; and it threatens every moment to predominate. For the present, however, the dread of their fury forms some sort of security to their fellows, who now exercise a more regular, and therefore a somewhat less ferocious tyranny. Most of the slaves chuse a quiet, however reluctant, submission to those who are somewhat satiated with blood, and who, like wolves, are a little more tame from being a little less hungry, in preference to an irruption of the famished devourers who are prowling and howling about the fold.
This circumstance assures some degree of permanence to the power of those, whom we know to be permanently our rancourous and implacable enemies. But to those very enemies, who have sworn our destruction, we have ourselves given a further and far better security by rendering the cause of the Royalists desperate. Those brave and virtuous, but unfortunate adherents to the ancient constitution of their country, after the miserable slaughters which have been made in that body, after all their losses by emigration, are still numerous, but unable to exert themselves against the force of the usurpation, evidently countenanced and upheld by those very Princes who had called them to arm for the support of the legal Monarchy. Where then, after chasing these fleeting hopes of ours from point to point of the political horizon, are they at last really found? Not where, under Providence, the hopes of Englishmen used to be placed—in our own courage and in our own virtues, but in the moderation and virtue of the most atrocious monsters that have ever disgraced and plagued mankind.
The only excuse to be made for all our mendicant diplomacy is the same as in the case of all other mendicancy—namely, that it has been founded on absolute necessity. This deserves consideration. Necessity, as it has no law, so it has no shame; but moral necessity is not like metaphysical, or even physical. In that category, it is a word of loose signification, and conveys different ideas to different minds. To the low-minded, the slightest necessity becomes an invincible necessity. “The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way, and I shall be devoured in the streets.” But when the necessity pleaded is not in the nature of things, but in the vices of him who alleges it, the whining tones of common-place beggarly rhetorick produce nothing but indignation; because they indicate a desire of keeping up a dishonourable existence, without utility to others, and without dignity to itself; because they aim at obtaining the dues of labour without industry; and by frauds would draw from the compassion of others, what men ought to owe to their own spirit and their own exertions.
I am thoroughly satisfied that if we degrade ourselves, it is the degradation which will subject us to the yoke of necessity, and, not that it is necessity which has brought on our degradation. In this same chaos, where light and darkness are struggling together, the open subscription of last year, with all it’s circumstances, must have given us no little glimmering of hope; not (as I have heard, it was vainly discoursed) that the loan could prove a crutch to a lame negotiation abroad; and that the whiff and wind of it must at once have disposed the enemies of all tranquillity to a desire for peace. Judging on the face of facts, if on them it had any effect at all, it had the direct contrary effect; for very soon after the loan became publick at Paris, the negotiation ended, and our Ambassador was ignominiously expelled. My view of this was different: I liked the loan, not from the influence which it might have on the enemy, but on account of the temper which it indicated in our own people. This alone is a consideration of any importance; because all calculation, formed upon a supposed relation of the habitudes of others to our own, under the present circumstances, is weak and fallacious. The adversary must be judged, not by what we are, or by what we wish him to be, but by what we must know he actually is; unless we choose to shut our eyes and our ears to the uniform tenour of all his discourses, and to his uniform course in all his actions. We may be deluded; but we cannot pretend that we have been disappointed. The old rule of Ne te quaesiveris extra, is a precept as available in policy as it is in morals. Let us leave off speculating upon the disposition and the wants of the enemy. Let us descend into our own bosoms; let us ask ourselves what are our duties, and what are our means of discharging them. In what heart are you at home? How far may an English Minister confide in the affections, in the confidence, in the force of an English people? What does he find us when he puts us to the proof of what English interest and English honour demand? It is as furnishing an answer to these questions that I consider the circumstances of the loan. The effect on the enemy is not in what he may speculate on our resources, but in what he shall feel from our arms.
The circumstances of the loan have proved beyond a doubt three capital points, which, if they are properly used, may be advantageous to the future liberty and happiness of mankind. In the first place, the loan demonstrates, in regard to instrumental resources, the competency of this kingdom to the assertion of the common cause, and to the maintenance and superintendance of that, which it is it’s duty and it’s glory to hold, and to watch over—the balance of power throughout the Christian World. Secondly, it brings to light what, under the most discouraging appearances, I always reckoned on; that with it’s ancient physical force, not only unimpaired, but augmented, it’s ancient spirit is still alive in the British nation. It proves, that for their application there is a spirit equal to the resources, for it’s energy above them. It proves that there exists, though not always visible, a spirit which never fails to come forth whenever it is ritually invoked; a spirit which will give no equivocal response, but such as will hearten the timidity, and fix the irresolution, of hesitating prudence; a spirit which will be ready to perform all the tasks that shall be imposed upon it by publick honour. Thirdly, the loan displays an abundant confidence in his Majesty’s Government, as administered by his present servants, in the prosecution of a war which the people consider, not as a war made on the suggestion of Ministers, and to answer the purposes of the ambition or pride of statesmen, but as a war of their own, and in defence of that very property which they expend for it’s support; a war for that order of things, from which every thing valuable that they possess is derived, and in which order alone it can possibly be maintained.
I hear in derogation of the value of the fact, from which I draw inferences so favourable to the spirit of the people, and to it’s just expectation from Ministers, that the eighteen million loan is to be considered in no other light, than as taking advantage of a very lucrative bargain held out to the subscribers. I do not in truth believe it. All the circumstances which attended the subscription strongly spoke a different language. Be it, however, as these detractors say. This with me derogates little, or rather nothing at all, from the political value and importance of the fact. I should be very sorry if the transaction was not such a bargain, otherwise it would not have been a fair one. A corrupt and improvident loan, like every thing else corrupt or prodigal, cannot be too much condemned: but there is a shortsighted parsimony still more fatal than an unforeseeing expence. The value of money must be judged, like every thing else, from it’s rate at market. To force that market, or any market, is of all things the most dangerous. For a small temporary benefit, the spring of all public credit might be relaxed for ever. The monied men have a right to look to advantage in the investment of their property. To advance their money, they risk it; and the risk is to be included in the price. If they were to incur a loss, that loss would amount to a tax on that peculiar species of property. In effect, it would be the most unjust and impolitick of all things, unequal taxation. It would throw upon one description of persons in the community, that burthen which ought by fair and equitable distribution to rest upon the whole. None on account of their dignity should be exempt; none (preserving due proportion) on account of the scantiness of their means. The moment a man is exempted from the maintenance of the community, he is in a sort separated from it. He loses the place of a citizen.
So it is in all taxation; but in a bargain, when terms of loss are looked for by the borrower from the lender, compulsion, or what virtually is compulsion, introduces itself into the place of treaty. When compulsion may be at all used by a State in borrowing, the occasion must determine. But the compulsion ought to be known, and well defined, and well distinguished: for otherwise treaty only weakens the energy of compulsion, while compulsion destroys the freedom of a bargain. The advantage of both is lost by the confusion of things in their nature utterly unsociable. It would be to introduce compulsion into that in which freedom and existence are the same; I mean credit. The moment that shame, or fear, or force, are directly or indirectly applied to a loan, credit perishes.
There must be some impulse besides public spirit, to put private interest into motion along with it. Monied men ought to be allowed to set a value on their money; if they did not, there could be no monied men. This desire of accumulation is a principle without which the means of their service to the State could not exist. The love of lucre, though sometimes carried to a ridiculous, sometimes to a vicious excess, is the grand cause of prosperity to all States. In this natural, this reasonable, this powerful, this prolifick principle, it is for the satyrist to expose the ridiculous; it is for the moralist to censure the vicious; it is for the sympathetick heart to reprobate the hard and cruel; it is for the Judge to animadvert on the fraud, the extortion, and the oppression: but it is for the Statesman to employ it as he finds it, with all it’s concomitant excellencies, with all it’s imperfections on it’s head. It is his part, in this case, as it is in all other cases, where he is to make use of the general energies of nature, to take them as he finds them.
After all, it is a great mistake to imagine, as too commonly, almost indeed generally, it is imagined, that the publick borrower and the private lender are two adverse parties with different and contending interests, and that what is given to the one, is wholly taken from the other. Constituted as our system of finance and taxation is, the interests of the contracting parties cannot well be separated, whatever they may reciprocally intend. He who is the hard lender of to-day, to-morrow is the generous contributor to his own payment. For example, the last loan is raised on publick taxes, which are designed to produce annually two millions sterling. At first view, this is an annuity of two millions dead charge upon the publick in favour of certain monied men. But inspect the thing more nearly, follow the stream in it’s meanders; and you will find that there is a good deal of fallacy in this state of things.
I take it, that whoever considers any man’s expenditure of his income, old or new (I speak of certain classes in life) will find a full third of it to go in taxes, direct or indirect. If so, this new-created income of two millions will probably furnish 665,000l. (I avoid broken numbers) towards the payment of it’s own interest, or to the sinking of it’s own capital. So it is with the whole of the publick debt. Suppose it any given sum, it is a fallacious estimate of the affairs of a nation to consider it as a mere burthen; to a degree it is so without question, but not wholly so, nor any thing like it. If the income from the interest be spent, the above proportion returns again into the publick stock: insomuch, that taking the interest of the whole debt to be twelve million, three hundred thousand pound, (it is something more) not less than a sum of four million one hundred thousand pound comes back again to the publick through the channel of imposition. If the whole, or any part, of that income be saved, so much new capital is generated; the infallible operation of which is to lower the value of money, and consequently to conduce towards the improvement of publick credit.
I take the expenditure of the capitalist, not the value of the capital, as my standard; because it is the standard upon which, amongst us, property as an object of taxation is rated. In this country, land and offices only excepted, we raise no faculty tax. We preserve the faculty from the expence. Our taxes, for the far greater portion, fly over the heads of the lowest classes. They escape too who, with better ability, voluntarily subject themselves to the harsh discipline of a rigid necessity. With us, labour and frugality, the parents of riches, are spread, and wisely too. The moment men cease to augment the common stock, the moment they no longer enrich it by their industry or their self-denial, their luxury and even their ease are obliged to pay contribution to the publick; not because they are vicious principles, but because they are unproductive. If, in fact, the interest paid by the publick had not thus revolved again into it’s own fund; if this secretion had not again been absorbed into the mass of blood, it would have been impossible for the nation to have existed to this time under such a debt. But under the debt it does exist and flourish; and this flourishing state of existence in no small degree is owing to the contribution from the debt to the payment. Whatever, therefore, is taken from that capital by too close a bargain, is but a delusive advantage; it is so much lost to the publick in another way. This matter cannot, on the one side or the other, be metaphysically pursued to the extreme, but it is a consideration of which, in all discussions of this kind, we ought never wholly to lose sight.
It is never, therefore, wise to quarrel with the interested views of men, whilst they are combined with the publick interest and promote it: it is our business to tie the knot, if possible, closer. Resources that are derived from extraordinary virtues, as such virtues are rare, so they must be unproductive. It is a good thing for a monied man to pledge his property on the welfare of his country; he shews that he places his treasure where his heart is; and, revolving in this circle, we know that “wherever a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also.” For these reasons and on these principles, I have been sorry to see the attempts which have been made, with more good meaning than foresight and consideration, towards raising the annual interest of this loan by private contributions. Wherever a regular revenue is established, there voluntary contribution can answer no purpose, but to disorder and disturb it in it’s course. To recur to such aids is, for so much, to dissolve the community, and to return to a state of unconnected nature. And even if such a supply should be productive in a degree commensurate to its object, it must also be productive of much vexation, and much oppression. Either the citizens, by the proposed duties, pay their proportion according to some rate made by public authority, or they do not. If the law be well made, and the contributions founded on just proportions, every thing superadded by something that is not as regular as law, and as uniform in it’s operation, will become more or less out of proportion. If, on the contrary, the law be not made upon proper calculation, it is a disgrace to the publick wisdom, which fails in skill to assess the citizen in just measure, and according to his means. But the hand of authority is not always the most heavy hand. It is obvious that men may be oppressed by many ways, besides those which take their course from the supreme power of the State. Suppose the payment to be wholly discretionary. Whatever has it’s origin in caprice, is sure not to improve in it’s progress, nor to end in reason. It is impossible for each private individual to have any measure conformable to the particular condition of each of his fellow-citizens, or to the general exigencies of his country. ’Tis a random shot at best.
When men proceed in this irregular mode, the first contributor is apt to grow peevish with his neighbours. He is but too well disposed to measure their means by his own envy, and not by the real state of their fortunes, which he can rarely know, and which it may in them be an act of the grossest imprudence to reveal. Hence the odium and lassitude, with which people will look upon a provision for the publick which is bought by discord at the expence of social quiet. Hence the bitter heartburnings, and the war of tongues which is so often the prelude to other wars. Nor is it every contribution, called voluntary, which is according to the free will of the giver. A false shame, or a false glory, against his feelings, and his judgment, may tax an individual to the detriment of his family, and in wrong of his creditors. A pretence of publick spirit may disable him from the performance of his private duties. It may disable him even from paying the legitimate contributions which he is to furnish according to the prescript of law; but what is the most dangerous of all is, that malignant disposition to which this mode of contribution evidently tends, and which at length leaves the comparatively indigent, to judge of the wealth, and to prescribe to the opulent, or those whom they conceive to be such, the use they are to make of their fortunes. From thence it is but one step to the subversion of all property.
Far, very far am I from supposing that such things enter into the purposes of those excellent persons whose zeal has led them to this kind of measure; but the measure itself will lead them beyond their intention, and what is begun with the best designs, bad men will perversely improve to the worst of their purposes. An ill-founded plausibility in great affairs is a real evil. In France we have seen the wickedest and most foolish of men, the Constitution-mongers of 1789, pursuing this very course, and ending in this very event. These projectors of deception set on foot two modes of voluntary contribution to the state. The first, they called patriotick gifts. These, for the greater part were not more ridiculous in the mode, than contemptible in the project. The other, which they called the patriotick contribution, was expected to amount to a fourth of the fortunes of individuals, but at their own will and on their own estimate; but this contribution threatening to fall infinitely short of their hopes, they soon made it compulsory, both in the rate and in the levy, beginning in fraud, and ending, as all the frauds of power end, in plain violence. All these devices to produce an involuntary will, were under the pretext of relieving the more indigent classes. But the principle of voluntary contribution, however delusive, being once established, these lower classes first, and then all classes, were encouraged to throw off the regular methodical payments to the State as so many badges of slavery. Thus all regular revenue failing, these impostors, raising the superstructure on the same cheats with which they had laid the foundation of their greatness, and not content with a portion of the possessions of the rich, confiscated the whole, and to prevent them from reclaiming their rights, murdered the proprietors. The whole of the process has passed before our eyes, and been conducted indeed with a greater degree of rapidity than could be expected.
My opinion then is, that publick contributions ought only to be raised by the publick will. By the judicious form of our constitution, the publick contribution is in it’s name and substance a grant. In it’s origin it is truly voluntary; not voluntary according to the irregular, unsteady, capricious will of individuals, but according to the will and wisdom of the whole popular mass, in the only way in which will and wisdom can go together. This voluntary grant obtaining in it’s progress the force of a law, a general necessity which takes away all merit, and consequently all jealousy from individuals, compresses, equalizes, and satisfies the whole; suffering no man to judge of his neighbour, or to arrogate any thing to himself. If their will complies with their obligation, the great end is answered in the happiest mode; if the will resists the burthen, every one loses a great part of his own will as a common lot. After all, perhaps contributions raised by a charge on luxury, or that degree of convenience which approaches so near as to be confounded with luxury, is the only mode of contribution which may be with truth termed voluntary.
I might rest here, and take the loan I speak of as leading to a solution of that question, which I proposed in my first letter: “Whether the inability of the country to prosecute the war did necessitate a submission to the indignities and the calamities of a Peace with the Regicide power.” But give me leave to pursue this point a little further.
I know that it has been a cry usual on this occasion, as it has been upon occasions where such a cry could have less apparent justification, that great distress and misery have been the consequence of this war, by the burthens brought and laid upon the people. But to know where the burthen really lies, and where it presses, we must divide the people. As to the common people, their stock is in their persons and in their earnings. I deny that the stock of their persons is diminished in a greater proportion than the common sources of populousness abundantly fill up—I mean, constant employment; proportioned pay according to the produce of the soil, and where the soil fails, according to the operation of the general capital; plentiful nourishment to vigorous labour; comfortable provision to decrepid age, to orphan infancy, and to accidental malady. I say nothing to the policy of the provision for the poor, in all the variety of faces under which it presents itself. This is the matter of another enquiry. I only just speak of it as of a fact, taken with others, to support me in my denial that hitherto any one of the ordinary sources of the increase of mankind is dried up by this war. I affirm, what I can well prove, that the waste has been less than the supply. To say that in war no man must be killed, is to say that there ought to be no war. This they may say, who wish to talk idly, and who would display their humanity at the expence of their honesty, or their understanding. If more lives are lost in this war than necessity requires, they are lost by misconduct or mistake. But if the hostility be just, the errour is to be corrected: the war is not to be abandoned.
That the stock of the common people, in numbers is not lessened, any more than the causes are impaired, is manifest, without being at the pains of an actual numeration. An improved and improving agriculture, which implies a great augmentation of labour, has not yet found itself at a stand, no, not for a single moment, for want of the necessary hands, either in the settled progress of husbandry, or in the occasional pressure of harvests. I have even reason to believe that there has been a much smaller importation, or the demand of it, from a neighbouring kingdom than in former times, when agriculture was more limited in it’s extent and it’s means, and when the time was a season of profound peace. On the contrary, the prolifick fertility of country life has poured it’s superfluity of population into the canals, and into other publick works which of late years have been undertaken to so amazing an extent, and which have not only not been discontinued, but beyond all expectation pushed on with redoubled vigour, in a war that calls for so many of our men, and so much of our riches. An increasing capital calls for labour: and an increasing population answers to the call. Our manufactures, augmented both for the supply of foreign and domestick consumption, reproducing with the means of life the multitudes which they use and waste, (and which many of them devour much more surely and much more largely than the war) have always found the laborious hand ready for the liberal pay. That the price of the soldier is highly raised is true. In part this rise may be owing to some measures not so well considered in the beginning of this war; but the grand cause has been the reluctance of that class of people from whom the soldiery is taken, to enter into a military life—not that but once entered into, it has it’s conveniences, and even it’s pleasures. I have seldom known a soldier who, at the intercession of his friends, and at their no small charge, had been redeemed from that discipline, that in a short time was not eager to return to it again. But the true reason is the abundant occupation, and the augmented stipend found in towns, and villages, and farms, which leaves a smaller number of persons to be disposed of. The price of men for new and untried ways of life must bear a proportion to the profits of that mode of existence from whence they are to be bought.
So far as to the stock of the common people, as it consists in their persons. As to the other part, which consists in their earnings, I have to say, that the rates of wages are very greatly augmented almost through the kingdom. In the parish where I live, it has been raised from seven to nine shillings in the week for the same labourer, performing the same task, and no greater. Except something in the malt taxes, and the duties upon sugars, I do not know any one tax imposed for very many years past which affects the labourer in any degree whatsoever; while on the other hand, the tax upon houses not having more than seven windows (that is, upon cottages) was repealed the very year before the commencement of the present war. On the whole, I am satisfied, that the humblest class, and that class which touches the most nearly on the lowest, out of which it is continually emerging, and to which it is continually falling, receives far more from publick impositions than it pays. That class receives two million sterling annually from the classes above it. It pays to no such amount towards any publick contribution.
I hope it is not necessary for me to take notice of that language, so ill suited to the persons to whom it has been attributed, and so unbecoming the place in which it is said to have been uttered, concerning the present war as the cause of the high price of provisions during the greater part of the year 1796. I presume it is only to be ascribed to the intolerable licence with which the newspapers break not only the rules of decorum in real life, but even the dramatick decorum, when they personate great men, and, like bad poets, make the heroes of the piece talk more like us Grub-street scribblers, than in a style consonant to persons of gravity and importance in the State. It was easy to demonstrate the cause, and the sole cause, of that rise in the grand article and first necessary of life. It would appear that it had no more connexion with the war, than the moderate price to which all sorts of grain were reduced, soon after the return of Lord Malmesbury, had with the state of politicks and the fate of his Lordship’s treaty. I have quite as good reason (that is, no reason at all) to attribute this abundance to the longer continuance of the war, as the gentlemen who personate leading Members of Parliament, have had for giving the enhanced price to that war, at a more early period of it’s duration. Oh, the folly of us poor creatures, who, in the midst of our distresses, or our escapes, are ready to claw or caress one another, upon matters that so seldom depend on our wisdom or our weakness, on our good or evil conduct towards each other!
An untimely shower, or an unseasonable drought; a frost too long continued, or too suddenly broken up, with rain and tempest; the blight of the spring, or the smut of the harvest; will do more to cause the distress of the belly, than all the contrivances of all Statesmen can do to relieve it. Let Government protect and encourage industry, secure property, repress violence, and discountenance fraud, it is all that they have to do. In other respects, the less they meddle in these affairs the better; the rest is in the hands of our Master and theirs. We are in a constitution of things wherein “ Modo sol nimius, modo corripit imber. ” But I will push this matter no further. As I have said a good deal upon it at various times during my publick service, and have lately written something on it, which may yet see the light, I shall content myself now with observing, that the vigorous and laborious class of life has lately got from the bon ton of the humanity of this day, the name of the “ labouring poor. ” We have heard many plans for the relief of the “ Labouring Poor. ” This puling jargon is not as innocent as it is foolish. In meddling with great affairs, weakness is never innoxious. Hitherto the name of Poor (in the sense in which it is used to excite compassion) has not been used for those who can, but for those who cannot labour—for the sick and infirm; for orphan infancy; for languishing and decrepid age: but when we affect to pity as poor, those who must labour or the world cannot exist, we are trifling with the condition of mankind. It is the common doom of man that he must eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, that is, by the sweat of his body, or the sweat of his mind. If this toil was inflicted as a curse, it is as might be expected from the curses of the Father of all Blessings—it is tempered with many alleviations, many comforts. Every attempt to fly from it, and to refuse the very terms of our existence, becomes much more truly a curse, and heavier pains and penalties fall upon those who would elude the tasks which are put upon them by the great Master Workman of the World, who in his dealings with his creatures sympathizes with their weakness, and speaking of a creation wrought by mere will out of nothing, speaks of six days of labour and one of rest. I do not call a healthy young man, chearful in his mind, and vigorous in his arms—I cannot call such a man, poor; I cannot pity my kind as a kind, merely because they are men. This affected pity only tends to dissatisfy them with their condition, and to teach them to seek resources where no resources are to be found—in something else than their own industry, and frugality, and sobriety. Whatever may be the intention (which, because I do not know, I cannot dispute) of those who would discontent mankind by this strange pity, they act towards us, in the consequences, as if they were our worst enemies.
In turning our view from the lower to the higher classes, it will not be necessary for me to shew at any length that the stock of the latter, as it consists in their numbers, has not yet suffered any material diminution. I have not seen, or heard it asserted: I have no reason to believe it. There is no want of officers, that I have ever understood, for the new ships which we commission, or the new regiments which we raise. In the nature of things it is not with their persons that the higher classes principally pay their contingent to the demands of war. There is another, and not less important, part which rests with almost exclusive weight upon them. They furnish the means,
Not that they are exempt from contributing also by their personal service in the fleets and armies of their country. They do contribute, and in their full and fair proportion, according to the relative proportion of their numbers in the community. They contribute all the mind that actuates the whole machine. The fortitude required of them is very different from the unthinking alacrity of the common soldier, or common sailor in the face of danger and death. It is not a passion, it is not an impulse, it is not a sentiment. It is a cool, steady, deliberate principle, always present, always equable; having no connexion with anger; tempering honour with prudence; incited, invigorated, and sustained by a generous love of fame; informed, moderated and directed by an enlarged knowledge of it’s own great publick ends; flowing in one blended stream from the opposite sources of the heart and the head; carrying in itself it’s own commission, and proving it’s title to every other command, by the first and most difficult command, that of the bosom in which it resides. It is a fortitude, which unites with the courage of the field the more exalted and refined courage of the council; which knows as well to retreat as to advance; which can conquer as well by delay, as by the rapidity of a march, or the impetuosity of an attack; which can be, with Fabius, the black cloud that lowers on the tops of the mountains, or with Scipio, the thunderbolt of war; which, undismayed by false shame, can patiently endure the severest trial that a gallant spirit can undergo, in the taunts and provocations of the enemy, the suspicions, the cold respect, and “mouth-honour” of those, from whom it should meet a cheerful obedience; which, undisturbed by false humanity, can calmly assume that most awful moral responsibility of deciding when victory may be too dearly purchased by the loss of a single life, and when the safety and glory of their country may demand the certain sacrifice of thousands. Different stations of command may call for different modifications of this fortitude, but the character ought to be the same in all. And never, in the most “palmy state” of our martial renown, did it shine with brighter lustre than in the present sanguinary and ferocious hostilities, wherever the British arms have been carried. But, in this most arduous, and momentous conflict, which from it’s nature should have roused us to new and unexampled efforts, I know not how it has been, that we have never put forth half the strength, which we have exerted in ordinary wars. In the fatal battles which have drenched the Continent with blood, and shaken the system of Europe to pieces, we have never had any considerable army of a magnitude to be compared to the least of those by which, in former times, we so gloriously asserted our place as protectors, not oppressors, at the head of the great Commonwealth of Europe. We have never manfully met the danger in front: and when the enemy, resigning to us our natural dominion of the ocean, and abandoning the defence of his distant possessions to the infernal energy of the destroying principles which he had planted there for the subversion of the neighbouring Colonies, drove forth, by one sweeping law of unprecedented despotism, his armed multitudes on every side, to overwhelm the Countries and States, which had for centuries stood the firm barriers against the ambition of France; we drew back the arm of our military force, which had never been more than half raised to oppose him. From that time we have been combating only with the other arm of our naval power; the right arm of England I admit; but which struck almost unresisted, with blows that could never reach the heart of the hostile mischief. From that time, without a single effort to regain those outworks, which ever till now we so strenuously maintained, as the strong frontier of our own dignity and safety, no less than the liberties of Europe; with but one feeble attempt to succour those brave, faithful, and numerous allies, whom for the first time since the days of our Edwards and Henrys, we now have in the bosom of France itself; we have been intrenching, and fortifying, and garrisoning ourselves at home: we have been redoubling security on security, to protect ourselves from invasion, which has now first become to us a serious object of alarm and terrour. Alas! the few of us, who have protracted life in any measure near to the extreme limits of our short period, have been condemned to see strange things; new systems of policy, new principles, and not only new men, but what might appear a new species of men! I believe that any person who was of age to take a part in publick affairs forty years ago, if the intermediate space of time were expunged from his memory, would hardly credit his senses, when he should hear from the highest authority, that an army of two hundred thousand men was kept up in this island, and that in the neighbouring island there were at least fourscore thousand more. But when he had recovered from his surprise on being told of this army, which has not it’s parallel, what must be his astonishment to be told again, that this mighty force was kept up for the mere purpose of an inert and passive defence, and that, in it’s far greater part, it was disabled by it’s constitution and very essence, from defending us against an enemy by any one preventive stroke, or any one operation of active hostility? What must his reflexions be, on learning further, that a fleet of five hundred men of war, the best appointed, and to the full as ably commanded as this country ever had upon the sea, was for the greater part employed in carrying on the same system of unenterprising defence? What must be the sentiments and feelings of one, who remembers the former energy of England, when he is given to understand, that these two islands, with their extensive, and every where vulnerable coast, should be considered as a garrisoned sea-town; what would such a man, what would any man think, if the garrison of so strange a fortress should be such, and so feebly commanded, as never to make a sally; and that, contrary to all which has hitherto been seen in war, an infinitely inferiour army, with the shattered relicks of an almost annihilated navy, ill found, and ill manned, may with safety besiege this superiour garrison, and without hazarding the life of a man, ruin the place, merely by the menaces and false appearances of an attack? Indeed, indeed, my dear friend, I look upon this matter of our defensive system as much the most important of all considerations at this moment. It has oppressed me with many anxious thoughts, which, more than any bodily distemper, have sunk me to the condition, in which you know that I am. Should it please Providence to restore to me even the late weak remains of my strength, I propose to make this matter the subject of a particular discussion. I only mean here to argue, that the mode of conducting the war on our part, be it good or bad, has prevented even the common havock of war in our population, and especially among that class, whose duty and privilege of superiority it is, to lead the way amidst the perils and slaughter of the field of battle.
The other causes, which sometimes affect the numbers of the lower classes, but which I have shewn not to have existed to any such degree during this war—penury, cold, hunger, nakedness, do not easily reach the higher orders of society. I do not dread for them the slightest taste of these calamities from the distress and pressure of the war. They have much more to dread in that way from the confiscations, the rapines, the burnings, and the massacres, that may follow in the train of a peace, which shall establish the devastating and depopulating principles and example of the French Regicides, in security, and triumph and dominion. In the ordinary course of human affairs, any check to population among men in ease and opulence, is less to be apprehended from what they may suffer, than from what they enjoy. Peace is more likely to be injurious to them in that respect than war. The excesses of delicacy, repose, and satiety, are as unfavourable as the extremes of hardship, toil, and want, to the increase and multiplication of our kind. Indeed, the abuse of the bounties of Nature, much more surely than any partial privation of them, tends to intercept that precious boon of a second and dearer life in our progeny, which was bestowed in the first great command to man from the All-gracious Giver of all, whose name be blessed, whether he gives or takes away. His hand, in every page of his book, has written the lesson of moderation. Our physical well-being, our moral worth, our social happiness, our political tranquillity, all depend on that controul of all our appetites and passions, which the ancients designed by the cardinal virtue of Temperance.
The only real question to our present purpose, with regard to the higher classes, is, how stands the account of their stock, as it consists in wealth of every description? Have the burthens of the war compelled them to curtail any part of their former expenditure; which, I have before observed, affords the only standard of estimating property as an object of taxation? Do they enjoy all the same conveniencies, the same comforts, the same elegancies, the same luxuries, in the same, or in as many different modes as they did before the war?
In the last eleven years, there have been no less than three solemn enquiries into the finances of the kingdom, by three different Committees of your House. The first was in the year 1786. On that occasion, I remember, the Report of the Committee was examined, and sifted, and bolted to the bran, by a gentleman whose keen and powerful talents I have ever admired. He thought there was not sufficient evidence to warrant the pleasing representation, which the Committee had made, of our national prosperity. He did not believe that our publick revenue could continue to be so productive as they had assumed. He even went the length of recording his own inferences of doubt, in a set of resolutions, which now stand upon your Journals. And perhaps the retrospect, on which the Report proceeded, did not go far enough back, to allow any sure and satisfactory average for a ground of solid calculation. But what was the event? When the next Committee sate in 1791, they found, that, on an average of the last four years, their predecessors had fallen short in their estimate of the permanent taxes, by more than three hundred and forty thousand pounds a year. Surely then, if I can show that in the produce of those same taxes, and more particularly of such as affect articles of luxurious use and consumption, the four years of the war have equalled those four years of peace, flourishing, as they were, beyond the most sanguine speculations, I may expect to hear no more of the distress occasioned by the war.
The additional burdens which have been laid on some of those same articles, might reasonably claim some allowance to be made. Every new advance of the price to the consumer, is a new incentive to him to retrench the quantity of his consumption; and if, upon the whole, he pays the same, his property, computed by the standard of what he voluntarily pays, must remain the same. But I am willing to forego that fair advantage in the enquiry. I am willing that the receipts of the permanent taxes which existed before January 1793, should be compared during the war, and during the period of peace which I have mentioned. I will go further. Complete accounts of the year 1791 were separately laid before your House. I am ready to stand by a comparison of the produce of four years up to the beginning of the year 1792, with that of the war. Of the year immediately previous to hostilities, I have not been able to obtain any perfect documents; but I have seen enough to satisfy me, that although a comparison including that year might be less favourable, yet it would not essentially injure my argument.
You will always bear in mind, my dear Sir, that I am not considering whether, if the common enemy of the quiet of Europe had not forced us to take up arms in our own defence, the spring-tide of our prosperity might not have flowed higher than the mark at which it now stands. That consideration is connected with the question of the justice and the necessity of the war. It is a question which I have long since discussed. I am now endeavouring to ascertain whether there exists, in fact, any such necessity as we hear every day asserted, to furnish a miserable pretext for counselling us to surrender, at discretion, our conquests, our honour, our dignity, our very independence, and, with it, all that is dear to man. It will be more than sufficient for that purpose, if I can make it appear that we have been stationary during the war. What then will be said, if, in reality, it shall be proved that there is every indication of increased and increasing wealth, not only poured into the grand reservoir of the national capital, but diffused through all the channels of all the higher classes, and giving life and activity, as it passes, to the agriculture, the manufactures, the commerce, and the navigation of the country?
The Finance Committee, which has been appointed in this Session, has already made two reports. Every conclusion that I had before drawn, as you know, from my own observation, I have the satisfaction of seeing there confirmed by their authority. Large as was the sum, by which the Committee of 1791 found the estimate of 1786 to have been exceeded in the actual produce of four years of peace, their own estimate has been exceeded, during the war, by a sum more than one-third larger. The same taxes have yielded more than half a million beyond their calculation. They yielded this, notwithstanding the stoppage of the distilleries, against which you may remember that I privately remonstrated. With an allowance for that defalcation, they have yielded sixty thousand pounds annually above the actual average of the preceding four years of peace. I believe this to have been without parallel in all former wars. If regard be had to the great and unavoidable burthens of the present war, I am confident of the fact.
But let us descend to particulars. The taxes, which go by the general name of assessed taxes, comprehend the whole, or nearly the whole domestick establishment of the rich. They include some things, which belong to the middling, and even to all but the very lowest, classes. They now consist of the duties on houses and windows, on male servants, horses, and carriages. They did also extend to cottages, to female servants, waggons, and carts used in husbandry, previous to the year 1792; when, with more enlightened policy, at the moment that the possibility of war could not be out of the contemplation of any statesman, the wisdom of Parliament confined them to their present objects. I shall give the gross assessment for five years, as I find it in the Appendix to the second Report of your Committee:
Here will be seen a gradual increase during the whole progress of the war: and if1 I am correctly informed, the rise in the last year, after every deduction that can be made, almost surpasses belief. It is enormously out of all proportion to the increase, not of any single year, but of all the years put together, since the time that the duties, which I have mentioned above, were repealed.
There are some other taxes, which seem to have a reference to the same general head. The present Minister, many years ago, subjected bricks and tiles to a duty under the excise. It is of little consequence to our present consideration, whether these materials have been employed in building more commodious, more elegant, and more magnificent habitations, or in enlarging, decorating, and remodelling those, which sufficed for our plainer ancestors. During the first two years of the war, they paid so largely to the publick revenue, that in 1794 a new duty was laid upon them, which was equal to one half of the old, and which has produced upwards of £165,000 in the last three years. Yet notwithstanding the pressure of this additional weight,1 there has been an actual augmentation in the consumption. The only two other articles which come under this description, are, the stamp-duty on gold and silver plate, and the Customs on glass-plates. This latter is now, I believe, the single instance of costly furniture to be found in the catalogue of our imports. If it were wholly to vanish, I should not think we were ruined. Both the duties have risen, during the war, very considerably in proportion to the total of their produce.
We have no tax among us on the great necessaries of life with regard to food. The receipts of our Custom-House, under the head of Groceries, afford us, however, some means of calculating our luxuries of the table. The articles of Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa-Nuts, I would propose to omit, and to take them instead from the Excise, as best showing what is consumed at home. Upon this principle, adding them altogether (with the exception of Sugar, for a reason which I shall afterwards mention) I find that they have produced, in one mode of comparison, upwards of £272,000, and in the other mode, upwards of £165,000, more, during the war than in peace.1 An additional duty was also laid in 1795 on Tea, another on Coffee, and a third on Raisins; an article, together with currants, of much more extensive use than would readily be imagined. The balance in favour of our argument would have been much enhanced, if our Coffee and fruit-ships from the Mediterranean had arrived, last year, at their usual season. They do not appear in these accounts. This was one consequence arising (would to God, that none more afflicting to Italy, to Europe, and the whole civilized world had arisen!) from our impolitick and precipitate desertion of that important maritime station. As to Sugar,1 I have excluded it from the Groceries, because the account of the Customs is not a perfect criterion of the consumption, much having been re-exported to the north of Europe, which used to be supplied by France; and there are no materials to furnish grounds for computing this re-exportation. The increase on the face of our entries is immense during the four years of war—little short of thirteen hundred thousand pounds.
The encrease of the duties on Beer has been regularly progressive, or nearly so, to a very large amount.2 It is a good deal above a million, and is more than equal to one-eighth of the whole produce. Under this general head, some other liquors are included—Cyder, Perry, and Mead, as well as Vinegar, and Verjuice; but these are of very trifling consideration. The Excise-Duties on Wine, having sunk a little during the first two years of the war, were rapidly recovering their level again. In 1795, a heavy additional duty was imposed upon them, and a second in the following year; yet being compared with four years of peace to the end of 1790, they actually exhibit a small gain to the revenue. And low as the importation may seem in 1796, when contrasted with any year since the French Treaty in 1787, it is still more than 3000 tons above the average importation for three years previous to that period. I have added Sweets, from which our factitious Wines are made; and I would have added Spirits, but that the total alteration of the duties in 1789 and the recent interruption of our Distilleries, rendered any comparison impracticable.
The ancient staple of our island, in which we are clothed, is very imperfectly to be traced on the books of the Custom-House: but I know, that our Woollen Manufactures flourish. I recollect to have seen that fact very fully established, last year, from the registers kept in the West-Riding of Yorkshire. This year, in the west of England I received a similar account, on the authority of a respectable clothier, in that quarter, whose testimony can less be questioned, because, in his political opinions, he is adverse, as I understand, to the continuance of the war. The principal articles of female dress, for some time past, have been Muslins and Callicoes.1 These elegant fabricks of our own looms in the East, which serve for the remittance of our own revenues, have lately been imitated at home, with improving success, by the ingenious and enterprising manufacturers of Manchester, Paisley, and Glasgow. At the same time the importation from Bengal has kept pace with the extension of our own dexterity and industry; while the sale of our printed goods,1 of both kinds, has been with equal steadiness advanced, by the taste and execution of our designers and artists. Our Woollens and Cottons, it is true, are not all for the home market. They do not distinctly prove, what is my present point, our own wealth by our own expence. I admit it: we export them in great and growing quantities: and they, who croak themselves hoarse about the decay of our trade, may put as much of this account, as they chuse, to the creditor side of money received from other countries in payment for British skill and labour. They may settle the items to their own liking, where all goes to demonstrate our riches. I shall be contented here with whatever they will have the goodness to leave me, and pass to another entry, which is less ambiguous—I mean that of Silk.1 The manufactory itself is a forced plant. We have been obliged to guard it from foreign competition by very strict prohibitory laws. What we import, is the raw and prepared material, which is worked up in various ways, and worn in various shapes by both sexes. After what we have just seen, you will probably be surprised to learn, that the quantity of silk, imported during the war, has been much greater, than it was previously in peace; and yet we must all remember to our mortification, that several of our silk ships fell a prey to Citizen Admiral Richery. You will hardly expect me to go through the tape and thread, and all the other small wares of haberdashery and millinery to be gleaned up among our imports. But I shall make one observation, and with great satisfaction, respecting them. They gradually diminish, as our own manufactures of the same description spread into their places; while the account of ornamental articles which our country does not produce, and we cannot wish it to produce, continues, upon the whole, to rise, in spite of all the caprices of fancy and fashion. Of this kind are the different furs1 used for muffs, trimmings, and linings, which, as the chief of the kind, I shall particularize. You will find them below.
The diversions of the higher classes form another, and the only remaining, head of enquiry into their expences. I mean those diversions which distinguish the country and the town life; which are visible and tangible to the Statesman; which have some publick measure and standard. And here, when I look to the report of your Committee, I, for the first time, perceive a failure. It is clearly so. Whichever way I reckon the four years of peace, the old tax on the sports of the field has certainly proved deficient since the war. The same money, however, or nearly the same, has been paid to Government; though the same number of individuals have not contributed to the payment. An additional tax was laid in 1791, and, during the war, has produced upwards of £61,000; which is about £4000 more than the decrease of the old tax, in one scheme of comparison; and about £4000 less, in the other scheme. I might remark that the amount of the new tax, in the several years of the war, by no means bears the proportion, which it ought, to the old. There seems to be some great irregularity or other in the receipt: but I do not think it worth while to examine into the argument. I am willing to suppose that many, who, in the idleness of peace, made war upon partridges, hares, and pheasants, may now carry more noble arms against the enemies of their country. Our political adversaries may do what they please with that concession. They are welcome to make the most of it. I am sure of a very handsome set-off in the other branch of expence; the amusements of a town-life.
There is much gaiety, and dissipation, and profusion, which must escape and disappoint all the arithmetick of political oeconomy. But the Theatres are a prominent feature. They are established through every part of the kingdom, at a cost unknown till our days. There is hardly a provincial capital, which does not possess, or which does not aspire to possess, a Theatre-Royal. Most of them engage for a short time, at a vast price, every actor or actress of name in the metropolis; a distinction, which, in the reign of my old friend Garrick, was confined to very few. The dresses, the scenes, the decorations of every kind, I am told, are in a new style of splendour and magnificence; whether to the advantage of our dramatick taste, upon the whole, I very much doubt. It is a shew, and a spectacle, not a play, that is exhibited. This is undoubtedly in the genuine manner of the Augustan age, but in a manner, which was censured by one of the best Poets and Criticks of that or any age:
I must interrupt the passage, most fervently to deprecate and abominate the sequel,
I hope, that no French fraternization, which the relations of peace and amity with systematized Regicide, would assuredly, sooner or later, draw after them, even if it should overturn our happy constitution itself, could so change the hearts of Englishmen, as to make them delight in representations and processions, which have no other merit than that of degrading and insulting the name of Royalty. But good taste, manners, morals, religion, all fly, wherever the principles of Jacobinism enter: and we have no safety against them but in arms.
The Proprietors, whether in this they follow or lead what is called the town, to furnish out these gaudy and pompous entertainments, must collect so much more from the Publick. It was just before the breaking out of hostilities, that they levied for themselves the very tax, which, at the close of the American war, they represented to Lord North, as certain ruin to their affairs to demand for the State. The example has since been imitated by the Managers of our Italian Opera. Once during the war, if not twice (I would not willingly misstate any thing, but I am not very accurate on these subjects) they have raised the price of their subscription. Yet I have never heard, that any lasting dissatisfaction has been manifested, or that their houses have been unusually and constantly thin. On the contrary, all the three theatres have been repeatedly altered, and refitted, and enlarged, to make them capacious of the crowds that nightly flock to them; and one of those huge and lofty piles, which lifts its broad shoulders in gigantick pride, almost emulous of the temples of God, has been reared from the foundation at a charge of more than fourscore thousand pounds, and yet remains a naked, rough, unsightly heap.
I am afraid, my dear Sir, that I have tired you with these dull, though important details. But we are upon a subject, which, like some of a higher nature, refuses ornament, and is contented with conveying instruction. I know too the obstinacy of unbelief, in those perverted minds, which have no delight, but in contemplating the supposed distress, and predicting the immediate ruin, of their country. These birds of evil presage, at all times, have grated our ears with their melancholy song; and, by some strange fatality or other, it has generally happened, that they have poured forth their loudest and deepest lamentations, at the periods of our most abundant prosperity. Very early in my publick life, I had occasion to make myself a little acquainted with their natural history. My first political tract in the collection, which a friend has made of my publications, is an answer to a very gloomy picture of the state of the nation, which was thought to have been drawn by a statesman of some eminence in his time. That was no more than the common spleen of disappointed ambition: in the present day, I fear, that too many are actuated by a more malignant and dangerous spirit. They hope, by depressing our minds with a despair of our means and resources, to drive us, trembling and unresisting, into the toils of our enemies, with whom, from the beginning of the Revolution in France, they have ever moved in strict concert and co-operation. If, with the report of your Finance Committee in their hands, they can still affect to despond, and can still succeed, as they do, in spreading the contagion of their pretended fears, among well-disposed, though weak men; there is no way of counteracting them, but by fixing them down to particulars. Nor must we forget, that they are unwearied agitators, bold assertors, dextrous sophisters. Proof must be accumulated upon proof, to silence them. With this view, I shall now direct your attention to some other striking and unerring indications of our flourishing condition; and they will in general be derived from other sources, but equally authentick; from other reports and proceedings of both Houses of Parliament, all which unite with wonderful force of consent in the same general result. Hitherto we have seen the superfluity of our capital discovering itself only in procuring superfluous accommodation and enjoyment, in our houses, in our furniture, in our establishments, in our eating and drinking, our clothing, and our publick diversions. We shall now see it more beneficially employed in improving our territory itself. We shall see part of our present opulence, with provident care, put out to usury for posterity.
To what ultimate extent it may be wise or practicable to push inclosures of common and waste lands, may be a question of doubt, in some points of view. But no person thinks them already carried to excess; and the relative magnitude of the sums laid out upon them gives us a standard of estimating the comparative situation of the landed interest. Your House, this Session, appointed a Committee on Waste Lands, and they have made a Report by their chairman, an Honourable Baronet, for whom the Minister the other day, (with very good intentions, I believe, but with little real profit to the publick) thought fit to erect a Board of Agriculture. The account, as it stands there, appears sufficiently favourable. The greatest number of inclosing bills, passed in any one year of the last peace, does not equal the smallest annual number in the war; and those of the last year exceed, by more than one half, the highest year of peace. But what was my surprise, on looking into the late report of the Secret Committee of the Lords, to find a list of these Bills during the war, differing in every year, and larger on the whole, by nearly one third!1 I have checked this account by the Statute-Book, and find it to be correct. What new brilliancy then does it throw over the prospect, bright as it was before! The number during the last four years, has more than doubled that of the four years immediately preceding; it has surpassed the five years of peace, beyond which the Lords Committees have not gone; it has even surpassed (I have verified the fact) the whole ten years of peace. I cannot stop here. I cannot advance a single step in this enquiry, without being obliged to cast my eyes back to the period when I first knew the country. These Bills, which had begun in the reign of Queen Anne, had passed every year in greater or less numbers from the year 1723; yet in all that space of time, they had not reached the amount of any two years during the present war; and though soon after that time they rapidly increased, still, at the accession of his present Majesty, they were very far short of the number passed in the four years of hostilities.
In my first Letter I mentioned the state of our inland navigation, neglected as it had been from the reign of King William to the time of my observation. It was not till the present reign, that the Duke of Bridgwater’s canal first excited a spirit of speculation and adventure in this way. This spirit shewed itself, but necessarily made no great progress, in the American war. When peace was restored, it began of course to work with more sensible effect; yet in ten years from that event, the Bills passed on that subject were not so many as from the year 1793 to the present Session of Parliament. From what I can trace on the Statute-Book, I am confident that all the capital expended in these projects during the peace, bore no degree of proportion, (I doubt on very grave consideration whether all that was ever so expended was equal) to the money which has been raised for the same purposes, since the war.1 I know, that in the last four years of peace, when they rose regularly, and rapidly, the sums specified in the acts were not near one-third of the subsequent amount. In the last Session of Parliament, the Grand Junction Company, as it is called, having sunk half a million, (of which I feel the good effects at my own door) applied to your House, for permission to subscribe half as much more, among themselves. This Grand Junction is an inoculation of the Grand Trunk: and in the present Session, the latter Company has obtained the authority of Parliament, to float two hundred acres of land, for the purpose of forming a reservoir, thirty feet deep, two hundred yards wide at the head, and two miles in length; a lake which may almost vie with that which feeds, what once was the (now obliterated) canal of Languedoc.
The present war is, above all others of which we have heard or read, a war against landed property. That description of property is in it’s nature the firm base of every stable government; and has been so considered, by all the wisest writers of the old philosophy, from the time of the Stagyrite, who observes that the agricultural class of all others is the least inclined to sedition. We find it to have been so regarded in the practical politicks of antiquity, where they are brought more directly home to our understandings and bosoms, in the History of Rome, and above all, in the writings of Cicero. The country tribes were always thought more respectable, than those of the City. And if in our own history, there is any one circumstance to which, under God, are to be attributed the steady resistance, the fortunate issue, and sober settlement, of all our struggles for liberty, it is, that while the landed interest, instead of forming a separate body, as in other countries, has, at all times, been in close connexion and union with the other great interests of the country, it has been spontaneously allowed to lead and direct, and moderate all the rest. I cannot, therefore, but see with singular gratification that during a war which has been eminently made for the destruction of the landed proprietors, as well as of Priests and Kings, as much has been done, by publick works, for the permanent benefit of their stake in this country, as in all the rest of the current century, which now touches to it’s close. Perhaps, after this, it may not be necessary to refer to private observation; but I am satisfied, that in general, the rents of lands have been considerably increased: they are increased very considerably indeed, if I may draw any conclusion from my own little property of that kind. I am not ignorant, however, where our publick burdens are most galling. But all of this class will consider, who they are, that are principally menaced; how little the men of their description in other countries, where this revolutionary fury has but touched, have been found equal to their own protection; how tardy, and unprovided, and full of anguish in their flight, chained down as they are by every tie to the soil; how helpless they are, above all other men, in exile, in poverty, in need, in all the varieties of wretchedness; and then let them well weigh what are the burdens to which they ought not to submit for their own salvation.
Many of the authorities, which I have already adduced, or to which I have referred, may convey a competent notion of some of our principal manufactures. Their general state will be clear from that of our external and internal commerce, through which they circulate, and of which they are at once the cause and effect. But the communication of the several parts of the kingdom with each other, and with foreign countries, has always been regarded as one of the most certain tests to evince the prosperous or adverse state of our trade in all it’s branches. Recourse has usually been had to the revenue of the Post-office with this view. I shall include the product of the Tax which was laid in the last war, and which will make the evidence more conclusive, if it shall afford the same inference—I allude to the Post-Horse duty, which shews the personal intercourse within the Kingdom, as the Post-office shews the intercourse by letters, both within and without. The first of these standards, then, exhibits an increase, according to my former schemes of comparison, from an eleventh to a twentieth part of the whole duty.1 The Post-office gives still less consolation to those who are miserable, in proportion as the country feels no misery. From the commencement of the war, to the month of April, 1796, the gross produce had increased by nearly one sixth of the whole sum which the state now derives from that fund. I find that the year ending 5th of April, 1793, gave £627,592, and the year ending at the same quarter in 1796, £750,637, after a fair deduction having been made for the alteration (which, you know, on grounds of policy I never approved) in your privilege of franking. I have seen no formal document subsequent to that period, but I have been credibly informed, there is very good ground to believe, that the revenue of the Post-office1 still continues to be regularly and largely upon the rise.
What is the true inference to be drawn from the annual number of bankruptcies, has been the occasion of much dispute. On one side, it has been confidently urged as a sure symptom of decaying trade: on the other side, it has been insisted, that it is a circumstance attendant upon a thriving trade; for that the greater is the whole quantity of trade, the greater of course must be the positive number of failures, while the aggregate success is still in the same proportion. In truth, the increase of the number may arise from either of those causes. But all must agree in one conclusion, that, if the number diminishes, and at the same time, every other sort of evidence tends to shew an augmentation of trade, there can be no better indication. We have already had very ample means of gathering that the year 1796 was a very favourable year of trade; and in that year the number of Bankruptcies was at least one-fifth below the usual average. I take this from the Declaration of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords.1 He professed to speak from the records of Chancery; and he added another very striking fact—that on the property actually paid into his Court (a very small part, indeed, of the whole property of the kingdom) there had accrued in that year a nett surplus of eight hundred thousand pounds, which was so much new capital.
But the real situation of our trade, during the whole of this war, deserves more minute investigation. I shall begin with that, which, though the least in consequence, makes perhaps the most impression on our senses, because it meets our eyes in our daily walks—I mean our retail trade. The exuberant display of wealth in our shops was the sight which most amazed a learned foreigner of distinction who lately resided among us. His expression, I remember, was, that “ they seemed to be bursting with opulence into the streets. ” The documents which throw light on this subject are not many; but they all meet in the same point: all concur in exhibiting an increase. The most material are the General Licences1 which the law requires to be taken out by all dealers in exciseable commodities. These seem to be subject to considerable fluctuations. They have not been so low in any year of the war, as in the years 1788 and 1789, nor ever so high in peace, as in the first year of the war. I should next state the licences to dealers in Spirits and Wine, but the change in them which took place in 1789 would give an unfair advantage to my argument. I shall therefore content myself with remarking, that from the date of that change the spirit licences kept nearly the same level till the stoppage of the Distilleries in 1795. If they dropped a little, and it was but little, the Wine Licences during the same time more than countervailed that loss to the revenue; and it is remarkable with regard to the latter, that in the year 1796, which was the lowest in the excise duties on wine itself, as well as in the quantity imported, more dealers in wine appear to have been licenced, than in any former year, excepting the first year of the war. This fact may raise some doubt, whether the consumption has been lessened so much, as (I believe) is commonly imagined. The only other retail-traders, whom I found so entered as to admit of being selected, are Tea-dealers, and sellers of Gold and Silver Plate; both of whom seem to have multiplied very much in proportion to their aggregate number.1 I have kept apart one set of licensed sellers, because I am aware that our antagonists may be inclined to triumph a little, when I name Auctioneers and Auctions. They may be disposed to consider it as a sort of trade which thrives by the distress of others. But if they will look at it a little more attentively, they will find their gloomy comfort vanish. The publick income from these licences has risen with very great regularity, through a series of years which all must admit to have been years of prosperity. It is remarkable too, that in the year 1793, which was the great year of Bankruptcies, these duties on Auctioneers and Auctions,2 fell below the mark of 1791; and in 1796, which year had one fifth less than the accustomed average of Bankruptcies, they mounted at once beyond all former examples. In concluding this general head, will you permit me, my dear Sir, to bring to your notice an humble, but industrious and laborious set of chapmen against whom the vengeance of your House has sometimes been levelled, with what policy I need not stay to enquire, as they have escaped without much injury? The Hawkers and Pedlars,1  I am assured, are still doing well, though from some new arrangements respecting them made in 1789, it would be difficult to trace their proceedings in any satisfactory manner.
When such is the vigour of our traffick in it’s minutest ramifications, we may be persuaded that the root and the trunk are sound. When we see the life-blood of the State circulate so freely through the capillary vessels of the system, we scarcely need enquire, if the heart performs its functions aright. But let us approach it; let us lay it bare, and watch the systole and diastole, as it now receives, and now pours forth the vital stream through all the members. The port of London has always supplied the main evidence of the state of our commerce. I know, that amidst all the difficulties and embarrassments of the year 1793, from causes unconnected with and prior to the war, the tonnage of ships in the Thames actually rose. But I shall not go through a detail of official papers on this point. There is evidence which has appeared this very session before your House, infinitely more forcible and impressive to my apprehension, than all the journals and ledgers of all the Inspectors General from the days of Davenant. It is such as cannot carry with it any sort of fallacy. It comes, not from one set, but from many opposite sets of witnesses, who all agree in nothing else; witnesses of the gravest and most unexceptionable character, and who confirm what they say, in the surest manner, by their conduct. Two different bills have been brought in for improving the port of London. I have it from very good intelligence, that when the project was first suggested from necessity, there were no less than eight different plans, supported by eight different bodies of subscribers. The cost of the least was estimated at two hundred thousand pounds, and of the most extensive, at twelve hundred thousand. The two between which the contest now lies, substantially agree (as all the others must have done) in the motives and reasons of the preamble: but I shall confine myself to that bill which is proposed on the part of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, because I regard them as the best authority, and their language in itself is fuller and more precise. I certainly see them complain of the “great delays, accidents, damages, losses, and extraordinary expences, which are almost continually sustained, to the hindrance and discouragement of commerce, and the great injury of the publick revenues.” But what are the causes to which they attribute their complaints? The first is, “ That from the very GREAT and PROGRESSIVE INCREASE of the NUMBER and SIZE of ships and other vessels, trading to the port of london; the River Thames is, in general, so much crowded that the navigation of a considerable part of the river is rendered tedious and dangerous; and there is much want of room for the safe and convenient mooring of vessels, and constant access to them.” The second is of the same nature. It is the want of regulations and arrangements, never before found necessary, for expedition and facility. The third is of another kind, but to the same effect: “that the legal quays are too confined, and there is not sufficient accommodation for the landing and shipping of cargoes.” And the fourth and last is still different; they describe “the avenues to the legal quays,” (which little more than a century since, the great fire of London opened and dilated beyond the measure of our then circumstances) to be now “much too narrow, and incommodious, for the great concourse of carts and other carriages usually passing and repassing there.” Thus, our trade has grown too big for the ancient limits of art and nature. Our streets, our lanes, our shores, the river itself, which has so long been our pride, are impeded, and obstructed, and choaked up by our riches. They are like our shops, “bursting with opulence.” To these misfortunes, to these distresses and grievances alone, we are told, it is tobe imputed that still more of our capital has not been pushed into the channel of our commerce, to roll back in it’s reflux still more abundant capital, and fructify the national treasury in it’s course. Indeed, my dear Sir, when I have before my eyes this consentient testimony of the Corporation of the City of London, the West-India Merchants, and all the other Merchants who promoted the other plans, struggling and contending, which of them shall be permitted to lay out their money in consonance with their testimony; I cannot turn aside to examine what one or two violent petitions, tumultuously voted by real or pretended Liverymen of London, may have said of the utter destruction and annihilation of trade.
This opens a subject, on which every true lover of his country, and at this crisis, every friend to the liberties of Europe, and of social order in every country, must dwell and expatiate with delight. I mean to wind up all my proofs of our astonishing and almost incredible prosperity, with the valuable information given to the Secret Committee of the Lords by the Inspector-General. And here I am happy that I can administer an antidote to all despondence, from the same dispensary from which the first dose of poison was supposed to have come. The Report of that Committee is generally believed to have been drawn up, (and it is certainly done with great ability) by the same noble Lord, who was said, as the author of the pamphlet of 1795, to have led the way in teaching us to place all our hope on that very experiment, which he afterwards declared in his place to have been from the beginning utterly without hope. We have now his authority to say, that as far as our resources were concerned, the experiment was equally without necessity.
“It appears,” as he has very justly and satisfactorily observed, “by the accounts of the value of the imports and exports for the last twenty years, produced by Mr. Irving, that the demand for cash to be sent abroad” (which by the way, including the loan to the Emperor, was nearly one third less sent to the Continent of Europe, than in the seven years war) “was greatly compensated by a very large balance of commerce in favour of this kingdom; greater than was ever known in any preceding period. The value of the exports of the last year amounted, according to the valuation on which the accounts of the Inspector General are founded, to £30,424,184; which is more than double what it was in any year of the American war, and one third more than it was on the average during the last peace, previous to the year 1792; and though the value of the imports to this country has, during the same peace, greatly increased, the excess of the value of the exports above that of the imports, which constitutes the balance of trade, has augmented even in a greater proportion.” These observations might perhaps be branched out into other points of view, but I shall leave them to your own active and ingenious mind. There is another and still more important light in which the Inspector General’s information may be seen; and that is, as affording a comparison of some circumstances in this war, with the commercial history of all our other wars in the present century.
In all former hostilities, our exports gradually declined in value, and then (with one single exception) ascended again, till they reached and passed the level of the preceding peace. But this was a work of time, sometimes more, sometimes less slow. In Queen Anne’s war, which began in 1702, it was an interval of ten years, before this was effected. Nine years only were necessary in the war of 1739, for the same operation. The Seven Years’ war saw the period much shortened: hostilities began in 1755, and in 1758, the fourth year of the war, the exports mounted above the peace-mark. There was, however, a distinguishing feature of that war, that our tonnage, to the very last moment, was in a state of great depression, while our commerce was chiefly carried on by foreign vessels. The American war was darkened with singular and peculiar adversity. Our exports never came near to their peaceful elevation, and our tonnage continued, with very little fluctuation, to subside lower and lower.1 On the other hand, the present war, with regard to our commerce, has the white mark of a singular felicity. If from internal causes, as well as the consequence of hostilities, the tide ebbed in 1793, it rushed back again with a bore in the following year; and from that time has continued to swell, and run, every successive year, higher and higher into all our ports. The value of our exports last year above the year 1792 (the mere increase of our commerce during the war) is equal to the average value of all the exports during the wars of William and Anne.
It has been already pointed out, that our imports have not kept pace with our exports; of course, on the face of the account, the balance of trade, both positively and comparatively considered, must have been much more than ever in our favour. In that early little tract of mine, to which I have already more than once referred, I made many observations on the usual method of computing that balance, as well as the usual objection to it, that the entries at the Custom-House were not always true. As you probably remember them, I shall not repeat them here. On the one hand, I am not surprised that the same trite objection is perpetually renewed by the detractors of our national affluence; and on the other hand I am gratified in perceiving, that the balance of trade seems to be now computed in a manner much clearer, than it used to be, from those errors which I formerly noticed. The Inspector-General appears to have made his estimate with every possible guard and caution. His opinion is entitled to the greatest respect. It was in substance (I shall again use the words of the noble Reporter, as much better than my own) “That the true balance of our trade amounted, on a medium of the four years preceding January 1796, to upwards of £6,500,000 per annum, exclusive of the profits arising from our East and West India trade, which he estimates at upwards of £4,000,000 per annum; exclusive of the profits derived from our fisheries.” So that including the fisheries, and making a moderate allowance for the exceedings, which Mr. Irving himself supposes, beyond his calculation; without reckoning, what the public creditors themselves pay to themselves, and without taking one shilling from the stock of the landed interest; our colonies, our oriental possessions, our skill and industry, our commerce, and navigation, at the commencement of this year, were pouring a new annual capital into the kingdom hardly half a million short of the whole interest of that tremendous debt, from which we are taught to shrink in dismay, as from an overwhelming and intolerable oppression.
If then the real state of this nation is such as I have described, and I am only apprehensive that you may think I have taken too much pains to exclude all doubt on this question—if no class is lessened in it’s numbers, or in it’s stock, or in it’s conveniencies, or even it’s luxuries; if they build as many habitations, and as elegant and as commodious as ever, and furnish them with every chargeable decoration, and every prodigality of ingenious invention, that can be thought of by those who even encumber their necessities with superfluous accommodation; if they are as numerously attended; if their equipages are as splendid; if they regale at table with as much or more variety of plenty than ever; if they are clad in as expensive and changeful a diversity according to their tastes and modes; if they are not deterred from the pleasures of the field by the charges, which Government has wisely turned from the culture to the sports of the field; if the theatres are as rich and as well filled, and greater, and at a higher price than ever; and, what is more important than all, if it is plain from the treasures which are spread over the soil, or confided to the winds and the seas, that there are as many who are indulgent to their propensities of parsimony, as others to their voluptuous desires, and that the pecuniary capital grows instead of diminishing; on what ground are we authorized to say that a nation gambolling in an ocean of superfluity is undone by want? With what face can we pretend, that they who have not denied any one gratification to any one appetite, have a right to plead poverty in order to famish their virtues, and to put their duties on short allowance? That they are to take the law from an imperious enemy, and can contribute no longer to the honour of their king, to the support of the independence of their country, to the salvation of that Europe, which, if it falls, must crush them with its gigantick ruins? How can they affect to sweat, and stagger, and groan under their burthens, to whom the mines of Newfoundland, richer than those of Mexico and Peru, are now thrown in as a make-weight in the scale of their exorbitant opulence? What excuse can they have to faint, and creep, and cringe, and prostrate themselves at the footstool of ambition and crime, who, during a short though violent struggle, which they have never supported with the energy of men, have amassed more to their annual accumulation, than all the well-husbanded capital that enabled their ancestors by long, and doubtful, and obstinate conflicts to defend, and liberate, and vindicate the civilized world? But I do not accuse the People of England. As to the great majority of the nation, they have done whatever in their several ranks, and conditions, and descriptions, was required of them by their relative situations in society; and from those the great mass of mankind cannot depart, without the subversion of all publick order. They look up to that Government, which they obey that they may be protected. They ask to be led and directed by those rulers, whom Providence and the laws of their country have set over them, and under their guidance to walk in the ways of safety and honour. They have again delegated the greatest trust which they have to bestow, to those faithful representatives who made their true voice heard against the disturbers and destroyers of Europe. They suffered, with unapproving acquiescence, solicitations, which they had in no shape desired, to an unjust and usurping Power, whom they had never provoked, and whose hostile menaces they did not dread. When the exigencies of the publick service could only be met by their voluntary zeal, they started forth with an ardour which outstripped the wishes of those, who had injured them by doubting, whether it might not be necessary to have recourse to compulsion. They have, in all things, reposed an enduring, but not an unreflecting confidence. That confidence demands a full return; and fixes a responsibility on the Ministers entire and undivided. The People stands acquitted, if the war is not carried on in a manner suited to it’s objects. If the publick honour is tarnished; if the publick safety suffers any detriment; they, not the People, are to answer it, and they alone. It’s armies, it’s navies, are given to them without stint or restriction. It’s treasures are poured out at their feet. It’s constancy is ready to second all their efforts. They are not to fear a responsibility for acts of manly adventure. The responsibility which they are to dread, is, lest they should shew themselves unequal to the expectation of a brave people. The more doubtful may be the constitutional and oeconomical questions, upon which they have received so marked a support, the more loudly they are called upon to support this great war, for the success of which their country is willing to supersede considerations of no slight importance. Where I speak of responsibility, I do not mean to exclude that species of it, which the legal powers of the country have a right finally to exact from those who abuse a public trust; but high as this is, there is a responsibility which attaches on them, from which the whole legitimate power of the kingdom cannot absolve them; there is a responsibility to conscience and to glory; a responsibility to the existing world, and to that posterity, which men of their eminence cannot avoid for glory or for shame; a responsibility to a tribunal, at which, not only Ministers, but Kings and Parliaments, but even Nations themselves, must one day answer.
To the Earl Fitzwilliam
[Christmas, 1795. First printed by Bishop King, from Burke’s Manuscript, in vol. v. of the 4to ed. of Burke’s Works, 1812.]
My dear Lord,
I am not sure, that the best way of discussing any subject, except those that concern the abstracted sciences, is not somewhat in the way of dialogue. To this mode, however, there are two objections. The first, that it happens, as in the puppet-show, one man speaks for all the personages. An unnatural uniformity of tone is in a manner unavoidable. The other, and more serious objection is, that as the author (if not an absolute sceptick) must have some opinion of his own to enforce, he will be continually tempted to enervate the arguments he puts into the mouth of his adversary, or to place them in a point of view most commodious for their refutation. There is, however, a sort of dialogue not quite so liable to these objections, because it approaches more nearly to truth and nature: it is called controversy. Here the parties speak for themselves. If the writer, who attacks another’s notions, does not deal fairly with his adversary, the diligent reader has it always in his power, by resorting to the work examined, to do justice to the original author and to himself. For this reason you will not blame me, if, in my discussion of the merits of a Regicide Peace, I do not choose to trust to my own statements, but to bring forward along with them the arguments of the advocates for that measure. If I choose puny adversaries, writers of no estimation or authority, then you will justly blame me. I might as well bring in at once a fictitious speaker, and thus fall into all the inconveniences of an imaginary dialogue. This I shall avoid; and I shall take no notice of any author, who, my friends in town do not tell me, is in estimation with those whose opinions he supports.
A piece has been sent to me, called “Remarks on the apparent Circumstances of the War in the fourth week of October, 1795,” with a French motto, Que faire encore une fois dans une telle nuit? — Attendre le jour. The very title seemed to me striking and peculiar, and to announce something uncommon. In the time I have lived to, I always seem to walk on enchanted ground. Every thing is new, and according to the fashionable phrase, revolutionary. In former days, authors valued themselves upon the maturity and fulness of their deliberations. Accordingly they predicted (perhaps with more arrogance than reason) an eternal duration to their works. Quite the contrary is our present fashion. Writers value themselves now on the instability of their opinions, and the transitory life of their productions. On this kind of credit the modern institutors open their schools. They write for youth; and it is sufficient if the instruction lasts as long as a present love, or as the painted silks and cottons of the season.
The doctrines in this work are applied, for their standard, with great exactness, to the shortest possible periods both of conception and duration. The title is “Some Remarks on the Apparent circumstances of the War in the fourth week of October, 1795.” The time is critically chosen. A month or so earlier would have made it the anniversary of a bloody Parisian September, when the French massacre one another. A day or two later would have carried it into a London November, the gloomy month in which it is said by a pleasant author that Englishmen hang and drown themselves. In truth, this work has a tendency to alarm us with symptoms of publick suicide. However, there is one comfort to be taken even from the gloomy time of year. It is a rotting season. If what is brought to market is not good, it is not likely to keep long. Even buildings run up in haste with untempered mortar in that humid weather, if they are ill-contrived tenements, do not threaten long to encumber the earth. The Author tells us (and I believe he is the very first Author that ever told such a thing to his readers) “that the entire fabrick of his speculations might be overset by unforeseen vicissitudes”; and what is far more extraordinary, “that even the whole consideration might be varied whilst he was writing those pages. ” Truly, in my poor judgement, this circumstance formed a very substantial motive for his not publishing those ill-considered considerations at all. He ought to have followed the good advice of his motto; Que faire encore dans une telle nuit? Attendre le jour. He ought to have waited till he had got a little more day-light on this subject. Night itself is hardly darker than the fogs of that time.
Finding the last week in October so particularly referred to, and not perceiving any particular event relative to the War, which happened on any of the days in that week, I thought it possible that they were marked by some astrological superstition, to which the greatest politicians have been subject. I therefore had recourse to my Rider’s Almanack. There I found indeed something that characterized the work, and that gave directions concerning the sudden political and natural variations, and for eschewing the maladies that are most prevalent in that aguish intermittent season, “the last week of October.” On that week the sagacious astrologer, Rider, in his note on the third column of the calendar side, teaches us to expect “ variable and cold weather ”; but instead of encouraging us to trust ourselves to the haze and mist and doubtful lights of that changeable week, on the answerable part of the opposite page, he gives us a salutary caution, (indeed it is very nearly in the words of the author’s motto): “ Avoid (says he) being out late at night, and in foggy weather, for a cold now caught may last the whole winter. ” 1 This ingenious author, who disdained the prudence of the almanack, walked out in the very fog he complains of, and has led us to a very unseasonable airing at that time. Whilst this noble writer, by the vigour of an excellent constitution, formed for the violent changes he prognosticates, may shake off the importunate rheum and malignant influenza of this disagreeable week, a whole Parliament may go on spitting and snivelling, and wheezing and coughing, during a whole session. All this from listening to variable, hebdomadal politicians, who run away from their opinions without giving us a month’s warning; and for not listening to the wise and friendly admonitions of Dr. Cardanus Rider, who never apprehends he may change his opinions before his pen is out of his hand, but always enables us to lay in, at least, a year’s stock of useful information.
At first I took comfort. I said to myself, that if I should, as I fear I must, oppose the doctrines of the last week of October, it is probable that, by this time, they are no longer those of the eminent writer, to whom they are attributed. He gives us hopes that long before this he may have embraced the direct contrary sentiments. If I am found in a conflict with those of the last week of October, I may be in full agreement with those of the last week in December, or the first week in January 1796. But a second edition, and a French translation (for the benefit, I must suppose, of the new Regicide Directory) have let down a little of these flattering hopes. We and the Directory know, that the author, whatever changes his works seemed made to indicate, like a weather-cock grown rusty, remains just where he was in the last week of last October. It is true, that his protest against binding him to his opinions, and his reservation of a right to whatever opinions he pleases, remain in their full force. This variability is pleasant, and shews a fertility of fancy;
Yet, doing all justice to the sportive variability of these weekly, daily, or hourly speculators, shall I be pardoned, if I attempt a word on the part of us simple country folk? It is not good for us, however it may be so for great statesmen, that we should be treated with variable politicks. I consider different relations as prescribing a different conduct. I allow, that in transactions with an enemy, a Minister may, and often must, vary his demands with the day, possibly with the hour. With an enemy, a fixed plan, variable arrangements. This is the rule the nature of the transaction prescribes. But all this belongs to treaty. All these shiftings and changes are a sort of secret amongst the parties, till a definite settlement is brought about. Such is the spirit of the proceedings in the doubtful and transitory state of things between enmity and friendship. In this change the subjects of the transformation are by nature carefully wrapt up in their cocoons. The gay ornament of summer is not seemly in his aurelia state. This mutability is allowed to a foreign negociator. But when a great politician condescends publickly to instruct his own countrymen on a matter, which may fix their fate for ever, his opinions ought not to be diurnal, or even weekly. These ephemerides of politicks are not made for our slow and coarse understandings. Our appetite demands a piece of resistance. We require some food that will stick to the ribs. We call for sentiments, to which we can attach ourselves; sentiments, in which we can take an interest; sentiments, on which we can warm, on which we can ground some confidence in ourselves or in others. We do not want a largess of inconstancy. Poor souls, we have enough of that sort of poverty at home. There is a difference too between deliberation and doctrine: a man ought to be decided in his opinions before he attempts to teach. His fugitive lights may serve himself in some unknown region, but they can not free us from the effects of the error, into which we have been betrayed. His active Will-o’-the-Whisp may be gone nobody can guess where, whilst he leaves us bemired and benighted in the bog.
Having premised these few reflections upon this new mode of teaching a lesson, which whilst the scholar is getting by heart the master forgets, I come to the lesson itself. On the fullest consideration of it, I am utterly incapable of saying with any great certainty what it is, in the detail, that the author means to affirm or deny, to dissuade or recommend. His march is mostly oblique, and his doctrine rather in the way of insinuation than a dogmatick assertion. It is not only fugitive in its duration, but is slippery, in the extreme, whilst it lasts. Examining it part by part, it seems almost every where to contradict itself; and the author, who claims the privilege of varying his opinions, has exercised this privilege in every section of his remarks. For this reason, amongst others, I follow the advice which the able writer gives in his last page, which is “to consider the impression of what he has urged, taken from the whole, and not from detached paragraphs.” That caution was not absolutely necessary. I should think it unfair to the author and to myself, to have proceeded otherwise. The author’s whole, however, like every other whole, can not be so well comprehended without some reference to the parts; but they shall be again referred to the whole. Without this latter attention, several of the passages would certainly remain covered with an impenetrable and truly oracular obscurity.
The great general pervading purpose of the whole pamphlet is to reconcile us to peace with the present usurpation in France. In this general drift of the author I can hardly be mistaken. The other purposes, less general, and subservient to the preceding scheme, are to show, first, that the time of the remarks was the favourable time for making that peace upon our side; secondly, that on the enemy’s side their disposition towards the acceptance of such terms as he is pleased to offer, was rationally to be expected; the third purpose was to make some sort of disclosure of the terms, which, if the Regicides are pleased to grant them, this nation ought to be contented to accept: these form the basis of the negociation, which the author, whoever he is, proposes to open.
Before I consider these Remarks along with the other reasonings which I hear on the same subject, I beg leave to recal to your mind the observation I made early in our correspondence, and which ought to attend us quite through the discussion of this proposed peace, amity, or fraternity, or whatever you may call it; that is, the real quality and character of the party you have to deal with. This, I find, as a thing of no importance, has every where escaped the author of the October Remarks. That hostile power to the period of the fourth week in that month has been ever called and considered as an usurpation. In that week, for the first time, it changed its name of an usurped power, and took the simple name of France. The word France is slipped in just as if the government stood exactly as before that revolution which has astonished, terrified, and almost overpowered Europe. “France,” says the author, “will do this”; “it is the interest of France”; “the returning honour and generosity of France,” &c. &c. Always merely France; just as if we were in a common political war with an old recognized member of the commonwealth of Christian Europe; and as if our dispute had turned upon a mere matter of territorial or commercial controversy, which a peace might settle by the imposition or the taking off a duty, with the gain or the loss of a remote island or a frontier town or two, on the one side or the other. This shifting of persons could not be done without the hocus-pocus of abstraction. We have been in a grievous error. We thought that we had been at war with rebels against the lawful government, but that we were friends and allies of what is properly France; friends and allies to the legal body politick of France. But by sleight of hand the Jacobins are clean vanished, and it is France we have got under our cup. Blessings on his soul that first invented sleep, said Don Sancho Panza the wise! All those blessings, and ten thousand times more, on him who found out abstraction, personification, and impersonals! In certain cases they are the first of all soporificks. Terribly alarmed we should be if things were proposed to us in the concrete; and if fraternity was held out to us with the individuals, who compose this France, by their proper names and descriptions: if we were told that it was very proper to enter into the closest bonds of amity and good correspondence with the devout, pacifick, and tender-hearted Syeyes, with the all-accomplished Rewbel, with the humane guillotinists of Bourdeaux, Tallien and Isabeau; with the meek butcher Legendre, and with “the returned humanity and generosity” (that had been only on a visit abroad) of the virtuous regicide brewer Santerre. This would seem at the outset a very strange scheme of amity and concord; nay, though we had held out to us, as an additional douceur, an assurance of the cordial fraternal embrace of our pious and patriotic countryman Thomas Paine. But plain truth would here be shocking and absurd; therefore comes in abstraction and personification. “Make your Peace with France.” That word France sounds quite as well as any other, and it conveys no idea but that of a very pleasant country and very hospitable inhabitants. Nothing absurd and shocking in amity and good correspondence with France. Permit me to say, that I am not yet well acquainted with this new-coined France, and, without a careful assay, I am not willing to receive it in currency in place of the old Louis d’or.
Having therefore slipped the persons, with whom we are to treat, out of view, we are next to be satisfied, that the French Revolution, which this peace is to fix and consolidate, ought to give us no just cause of apprehension. Though the Author labours this point, yet he confesses a fact, (indeed he could not conceal it) which renders all his labours utterly fruitless. He confesses, that the Regicide means to dictate a pacification, and that this pacification, according to their decree passed but a very few days before his publication appeared, is to “unite to their Empire, either in possession or dependence, new barriers, many frontier places of strength, a large sea-coast, and many sea-ports.” He ought to have stated it, that they would annex to their territory a country about a third as large as France, and much more than half as rich; and in a situation the most important, for command, that it would be possible for her any where to possess.
To remove this terror, (if the Regicides should carry their point) and to give us perfect repose with regard to their Empire, whatever they may acquire, or whomsoever they might destroy, he raises a doubt “whether France will not be ruined by retaining these conquests, and whether she will not wholly lose that preponderance, which she has held in the scale of European powers, and will not eventually be destroyed by the effect of her present successes; or, at least, whether, so far as the political interests of England are concerned, she [France] will remain an object of as much jealousy and alarm, as she was under the reign of a Monarch. ” Here, indeed, is a paragraph full of meaning! It gives matter for meditation almost in every word of it. The secret of the pacifick politicians is out. This Republick, at all hazards, is to be maintained. It is to be confined within some bounds, if we can; if not, with every possible acquisition of power, it is still to be cherished and supported. It is the return of the Monarchy we are to dread, and therefore we ought to pray for the permanence of the Regicide authority. Esto perpetua is the devout ejaculation of our Fra Paolo for the Republick one and indivisible! It was the Monarchy that rendered France dangerous; Regicide neutralizes all the acrimony of that power and renders it safe and social. The October speculator is of opinion, that Monarchy is of so poisonous a quality, that a moderate territorial power is far more dangerous to its neighbours under that abominable regimen, than the greatest Empire in the hands of a Republick. This is Jacobinism sublimed and exalted into most pure and perfect essence. It is a doctrine, I admit, made to allure and captivate, if any thing in the world can, the Jacobin directory, to mollify the ferocity of Regicide, and to persuade those patriotick Hangmen, after their reiterated oaths for our extirpation, to admit this well humbled nation to the fraternal embrace. I do not wonder that this tub of October has been racked off into a French cask. It must make its fortune at Paris. That translation seems the language the most suited to these sentiments. Our author tells the French Jacobins that the political interests of Great Britain are in perfect unison with the principles of their government; that they may take and keep the keys of the civilized world, for they are safe in their unambitious and faithful custody. We say to them, “We may, indeed, wish you to be a little less murderous, wicked and atheistical, for the sake of morals: we may think it were better you were less new-fangled in your speech, for the sake of grammar: but, as politicians, provided you keep clear of Monarchy, all our fears, alarms and jealousies are at an end: at least they sink into nothing in comparison with our dread of your detestable Royalty.” A flatterer of Cardinal Mazarin said, when that Minister had just settled the match between the young Louis the 14th and a daughter of Spain, that this alliance had the effect of Faith, and removed Mountains—that the Pyrenees were levelled by that marriage. You may now compliment Rewbel in the same spirit on the miracles of Regicide, and tell him, that the guillotine of Louis the 16th had consummated a marriage between Great Britain and France, which dried up the Channel, and restored the two countries to the unity, which, it is said, they had before the unnatural rage of seas and earthquakes had broke off their happy junction. It will be a fine subject for the Poets, who are to prophecy the blessings of this peace.
I am now convinced, that the Remarks of the last week of October cannot come from the author, to whom they are given; they are such a direct contradiction to the style of manly indignation, with which he spoke of those miscreants and murderers in his excellent Memorial to the States of Holland—to that very State, which the Author, who presumes to personate him, does not find it contrary to the political interests of England to leave in the hands of these very miscreants, against whom on the part of England he took so much pains to animate their Republick. This cannot be; and, if this argument wanted any thing to give it new force, it is strengthened by an additional reason that is irresistible. Knowing that Noble person, as well as myself, to be under very great obligations to the Crown, I am confident he would not so very directly contradict, even in the paroxysm of zeal against monarchy, the declarations made in the name and with the fullest approbation of our Sovereign, his Master, and our common benefactor. In those declarations you will see, that the King, instead of being sensible of greater alarm and jealousy from a neighbouring crowned head, than from these Regicides, attributes all the dangers of Europe to the latter. Let this writer hear the description given in the Royal Declaration of the scheme of power of these Miscreants, as “ a system destructive of all publick order; maintained by proscriptions, exiles, and confiscations without number; by arbitrary imprisonments; by massacres which cannot be remembered without horrour; and at length by the execrable murder of a just and beneficent Sovereign, and of the illustrious princess, who with an unshaken firmness has shared all the misfortunes of her Royal consort, his protracted sufferings, his cruel captivity, and his ignominious death. ” After thus describing, with an eloquence and energy equalled only by its truth, the means, by which this usurped power had been acquired and maintained, that government is characterized with equal force. His Majesty, far from thinking Monarchy in France to be a greater object of jealousy, than the Regicide usurpation, calls upon the French to re-establish “ a monarchical government ” for the purpose of shaking off “ the yoke of a sanguinary anarchy; of that anarchy, which has broken the most sacred bonds of Society, dissolved all the relations of civil life, violated every right, confounded every duty; which uses the name of liberty to exercise the most cruel tyranny, to annihilate all property, to seize on all possessions; which founds its power on the pretended consent of the people, and itself carries fire and sword through extensive provinces for having demanded their laws, their religion and their rightful Sovereign. ”
“That strain I heard was of an higher mood.” That declaration of our Sovereign was worthy of his throne. It is in a style, which neither the pen of the writer of October, nor such a poor crow-quill as mine can ever hope to equal. I am happy to enrich my letter with this fragment of nervous and manly eloquence, which if it had not emanated from the awful authority of a throne, if it were not recorded amongst the most valuable monuments of history, and consecrated in the archives of States, would be worthy as a private composition to live for ever in the memory of men.
In those admirable pieces, does his Majesty discover this new opinion of his political security in having the chair of the Scorner, that is, the discipline of Atheism and the block of Regicide, set up by his side, elevated on the same platform, and shouldering, with the vile image of their grim and bloody idol, the inviolable majesty of his throne? The sentiments of these declarations are the very reverse: they could not be other. Speaking of the spirit of that usurpation the Royal manifesto describes with perfect truth its internal tyranny to have been established as the very means of shaking the security of all other States; as “ disposing arbitrarily of the property and blood of the inhabitants of France, in order to disturb the tranquillity of other nations, and to render all Europe the theatre of the same crimes and the same misfortunes. ” It was but a natural inference from this fact, that the Royal manifesto does not at all rest the justification of this war on common principles: “ that it was not only to defend his own rights, and those of his Allies, ” but “ that all the dearest interests of his people imposed upon him a Duty still more important—that of exerting his efforts for the preservation of civil society itself, as happily established among the nations of Europe. ” On that ground the protection offered is to those, who by “declaring for a Monarchical government shall shake off the yoke of a sanguinary Anarchy.” It is for that purpose the Declaration calls on them to join the standard of an “ hereditary Monarchy ”; and declaring, that the safety and peace of this Kingdom and the powers of Europe “ materially depend upon the re-establishment of order in France, ” his Majesty does not hesitate to declare, that “ the re-establishment of Monarchy in the person of Louis the 17th and the lawful heirs of his crown appears to him [his Majesty] the best mode of accomplishing these just and salutary views. ”
This is what his Majesty does not hesitate to declare relative to the political safety and peace of his Kingdom and of Europe, and with regard to France under her ancient hereditary Monarchy in the course and order of legal succession. But in comes a gentleman in the fag end of October, dripping with the fogs of that humid and uncertain season, and does not hesitate in Diameter to contradict this wise and just Royal declaration; and stoutly, on his part, to make a counter-declaration, that France, so far as the political interests of England are concerned, will not remain, under the despotism of Regicide and with the better part of Europe in her hands, so much an object of jealousy and alarm, as she was under the reign of a Monarch. When I hear the Master and reason on one side, and the Servant and his single and unsupported assertion on the other, my part is taken.
This is what the Octobrist says of the political interests of England, which it looks as if he completely disconnected with those of all other nations. But not quite so; he just allows it possible (with an “at least”) that the other powers may not find it quite their interest, that their Territories should be conquered and their Subjects tyrannized over by the Regicides. No fewer than ten Sovereign Princes had, some the whole, all a very considerable part, of their Dominions, under the yoke of that dreadful faction. Amongst these was to be reckoned the first Republick in the World, and the closest Ally of this Kingdom, which, under the insulting name of an independency, is under her iron yoke; and, as long as a faction averse to the old government is suffered there to domineer, cannot be otherwise. I say nothing of the Austrian Netherlands, countries of a vast extent, and amongst the most fertile and populous of Europe; and with regard to us most critically situated. The rest will readily occur to you.
But if there are yet existing any people, like me, old fashioned enough to consider, that we have an important part of our very existence beyond our limits, and who therefore stretch their thoughts beyond the Pomoerium of England, for them too he has a comfort, which will remove all their jealousies and alarms about the extent of the Empire of Regicide. “ These conquests eventually will be the cause of her destruction. ” So that they, who hate the cause of usurpation and dread the power of France under any form, are to wish her to be a conqueror, in order to accelerate her ruin. A little more conquest would be still better. Will he tell us what dose of Dominion is to be the quantum sufficit for her destruction, for she seems very voracious of the food of her distemper? To be sure she is ready to perish with repletion; she has a Boulimia, and hardly has bolted down one State, than she calls for two or three more. There is a good deal of wit in all this; but it seems to me (with all respect to the Author) to be carrying the joke a great deal too far. I cannot yet think, that the Armies of the Allies were of this way of thinking; and that, when they evacuated all these countries, it was a stratagem of war to decoy France into ruin; or that, if in a Treaty we should surrender them for ever into the hands of the usurpation (the lease, the author supposes) it is a master-stroke of policy to effect the destruction of a formidable rival, and to render her no longer an object of jealousy and alarm. This, I assure the Author, will infinitely facilitate the Treaty. The usurpers will catch at this bait, without minding the hook, which this crafty angler for the Jacobin gudgeons of the New Directory has so dexterously placed under it.
Every symptom of the exacerbation of the publick malady is with him (as with the Doctor in Molière) a happy prognostick of recovery. Flanders gone!— tant mieux. Holland subdued!—charming! Spain beaten, and all the hither Germany conquered!—Bravo! Better and better still! But they will retain all their conquests on a Treaty! Best of all! What a delightful thing it is to have a gay physician who sees all things, as the French express it, couleur de rose! What an escape we have had, that we and our Allies were not the Conquerors! By these conquests, previous to her utter destruction, she is “wholly to lose that preponderance, which she held in the scale of the European Powers.” Bless me! This new system of France, after changing all other laws, reverses the law of gravitation. By throwing in weight after weight her scale rises, and will by and by kick the beam! Certainly there is one sense in which she loses her preponderance: that is she is no longer preponderant against the Countries she has conquered. They are part of herself. But I beg the Author to keep his eyes fixed on the scales for a moment longer, and then to tell me in downright earnest, whether he sees hitherto any signs of her losing preponderance by an augmentation of weight and power. Has she lost her preponderance over Spain, by her influence in Spain? Are there any signs, that the conquest of Savoy and Nice begins to lessen her preponderance over Switzerland and the Italian States—or that the Canton of Berne, Genoa and Tuscany, for example, have taken arms against her, or, that Sardinia is more adverse than ever to a treacherous pacification? Was it in the last week of October, that the German States shewed that Jacobin France was losing her preponderance? Did the King of Prussia, when he delivered into her safe custody his territories on this side of the Rhine, manifest any tokens of his opinion of her loss of preponderance? Look on Sweden and on Denmark: is her preponderance less visible there?
It is true, that in a course of ages Empires have fallen, and, in the opinion of some, not in mine, by their own weight. Sometimes they have been unquestionably embarrassed in their movements by the dissociated situation of their Dominions. Such was the case of the empire of Charles the Fifth and of his successor. It might be so of others. But so compact a body of empire; so fitted in all the parts for mutual support; with a Frontier by nature and art so impenetrable; with such facility of breaking out with irresistible force, from every quarter, was never seen in such an extent of territory from the beginning of time, as in that empire, which the Jacobins possessed in October 1795, and which Boissy d’Anglas, in his Report, settled as the Law for Europe, and the Dominion assigned by Nature for the Republick of Regicide. But this Empire is to be her ruin, and to take away all alarm and jealousy on the part of England, and to destroy her preponderance over the miserable remains of Europe!
These are choice speculations, with which the Author amuses himself, and tries to divert us, in the blackest hours of the dismay, defeat and calamity of all civilized nations. They have but one fault, that they are directly contrary to the common sense and common feeling of mankind. If I had but one hour to live, I would employ it in decrying this wretched system, and die with my pen in my hand to mark out the dreadful consequences of receiving an arrangement of Empire dictated by the despotism of Regicide to my own Country, and to the lawful Sovereigns of the Christian World.
I trust I shall hardly be told, in palliation of this shameful system of politicks, that the Author expresses his sentiments only as doubts. In such things it may be truly said that “once to doubt is once to be resolved.” It would be a strange reason for wasting the treasures and shedding the blood of our country to prevent arrangements on the part of another power, of which we were doubtful, whether they might not be even to our advantage and render our neighbour less than before the object of our jealousy and alarm. In this doubt there is much decision. No nation would consent to carry on a war of scepticism. But the fact is, this expression of doubt is only a mode of putting an opinion when it is not the drift of the Author to overturn the doubt. Otherwise, the doubt is never stated as the Author’s own, nor left, as here it is, unanswered. Indeed, the mode of stating the most decided opinions in the form of questions is so little uncommon, particularly since the excellent queries of the excellent Berkeley, that it became for a good while a fashionable mode of composition.
Here then the Author of the fourth week of October is ready for the worst, and would strike the bargain of peace on these conditions. I must leave it to you and to every considerate man to reflect upon the effect of this on any Continental alliances present or future, and whether it would be possible (if this book was thought of the least authority) that its maxims with regard to our political interest must not naturally push them to be beforehand with us in the fraternity with Regicide, and thus not only strip us of any steady alliance at present, but leave us without any of that communion of interest which could produce alliances in future. Indeed, with these maxims, we should be well divided from the World.
Notwithstanding this new kind of barrier and security that is found against her ambition in her conquests, yet in the very same paragraph he admits that “for the present at least it is subversive of the balance of power.” This, I confess, is not a direct contradiction, because the benefits which he promises himself from it, according to his hypothesis are future and more remote.
So disposed is this Author to peace, that, having laid a comfortable foundation of our security in the greatness of her Empire, he has another in reserve if that should fail, upon quite a contrary ground; that is, a speculation of her crumbling to pieces and being thrown into a number of little separate Republicks. After paying the tribute of humanity to those who will be ruined by all these changes, on the whole he is of opinion that “the change might be compatible with general tranquillity, and with the establishment of a peaceful and prosperous commerce among nations.” Whether France be great or small, firm and entire, or dissipated and divided, all is well; provided we can have peace with her.
But, without entering into speculations about her dismemberment whilst she is adding great nations to her empire, is it then quite so certain, that the dissipation of France into such a cluster of petty Republicks would be so very favourable to the true balance of power in Europe, as this Author imagines it would be, and to the commerce of Nations? I greatly differ from him. I perhaps shall prove in a future letter, with the political map of Europe before my eye, that the general liberty and independence of the great Christian commonwealth could not exist with such a dismemberment; unless it were followed (as probably enough it would) by the dismemberment of every other considerable country in Europe: and what convulsions would arise in the constitution of every state in Europe, it is not easy to conjecture in the mode, impossible not to foresee in the mass. Speculate on, good my Lord! provided you ground no part of your politicks on such unsteady speculations. But, as to any practice to ensue, are we not yet cured of the malady of speculating on the circumstances of things totally different from those in which we live and move? Five years has this Monster continued whole and entire in all its members. Far from falling into a division within itself, it is augmented by tremendous additions. We cannot bear to look that frightful form in the face as it is and in its own actual shape. We dare not be wise. We have not the fortitude of rational fear. We will not provide for our future safety; but we endeavour to hush the cries of present timidity by guesses at what may be hereafter. “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow” —is this our style of talk, when “all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death?” Talk not to me of what swarms of Republicks may come from this carcass! It is no carcass. Now, now, whilst we are talking, it is full of life and action. What say you to the Regicide Empire of to-day? Tell me, my friend, do its terrors appal you into an abject submission, or rouse you to a vigorous defence? But do—I no longer prevent it—do go on—look into futurity. Has this Empire nothing to alarm you when all struggle against it is over, when Mankind shall be silent before it, when all nations shall be disarmed, disheartened and truly divided by a treacherous peace? Its malignity towards humankind will subsist with undiminished heat, whilst the means of giving it effect must proceed, and every means of resisting it must inevitably and rapidly decline.
Against alarm on their politick and military empire these are the writer’s sedative remedies. But he leaves us sadly in the dark with regard to the moral consequences which he states have threatened to demolish a system of civilization under which his Country enjoys a prosperity unparalleled in the history of Man. We had emerged from our first terrors. But here we sink into them again; however, only to shake them off upon the credit of his being a Man of very sanguine hopes.
Against the moral terrors of this successful empire of barbarism, though he has given us no consolation here, in another place he has formed other securities; securities, indeed, which will make even the enormity of the crimes and atrocities of France a benefit to the world. We are to be cured by her diseases. We are to grow proud of our Constitution upon the distempers of theirs. Governments throughout all Europe are to become much stronger by this event. This too comes in the favourite mode of doubt, and perhaps. “To those,” he says, “who meditate on the workings of the human mind, a doubt may perhaps arise, whether the effects, which I have described [namely the change he supposes to be wrought on the publick mind with regard to the French doctrines] “though at present a salutary check to the dangerous spirit of innovation, may not prove favourable to abuses of power, by creating a timidity in the just cause of liberty.” Here the current of our apprehensions takes a contrary course. Instead of trembling for the existence of our government from the spirit of licentiousness and anarchy, the author would make us believe we are to tremble for our liberties from the great accession of power which is to accrue to government.
I believe I have read in some author who criticised the productions of the famous Jurieu, that it is not very wise in people, who dash away in prophecy, to fix the time of accomplishment at too short a period. Mr. Brothers may meditate upon this at his leisure. He was a melancholy prognosticator, and has had the fate of melancholy men. But they who prophecy pleasant things get great present applause; and in days of calamity people have something else to think of—they lose in their feeling of their distress all memory of those who flattered them in their prosperity. But, merely for the credit of the prediction, nothing could have happened more unluckily for the Noble Lord’s sanguine expectations of the amendment of the publick mind and the consequent greater security to government from the examples in France, than what happened in the week after the publication of his hebdomadal system. I am not sure it was not in the very week, one of the most violent and dangerous seditions broke out, that we have seen in several years. This sedition, menacing to the publick security, endangering the sacred person of the King, and violating in the most audacious manner the authority of Parliament, surrounded our sovereign with a murderous yell and war whoop for that peace, which the Noble Lord considers as a cure for all domestick disturbances and dissatisfactions.
So far as to this general cure for popular disorders. As for Government, the two Houses of Parliament, instead of being guided by the speculations of the fourth week in October, and throwing up new barriers against the dangerous power of the crown, which the Noble Lord considered as no unplausible subject of apprehension—the two Houses of Parliament thought fit to pass two Acts for the further strengthening of that very government against a most dangerous and wide spread faction.
Unluckily too for this kind of sanguine speculation, on the very first day of the ever famed “last week of October,” a large, daring, and seditious meeting was publickly held, from which meeting this atrocious attempt against the Sovereign publickly originated.
No wonder, that the Author should tell us, that the whole consideration might be varied whilst he was writing those pages. In one, and that the most material, instance, his speculations not only might be, but were at that very time, entirely overset. Their war-cry for peace with France was the same with that of this gentle Author, but in a different note. His is the gemitus columbae, cooing and wooing fraternity: theirs the funereal screams of birds of night calling for their ill-omened paramours. But they are both songs of courtship. These Regicides considered a regicide peace as a cure for all their evils; and, so far as I can find, they showed nothing at all of the timidity which the Noble Lord apprehends in what they call the “just cause of liberty.”
However, it seems, that notwithstanding these awkward appearances with regard to the strength of government, he has still his fears and doubts about our liberties. To a free people this would be a matter of alarm, but this Physician of October has in his shop all sorts of salves for all sorts of sores. It is curious, that they all come from the inexhaustible Drug Shop of the Regicide Dispensary. It costs him nothing to excite terror, because he lays it at his pleasure. He finds a security for this danger to liberty from the wonderful wisdom to be taught to Kings, to Nobility, and even to the lowest of the people, by the late transactions.
I confess I was always blind enough to regard the French Revolution, in the act and much more in the example, as one of the greatest calamities that had ever fallen upon mankind. I now find, that in its effects it is to be the greatest of all blessings. If so, we owe amende honorable to the Jacobins. They, it seems, were right—and if they were right a little earlier than we are, it only shews that they exceeded us in sagacity. If they brought out their right ideas somewhat in a disorderly manner, it must be remembered that great zeal produces some irregularity; but, when greatly in the right, it must be pardoned by those, who are very regularly and temperately in the wrong. The Master Jacobins had told me this a thousand times. I never believed the Masters; nor do I now find myself disposed to give credit to the Disciple. I will not much dispute with our Author, which party has the best of this Revolution—that, which is from thence to learn wisdom, or that, which from the same event has obtained power. The dispute on the preference of strength to wisdom may perhaps be decided as Horace has decided the Controversy between Art and Nature. I do not like to leave all the power to my adversary, and to secure nothing to myself but the untimely wisdom that is taught by the consequences of folly. I do not like my share in the partition, because to his strength my adversary may possibly add a good deal of cunning, whereas my wisdom may totally fail in producing to me the same degree of strength. But to descend from the Author’s generalities a little nearer to meaning, the security given to Liberty is this, “that Governments will have learned not to precipitate themselves into embarrassments by speculative wars. Sovereigns and Princes will not forget that steadiness, moderation and economy are the best supports of the eminence on which they stand. There seems to me a good deal of oblique reflexion in this lesson. As to the lesson itself, it is at all times a good one. One would think however, by this formal introduction of it, as a recommendation of the arrangements proposed by the Author, it had never been taught before, either by precept or by experience; and that these maxims are discoveries reserved for a Regicide peace. But is it permitted to ask, what security it affords to the liberty of the subject, that the Prince is pacifick or frugal? The very contrary has happened in our history. Our best securities for freedom have been obtained from Princes who were either warlike, or prodigal, or both.
Although the amendment of Princes, in these points, can have no effect in quieting our apprehensions for Liberty on account of the strength to be acquired to government by a Regicide peace, I allow, that the avoiding of speculative wars may possibly be an advantage; provided I well understand, what the Author means by a speculative war. I suppose he means a war grounded on speculative advantages, and not wars founded on a just speculation of danger. Does he mean to include this war, which we are now carrying on, amongst those speculative wars, which this Jacobin peace is to teach Sovereigns to avoid hereafter? If so, it is doing the Party an important service. Does he mean that we are to avoid such wars as that of the grand Alliance, made on a speculation of danger to the independence of Europe? I suspect he has a sort of retrospective view to the American war, as a speculative war, carried on by England upon one side, and by Lewis the 16th on the other. As to our share of that war, let reverence to the dead and respect to the living prevent us from reading lessons of this kind at their expence. I don’t know how far the Author may find himself at liberty to wanton on that subject, but, for my part, I entered into a coalition, which, when I had no longer a duty relative to that business, made me think myself bound in honour not to call it up without necessity. But if he puts England out of the question and reflects only on Louis the 16th, I have only to say “Dearly has he answered it.” I will not defend him. But all those, who pushed on the Revolution, by which he was deposed, were much more in fault, than he was. They have murdered him, and have divided his Kingdom as a spoil; but they, who are the guilty, are not they, who furnish the example. They, who reign through his fault, are not among those Sovereigns, who are likely to be taught to avoid speculative wars by the murder of their master. I think the Author will not be hardy enough to assert, that they have shown less disposition to meddle in the concerns of that very America, than he did, and in a way not less likely to kindle the flame of speculative war. Here is one Sovereign not yet reclaimed by these healing examples. Will he point out the other Sovereigns, who are to be reformed by this peace? Their wars may not be speculative. But the world will not be much mended by turning wars from unprofitable and speculative to practical and lucrative, whether the liberty or the repose of mankind is regarded. If the Author’s new Sovereign in France is not reformed by the example of his own Revolution, that Revolution has not added much to the security and repose of Poland, for instance, or taught the three great partitioning powers more moderation in their second, than they had shewn in their first division of that devoted Country. The first division, which preceded these destructive examples, was moderation itself in comparison of what has been done since the period of the Author’s amendment.
This Paragraph is written with something of a studied obscurity. If it means any thing, it seems to hint as if Sovereigns were to learn moderation, and an attention to the Liberties of their people, from the fate of the Sovereigns who have suffered in this war, and eminently of Louis the XVIth.
Will he say, whether the King of Sardinia’s horrible tyranny was the cause of the loss of Savoy and of Nice? What lesson of moderation does it teach the Pope? I desire to know, whether his Holiness is to learn not to massacre his subjects, nor to waste and destroy such beautiful countries, as that of Avignon, lest he should call to their assistance that great deliverer of nations, Jourdan Coupe-tête? What lesson does it give of moderation to the Emperor, whose Predecessor never put one man to death after a general rebellion of the Low Countries, that the Regicides never spared man, woman, or child, whom they but suspected of dislike to their usurpations? What, then, are all these lessons about the softening the character of Sovereigns by this Regicide peace? On reading this section one would imagine, that the poor tame Sovereigns of Europe had been a sort of furious wild beasts, that stood in need of some uncommonly rough discipline to subdue the ferocity of their savage nature!
As to the example to be learnt from the murder of Louis the 16th, if a lesson to Kings is not derived from his fate, I do not know whence it can come. The Author, however, ought not to have left us in the dark upon that subject, to break our shins over hints and insinuations. Is it, then, true, that this unfortunate monarch drew his punishment upon himself by his want of moderation, and his oppressing the liberties, of which he had found his people in possession? Is not the direct contrary the fact? And is not the example of this Revolution the very reverse of any thing, which can lead to that softening of character in Princes, which the Author supposes as a security to the people, and has brought forward as a recommendation to fraternity with those, who have administered that happy emollient in the murder of their King and the slavery and desolation of their Country?
But the Author does not confine the benefit of the Regicide lesson to Kings alone. He has a diffusive bounty. Nobles, and men of property will likewise be greatly reformed. They too will be led to a review of their social situation and duties, “and will reflect, that their large allotment of worldly advantages is for the aid and benefit of the whole.” Is it then from the fate of Juignie, Archbishop of Paris, or of the Cardinal de Rochefoucault, and of so many others, who gave their fortunes, and, I may say, their very beings to the poor, that the rich are to learn, that their “fortunes are for the aid and benefit of the whole?” I say nothing of the liberal persons of great rank and property, lay and ecclesiastick, men and women, to whom we have had the honour and happiness of affording an asylum—I pass by these, lest I should never have done, or lest I should omit some as deserving as any I might mention. Why will the Author then suppose, that the Nobles and men of property in France have been banished, confiscated and murdered, on account of the savageness and ferocity of their character, and their being tainted with vices beyond those of the same order and description in other countries? No Judge of a Revolutionary tribunal, with his hands dipped in their blood, and his maw gorged with their property, has yet dared to assert what this Author has been pleased, by way of a moral lesson, to insinuate.
Their Nobility and their men of property, in a mass, had the very same virtues and the very same vices, and in the very same proportions, with the same description of men in this and in other nations. I must do justice to suffering honour, generosity, and integrity. I do not know that any time or any country has furnished more splendid examples of every virtue, domestick and publick. I do not enter into the councils of Providence: but humanly speaking, many of these Nobles and men of property, from whose disastrous fate we are, it seems, to learn a general softening of character, and a revision of our social situations and duties, appear to me full as little deserving of that fate, as the Author, whoever he is, can be. Many of them, I am sure, were such as I should be proud indeed to be able to compare myself with, in knowledge, in integrity, and in every other virtue. My feeble nature might shrink, though theirs did not, from the proof; but my reason and my ambition tell me, that it would be a good bargain to purchase their merits with their fate.
For which of his vices did that great magistrate, D’Espremenil, lose his fortune and his head? What were the abominations of Malesherbes, that other excellent magistrate, whose sixty years of uniform virtue was acknowledged, in the very act of his murder, by the judicial butchers who condemned him? On account of what misdemeanours was he robbed of his property, and slaughtered with two generations of his offspring; and the remains of the third race, with a refinement of cruelty, and lest they should appear to reclaim the property forfeited by the virtues of their ancestor, confounded in an Hospital with the thousands of those unhappy foundling infants, who are abandoned, without relation and without name, by the wretchedness or by the profligacy of their parents?
Is the fate of the Queen of France to produce this softening of character? Was she a person so very ferocious and cruel as, by the example of her death, to frighten us into common humanity? Is there no way to teach the Emperor a softening of character and a review of his social situation and duty, but his consent, by an infamous accord with regicide, to drive a second coach with the Austrian Arms through the streets of Paris, along which, after a series of preparatory horrors exceeding the atrocities of the bloody execution itself, the glory of the Imperial Race had been carried to an ignominious death? Is this a lesson of moderation to a descendant of Maria Theresa, drawn from the fate of the daughter of that incomparable woman and sovereign? If he learns this lesson from such an object and from such teachers, the man may remain, but the King is deposed. If he does not carry quite another memory of that transaction in the inmost recesses of his heart, he is unworthy to reign; he is unworthy to live. In the chronicle of disgrace he will have but this short tale told of him, “he was the first Emperor, of his house, that embraced a regicide: He was the last, that wore the imperial purple.” Far am I from thinking so ill of this august Sovereign, who is at the head of the Monarchies of Europe, and who is the trustee of their dignities and his own.
What ferocity of character drew on the fate of Elizabeth, the sister of King Lewis the 16th? For which of the vices of that pattern of benevolence, of piety, and of all the virtues, did they put her to death? For which of her vices did they put to death the mildest of all human creatures, the Duchess of Biron? What were the crimes of those crowds of Matrons and Virgins of condition, whom they massacred, with their juries of blood, in prisons and on scaffolds? What were the enormities of the Infant King, whom they caused by lingering tortures to perish in their dungeon, and whom if at last they despatched by poison, it was in that detestable crime the only act of mercy they have ever shewn?
What softening of character is to be had, what review of their social situations and duties is to be taught by these examples, to Kings, to Nobles, to Men of Property, to Women, and to Infants? The Royal Family perished, because it was royal. The Nobles perished, because they were noble. The Men, Women and Children, who had property, because they had property to be robbed of. The Priests were punished, after they had been robbed of their all, not for their vices, but for their virtues and their piety, which made them an honour to their sacred profession, and to that nature, of which we ought to be proud, since they belong to it. My Lord, nothing can be learned from such examples, except the danger of being Kings, Queens, Nobles, Priests, and Children to be butchered on account of their inheritance. These are things, at which not Vice, not Crime, not Folly, but Wisdom, Goodness, Learning, Justice, Probity, Beneficence stand aghast. By these examples our reason and our moral sense are not enlightened, but confounded; and there is no refuge for astonished and affrighted virtue, but being annihilated in humility and submission, sinking into a silent adoration of the inscrutable dispensations of Providence, and flying with trembling wings from this world of daring crimes, and feeble, pusillanimous, half-bred, bastard Justice, to the asylum of another order of things, in an unknown form, but in a better life.
Whatever the Politician or Preacher of September or of October may think of the matter, it is a most comfortless, disheartening, desolating example. Dreadful is the example of ruined innocence and virtue, and the compleatest triumph of the compleatest villainy, that ever vexed and disgraced mankind! The example is ruinous in every point of view, religious, moral, civil, political. It establishes that dreadful maxim of Machiavel, that in great affairs men are not to be wicked by halves. This maxim is not made for a middle sort of beings, who, because they cannot be Angels, ought to thwart their ambition and not endeavour to become infernal spirits. It is too well exemplified in the present time, where the faults and errours of humanity, checked by the imperfect timorous virtues, have been overpowered by those, who have stopped at no crime. It is a dreadful part of the example, that infernal malevolence has had pious apologists, who read their lectures on frailties in favour of crimes; who abandoned the weak, and court the friendship of the wicked. To root out these maxims, and the examples that support them, is a wise object of years of war. This is that war. This is that moral war. It was said by old Trivulzio, that the battle of Marignan was the battle of the Giants, that all the rest of the many he had seen were those of the Cranes and Pygmies. This is true of the objects, at least, of the contest. For the greater part of those, which we have hitherto contended for, in comparison, were the toys of children.
The October Politician is so full of charity and good nature, that he supposes, that these very robbers and murderers themselves are in a course of amelioration; on what ground I cannot conceive, except on the long practice of every crime, and by its complete success. He is an Origenist, and believes in the conversion of the Devil. All that runs in the place of blood in his veins, is nothing but the milk of human kindness. He is as soft as a curd, though, as a politician, he might be supposed to be made of sterner stuff. He supposes (to use his own expression) “that the salutary truths which he inculcates, are making their way into their bosoms.” Their bosom is a rock of granite, on which falsehood has long since built her strong hold. Poor Truth has had a hard work of it with her little pickaxe. Nothing but gunpowder will do.
As a proof, however, of the progress of this sap of Truth, he gives us a confession they had made not long before he wrote. “Their fraternity” (as was lately stated by themselves in a solemn report) “has been the brotherhood of Cain and Abel, and they have organized nothing but Bankruptcy and Famine.” A very honest confession truly; and much in the spirit of their oracle, Rousseau. Yet, what is still more marvellous than the confession, this is the very fraternity, to which our author gives us such an obliging invitation to accede. There is, indeed, a vacancy in the fraternal corps; a brother and a partner is wanted. If we please, we may fill up the place of the butchered Abel; and whilst we wait the destiny of the departed brother, we may enjoy the advantages of the partnership, by entering without delay into a shop of ready-made Bankruptcy and Famine. These are the Douceurs, by which we are invited to regicide fraternity and friendship. But still our Author considers the confession as a proof, that “truth is making its way into their bosoms.” No! it is not making its way into their bosoms. It has forced its way into their mouths! The evil spirit, by which they are possessed, though essentially a liar, is forced, by the tortures of conscience, to confess the truth; to confess enough for their condemnation, but not for their amendment. Shakespeare very aptly expresses this kind of confession, devoid of repentance, from the mouth of an usurper, a murderer, and a regicide—
Whence is their amendment? Why, the Author writes, that on their murderous insurrectionary system their own lives are not sure for an hour; nor has their power a greater stability. True. They are convinced of it, and accordingly the wretches have done all they can to preserve their lives and to secure their power; but not one step have they taken to amend the one, or to make a more just use of the other. Their wicked policy has obliged them to make a pause in the only massacres, in which their treachery and cruelty had operated as a kind of savage justice, that is, the massacre of the accomplices of their crimes. They have ceased to shed the inhuman blood of their fellow murderers; but when they take any of those persons, who contend for their lawful government, their property, and their religion, notwithstanding the truth, which this author says is making its way into their bosoms, it has not taught them the least tincture of mercy. This we plainly see by their massacre at Quiberon, where they put to death, with every species of contumely, and without any exception, every prisoner of war who did not escape out of their hands. To have had property, to have been robbed of it, and to endeavour to regain it—these are crimes irremissible, to which every man, who regards his property or his life, in every country, ought well to look in all connexion with those, with whom, to have had property was an offence, to endeavour to keep it, a second offence, to attempt to regain it, a crime that puts the offender out of all the laws of peace or war. You cannot see one of those wretches without an alarm for your life as well as your goods. They are like the worst of the French and Italian banditti, who, whenever they robbed, were sure to murder.
Are they not the very same Ruffians, Thieves, Assassins, and Regicides, that they were from the beginning? Have they diversified the scene by the least variety, or produced the face of a single new villainy? Taedet harum quotidianarum formarum. Oh! but I shall be answered, it is now quite another thing—they are all changed—you have not seen them in their state dresses. This makes an amazing difference. The new Habit of the Directory is so charmingly fancied, that it is impossible not to fall in love with so well-dressed a Constitution. The Costume of the Sansculotte Constitution of 1793 was absolutely insufferable. The Committee for Foreign Affairs were such slovens, and stunk so abominably, that no Muscadin Ambassador of the smallest degree of delicacy of nerves could come within ten yards of them: but now they are so powdered and perfumed and ribbanded and sashed and plumed, that, though they are grown infinitely more insolent in their fine cloaths, even than they were in their rags (and that was enough), as they now appear, there is something in it more grand and noble, something more suitable to an awful Roman Senate, receiving the homage of dependent Tetrarchs. Like that Senate (their perpetual model for conduct towards other nations) they permit their vassals, during their good pleasure, to assume the name of Kings, in order to bestow more dignity on the suite and retinue of the Sovereign Republick by the nominal rank of their slaves— Ut habeant instrumenta servitutis et reges. All this is very fine, undoubtedly; and Ambassadors, whose hands are almost out for want of employment, may long to have their part in this august ceremony of the Republick one and indivisible. But, with great deference to the new diplomatic taste, we old people must retain some square-toed predilection for the fashions of our youth. I am afraid you will find me, my Lord, again falling into my usual vanity, in valuing myself on the eminent Men whose society I once enjoyed. I remember in a conversation I once had with my ever dear friend Garrick, who was the first of Actors, because he was the most acute observer of nature I ever knew, I asked him, how it happened that whenever a Senate appeared on the Stage, the Audience seemed always disposed to laughter? He said the reason was plain; the Audience was well acquainted with the faces of most of the Senators. They knew, that they were no other than candle-snuffers, revolutionary scene-shifters, second and third mob, prompters, clerks, executioners, who stand with their axe on their shoulders by the wheel, grinners in the Pantomime, murderers in Tragedies, who make ugly faces under black wigs; in short, the very scum and refuse of the Theatre; and it was of course, that the contrast of the vileness of the Actors with the pomp of their Habits naturally excited ideas of contempt and ridicule.
So it was at Paris on the inaugural day of the Constitution for the present year. The foreign Ministers were ordered to attend at this investiture of the Directory —for so they call the managers of their burlesque Government. The Diplomacy, who were a sort of strangers, were quite awe struck with “the pride, pomp, and circumstance” of this majestick Senate; whilst the Sansculotte Gallery instantly recognized their old insurrectionary acquaintance, burst out into a horse laugh at their absurd finery, and held them in infinitely greater contempt, than whilst they prowled about the streets in the pantaloons of the last year’s Constitution, when their Legislators appeared honestly, with their daggers in their belts and their pistols peeping out of their side pocket holes, like a bold brave Banditti, as they are. The Parisians, (and I am much of their mind) think that a thief with a crape on his visage, is much worse than a bare-faced knave; and that such robbers richly deserve all the penalties of all the Black Acts. In this their thin disguise, their comrades of the late abdicated Sovereign Canaille hooted and hissed them; and from that day have no other name for them, than what is not quite so easy to render into English, impossible to make it very civil English. It belongs indeed to the language of the Halles; but, without being instructed in that dialect, it was the opinion of the polite Lord Chesterfield, that no man could be a compleat master of French. Their Parisian brethren called them Gueux plumés, which, though not elegant, is expressive and characteristic— “ feathered scoundrels ” I think comes the nearest to it in that kind of English. But we are now to understand, that these Gueux, for no other reason, that I can divine, except their red and white cloaths, form at last a State, with which we may cultivate amity, and have a prospect of the blessings of a secure and permanent peace. In effect then, it was not with the men, or their principles, or their politicks, that we quarrelled. Our sole dislike was to the cut of their cloaths.
But to pass over their dresses—Good God! in what habits did the Representatives of the crowned heads of Europe appear, when they came to swell the pomp of their humiliation, and attended in solemn function this inauguration of Regicide? That would be the curiosity. Under what robes did they cover the disgrace and degradation of the whole College of Kings? What warehouses of masks and dominos furnished a cover to the nakedness of their shame? The shop ought to be known; it will soon have a good trade. Were the dresses of the Ministers of those lately called Potentates, who attended on that occasion, taken from the wardrobe of that property man at the Opera, from whence my old acquaintance Anacharsis Cloots, some years ago, equipped a body of Ambassadors, whom he conducted, as from all the Nations of the World, to the bar of what was called the Constituent Assembly? Among those mock Ministers, one of the most conspicuous figures was the Representative of the British Nation, who unluckily was wanting at the late ceremony. In the face of all the real Ambassadors of the Sovereigns of Europe was this ludicrous representation of their several Subjects, under the name of oppressed Sovereigns,1 exhibited to the Assembly; that Assembly received an harangue in the name of those Sovereigns against their Kings, delivered by this Cloots, actually a subject of Prussia, under the name of Ambassador of the Human Race. At that time there was only a feeble reclamation from one of the Ambassadors of these tyrants and oppressors. A most gracious answer was given to the Ministers of the oppressed Sovereigns; and they went so far on that occasion as to assign them, in that assumed character, a box at one of their festivals.
I was willing to indulge myself in an hope that this second appearance of Ambassadors was only an insolent mummery of the same kind. But alas! Anacharsis himself, all fanatic as he was, could not have imagined, that his Opera procession should have been the prototype of the real appearance of the Representatives of all the Sovereigns of Europe, themselves to make the same prostration that was made by those who dared to represent their people in a complaint against them. But in this the French Republick has followed, as they always affect to do and have hitherto done with success, the example of the ancient Romans, who shook all Governments by listening to the complaints of their subjects, and soon after brought the Kings themselves to answer at their bar. At this last ceremony the Ambassadors had not Cloots for their Cotterel. Pity that Cloots had not had a reprieve from the Guillotine ’till he had compleated his work! But that engine fell before the curtain had fallen upon all the dignity of the earth.
On this their gaudy day the new Regicide Directory sent for that diplomatic rabble, as bad as themselves in principle, but infinitely worse in degradation. They called them out by a sort of roll of their Nations, one after another, much in the manner, in which they called wretches out of their prison to the guillotine. When these Ambassadors of Infamy appeared before them, the chief Director, in the name of the rest, treated each of them with a short, affected, pedantic, insolent, theatric laconium; a sort of epigram of contempt. When they had thus insulted them in a style and language which never before was heard, and which no Sovereign would for a moment endure from another, supposing any of them frantic enough to use it, to finish their outrage, they drummed and trumpeted the wretches out of their Hall of Audience.
Among the objects of this insolent buffoonery was a person supposed to represent the King of Prussia. To this worthy Representative they did not so much as condescend to mention his Master; they did not seem to know, that he had one; they addressed themselves solely to Prussia in the abstract, notwithstanding the infinite obligation they owed to their early protector for their first recognition and alliance, and for the part of his territory he gave into their hands for the first-fruits of his homage. None but dead Monarchs are so much as mentioned by them, and those only to insult the living by an invidious comparison. They told the Prussians, they ought to learn, after the example of Frederic the Great, a love for France. What a pity it is, that he, who loved France so well as to chastise it, was not now alive, by an unsparing use of the rod (which indeed he would have spared little) to give them another instance of his paternal affection! But the Directory were mistaken. These are not days in which Monarchs value themselves upon the title of great. They are grown philosophick: they are satisfied to be good.
Your Lordship will pardon me for this no very long reflexion on the short but excellent speech of the Plumed Director to the Ambassador of Cappadocia. The Imperial Ambassador was not in waiting, but they found for Austria a good Judean representation. With great judgement his Highness, the Grand Duke, had sent the most atheistick coxcomb to be found in Florence, to represent, at the bar of impiety, the House of Apostolic Majesty, and the descendants of the pious though high-minded Maria Theresa. He was sent to humble the whole race of Austria before those grim assassins, reeking with the blood of the Daughter of Maria Theresa, whom they sent half dead in a dung cart to a cruel execution; and this true born son of apostacy and infidelity, this Renegado from the faith and from all honour and all humanity, drove an Austrian coach over the stones which were yet wet with her blood—with that blood, which dropped every step through her tumbrel, all the way she was drawn from the horrid prison, in which they had finished all the cruelty and horrors not executed in the face of the sun! The Hungarian subjects of Maria Theresa, when they drew their swords to defend her rights against France, called her, with correctness of truth, though not with the same correctness, perhaps, of Grammar, a King; Moriamur pro Rege nostro Maria Theresa.She lived and died a King, and others will have Subjects ready to make the same vow, when, in either sex, they shew themselves real Kings.
When the Directory came to this miserable fop, they bestowed a compliment on his matriculation into their Philosophy; but as to his Master, they made to him, as was reasonable, a reprimand, not without a pardon, and an oblique hint at the whole family. What indignities have been offered through this wretch to his Master, and how well borne, it is not necessary that I should dwell on at present. I hope that those who yet wear Royal Imperial and Ducal Crowns, will learn to feel as Men and as Kings; if not, I predict to them, they will not long exist as Kings, or as Men.
Great Britain was not there. Almost in despair, I hope she will never, in any rags and coversluts of Infamy, be seen at such an exhibition. The hour of her final degradation is not yet come; she did not herself appear in the Regicide presence, to be the sport and mockery of those bloody buffoons, who, in the merriment of their pride, were insulting with every species of contumely the fallen dignity of the rest of Europe. But Britain, though not personally appearing to bear her part in this monstrous Tragi-comedy, was very far from being forgotten. The new-robed Regicides found a representative for her. And who was this Representative? Without a previous knowledge any one would have given a thousand guesses, before he could arrive at a tolerable divination of their rancorous insolence. They chose to address what they had to say concerning this Nation to the Ambassador of America. They did not apply to this Ambassador for a Mediation. That, indeed, would have indicated a want of every kind of decency; but it would have indicated nothing more. But, in this their American apostrophe, your Lordship will observe, they did not so much as pretend to hold out to us directly, or through any Mediator, though in the most humiliating manner, any idea whatsoever of Peace, or the smallest desire of reconciliation. To the States of America themselves they paid no compliment. They paid their compliment to Washington solely; and on what ground? This most respectable Commander and Magistrate might deserve commendation on very many of those qualities, which they, who most disapprove some part of his proceedings, not more justly, than freely, attribute to him; but they found nothing to commend in him, “ but the hatred he bore to Great Britain. ” I verily believe that in the whole history of our European wars, there never was such a compliment paid from the Sovereign of one State to a great Chief of another. Not one Ambassador from any one of those Powers, who pretend to live in amity with this Kingdom, took the least notice of that unheard-of declaration; nor will Great Britain, till she is known with certainty to be true to her own dignity, find any one disposed to feel for the indignities that are offered to her. To say the truth, those miserable creatures were all silent under the insults that were offered to themselves. They pocketed their epigrams, as Ambassadors formerly took the gold boxes, and miniature pictures set in diamonds, presented them by Sovereigns, at whose courts they had resided. It is to be presumed that by the next post they faithfully and promptly transmitted to their Masters the honours they had received. I can easily conceive the epigram, which will be presented to Lord Auckland or to the Duke of Bedford, as hereafter, according to circumstances, they may happen to represent this Kingdom. Few can have so little imagination, as not readily to conceive the nature of the boxes of epigrammatick lozenges, that will be presented to them.
But, hae nugae seria ducunt in mala. The conduct of the Regicide Faction is perfectly systematick in every particular, and it appears absurd only as it is strange and uncouth; not as it has an application to the ends and objects of their Policy. When by insult after insult they have rendered the character of Sovereigns vile in the eyes of their subjects, they know there is but one step more to their utter destruction. All authority, in a great degree, exists in opinion: royal authority most of all. The supreme majesty of a Monarch cannot be allied with contempt. Men would reason not unplausibly, that it would be better to get rid of the Monarchy at once, than to suffer that which was instituted, and well instituted, to support the glory of the Nation, to become the instrument of its degradation and disgrace.
A good many reflexions will arise in your Lordship’s mind upon the time and circumstances of that most insulting and atrocious declaration of hostility against this Kingdom. The declaration was made subsequent to the noble Lord’s Encomium on the new Regicide Constitution; after the Pamphlet had made something more than advances towards a reconciliation with that ungracious race, and had directly disowned all those who adhered to the original declaration in favour of Monarchy. It was even subsequent to the unfortunate declaration in the Speech from the Throne (which this Pamphlet but too truly announced) of the readiness of our Government to enter into connexions of friendship with that Faction. Here was the answer, from the Throne of Regicide, to the Speech from the Throne of Great Britain. They go out of their way to compliment General Washington on the supposed rancour of his heart towards this Country. It is very remarkable, that they make this compliment of malice to the Chief of the United States, who had first signed a treaty of peace, amity and commerce with this Kingdom. This radical hatred, according to their way of thinking, the most recent, solemn compacts of friendship cannot or ought not to remove. In this malice to England, as in the one great comprehensive virtue, all other merits of this illustrious person are entirely merged. For my part, I do not believe the fact to be so, as they represent it. Certainly it is not for Mr. Washington’s honour as a Gentleman, a Christian, or a President of the United States, after the treaty he has signed, to entertain such sentiments. I have a moral assurance that the representation of the Regicide Directory is absolutely false and groundless. If it be, it is a stronger mark of their audacity and insolence, and still a stronger proof of the support they mean to give to the mischievous faction they are known to nourish there to the ruin of those States, and to the end, that no British affections should ever arise in that important part of the world, which would naturally lead to a cordial, hearty British Alliance upon the bottom of mutual interest and ancient affection. It shews, in what part it is, and with what a weapon, they mean a deadly blow at the heart of Great Britain. One really would have expected, when this new Constitution of theirs, which had been announced as a great reform, and which was to be, more than any of their former experimental schemes, alliable with other Nations, that they would, in their very first publick Act and their declaration to the collected representation of Europe and America, have affected some degree of moderation, or, at least, have observed a guarded silence with regard to their temper and their views. No such thing; they were in haste to declare the principles which are spun into the primitive staple of their frame. They were afraid that a moment’s doubt should exist about them. In their very infancy they were in haste to put their hand on their infernal altar, and to swear the same immortal hatred to England which was sworn in the succession of all the short-lived constitutions that preceded it. With them every thing else perishes, almost as soon as it is formed; this hatred alone is immortal. This is their impure Vestal fire that never is extinguished; and never will it be extinguished whilst the system of Regicide exists in France. What! are we not to believe them? Men are too apt to be deceitful enough in their professions of friendship, and this makes a wise man walk with some caution through life. Such professions, in some cases, may be even a ground of further distrust. But when a man declares himself your unalterable enemy! No man ever declared to another a rancour towards him, which he did not feel. Falsos in amore odia non fingere, said an Author, who points his observations so as to make them remembered.
Observe, my Lord, that from their invasion of Flanders and Holland to this hour, they have never made the smallest signification of a desire of Peace with this Kingdom, with Austria, or indeed, with any other power, that I know of. As superiours, they expect others to begin. We have complied, as you may see. The hostile insolence, with which they gave such a rebuff to our first overture in the speech from the Throne, did not hinder us from making, from the same Throne, a second advance. The two Houses, a second time, coincided in the same sentiments with a degree of apparent unanimity, (for there was no dissentient voice but yours) with which, when they reflect on it, they will be as much ashamed, as I am. To this our new humiliating overture (such, at whatever hazard, I must call it) what did the regicide Directory answer? Not one publick word of a readiness to treat. No, they feel their proud situation too well. They never declared, whether they would grant peace to you or not. They only signified to you their pleasure, as to the Terms, on which alone they would, in any case, admit you to it. You shewed your general disposition to peace, and, to forward it, you left every thing open to negotiations. As to any terms you can possibly obtain, they shut out all negotiation at the very commencement. They declared, that they never would make a peace, by which any thing, that ever belonged to France, should be ceded. We would not treat with the Monarchy, weakened as it must obviously be in any circumstance of restoration, without a reservation of something for indemnity and security, and that too in words of the largest comprehension. You treat with the Regicides without any reservation at all. On their part, they assure you formally and publickly, that they will give you nothing in the name of indemnity or security, or for any other purpose.
It is impossible not to pause here for a moment, and to consider the manner in which such declarations would have been taken by your Ancestors from a Monarch distinguished for his arrogance; an arrogance, which, even more than his ambition, incensed and combined all Europe against him. Whatever his inward intentions may have been, did Lewis the 14th ever make a declaration, that the true bounds of France were the Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Rhine? In any overtures for peace, did he ever declare, that he would make no sacrifices to promote it? His declarations were always directly to the contrary; and at the Peace of Ryswick his actions were to the contrary. At the close of the War, almost in every instance victorious, all Europe was astonished, even those who received them were astonished, at his concessions. Let those, who have a mind to see, how little, in comparison, the most powerful and ambitious of all Monarchs is to be dreaded, consult the very judicious, critical observations on the Politicks of that Reign, inserted in the Military Treatise of the Marquis de Montalembert. Let those, who wish to know what is to be dreaded from an ambitious republick, consult no author no military critick, no historical critick. Let them open their own eyes, which degeneracy and pusillanimity have shut from the light that pains them, and let them not vainly seek their security in a voluntary ignorance of their danger.
To dispose us towards this peace—an attempt, in which our Author has, I do not know whether to call it, the good or ill fortune to agree with whatever is most seditious, factious and treasonable in this country, we are told by many dealers in speculation, but not so distinctly by the Author himself, (too great distinctness of affirmation not being his fault)—but we are told, that the French have lately obtained a very pretty sort of constitution, and that it resembles the British constitution as if they had been twinned together in the womb. Mire sagaces fallere hospites discrimen obscurum. It may be so; but I confess I am not yet made to it; nor is the Noble Author. He finds the “elements” excellent; but the disposition very inartificial indeed. Contrary to what we might expect at Paris, the meat is good, the cookery abominable. I agree with him fully in the last; and if I were forced to allow the first, I should still think with our old coarse bye-word, that the same power, which furnished all their former restaurateurs, sent also their present cooks. I have a great opinion of Thomas Paine, and of all his productions. I remember his having been one of the Committee for forming one of their annual Constitutions, I mean the admirable Constitution of 1793—after having been a Chamber Counsel to the no less admirable Constitution of 1791. This pious patriot has his eyes still directed to his dear native country, notwithstanding her ingratitude to so kind a benefactor. This outlaw of England, and lawgiver to France, is now, in secret probably, trying his hand again; and inviting us to him by making his Constitution such, as may give his disciples in England some plausible pretext for going into the house that he has opened. We have discovered, it seems, that all, which the boasted wisdom of our ancestors has laboured to bring to perfection for six or seven centuries, is nearly or altogether matched in six or seven days, at the leisure hours and sober intervals of Citizen Thomas Paine.
Indeed in this good old House, where every thing, at least, is well aired, I shall be content to put up my fatigued horses, and here take a bed for the long night that begins to darken upon me. Had I, however, the honour (I must now call it so) of being a Member of any of the Constitutional Clubs, I should think I had carried my point most completely. It is clear, by the applauses bestowed on what the Author calls this new Constitution, a mixed Oligarchy, that the difference between the Clubbists and the old adherents to the Monarchy of this country is hardly worth a scuffle. Let it depart in peace, and light lie the earth on the British Constitution! By this easy manner of treating the most difficult of all subjects, the Constitution for a great Kingdom, and by letting loose an opinion, that they may be made by any adventurers in speculation in a small given time and for any Country, all the ties, which, whether of reason or prejudice, attach mankind to their old, habitual, domestic Governments, are not a little loosened: all communion, which the similarity of the basis has produced between all the Governments that compose what we call the Christian World and the Republic of Europe, would be dissolved. By these hazarded speculations France is more approximated to us in Constitution than in situation, and in proportion as we recede from the ancient system of Europe, we approach to that connection which alone can remain to us, a close alliance with the new discovered moral and political world in France.
These theories would be of little importance, if we did not, not only know, but, sorely feel, that there is a strong Jacobin faction in this Country, which has long employed itself in speculating upon Constitutions, and to whom the circumstance of their Government being home bred and prescriptive, seems no sort of recommendation. What seemed to us to be the best system of liberty that a nation ever enjoyed, to them seems the yoke of an intolerable slavery. This speculative faction had long been at work. The French Revolution did not cause it: it only discovered it, increased it, and gave fresh vigour to its operations. I have reason to be persuaded, that it was in this Country, and from English Writers and English Caballers, that France herself was instituted in this revolutionary fury. The communion of these two factions upon any pretended basis of similarity is a matter of very serious consideration. They are always considering the formal distributions of power in a constitution: the moral basis they consider as nothing. Very different is my opinion: I consider the moral basis as every thing; the formal arrangements, further than as they promote the moral principles of Government, and the keeping desperately wicked persons as the subjects of laws and not the makers of them, to be of little importance. What signifies the cutting and shuffling of Cards, while the Pack still remains the same? As a basis for such a connection, as has subsisted between the powers of Europe, we had nothing to fear, but from the lapses and frailties of men, and that was enough; but this new pretended Republic has given us more to apprehend from what they call their virtues, than we had to dread from the vices of other men. Avowedly and systematically they have given the upper hand to all the vicious and degenerate part of human nature. It is from their lapses and deviations from their principle, that alone we have any thing to hope.
I hear another inducement to fraternity with the present Rulers. They have murdered one Robespierre. This Robespierre they tell us was a cruel Tyrant, and now that he is put out of the way, all will go well in France. Astraea will again return to that earth from which she has been an Emigrant, and all nations will resort to her golden scales. It is very extraordinary, that the very instant the mode of Paris is known here, it becomes all the fashion in London. This is their jargon. It is the old bon ton of robbers, who cast their common crimes on the wickedness of their departed associates. I care little about the memory of this same Robespierre. I am sure he was an execrable villain. I rejoiced at his punishment neither more nor less than I should at the execution of the present Directory or any of its Members. But who gave Robespierre the power of being a Tyrant? and who were the instruments of his tyranny? The present virtuous Constitution-mongers. He was a Tyrant, they were his satellites and his hangmen. Their sole merit is in the murder of their colleague. They have expiated their other murders by a new murder. It has always been the case among this banditti. They have always had the knife at each others’ throats, after they had almost blunted it at the throats of every honest man. These people thought, that, in the commerce of murder, he was like to have the better of the bargain, if any time was lost: they therefore took one of their short revolutionary methods, and massacred him in a manner so perfidious and cruel, as would shock all humanity, if the stroke was not struck by the present Rulers on one of their own Associates. But this last act of infidelity and murder is to expiate all the rest, and to qualify them for the amity of an humane and virtuous Sovereign and civilized People. I have heard that a Tartar believes, when he has killed a Man, that all his estimable qualities pass with his cloaths and arms to the murderer. But I have never heard, that it was the opinion of any savage Scythian, that if he kills a brother villain, he is ipso facto absolved of all his own offences. The Tartarian doctrine is the most tenable opinion. The murderers of Robespierre, besides what they are entitled to by being engaged in the same tontine of Infamy, are his Representatives; have inherited all his murderous qualities, in addition to their own private stock. But it seems, we are always to be of a party with the last and victorious Assassins. I confess, I am of a different mind; and am, rather inclined, of the two, to think and speak less hardly of a dead ruffian, than to associate with the living. I could better bear the stench of the gibbeted murderer, than the society of the bloody felons who yet annoy the world. Whilst they wait the recompense due to their ancient crimes, they merit new punishment by the new offences they commit. There is a period to the offences of Robespierre. They survive in his Assassins. Better a living dog, says the old proverb, than a dead lion; not so here. Murderers and hogs never look well till they are hanged. From villainy no good can arise, but in the example of its fate. So I leave them their dead Robespierre, either to gibbet his memory, or to deify him in their pantheon with their Marat and their Mirabeau.
It is asserted, that this government promises stability. God of his Mercy forbid! If it should, nothing upon earth besides itself can be stable. We declare this stability to be the ground of our making peace with them. Assuming it therefore, that the Men and the System are what I have described, and that they have a determined hostility against this country, an hostility not only of policy but of predilection—then I think that every rational being would go along with me in considering its permanence as the greatest of all possible evils. If, therefore, we are to look for peace with such a thing in any of its monstrous shapes, which I deprecate, it must be in that state of disorder, confusion, discord, anarchy and insurrection, such as might oblige the momentary Rulers to forbear their attempts on neighbouring States, or to render these attempts less operative, if they should kindle new wars. When was it heard before, that the internal repose of a determined and wicked enemy, and the strength of his government, became the wish of his neighbour, and a security against either his malice or his ambition? The direct contrary has always been inferred from that state of things; accordingly, it has ever been the policy of those, who would preserve themselves against the enterprizes of such a malignant and mischievous power, to cut out so much work for him in his own States, as might keep his dangerous activity employed at home.
It is said in vindication of this system, which demands the stability of the regicide power as a ground for peace with them, that when they have obtained, as now it is said, (though not by this noble Author) they have, a permanent Government, they will be able to preserve amity with this Kingdom, and with others who have the misfortune to be in their neighbourhood. Granted. They will be able to do so, without question; but are they willing to do so? Produce the act, produce the declaration. Have they made any single step towards it? Have they ever once proposed to treat?
The assurance of a stable peace, grounded on the stability of their system, proceeds on this hypothesis, that their hostility to other Nations has proceeded from their Anarchy at home, and to the prevalence of a Populace which their government had not strength enough to master. This I utterly deny. I insist upon it as a fact, that in the daring commencement of all their hostilities, and their astonishing perseverance in them, so as never once in any fortune, high or low, to propose a treaty of peace to any power in Europe, they have never been actuated by the People. On the contrary, the People, I will not say have been moved, but impelled by them, and have generally acted under a compulsion, of which most of Us are, as yet, thank God, unable to form an adequate idea. The War against Austria was formally declared by the unhappy Louis 16th; but who has ever considered Louis 16th, since the Revolution, to have been the Government? The second regicide Assembly, then the only Government, was the Author of that War, and neither the nominal King nor the nominal People had any thing to do with it further than in a reluctant obedience. It is to delude ourselves to consider the state of France, since their Revolution, as a state of Anarchy. It is something far worse. Anarchy it is, undoubtedly, if compared with Government pursuing the peace, order, morals, and prosperity of the People. But regarding only the power that has really guided, from the day of the Revolution to this time, it has been of all Governments the most absolute, despotic, and effective, that has hitherto appeared on earth. Never were the views and politics of any Government pursued with half the regularity, system and method, that a diligent observer must have contemplated with amazement and terror in theirs. Their state is not an Anarchy, but a series of short-lived Tyrannies. We do not call a Republic with annual Magistrates an Anarchy. Theirs is that kind of Republic; but the succession is not effected by the expiration of the term of the Magistrate’s service, but by his murder. Every new Magistracy succeeding by homicide, is auspicated by accusing its predecessors in the office of Tyranny, and it continues by the exercise of what they charged upon others.
This strong hand is the law, and the sole law, in their State. I defy any person to show any other law, or if any such should be found on paper, that it is in the smallest degree, or in any one instance, regarded or practised. In all their successions, not one Magistrate, or one form of Magistracy, has expired by a mere occasional popular tumult. Every thing has been the effect of the studied machinations of the one revolutionary cabal, operating within itself upon itself. That cabal is all in all. France has no Public; it is the only nation I ever heard of where the people are absolutely slaves, in the fullest sense, in all affairs public and private, great and small, even down to the minutest and most recondite parts of their household concerns. The Helots of Laconia, the Regardants to the Manor in Russia and in Poland, even the Negroes in the West Indies know nothing of so searching, so penetrating, so heart-breaking a slavery. Much would these servile wretches call for our pity under that unheard-of yoke, if for their perfidious and unnatural Rebellion, and for the murder of the mildest of all Monarchs, they did not richly deserve a punishment not greater than their crime.
On the whole, therefore, I take it to be a great mistake, to think that the want of power in the government furnished a natural cause of war: whereas, the greatness of its power, joined to its use of that power, the nature of its system, and the persons who acted in it, did naturally call for a strong military resistance to oppose them, and rendered it not only just, but necessary. But, at present, I say no more on the genius and character of the power set up in France. I may probably trouble you with it more at large hereafter. This subject calls for a very full exposure; at present, it is enough for me, if I point it out as a matter well worthy of consideration, whether the true ground of hostility was not rightly conceived very early in this war, and whether any thing has happened to change that system, except our ill success in a war, which, in no principal instance, had its true destination as the object of its operations. That the war has succeeded ill in many cases, is undoubted; but then let us speak the truth and say, we are defeated, exhausted, dispirited, and must submit. This would be intelligible. The world would be inclined to pardon the abject conduct of an undone Nation. But let us not conceal from ourselves our real situation, whilst, by every species of humiliation, we are but too strongly displaying our sense of it to the Enemy.
The Writer of the Remarks in the last week of October appears to think that the present Government in France contains many of the elements, which, when properly arranged, are known to form the best practical governments; and that the system, whatever may become its particular form, is no longer likely to be an obstacle to negotiation. If its form now be no obstacle to such negotiation, I do not know why it was ever so. Suppose that this government promised greater permanency than any of the former, (a point, on which I can form no judgment) still a link is wanting to couple the permanence of the government with the permanence of the peace. On this not one word is said: nor can there be, in my opinion. This deficiency is made up by strengthening the first ringlet of the chain that ought to be, but that is not, stretched to connect the two propositions. All seems to be done, if we can make out, that the last French edition of Regicide is like to prove stable.
As a prognostic of this stability, it is said to be accepted by the people. Here again I join issue with the Fraternizers, and positively deny the fact. Some submission or other has been obtained, by some means or other, to every government that hitherto has been set up. And the same submission would, by the same means, be obtained for any other project that the wit or folly of man could possibly devise. The Constitution of 1790 was universally received. The Constitution, which followed it, under the name of a Convention, was universally submitted to. The Constitution of 1793 was universally accepted. Unluckily, this year’s Constitution, which was formed and its genethliacon sung by the noble Author while it was yet in embryo, or was but just come bloody from the womb, is the only one which in its very formation has been generally resisted by a very great and powerful party in many parts of the kingdom, and particularly in the Capital. It never had a popular choice even in show. Those who arbitrarily erected the new building out of the old materials of their own Convention, were obliged to send for an Army to support their work. Like brave Gladiators, they fought it out in the streets of Paris, and even massacred each other in their House of Assembly in the most edifying manner, and for the entertainment and instruction of their Excellencies the Foreign Ambassadors, who had a box in this constitutional Amphitheatre of a free People.
At length, after a terrible struggle, the Troops prevailed over the Citizens. The Citizen Soldiers, the ever famed National Guards, who had deposed and murdered their Sovereign, were disarmed by the inferior trumpeters of that Rebellion. Twenty thousand regular Troops garrison Paris. Thus a complete Military Government is formed. It has the strength, and it may count on the stability of that kind of power. This power is to last as long as the Parisians think proper. Every other ground of stability, but from military force and terrour, is clean out of the question. To secure them further, they have a strong corps of irregulars, ready armed. Thousands of those Hell-hounds called Terrorists, whom they had shut up in Prison on their last Revolution, as the Satellites of Tyranny, are let loose on the people. The whole of their Government, in its origination, in its continuance, in all its actions, and in all its resources, is force; and nothing but force. A forced constitution, a forced election, a forced subsistence, a forced requisition of soldiers, a forced loan of money.
They differ nothing from all the preceding usurpations, but that to the same odium a good deal more of contempt is added. In this situation, notwithstanding all their military force, strengthened with the undisciplined power of the Terrorists, and the nearly general disarming of Paris, there would almost certainly have been before this an insurrection against them, but for one cause. The people of France languished for Peace. They all despaired of obtaining it from the coalesced powers, whilst they had a gang of professed Regicides at their head; and several of the least desperate Republicans would have joined with better men to shake them wholly off, and to produce something more ostensible, if they had not been reiteratedly told that their sole hope of peace was the very contrary to what they naturally imagined. That they must leave off their cabals and insurrections, which could serve no purpose, but to bring in that Royalty, which was wholly rejected by the coalesced Kings. That, to satisfy them, they must tranquilly, if they could not cordially, submit themselves to the tyranny and the tyrants they despised and abhorred. Peace was held out, by the allied Monarchies, to the people of France, as a bounty for supporting the Republick of Regicides. In fact, a coalition, begun for the avowed purpose of destroying that den of Robbers, now exists only for their support. If evil happens to the Princes of Europe, from the success and stability of this infernal business, it is their own absolute crime.
We are to understand, however, (for sometimes so the Author hints) that something stable in the Constitution of Regicide was required for our amity with it; but the noble Remarker is no more solicitous about this point, than he is for the permanence of the whole body of his October Speculations. “If,” says he, speaking of the Regicide, “they can obtain a practicable Constitution, even for a limited period of time, they will be in a condition to re-establish the accustomed relations of peace and amity.” Pray let us leave this bush-fighting. What is meant by a limited period of time? Does it mean the direct contrary to the terms, “an unlimited period?” If it is a limited period, what limitation does he fix as a ground for his opinion? Otherwise, his limitation is unlimited. If he only requires a Constitution that will last while the treaty goes on, ten days existence will satisfy his demands. He knows that France never did want a practicable Constitution nor a Government, which endured for a limited period of time. Her Constitutions were but too practicable; and short as was their duration, it was but too long. They endured time enough for treaties which benefited themselves and have done infinite mischief to our cause. But, granting him his strange thesis, that, hitherto, the mere form or the mere term of their Constitutions, and, not their indisposition, but their instability, has been the cause of their not preserving the relations of Amity—how could a Constitution, which might not last half an hour after the noble Lord’s signature of the treaty, in the company, in which he must sign it, endure its observance? If you trouble yourself at all with their Constitutions, you are certainly more concerned with them after the treaty, than before it, as the observance of conventions is of infinitely more consequence, than the making them. Can any thing be more palpably absurd and senseless, than to object to a treaty of peace, for want of durability in Constitutions, which had an actual duration, and to trust a Constitution, that at the time of the writing had not so much as a practical existence? There is no way of accounting for such discourse in the mouths of men of sense, but by supposing, that they secretly entertain a hope, that the very act of having made a peace with the Regicides will give a stability to the Regicide system. This will not clear the discourse from the absurdity, but it will account for the conduct, which such reasoning so ill defends. What a round-about way is this to peace! To make war for the destruction of Regicides, and then to give them peace in order to insure a stability, that will enable them to observe it! I say nothing of the honour displayed in such a system. It is plain it militates with itself almost in all the parts of it. In one part it supposes stability in their Constitution, as a ground of a stable peace. In another part, we are to hope for peace in a different way; that is, by splitting this brilliant orb into little stars, and this would make the face of heaven so fine. No! there is no system upon which the peace, which in humility we are to supplicate, can possibly stand.
I believe, before this time, that the mere form of a Constitution, in any country, never was fixed as the sole ground of objecting to a treaty with it. With other circumstances it may be of great moment. What is incumbent on the assertors of the 4th week of October system to prove, is not whether their then expected Constitution was likely to be stable or transitory, but whether it promised to this country and its allies, and to the peace and settlement of all Europe, more good will, or more good faith, than any of the experiments which have gone before it. On these points I would willingly join issue.
Observe first the manner, in which the Remarker describes (very truly, as I conceive) the people of France, under that auspicious Government, and then observe the conduct of that Government to other Nations. “The people without any established Constitution; distracted by popular convulsions; in a state of inevitable bankruptcy; without any commerce; with their principal Ports blockaded, and without a Fleet that could venture to face one of our detached Squadrons.” Admitting, as fully as he had stated it, this condition of France, I would fain know how he reconciles this condition with his ideas of any kind of a practicable Constitution, or duration for a limited period, which are his sine qua non of Peace. But, passing by contradictions as no fair objections to reasoning, this state of things would naturally, at other times, and in other Governments, have produced a disposition to peace, almost on any terms. But, in that state of their Country, did the Regicide Government solicit peace or amity with other Nations, or even lay any specious grounds for it in propositions of affected moderation, or in the most loose and general conciliatory language? The direct contrary. It was but a very few days before the noble writer had commenced his Remarks, as if it were to refute him by anticipation, that his France thought fit to lay out a new territorial map of dominion, and to declare to us and to all Europe what Territories she was willing to allot to her own Empire, and what she is content (during her good pleasure) to leave to others.
This their Law of Empire was promulgated without any requisition on that subject, and proclaimed in a style, and upon principles, which never had been heard of in the annals of arrogance and ambition. She prescribed the limits to her Empire, not upon principles of treaty, convention, possession, usage, habitude, the distinction of tribes, nations, or languages, but by physical aptitudes. Having fixed herself as the Arbiter of physical dominion, she construed the limits of Nature by her convenience. That was nature, which most extended and best secured the Empire of France.
I need say no more on the insult offered, not only to all equity and justice, but to the common sense of mankind, in deciding legal property by physical principles, and establishing the convenience of a Party as a rule of public Law. The noble Advocate for Peace has indeed perfectly well exploded this daring and outrageous system of pride and tyranny. I am most happy in commending him, when he writes like himself. But hear, still further, and in the same good strain, the great patron and advocate of amity with this accommodating, mild and unassuming power, when he reports to you the Law they give, and its immediate effects. “They amount,” says he, “to the sacrifice of Powers, that have been the most nearly connected with us: the direct, or indirect annexation to France of all the ports of the Continent, from Dunkirk to Hamburgh; an immense accession of Territory; and, in one word, The abandonment of the independence of Europe! ” This is the Law (the Author and I use no different terms) which this new Government, almost as soon as it could cry in the cradle, and as one of the very first acts, by which it auspicated its entrance into function as the Pledge it gives of the firmness of its Policy—such is the Law, that this proud Power prescribes to abject Nations. What is the comment upon this Law, by the great Jurist, who recommends us to the Tribunal which issued the Decree? “An obedience to it, would be (says he) dishonourable to us, and exhibit us to the present age and to posterity, as submitting to the Law prescribed to us by our Enemy.”
Here I recognize the voice of a British Plenipotentiary: I begin to feel proud of my Country. But, alas, the short date of human elevation! The accents of dignity died upon his tongue. This Author will not assure us of his sentiments for the whole of a Pamphlet; but in the sole energetick part of it, he does not continue the same through an whole sentence, if it happens to be of any sweep or compass. In the very womb of this last sentence, pregnant, as it should seem, with a Hercules, there is formed a little Bantling of the mortal race, a degenerate puny parenthesis, that totally frustrates our most sanguine views and expectations, and disgraces the whole gestation. Here is this destructive parenthesis, “unless some adequate compensation be secured to us ” — To us! The Christian world may shift for itself—Europe may groan in Slavery—we may be dishonoured by receiving Law from an Enemy—but all is well, provided the compensation to us be adequate! To what are we reserved? An adequate compensation “for the Sacrifice of Powers the most nearly connected with us”; an adequate compensation “for the direct or indirect annexation to France of all the Ports of the Continent, from Dunkirk to Hamburgh”; an adequate compensation “for the abandonment of the independence of Europe!” Would that when all our manly sentiments are thus changed, our manly language were changed along with them; and that the English tongue were not employed to utter what our Ancestors never dreamed could enter into an English heart!
But let us consider this matter of adequate compensation. Who is to furnish it? From what funds is it to be drawn? Is it by another Treaty of Commerce? I have no objections to Treaties of Commerce, upon principles of commerce. Traffick for traffick; all is fair. But—commerce, in exchange for empire, for safety, for glory! We set out in our dealing with a miserable cheat upon ourselves. I know it may be said that we may prevail on this proud, philosophical, military Republick, which looks down with contempt on Trade, to declare it unfit for the Sovereign of Nations to be eundem Negotiatorem et Dominum; that, in virtue of this maxim of her State, the English in France may be permitted, as the Jews are in Poland and in Turkey, to execute all the little inglorious occupations; to be the sellers of new and the buyers of old Cloaths; to be their Brokers and Factors, and to be employed in casting up their debits and credits, whilst the master Republick cultivates the arts of Empire, prescribes the forms of peace to nations, and dictates laws to a subjected world. But are we quite sure that when we have surrendered half Europe to them in hope of this compensation, the Republick will confer upon us those privileges of dishonour? Are we quite certain, that she will permit us to farm the Guillotine; to contract for the provision of her twenty thousand Bastiles; to furnish transports for the myriads of her Exiles to Guiana; to become Commissioners for her naval Stores, or to engage for the cloathing of those Armies which are to subdue the poor Reliques of Christian Europe? No! She is bespoke by the Jew Subjects of her own Amsterdam for all these services.
But if these, or matters similar, are not the compensations the Remarker demands, and that, on consideration, he finds them neither adequate nor certain, who else is to be the Chapman, and to furnish the purchase money at this market of all the grand principles of Empire, of Law, of Civilization, of Morals, and of Religion, where British faith and honour are to be sold by inch of candle? Who is to be the dedecorum pretiosus emptor? Is it the Navis Hispanae Magister? Is it to be furnished by the Prince of Peace? Unquestionably. Spain as yet possesses mines of gold and silver; and may give us in pesos duros an adequate compensation for our honour and our virtue. When these things are at all to be sold, they are the vilest commodities at market.
It is full as singular as any of the other singularities in this work, that the Remarker, talking so much as he does of cessions and compensations, passes by Spain in his general settlement, as if there were no such Country on the Globe: as if there were no Spain in Europe, no Spain in America. But this great matter of political deliberation cannot be put out of our thoughts by his silence. She has furnished compensations—not to you, but to France. The Regicide Republick, and the still nominally subsisting Monarchy of Spain, are united, and are united upon a principle of jealousy, if not of bitter enmity to Great Britain. The noble Writer has here another matter for meditation. It is not from Dunkirk to Hamburgh that the ports are in the hands of France: they are in the hands of France from Hamburgh to Gibraltar. How long the new Dominion will last, I cannot tell; but France the Republick has conquered Spain, and the ruling Party in that Court acts by her orders and exists by her power.
The noble Writer, in his views into futurity, has forgotten to look back to the past. If he chooses it, he may recollect, that on the prospect of the death of Philip the Fourth, and still more on the event, all Europe was moved to its foundations. In the Treaties of Partition, that first were entered into, and in the war that afterwards blazed out to prevent those Crowns from being actually or virtually united in the House of Bourbon, the predominance of France in Spain, and, above all, in the Spanish Indies, was the great object of all these movements in the Cabinet and in the Field. The grand alliance was formed upon that apprehension. On that apprehension the mighty war was continued during such a number of years, as the degenerate and pusillanimous impatience of our dwindled race can hardly bear to have reckoned—a war, equal within a few years in duration, and not perhaps inferiour in bloodshed, to any of those great contests for Empire, which in History make the most awful matter of recorded Memory.
When this war was ended (I cannot stay now to examine how) the object of the war was the object of the Treaty. When it was found impracticable, or less desirable than before, wholly to exclude a branch of the Bourbon race from that immense succession, the point of Utrecht was to prevent the mischiefs to arise from the influence of the greater upon the lesser branch. His Lordship is a great Member of the Diplomatick Body; he has of course all the fundamental Treaties, which make the Public Statute Law of Europe, by heart; and indeed no active Member of Parliament ought to be ignorant of their general tenor and leading provisions. In the Treaty, which closed that war, and of which it is a fundamental part, because relating to the whole Policy of the Compact, it was agreed, that Spain should not give any thing from her territory in the West Indies to France. This Article, apparently onerous to Spain, was in truth highly beneficial. But, oh, the blindness of the greatest Statesman to the infinite and unlooked-for combinations of things which lie hid in the dark prolifick womb of Futurity! The great Trunk of Bourbon is cut down; the withered branch is worked up into the construction of a French Regicide Republick. Here we have, formed, a new, unlooked-for, monstrous, heterogeneous alliance; a double-natured Monster; Republick above and Monarchy below. There is no Centaur of fiction, no poetic Satyr of the Woods; nothing short of the Hieroglyphick Monsters of Aegypt, Dog in Head and Man in Body, that can give an idea of it. None of these things can subsist in nature; so at least it is thought. But the moral world admits Monsters which the physical rejects.
In this Metamorphosis, the first thing done by Spain, in the honey-moon of her new servitude, was, with all the hardihood of pusillanimity, utterly to defy the most solemn Treaties with Great Britain and the Guarantee of Europe. She has yielded the largest and fairest part of one of the largest and fairest Islands in the West Indies, perhaps on the Globe, to the usurped Powers of France. She compleats the title of those Powers to the whole of that important central Island of Hispaniola. She has solemnly surrendered to the Regicides and butchers of the Bourbon family, what that Court never ventured, perhaps never wished, to bestow on the Patriarchal stock of her own august House.
The noble Negotiator takes no notice of this portentous junction, and this audacious surrender. The effect is no less than the total subversion of the Balance of Power in the West Indies, and indeed every where else. This arrangement, considered in itself, but much more as it indicates a compleat Union of France with Spain, is truly alarming. Does he feel nothing of the change this makes in that part of his description of the state of France, where he supposes her not able to face one of our detached Squadrons? Does he feel nothing for the condition of Portugal under this new Coalition? Is it for this state of things he recommends our junction in that common alliance as a remedy? It is surely already monstrous enough. We see every standing principle of Policy, every old governing opinion of Nations, compleatly gone; and with it the foundation of all their establishments. Can Spain keep herself internally where she is, with this connexion? Does he dream, that Spain, unchristian, or even uncatholic, can exist as a Monarchy? This Author indulges himself in speculations of the division of the French Republick. I only say, that with much greater reason he might speculate on the Republicanism and the subdivision of Spain.
It is not peace with France, which secures that feeble Government; it is that peace, which, if it shall continue, decisively ruins Spain. Such a peace is not the peace, which the remnant of Christianity celebrates at this holy season. In it there is no glory to God on high, and not the least tincture of good will to Man. What things we have lived to see! The King of Spain in a group of Moors, Jews, and Renegadoes, and the Clergy taxed to pay for his conversion! The Catholick King in the strict embraces of the most unchristian Republick! I hope we shall never see his Apostolick Majesty, his Faithful Majesty, and the King, defender of the faith, added to that unhallowed and impious Fraternity.
The Noble Author has glimpses of the consequences of Peace as well as I. He feels for the Colonies of Great Britain, one of the principal resources of our Commerce and our Naval Power, if Piratical France shall be established, as he knows she must be, in the West Indies, if we sue for peace on such terms as they may condescend to grant us. He feels that their very Colonial System for the Interiour is not compatible with the existence of our Colonies. I tell him, and doubt not I shall be able to demonstrate, that, being what she is, if she possesses a rock there we cannot be safe. Has this Author had in his view, the transactions between the Regicide Republick and the yet nominally subsisting Monarchy of Spain?
I bring this matter under your Lordship’s consideration, that you may have a more compleat view, than this Author chooses to give of the true France you have to deal with, as to its nature, and to its force and its disposition. Mark it, my Lord, France in giving her Law to Spain, stipulated for none of her indemnities in Europe, no enlargement whatever of her Frontier. Whilst we are looking for indemnities from France, betraying our own safety in a sacrifice of the independence of Europe, France secures hers by the most important acquisition of Territory ever made in the West Indies, since their first settlement. She appears (it is only in appearance) to give up the Frontier of Spain, and she is compensated, not in appearance, but in reality, by a Territory, that makes a dreadful Frontier to the Colonies of Great Britain.
It is sufficiently alarming, that she is to have the possession of this great Island. But all the Spanish Colonies virtually are hers. Is there so puny a whipster in the petty form of the School of Politicks, who can be at a loss for the fate of the British Colonies, when he combines the French and Spanish consolidation with the known critical and dubious dispositions of the United States of America, as they are at present, but which, when a Peace is made, when the basis of a Regicide ascendancy in Spain is laid, will no longer be so good as dubious and critical? But I go a great deal further, and on much consideration of the condition and circumstances of the West Indies, and of the genius of this new Republick, as it has operated, and is likely to operate on them, I say, that if a single Rock in the West Indies is in the hands of this transatlantic Morocco, we have not an hour’s safety there.
The Remarker, though he slips aside from the main consideration, seems aware that this arrangement, standing as it does, in the West Indies, leaves us at the mercy of the new Coalition, or rather at the mercy of the sole guiding part of it. He does not indeed adopt a supposition, such as I make, who am confident that any thing which can give them a single good port and opportune piratical station there, would lead to our ruin; the Author proceeds upon an idea, that the Regicides may be an existing and considerable territorial power in the West Indies, and, of course, her piratical system more dangerous and as real. However, for that desperate case, he has an easy remedy; but surely, in his whole shop, there is nothing so extraordinary. It is, that we three, France, Spain, and England, (there are no other of any moment) should adopt some “ analogy in the interiour systems of Government in the several Islands, which we may respectively retain after the closing of the War.” This plainly can be done only by a Convention between the Parties, and I believe it would be the first war ever made to terminate in an analogy of the interiour Government of any country, or any parts of such countries. Such a partnership in domestick Government is, I think, carrying Fraternity as far as it will go.
It will be an affront to your sagacity, to pursue this matter into all its details; suffice it to say, that if this Convention for analogous domestick Government is made, it immediately gives a right for the residence of a Consul (in all likelihood some Negro or Man of Colour) in every one of your Islands; a Regicide Ambassador in London will be at all your meetings of West India Merchants and Planters, and, in effect, in all our Colonial Councils. Not one Order of Council can hereafter be made, or any one Act of Parliament relative to the West India Colonies even be agitated, which will not always afford reasons for protests and perpetual interference. The Regicide Republic will become an integrant part of the Colonial Legislature; and, so far as the Colonies are concerned, of the British too. But it will be still worse; as all our domestick affairs are interlaced, more or less intimately, with our external, this intermeddling must every where insinuate itself into all other interiour transactions, and produce a copartnership in our domestick concerns of every description.
Such are the plain inevitable consequences of this arrangement of a system of analogous interiour Government. On the other hand, without it, the Author assures us, and in this I heartily agree with him, “that the correspondence and communications between the neighbouring Colonies will be great; that the disagreements will be incessant, and that causes even of National Quarrels will arise from day to day. ” Most true. But, for the reasons I have given, the case, if possible, will be worse by the proposed remedy, by the triple fraternal interiour analogy; an analogy itself most fruitful, and more foodful, than the old Ephesian Statue with the three tier of breasts. Your Lordship must also observe how infinitely this business must be complicated by our interference in the slow-paced Saturnian movements of Spain, and the rapid parabolick flights of France. But such is the Disease, such is the Cure, such is and must be the Effect of Regicide Vicinity.
But what astonishes me is, that the Negotiator, who has certainly an exercised understanding, did not see, that every person, habituated to such meditations, must necessarily pursue the train of thought further than he has carried it; and must ask himself, whether what he states so truly of the necessity of our arranging an analogous interiour Government, in consequence of the Vicinity of our Possessions in the West Indies, does as extensively apply, and much more forcibly, to the circumstance of our much nearer Vicinity with the Parent and Author of this mischief. I defy even his acuteness and ingenuity to shew me any one point in which the cases differ, except that it is plainly more necessary in Europe than in America. Indeed, the further we trace the details of the proposed peace, the more your Lordship will be satisfied, that I have not been guilty of any abuse of terms, when I use indiscriminately (as I always do in speaking of arrangements with Regicide) the words Peace and Fraternity. An analogy between our interiour Governments must be the consequence. The noble Negotiator sees it as well as I do. I deprecate this Jacobin interiour analogy. But, hereafter, perhaps, I may say a good deal more upon this part of the subject.
The noble Lord insists on very little more, than on the excellence of their Constitution, the hope of their dwindling into little Republicks, and this close copartnership in Government. I hear of others indeed that offer, by other arguments, to reconcile us to this peace and Fraternity; the Regicides, they say, have renounced the Creed of the Rights of Man, and declared Equality a Chimera. This is still more strange than all the rest. They have apostatised from their Apostacy. They are renegadoes from that impious faith, for which they subverted the ancient Government, murdered their King, and imprisoned, butchered, confiscated, and banished their fellow Subjects; and to which they forced every man to swear at the peril of his Life. And now, to reconcile themselves to the world, they declare this Creed, bought by so much blood, to be an imposture and a Chimera. I have no doubt that they always thought it to be so, when they were destroying every thing at home and abroad for its establishment. It is no strange thing to those who look into the nature of corrupted man, to find a violent persecutor a perfect unbeliever of his own Creed. But this is the very first time that any man or set of men were hardy enough to attempt to lay the ground of confidence in them, by an acknowledgement of their own falsehood, fraud, hypocrisy, treachery, heterodox doctrine, persecution, and cruelty. Every thing we hear from them is new, and to use a phrase of their own, revolutionary. Every thing supposes a total revolution in all the principles of reason, prudence, and moral feeling.
If possible, this their recantation of the chief parts in the Canon of the Rights of Man, is more infamous, and causes greater horror than their originally promulgating, and forcing down the throats of mankind that symbol of all evil. It is raking too much into the dirt and ordure of human nature to say more of it.
I hear it said too, that they have lately declared in favour of property. This is exactly of the same sort with the former. What need had they to make this declaration, if they did not know, that by their doctrines and practices they had totally subverted all property? What Government of Europe, either in its origin or its continuance, has thought it necessary to declare itself in favour of property? The more recent ones were formed for its protection against former violations. The old consider the inviolability of property and their own existence as one and the same thing; and that a proclamation for its safety would be sounding an alarm on its danger. But the Regicide Banditti knew that this was not the first time they have been obliged to give such assurances, and had as often falsified them. They knew that after butchering hundreds of men, women and children, for no other cause, than to lay hold on their property, such a declaration might have a chance of encouraging other nations to run the risque of establishing a commercial House amongst them. It is notorious that these very Jacobins, upon an alarm of the Shopkeepers of Paris, made this declaration in favour of Property. These brave Fellows received the apprehensions expressed on that head with indignation; and said, that property could be in no danger, because all the world knew it was under the protection of the Sansculottes. At what period did they not give this assurance? Did they not give it, when they fabricated their first constitution? Did they not then solemnly declare it one of the rights of a Citizen (a right, of course, only declared and not then fabricated) to depart from his Country, and choose another Domicilium, without detriment to his property? Did they not declare, that no property should be confiscated from the children, for the crime of the parent? Can they now declare more fully their respect for property, than they did at that time? And yet was there ever known such horrid violences and confiscations, as instantly followed under the very persons now in power, many of them leading Members of that Assembly, and all of them violators of that engagement, which was the very basis of their Republick—confiscations in which hundreds of men, women and children, not guilty of one act of duty in resisting their usurpation, were involved? This keeping of their old is, then, to give us a confidence in their new engagements. But examine the matter and you will see, that the prevaricating sons of violence give no relief at all, where at all it can be wanted. They renew their old fraudulent declaration against confiscations, and then they expressly exclude all adherents to their ancient lawful Government from any benefit of it: that is to say, they promise, that they will secure all their brother plunderers in their share of the common plunder. The fear of being robbed by every new succession of robbers, who do not keep even the faith of that kind of society, absolutely required, that they should give security to the dividends of Spoil; else they could not exist a moment. But it was necessary, in giving security to robbers, that honest men should be deprived of all hope of restitution; and thus their interests were made utterly and eternally incompatible. So that it appears, that this boasted security of property is nothing more than a seal put upon its destruction: this ceasing of confiscation is to secure the confiscators against the innocent proprietors. That very thing, which is held out to you as your cure, is that which makes your malady, and renders it, if once it happens, utterly incurable. You, my Lord, who possess a considerable, though not an invidious, Estate, may be well assured, that if by being engaged, as you assuredly would be, in the defence of your Religion, your King, your Order, your Laws, and Liberties, that Estate should be put under confiscation, the property would be secured, but in the same manner, at your expence.
But, after all, for what purpose are we told of this reformation in their principles, and what is the policy of all this softening in ours, which is to be produced by their example? It is not to soften us to suffering innocence and virtue, but to mollify us to the crimes and to the society of robbers and ruffians! But I trust that our Countrymen will not be softened to that kind of crimes and criminals; for if we should, our hearts will be hardened to every thing which has a claim on our benevolence. A kind Providence has placed in our breasts a hatred of the unjust and cruel, in order that we may preserve ourselves from cruelty and injustice. They who bear cruelty, are accomplices in it. The pretended gentleness which excludes that charitable rancour, produces an indifference which is half an approbation. They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.
There is another piece of policy, not more laudable than this, in reading these moral lectures, which lessens our hatred to Criminals, and our pity to sufferers, by insinuating that it has been owing to their fault or folly, that the latter have become the prey of the former. By flattering us, that we are not subject to the same vices and follies, it induces a confidence, that we shall not suffer the same evils by a contact with the infamous gang of robbers who have thus robbed and butchered our neighbours before our faces. We must not be flattered to our ruin. Our vices are the same as theirs, neither more nor less. If any faults we had, which wanted this French example to call us to a “ softening of character, and a review of our social relations and duties,” there is yet no sign that we have commenced our reformation. We seem, by the best accounts I have from the world, to go on just as formerly, “some to undo, and some to be undone.” There is no change at all: and if we are not bettered by the sufferings of war, this peace, which, for reasons to himself best known, the Author fixes as the period of our reformation, must have something very extraordinary in it; because hitherto ease, opulence, and their concomitant pleasure, have never greatly disposed mankind to that serious reflexion and review which the Author supposes to be the result of the approaching peace with vice and crime. I believe he forms a right estimate of the nature of this peace; and that it will want many of those circumstances which formerly characterized that state of things.
If I am right in my ideas of this new Republick, the different states of peace and war will make no difference in her pursuits. It is not an enemy of accident, that we have to deal with. Enmity to us and to all civilized nations is wrought into the very stamina of its constitution. It was made to pursue the purposes of that fundamental enmity. The design will go on regularly in every position and in every relation. Their hostility is to break us to their dominion: their amity is to debauch us to their principles. In the former we are to contend with their force; in the latter with their intrigues. But we stand in a very different posture of defence in the two situations. In war, so long as Government is supported, we fight with the whole united force of the kingdom. When under the name of peace the war of intrigue begins, we do not contend against our enemies with the whole force of the kingdom. No— we shall have to fight (if it should be a fight at all, and not an ignominious surrender of every thing which has made our country venerable in our eyes and dear to our hearts) we shall have to fight with but a portion of our strength against the whole of theirs. Gentlemen who not long since thought with us, but who now recommend a Jacobin peace, were at that time sufficiently aware of the existence of a dangerous Jacobin faction within this kingdom. A while ago, they seemed to be tremblingly alive to the number of those, who composed it; to their dark subtlety; to their fierce audacity; to their admiration of every thing that passes in France; to their eager desire of a close communication with the mother faction there. At this moment, when the question is upon the opening of that communication, not a word of our English Jacobins. That faction is put out of sight and out of thought. “It vanished at the crowing of the cock.” Scarcely had the Gallick harbinger of peace and light began to utter his lively notes, than all the cackling of us poor Tory geese to alarm the garrison of the Capitol was forgot.1 There was enough of indemnity before. Now a complete act of oblivion is passed about the Jacobins of England, though one would naturally imagine it would make a principal object in all fair deliberation upon the merits of a project of amity with the Jacobins of France. But however others may chuse to forget the faction, the faction does not chuse to forget itself, nor, however gentlemen may chuse to flatter themselves, it does not forget them.
Never in any civil contest has a part been taken with more of the warmth, or carried on with more of the arts of a party. The Jacobins are worse than lost to their country. Their hearts are abroad. Their sympathy with the Regicides of France is complete. Just as in a civil contest, they exult in all their victories; they are dejected and mortified in all their defeats. Nothing that the Regicides can do, (and they have laboured hard for the purpose) can alienate them from their cause. You and I, my dear Lord, have often observed on the spirit of their conduct. When the Jacobins of France, by their studied, deliberated, catalogued files of murder, with the poignard, the sabre and the tribunal, have shocked whatever remained of human sensibility in our breasts, then it was they distinguished the resources of party policy. They did not venture directly to confront the public sentiment; for a very short time they seemed to partake of it. They began with a reluctant and sorrowful confession: they deplored the stains which tarnished the lustre of a good cause. After keeping a decent time of retirement, in a few days crept out an apology for the excesses of men cruelly irritated by the attacks of unjust power. Grown bolder, as the first feeling of mankind decayed and the colour of these horrors began to fade upon the imagination, they proceeded from apology to defence. They urged, but still deplored, the absolute necessity of such a proceeding. Then they made a bolder stride, and marched from defence to recrimination. They attempted to assassinate the memory of those, whose bodies their friends had massacred; and to consider their murder as a less formal act of justice. They endeavoured even to debauch our pity, and to suborn it in favour of cruelty. They wept over the lot of those who were driven by the crimes of Aristocrats to republican vengeance. Every pause of their cruelty they considered as a return of their natural sentiments of benignity and justice. Then they had recourse to history; and found out all the recorded cruelties that deform the annals of the world, in order that the massacres of the regicides might pass for a common event; and even that the most merciful of Princes, who suffered by their hands, should bear the iniquity of all the tyrants who have at any time infested the earth. In order to reconcile us the better to this republican tyranny, they confounded the bloodshed of war with the murders of peace; and they computed how much greater prodigality of blood was exhibited in battles and in the storm of cities, than in the frugal well-ordered massacres of the revolutionary tribunals of France.
As to foreign powers, so long as they were conjoined with Great Britain in this contest, so long they were treated as the most abandoned tyrants and, indeed, the basest of the human race. The moment any of them quits the cause of this Government, and of all Governments, he is re-habilitated; his honour is restored; all attainders are purged. The friends of Jacobins are no longer despots; the betrayers of the common cause are no longer traitors.
That you may not doubt that they look on this war as a civil war, and the Jacobins of France as of their party, and that they look upon us, though locally their countrymen, in reality as enemies, they have never failed to run a parallel between our late civil war and this war with the Jacobins of France. They justify their partiality to those Jacobins by the partiality which was shewn by several here to the Colonies; and they sanction their cry for peace with the Regicides of France by some of our propositions for peace with the English in America.
This I do not mention, as entering into the controversy how far they are right or wrong in this parallel, but to shew that they do make it, and that they do consider themselves as of a party with the Jacobins of France. You cannot forget their constant correspondence with the Jacobins whilst it was in their power to carry it on. When the communication is again opened, the interrupted correspondence will commence. We cannot be blind to the advantage which such a party affords to Regicide France in all her views; and, on the other hand, what an advantage Regicide France holds out to the views of the republican party in England. Slightly as they have considered their subject, I think this can hardly have escaped the writers of political ephemerides for any month or year. They have told us much of the amendment of the Regicides of France, and of their returning honour and generosity. Have they told any thing of the reformation, and of the returning loyalty of the Jacobins of England? Have they told us of their gradual softening towards royalty; have they told us what measures they are taking for “putting the crown in commission,” and what approximations of any kind they are making towards the old constitution of their country? Nothing of this. The silence of these writers is dreadfully expressive. They dare not touch the subject: but it is not annihilated by their silence, nor by our indifference. It is but too plain, that our constitution cannot exist with such a communication. Our humanity, our manners, our morals, our religion, cannot stand with such a communication: the constitution is made by those things, and for those things: without them it cannot exist; and without them it is no matter whether it exists or not.
It was an ingenious parliamentary Christmas play, by which, in both Houses, you anticipated the holidays—it was a relaxation from your graver employment—it was a pleasant discussion you had, which part of the family of the constitution was the elder branch? Whether one part did not exist prior to the others; and whether it might exist and flourish if “the others were cast into the fire?” 1 In order to make this saturnalian amusement general in the family, you sent it down stairs, that judges and juries might partake of the entertainment. The unfortunate antiquary and augur, who is the butt of all this sport, may suffer in the roystering horseplay and practical jokes of the servants’ hall. But whatever may become of him, the discussion itself and the timing it put me in mind of what I read, (where I do not recollect) that the subtle nation of the Greeks were busily employed, in the church of Santa Sophia, in a dispute of mixed natural philosophy, metaphysics and theology, whether the light on mount Tabor was created or uncreated, and were ready to massacre the holders of the unfashionable opinion, at the very moment when the ferocious enemy of all philosophy and religion, Mahomet the Second, entered through a breach into the capital of the Christian World. I may possibly suffer much more than Mr. Reeves, (I shall certainly give much more general offence) for breaking in upon this constitutional amusement concerning the created or uncreated nature of the two Houses of Parliament, and by calling their attention to a problem, which may entertain them less, but which concerns them a great deal more, that is, whether with this Gallick Jacobin fraternity, which they are desired by some writers to court, all the parts of the Government, about whose combustible or incombustible qualities they are contending, may “not be cast into the fire” together. He is a strange visionary, (but he is nothing worse) who fancies, that any one part of our constitution, whatever right of primogeniture it may claim, or whatever astrologers may divine from its horoscope, can possibly survive the others. As they have lived, so they will die together. I must do justice to the impartiality of the Jacobins. I have not observed amongst them the least predilection for any of those parts. If there has been any difference in their malice, I think they have shewn a worse disposition to the House of Commons than to the Crown. As to the House of Lords, they do not speculate at all about it; and for reasons that are too obvious to detail.
The question will be concerning the effect of this French fraternity on the whole mass. Have we any thing to apprehend from Jacobin communication, or have we not? If we have not, is it by our experience, before the war, that we are to presume, that, after the war, no dangerous communion can exist between those, who are well affected to the new constitution of France, and ill affected to the old constitution here?
In conversation I have not yet found nor heard of any persons except those who undertake to instruct the publick, so unconscious of the actual state of things, or so little prescient of the future, who do not shudder all over, and feel a secret horror at the approach of this communication. I do not except from this observation those who are willing, more than I find myself disposed, to submit to this fraternity. Never has it been mentioned in my hearing, or from what I can learn in my inquiry, without the suggestion of an Alien Bill, or some other measures of the same nature, as a defence against its manifest mischief. Who does not see the utter insufficiency of such a remedy, if such a remedy could be at all adopted? We expel suspected foreigners from hence; and we suffer every Englishman to pass over into France, to be initiated in all the infernal discipline of the place—to cabal, and to be corrupted, by every means of cabal and of corruption, and then to return to England, charged with their worst dispositions and designs. In France he is out of the reach of your police; and when he returns to England, one such English emissary is worse than a legion of French, who are either tongue-tied, or whose speech betrays them. But the worst Aliens are the ambassador and his train. These you cannot expel without a proof (always difficult) of direct practice against the State. A French ambassador, at the head of a French party, is an evil which we have never experienced. The mischief is by far more visible than the remedy. But, after all, every such measure as an Alien Bill, is a measure of hostility, a preparation for it, or a cause of dispute that shall bring it on. In effect, it is fundamentally contrary to a relation of amity, whose essence is a perfectly free communication. Every thing done to prevent it will provoke a foreign war. Every thing, when we let it proceed, will produce domestick distraction. We shall be in a perpetual dilemma; but it is easy to see which side of the dilemma will be taken. The same temper, which brings us to solicit a Jacobin peace, will induce us to temporise with all the evils of it. By degrees our minds will be made to our circumstances. The novelty of such things, which produces half the horror and all the disgust, will be worn off. Our ruin will be disguised in profit, and the sale of a few wretched baubles will bribe a degenerate people to barter away the most precious jewel of their souls. Our constitution is not made for this kind of warfare. It provides greatly for our happiness, it furnishes few means for our defence. It is formed, in a great measure, upon the principle of jealousy of the crown; and as things stood, when it took that turn, with very great reason. I go farther. It must keep alive some part of that fire of jealousy eternally and chastely burning, or it cannot be the British constitution. At various periods we have had tyranny in this country, more than enough. We have had rebellions with more or less justification. Some of our Kings have made adulterous connections abroad, and trucked away, for foreign gold, the interests and glory of their crown. But, before this time, our liberty has never been corrupted. I mean to say, that it has never been debauched from its domestick relations. To this time it has been English Liberty, and English Liberty only. Our love of Liberty, and our love of our Country, were not distinct things. Liberty is now, it seems, put upon a larger and more liberal bottom. We are men, and as men, undoubtedly, nothing human is foreign to us. We cannot be too liberal in our general wishes for the happiness of our kind. But in all questions on the mode of procuring it for any particular community, we ought to be fearful of admitting those, who have no interest in it, or who have, perhaps, an interest against it, into the consultation. Above all, we cannot be too cautious in our communication with those, who seek their happiness by other roads than those of humanity, morals and religion, and whose liberty consists, and consists alone, in being free from those restraints, which are imposed by the virtues upon the passions.
When we invite danger from a confidence in defensive measures, we ought, first of all, to be sure, that it is a species of danger against which any defensive measures, that can be adopted, will be sufficient. Next, we ought to know that the spirit of our Laws, or that our own dispositions, which are stronger than Laws, are susceptible of all those defensive measures which the occasion may require. A third consideration is whether these measures will not bring more odium than strength to Government; and the last, whether the authority that makes them, in a general corruption of manners and principles, can ensure their execution? Let no one argue from the state of things, as he sees them at present, concerning what will be the means and capacities of Government when the time arrives, which shall call for remedies commensurate to enormous evils.
It is an obvious truth, that no constitution can defend itself. It must be defended by the wisdom and fortitude of men. These are what no constitution can give. They are the gifts of God; and he alone knows, whether we shall possess such gifts at the time we stand in need of them. Constitutions furnish the civil means of getting at the natural; it is all that in this case they can do. But our Constitution has more impediments, than helps. Its excellencies, when they come to be put to this sort of proof, may be found among its defects.
Nothing looks more awful and imposing than an ancient fortification. Its lofty embattled walls, its bold, projecting, rounded towers that pierce the sky, strike the imagination and promise inexpugnable strength. But they are the very things that make its weakness. You may as well think of opposing one of these old fortresses to the mass of artillery brought by a French irruption into the field, as to think of resisting by your old laws and your old forms the new destruction which the corps of Jacobin engineers of to-day prepare for all such forms and all such laws. Besides the debility and false principle of their construction to resist the present modes of attack, the Fortress itself is in ruinous repair, and there is a practicable breach in every part of it.
Such is the work. But miserable works have been defended by the constancy of the garrison. Weather-beaten ships have been brought safe to port by the spirit and alertness of the crew. But it is here that we shall eminently fail. The day that by their consent the seat of Regicide has its place among the thrones of Europe, there is no longer a motive for zeal in their favour; it will at best be cold, unimpassioned, dejected, melancholy duty. The glory will seem all on the other side. The friends of the Crown will appear not as champions, but as victims; discountenanced, mortified, lowered, defeated, they will fall into listlessness and indifference. They will leave things to take their course; enjoy the present hour, and submit to the common fate.
Is it only an oppressive night-mare, with which we have been loaded? Is it then all a frightful dream, and are there no Regicides in the world? Have we not heard of that prodigy of a ruffian, who would not suffer his benignant Sovereign, with his hands tied behind him and stripped for execution, to say one parting word to his deluded people—of Santerre, who commanded the drums and trumpets to strike up to stifle his voice, and dragged him backward to the machine of murder? This nefarious villain (for a few days I may call him so) stands high in France, as in a republick of robbers and murderers he ought. What hinders this monster from being sent as ambassador to convey to his Majesty the first compliments of his brethren, the Regicide Directory? They have none that can represent them more properly. I anticipate the day of his arrival. He will make his public entry into London on one of the pale horses of his brewery. As he knows that we are pleased with the Paris taste for the orders of Knighthood,1 he will fling a bloody sash across his shoulders with the order of the Holy Guillotine, surmounting the Crown, appendant to the ribband. Thus adorned, he will proceed from Whitechapel to the further end of Pall-Mall, all the musick of London playing the Marseillois Hymn before him, and escorted by a chosen detachment of the Legion de l’Echaffaud. It were only to be wished that no ill-fated loyalist for the imprudence of his zeal may stand in the pillory at Charing-Cross, under the statue of King Charles the First, at the time of this grand procession, lest some of the rotten eggs, which the Constitutional Society shall let fly at his indiscreet head, may hit the virtuous murderer of his King. They might soil the state dress, which the Ministers of so many crowned heads have admired, and in which Sir Clement Cotterel is to introduce him at St. James’s.
If Santerre cannot be spared from the constitutional butcheries at home, Tallien may supply his place, and in point of figure with advantage. He has been habituated to commissions; and he is as well qualified, as Santerre, for this. Nero wished the Roman people had but one neck. The wish of the more exalted Tallien, when he sat in judgment, was, that his Sovereign had eighty-three heads, that he might send one to every one of the departments. Tallien will make an excellent figure at Guildhall, at the next Sheriff’s feast. He may open the ball with my Lady Mayoress. But this will be after he has retired from the public table, and gone into the private room for the enjoyment of more social and unreserved conversation with the Ministers of State and the Judges of the Bench. There these Ministers and Magistrates will hear him entertain the worthy Aldermen with an instructing and pleasing narrative of the manner, in which he made the rich citizens of Bordeaux squeak, and gently led them by the publick credit of the guillotine to disgorge their anti-revolutionary pelf.
All this will be the display, and the town-talk, when our Regicide is on a visit of ceremony. At home nothing will equal the pomp and splendour of the Hôtel de la République. There another scene of gaudy grandeur will be opened. When his citizen Excellency keeps the festival, which every citizen is ordered to observe, for the glorious execution of Louis the Sixteenth, and renews his oath of detestation of Kings, a grand ball, of course, will be given on the occasion. Then what a hurly burly; what a crowding; what a glare of a thousand flambeaus in the square; what a clamour of footmen contending at the door; what a rattling of a thousand coaches of Duchesses, Countesses and Lady Marys, choaking the way and overturning each other in a struggle, who should be first to pay her court to the Citoyenne, the spouse of the twenty-first husband, he the husband of the thirty-first wife, and to hail her in the rank of honourable matrons before the four days duration of marriage is expired! Morals, as they were: decorum, the great outguard of the sex, and the proud sentiment of honour, which makes virtue more respectable, where it is, and conceals human frailty, where virtue may not be, will be banished from this land of propriety, modesty, and reserve.
We had before an Ambassador from the most Christian King. We shall have then one, perhaps two, as lately, from the most antichristian Republick. His chapel will be great and splendid; formed on the model of the Temple of Reason at Paris, while the famous ode of the infamous Chênier will be sung, and a prostitute of the street adored as a Goddess. We shall then have a French Ambassador without a suspicion of Popery. One good it will have: it will go some way in quieting the minds of that Synod of zealous protestant Lay Elders who govern Ireland on the pacific principles of polemick theology, and who now, from dread of the Pope, cannot take a cool bottle of claret, or enjoy an innocent parliamentary job with any tolerable quiet.
So far, as to the French communication here. What will be the effect of our communication there? We know, that our new brethren, whilst they every where shut up the churches, increased, in Paris at one time, at least four fold the opera-houses, the play-houses, the publick shows of all kinds, and, even in their state of indigence and distress, no expence was spared for their equipment and decoration. They were made an affair of state. There is no invention of seduction, never wholly wanting in that place, that has not been increased; brothels, gaming-houses, every thing. And there is no doubt, but when they are settled in a triumphant peace, they will carry all these arts to their utmost perfection, and cover them with every species of imposing magnificence. They have all along avowed them as a part of their policy; and whilst they corrupt young minds through pleasure, they form them to crimes. Every idea of corporal gratification is carried to the highest excess, and wooed with all the elegance that belongs to the senses. All elegance of mind and manners is banished. A theatrical, bombastick, windy phraseology of heroic virtue, blended and mingled up with a worse dissoluteness, and joined to a murderous and savage ferocity, forms the tone and idiom of their language and their manners. Any one who attends to all their own descriptions, narratives and dissertations, will find in that whole place more of the air of a body of assassins, banditti, house-breakers, and outlawed smugglers, joined to that of a gang of strolling players, expelled from and exploded in orderly theatres, with their prostitutes in a brothel, at their debauches and bacchanals, than any thing of the refined and perfected virtues, or the polished, mitigated vices, of a great capital.
Is it for this benefit we open “the usual relations of peace and amity?” Is it for this our youth of both sexes are to form themselves by travel? Is it for this that with expence and pains we form their lisping infant accents to the language of France? I shall be told that this abominable medley is made rather to revolt young and ingenuous minds. So it is in the description. So perhaps it may in reality to a chosen few. So it may be when the Magistrate, the Law and the Church, frown on such manners, and the wretches to whom they belong; when they are chased from the eye of day, and the society of civil life, into night-cellars, and caves and woods. But when these men themselves are the magistrates; when all the consequence, weight and authority of a great nation adopt them; when we see them conjoined with victory, glory, power and dominion, and homage paid to them by every Government, it is not possible that the downhill should not be slid into, recommended by every thing which has opposed it. Let it be remembered that no young man can go to any part of Europe without taking this place of pestilential contagion in his way: and whilst the less active part of the community will be debauched by this travel, whilst children are poisoned at these schools, our trade will put the finishing hand to our ruin. No factory will be settled in France, that will not become a club of complete French Jacobins. The minds of young men of that description will receive a taint in their religion, their morals, and their politicks, which they will in a short time communicate to the whole kingdom.
Whilst every thing prepares the body to debauch, and the mind to crime, a regular church of avowed Atheism, established by law, with a direct and sanguinary persecution of Christianity, is formed to prevent all amendment and remorse. Conscience is formally deposed from its dominion over the mind. What fills the measure of horror is, that schools of Atheism are set up at the publick charge in every part of the country. That some English parents will be wicked enough to send their children to such schools there is no doubt. Better this Island should be sunk to the bottom of the sea, than that (so far as human infirmity admits) it should not be a country of Religion and Morals.
With all these causes of corruption, we may well judge what the general fashion of mind will be through both sexes and all conditions. Such spectacles and such examples will overbear all the laws that ever blackened the cumbrous volumes of our statutes. When Royalty shall have disavowed itself; when it shall have relaxed all the principles of its own support; when it has rendered the systems of Regicide fashionable, and received it as triumphant in the very persons who have consolidated that system by the perpetration of every crime, who have not only massacred the prince, but the very laws and magistrates which were the support of royalty, and slaughtered with an indiscriminate proscription, without regard to either sex or age, every person that was suspected of an inclination to King, Law or Magistracy—I say, will any one dare to be loyal? Will any one presume, against both authority and opinion, to hold up this unfashionable, antiquated, exploded constitution?
The Jacobin faction in England must grow in strength and audacity; it will be supported by other intrigues, and supplied by other resources, than yet we have seen in action. Confounded at its growth, the Government may fly to Parliament for its support. But who will answer for the temper of a House of Commons elected under these circumstances? Who will answer for the courage of a House of Commons to arm the Crown with the extraordinary powers that it may demand? But the ministers will not venture to ask half of what they know they want. They will lose half of that half in the contest: and when they have obtained their nothing, they will be driven by the cries of faction either to demolish the feeble works they have thrown up in a hurry, or, in effect, to abandon them. As to the House of Lords, it is not worth mentioning. The Peers ought naturally to be the pillars of the Crown: but when their titles are rendered contemptible, and their property invidious and a part of their weakness and not of their strength, they will be found so many degraded and trembling individuals, who will seek by evasion to put off the evil day of their ruin. Both Houses will be in perpetual oscillation between abortive attempts at energy, and still more unsuccessful attempts at compromise. You will be impatient of your disease, and abhorrent of your remedy. A spirit of subterfuge and a tone of apology will enter into all your proceedings, whether of law or legislation. Your Judges, who now sustain so masculine an authority, will appear more on their trial, than the culprits they have before them. The awful frown of criminal justice will be smoothed into the silly smile of seduction. Judges will think to insinuate and sooth the accused into conviction and condemnation, and to wheedle to the gallows the most artful of all delinquents. But they will not be so wheedled. They will not submit even to the appearance of persons on their trial. Their claim to this exemption will be admitted. The place, in which some of the greatest names which ever distinguished the history of this country have stood, will appear beneath their dignity. The criminal will climb from the dock to the side-bar, and take his place and his tea with the counsel. From the bar of the counsel, by a natural progress, he will ascend to the bench, which long before had been virtually abandoned. They, who escape from justice, will not suffer a question upon reputation. They will take the crown of the causeway: they will be revered as martyrs; they will triumph as conquerors. Nobody will dare to censure that popular part of the tribunal, whose only restraint on misjudgment is the censure of the publick. They, who find fault with the decision, will be represented as enemies to the institution. Juries, that convict for the crown, will be loaded with obloquy. The Juries, who acquit, will be held up as models of justice. If Parliament orders a prosecution and fails, (as fail it will), it will be treated to its face as guilty of a conspiracy maliciously to prosecute. Its care in discovering a conspiracy against the state will be treated as a forged plot to destroy the liberty of the subject; every such discovery, instead of strengthening Government, will weaken its reputation.
In this state, things will be suffered to proceed, lest measures of vigour should precipitate a crisis. The timid will act thus from character; the wise from necessity. Our laws had done all that the old condition of things dictated to render our Judges erect and independent; but they will naturally fail on the side, upon which they had taken no precautions. The judicial magistrates will find themselves safe as against the Crown, whose will is not their tenure; the power of executing their office will be held at the pleasure of those, who deal out fame or abuse as they think fit. They will begin rather to consult their own repose and their own popularity, than the critical and perilous trust that is in their hands. They will speculate on consequences, when they see at Court an ambassador, whose robes are lined with a scarlet dyed in the blood of Judges. It is no wonder, nor are they to blame, when they are to consider how they shall answer for their conduct to the criminal of to-day turned into the magistrate of to-morrow.
When thus the helm of justice is abandoned, an universal abandonment of all other posts will succeed. Government will be for a while the sport of contending factions, who whilst they fight with one another will all strike at her. She will be buffeted and beat forward and backward by the conflict of those billows; until at length, tumbling from the Gallick coast, the victorious tenth wave shall ride, like the bore, over all the rest, and poop the shattered, weather-beaten, leaky, water-logged vessel, and sink her to the bottom of the abyss.
Among other miserable remedies that have been found in the materia medica of the old college, a change of Ministry will be proposed; and probably will take place. They who go out can never long with zeal and good will support Government in the hands of those they hate. In a situation of fatal dependence on popularity, and without one aid from the little remaining power of the Crown, it is not to be expected that they will take on them that odium which more or less attaches upon every exertion of strong power. The Ministers of popularity will lose all their credit at a stroke, if they pursue any of those means necessary to give life, vigour, and consistence to Government. They will be considered as venal wretches, apostates, recreant to all their own principles, acts, and declarations. They cannot preserve their credit but by betraying that authority of which they have been the usurpers.
To be sure no prognosticating symptoms of these things have as yet appeared. Nothing even resembling their beginnings. May they never appear! May these prognostications of the author be justly laughed at and speedily forgotten! If nothing as yet to cause them has discovered itself, let us consider in the author’s excuse, that we have not yet seen a Jacobin legation in England. The natural, declared, sworn ally of sedition, has not yet fixed its headquarters in London.
There never was a political contest, upon better or worse grounds, that by the heat of party spirit may not ripen into civil confusion. If ever a party adverse to the Crown should be in a condition here publickly to declare itself, and to divide, however unequally, the natural force of the kingdom, they are sure of an aid of fifty thousand men, at ten days warning, from the opposite coast of France. But against this infusion of a foreign force, the Crown has its guarantees, old and new. But I should be glad to hear something said of the assistance, which loyal subjects in France have received from other powers in support of that lawful government, which secured their lawful property. I should be glad to know, if they are so disposed to a neighbourly, provident and sympathetick attention to their publick engagements, by what means they are to come at us. Is it from the powerful States of Holland we are to reclaim our guarantee? Is it from the King of Prussia and his steady good affections and his powerful navy, that we are to look for the guarantee of our security? Is it from the Netherlands, which the French may cover with the swarms of their citizen soldiers in twenty-four hours, that we are to look for this assistance? This is to suppose too that all these powers have no views offensive or necessities defensive of their own. They will cut out work for one another, and France will cut out work for them all.
That the Christian Religion cannot exist in this country with such a fraternity, will not, I think, be disputed with me. On that religion, according to our mode, all our laws and institutions stand as upon their base. That scheme is supposed in every transaction of life; and if that were done away, every thing else, as in France, must be changed along with it. Thus religion perishing, and with it this constitution, it is a matter of endless meditation what order of things would follow it. But what disorder would fill the space between the present and that which is to come, in the gross, is no matter of doubtful conjecture. It is a great evil, that of a civil war. But in that state of things, a civil war which would give to good men and a good cause some means of struggle, is a blessing of comparison that England will not enjoy. The moment the struggle begins, it ends. They talk of Mr. Hume’s Euthanasia of the British Constitution, gently expiring without a groan in the paternal arms of a mere Monarchy. In a Monarchy! Fine trifling indeed! There is no such Euthanasia for the British Constitution—
The references to “vol. i.” and “vol. ii.” are to the “Select Works” of Burke. For many of the notes which follow, as in the case of those two volumes, the editor has to tender his best thanks to John Frederick Boyes, Esq.
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Select Works of Edmund Burke
[1.]See Declaration. Whitehall, Oct. 29, 1793.
[1.]It may be right to do justice to Louis XVI. He did what he could to destroy the double diplomacy of France. He had all his secret correspondence burnt, except one piece, which was called, Conjectures raisonnées sur la Situation de la France dans le Système Politique de l’Europe; a work executed by M. Favier, under the direction of Count Broglie. A single copy of this was said to have been found in the Cabinet of Louis XVI. It was published with some subsequent state papers of Vergennes, Turgot, and others, as, “A new Benefit of the Revolution”; and the advertisement to the publication ends with the following words. “ Il sera facile de se convaincre, qu’y compris même la revolution, en grande partie,on trouve dans ces mémoires et ses conjectures le germe de tout ce qu’arriva aujourd’hui, & qu’on ne peut pas sans les avoir lus, être bien au fait des intérêts, & même des vues actuelles des diverses puissances de l’Europe. ” The book is entitled, Politique de tous les Cabinets de l’Europe pendant les règnes de Louis XV. & Louis XVI. It is altogether very curious, and worth reading.
[1.]See our declaration.
[*]P. 234, l. 23, of the present Edition.
[†]P. 246, l. 10, of the present Edition.
[‡]P. 251, l. 20, of the present Edition.
[§]It begins p. 234, l. 24, of the present Edition.
[*]P. 268, l. 21, of the present Edition.
[†]P. 262, l. 30, of the present Edition.
[‡]Pp. 304 and 305 of the present Edition.
[§]P. 270 of the present Edition.
[‖]P. 277 of the present Edition.
[1.]The Archduke Charles of Austria.
[*]Dec. 27, 1796.
[*]Observations on a late State of the Nation.
[1.]The account given above is from the appendix B to the second Report. Since Mr. Burke’s death, a fourth Report has come out, which very fully substantiates his information. There is a table, containing a view of the Land Tax, and Assessed Taxes, blended together. The amount of the Assessed Taxes may be easily found (except an occasional difference in the last figure, from the omission of the shillings and pence) by deducting the sum of £2,037,627, which is the gross charge of the Land-Tax, according to the Report of the Committee in 1791.
A ten per cent. was laid upon the Assessed Taxes in 1791, to commence from October, 1790. In 1796 were laid, a new tax on Horses not before included, an additional tax of 2s. and a new ten per cent. These produced in that year altogether £84,232, which being deducted, will still leave an actual increase in that one year of £354,130.
[1.]This and the following tables on the same construction are compiled from the Reports of the Finance Committee in 1791 and 1797, with the addition of the separate paper laid before the House of Commons, and ordered to be printed on the 7th of February, 1792.
[1.]Report of the Lords Committee of Secrecy, ordered to be printed, 28th April, 1797, Appendix 44.
[1.]The above account is taken from a paper which was ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 8th December, 1796. From the gross produce of the year ending 5th April, 1796, there has been deducted in that statement the sum of £36,666, in consequence of the regulation on franking, which took place on the 5th May, 1795, and was computed at £40,000 per annum. To shew an equal number of years, both of peace and war, the accounts of two preceding years are given in the following table, from a Report made since Mr. Burke’s death by a Committee of the House of Commons appointed to consider the claims of Mr. Palmer, the late Comptroller General; and for still greater satisfaction, the number of letters, inwards and outwards, have been added, except for the year 1790–1791. The letter-book for that year is not to be found.
[1.]In a debate, 30th December, 1796, on the return of Lord Malmesbury. See Woodfall’s Parliamentary Debates, vol. xiii. page 591.
[1.]Since Mr. Burke’s death a fourth Report of the Committee of Finance has made its appearance. An account is there given from the Stamp-office of the gross produce of duties on Hawkers and Pedlars for four years of peace and four of war. It is therefore added in the manner of the other tables.
[1.]This account is extracted from different parts of Mr. Chalmers’ Estimate. It is but just to mention, that in Mr. Chalmers’ Estimate, the sums are uniformly lower, than those of the same year in Mr. Irving’s account.
[1.]Here I have fallen into an unintentional mistake. Rider’s Almanack for 1794 lay before me; and, in truth, I then had no other. For variety that sage astrologer has made some small changes on the weather side of 1795; but the caution is the same on the opposite page of instruction.
[1.]Souverains Opprimés —See the whole proceeding in the Process Verbal of the National Assembly.
[1.]See Debates in Parliament upon Motions, made in both Houses, for prosecuting Mr. Reeves for a Libel upon the Constitution, Dec. 1795.
[1.]“ In the Costume assumed by the members of the legislative body, we almost behold the revival of the extinguished insignia of Knighthood, ” &c. &c. See A View of the relative State of Great-Britain and France at the commencement of the year 1796.
l. 34. Mussabat tacito, &c. Lucretius, Lib. vi. 1178.
P. 102, l. 34. Ut lethargicus, &c. Horace, Sat. Lib. ii. 3. 30.
P. 155, l. 23. wherever the race, &c. i.e. in America as well as in Europe. Incidents in Hayti and in Spanish America suggested the observation. Cp. post, p. 231.
P. 156, l. 29. our friends. The Duke of Portland and his followers.
P. 157, l. 15. Conquest of France. Cp. vol. ii. p. 291, l. 4.
P. 158, l. 24. linked by a contignation, i.e. by a structural tie. The image is Shaksperian:
P. 159, l. 16. Centrifugal war. The expression aptly characterizes the war policy of the Allies. Cp. 163, l. 12, where it is explained as a “scheme of war that repels as from a centre,” i.e. France itself.
P. 160, l. 22. nothing to hold an alliance together. Burke proceeds to show why the coalition failed. His thorough and exact analysis of the situation may be relied on.
P. 161, l. 11. worse than a negative interest. Because all the West Indian possessions of European powers other than Spain were originally encroachments on Spain. Spain has been losing the West Indies piecemeal ever since she gained them.
l. 20. No continental power, &c. The dilemma was complete.
P. 163, l. 5. contemptible factories. Pondicherry, Karikal, &c.
l. 8. Cape of Good Hope. The Cape was in those times only valuable in connexion with India and the East. British policy and enterprise has made it the nucleus of a great group of colonial states.
l. 25. declines still more. The decline of Holland as a colonial power was measured by the failing prosperity of the Dutch East Indian Company.
P. 164, l. 23, foll. The passage which follows, expanding the criticisms on the general plan of the war, and alluding to the unfortunate campaign in the West Indies, was inserted by Burke in a subsequent edition. It ends p. 167, l. 28. It belongs to the period of the Third Letter.
l. 35. fierce barbarians. The negroes of Hayti and Guadaloupe.
P. 165, l. 7. ally in the heart of the country. Burke was always for stirring the strong anti-revolutionary elements which existed unused in France. The subsequent history of French factions has amply shown how much might have been done in this way.
P. 166, l. 15. made for the seat, &c. Burke has in mind the early settlement of the Spaniards in the West Indies, when Hayti was the centre of government, and the transfer of West Indian supremacy to the French with the possession of the west of the island.
Ibid. not improved as the French division had been. The extraordinary prosperity of French Hayti is a striking feature in colonial history. See the Editor’s History of European Colonies.
l. 21. reclamation = protest.
P. 167, l. 1. ties of blood. Burke derives the hint from Bacon, speaking of the Social War: “You speak of a naturalisation in blood; there was a naturalisation indeed in blood.” “Of General Naturalisation.”
l. 34. I see, indeed, a fund, &c. Burke alludes to the ecclesiastical electorates of Cologne, Trèves, and Mainz, and to the large sovereign bishoprics of Liège, Paderborn, Munster, &c. These it was proposed to secularize and cede some parts to Austria and Prussia in compensation for the Austrian Netherlands and the Rhenish possessions of Prussia.
P. 169, l. 4. Substitutions, i.e. family settlements. Cp. vol. ii. p. 207, l. 17.
P. 170, l. 19. there is no doctrine whatever, &c. Burke repeats the observation from Bolingbroke (On the true use of Retirement, &c.), who borrows it from Montaigne, Essais, Liv. i. ch. 40: “Toute opinion est assez forte pour se faire espouser au prix de la vie.”
l. 30. with all their heart, &c. The phrase is borrowed from the Church of England Catechism.
l. 33. strike the sun out of heaven. Burke has in mind Gray, The Bard:
P. 171, l. 7. “carried along with the general motion,” &c.:
l. 17. evil for its good. Milton, Par. Lost, Book iv. 110.
l. 18. nothing, indeed, &c. Borrowed from Aristotle, ’Aρ χ ὴ ἀ ν δ ρ ὰ δ ε ί ξ ε ι.
P. 176, l. 9. Montalembert. This veteran soldier and politician had cast in his lot with the Revolution.
l. 13. The diplomatic politicians, &c. This ingenious account of the growth of an aggressive policy on the part of France, though based on notorious historical facts, is difficult to justify specifically.
l. 23. Russia and Prussia. The rise of the former dated from Peter the Great, of the latter from Frederick.
l. 26. by the very collision, &c. The Seven Years’ War.
P. 177, l. 4. French party. See p. 175, l. 16.
l. 19. Out the word came. The allusion is to the arguments in the Encyclopédie and elsewhere. The politicians, of course, never employed the word except in theoretical discussions, before the Revolution.
P. 178, l. 10. Austrian match. Between the Dauphin and Marie Antoinette.
P. 179, l. 4. commercial treaty. Made by Mr. Pitt in 1784.
l. 10. facilitated—but did not produce it. Burke can hardly escape the charge of bending his facts to his theory. Political ambition alone would never have produced the treaty.
l. 17. unhappy American quarrel. Here again the alliance of France with the revolted Colonies may be accounted for without assuming an unnatural ambition on the part of France.
l. 26. produced by their republican principles. But cp. p. 182, post, where the policy of the old monarchy is shown not to have been repugnant to republics.
l. 30. in a great extent of country. The example of the United States destroyed at once the old illusion that a non-monarchical government could only suit with small states. Cp. vol. ii. p. 224, l. 35.
P. 180, l. 31. found in monarchies stiled absolute. Burke repeats a well-known conclusion of Gibbon.
P. 181, l. 8. entire circle of human desires. Burke alludes to an idea put forth by Montesquieu and developed in Goldsmith’s Traveller. It is fully explained in the note to vol. i. p. 237, l. 31. Burke’s account of the growth of English civilization has been well amplified by Guizot: “The general character of European civilization has especially distinguished the civilization of England. It was exhibited in that country with more sequence and greater clearness than in any other. In England the civil and religious orders, aristocracy, democracy, monarchy, local and central institutions, moral and political development, have increased and advanced together . . . . Not one of the ancient elements of society ever completely perished; no special principle was ever able to obtain an exclusive dominion. There has always been a simultaneous development of all the different powers, and a sort of compromise between the claims and the interests of all of them. . . . . It cannot, for instance, be denied that the simultaneous development of the different social elements caused England to advance more rapidly than any of the continental states towards the true aim and object of all society—the establishment of a free and regular government. . . . . Besides, the essence of Liberty is the simultaneous manifestation of all interests, of all rights, of all forces, and of all social elements. England had therefore made a nearer approach to liberty than the greater number of other states.” —Lectures on Civilization, Lect. ix, Beckwith’s translation.
l. 16. direct object. Burke alludes to the specific provisions in its favour, from Magna Charta to the Habeas Corpus Act.
l. 21. as great to spend, &c. Cp. vol. i. p. 285, l. 34. Since 1832 the people have been less disposed to expenditure.
l. 29. above my power of praise. Burke’s general estimate of Pitt has been fully confirmed by modern opinion. Supreme in influence over Parliament, and the first of the great school of English financial statesmen, he failed signally as a war-minister.
P. 182, l. 27. We go about asking when assignats will expire, &c. “The French, beginning with bankruptcy at home, had proceeded abroad on the maxim of Machiavelli, that men and arms will find money and provide for themselves.” Southey, Essay on State of Public Opinion and the Political Reformers.
P. 183, l. 6. Jinghiz Khan. A famous Asiatic conqueror of the twelfth century.
l. 28. Harrington—never could imagine, &c. Harrington uniformly derives all government from property. A man, he argues, with no estate, either in land, goods, or money, can have nothing to govern, and therefore no share in government. A state of things in which the people, not owning at least two thirds of the land, are supreme, he denominates “an Anarchy.” See his System of Politics in Aphorisms.
l. 33. “The mine exhaustless.” Burke is followed here by an opponent: “Nothing in point of resources is beyond the reach of a revolutionary government: whereas regular governments have their limitations in this point.” —Marquis of Lansdowne’s Speech on the Address, 1801.
P. 184, l. 4. copying music. Burke is perhaps thinking of Rousseau.
Ibid. plaidoyers. Law proceedings.
l. 10. must be destroyed. Burke copies the “Delenda est Carthago” of Scipio.
P. 185, l. 32. diligent reader of history. “A century after the expulsion of James, Louis XVI was anxious to draw wisdom from the fate of the Stuarts. He was continually reading over the lives of Charles I and James II, and even, it is said, added comments with his own hand on the margin. Determined to avoid their erring policy, he, as we have already seen, temporised and yielded on every possible occasion.” —Lord Mahon’s Essay on the French Revolution.
P. 186, l. 35. but one republic. i.e. America.
P. 187, l. 13. paid to his enemies. i.e. to the new French government.
l. 20. husbandmen or fishermen. As in New England.
P. 188, l. 6. you may call this France, &c. We have elsewhere the idea of a country or city being itself in exile when the worthy have departed and the worthless remain. Coriolanus, when banished by the citizens, retaliates as he departs:
And Carew to Master William Montague:
“Non te civitas, non regia domus in exilium miserunt, sed tu utrasque.” Cicero, quoted in letters of Swift to Gay.
P. 189, l. 1. a circumstance which, &c. The allusion is to the months of July and August, 1796, during which Burke was at Bath, prostrate under the malady which in the next year carried him off.
P. 193, l. 24. “Vast species.” Cowley’s lines on Pindar:
P. 198, l. 22. bundle of State-Papers. The correspondence between Lord Malmesbury and Delacroix, beginning Dec. 17 and ending Dec. 20, 1796, together with the long Royal Declaration of Dec. 27. The correspondence was presented to the House of Commons Dec. 28.
l. 31. “paths of pleasantness,” &c. Proverbs iii. 17.
P. 200, l. 31. rehearsal at Basle. See ante, p. 86, &c.
P. 201, l. 9. “garrit aniles,” &c. Hor. Sat. ii. 6. 77.
l. 18. “malignant and a turban’d Turk.” See end of Othello.
l. 33. In the disasters of their friends, &c. “Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d’autrui.” Rochefoucauld, Max. xix. Popularized in England through the “Thoughts on Various Subjects” by Pope and Swift. Very humourously expressed by Villemain in his “Souvenirs” when speaking of Talleyrand: “Il paraissait quelquefois d’une résignation trop grande sur le malheur de ses amis.”
P. 203, l. 1. boulimia. Raging hunger.
l. 8. “shreds and patches.” Hamlet, Act iii. sc. 3.
l. 9. mumping cant = Beggars’ set phrases. To “mump” is to go begging. Cp. vol. i. p. 175, l. 6.
l. 11. “Where the gaunt mastiff,” &c. Pope, Moral Essays, Ep. iii. l. 195.
l. 22. neighbouring vice. The allusion is to the Aristotelian theory of Virtues, which places each in a mean state between two vices.
l. 28. speech of the Minister. Mr. Pitt’s speech of Dec. 30, 1796.
P. 204, l. 18. Virgil proposed, &c. Georgics, Book iii. l. 25.
l. 19. hides his head, &c. Bonaparte had forced the passage of the Mincio, April 30, 1796, cutting off the Austrian general Beaulieu from Mantua, and forcing him to retreat upon the passes of the Tyrol.
P. 210, l. 7. in this mother country of freedom, &c.:
Casti’s work was published in the beginning of the present century. The coincidences with Burke are too many to be accidental.
l. 32. patriarchal rebels. Lafayette, Latour-Maubeuge, and Bureau de Pusy. Burke goes on to speak particularly of Lafayette, who had been taken prisoner in the territory of Liège in August, 1792. General Fitzpatrick as early as March, 1794, had moved the Commons for an address to the Crown with the object of procuring his release. This motion was opposed by Burke, and lost by a large majority. The motion was repeated Dec. 16, 1796, warmly supported by Fox, and again lost. The Peace of Campo Formio, made shortly after the publication of this letter, set Lafayette at liberty.
P. 211, l. 10. that family. The Austrian.
l. 33. not only of no real talents. Burke’s estimate of Lafayette is just.
P. 212, l. 3. fifth of October. An account of this deportation from Versailles to Paris is given in Burke’s “Reflections.” See Select Works, vol. ii. pp. 164–65.
l. 16. This officer, &c. Smith was taken prisoner in an attempt to cut out some vessels from the Havre. The French government had him sent to Paris, and imprisoned in the Temple as a spy. He managed to escape, together with the royalist Phelippeaux, an officer of engineers, by means of a forged order for transporting them to another place of confinement. Phelippeaux accompanied Smith to the East, and aided him in the famous defence of Acre in 1799, which stopped the advance of Bonaparte in Syria.
P. 215, ll. 20 foll. Muse of fire—ascended the highest heaven of invention—swelling scene—Potentates for fellow-actors—port of Mars—dogs of war—famine, fever, &c. Burke has freely used the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Henry V:
Burke evidently assumed that the passage was well-known to his readers.
P. 216, l. 28. “Which has so often stormed Heaven, and with a pious violence forced down blessings,” &c. St. Matthew xi. 14.
P. 217, l. 9. Freinshemius. The continuator of the Roman historian Livy.
l. 29. Never, no never, &c. “Nunquam aliud natura, aliud Sapientia dixit.” Juvenal.
l. 32. of Belvedere. The Belvedere palace at Rome.
Ibid. universal robber. Bonaparte, who during the past year had stripped the states of North Italy in succession of their choicest art-treasures as part of the price of peace.
P. 218, l. 3. Vehement passion does not, &c. Addison, Spectator, No. 408: “We may generally observe a pretty nice proportion between the strength of reason and passion . . . . The weaker understandings have generally the weaker passions.”
l. 8. If ever there was a time that calls on us for no vulgar conception of things, and for exertions in no vulgar strain. “This sincere and solid compliment I would pay them (the French people and commanders), of saying and showing, that we must omit no human preparations which the heart and head of man can contrive and execute.” Sheridan, Speech on Traitorous Correspondence, &c., April 28, 1798.
l. 18. De la Croix. The minister who conducted the negotiations with Lord Malmesbury.
l. 31. His Majesty has only to lament. A poor possession to be left to a great monarch:
P. 220, l. 17. former declaration. The Whitehall Declaration. See ante, pp. 99–100.
P. 221, l. 16. Regicide fleet. A fleet of seventeen vessels sailed from Brest in December, 1796, for a descent upon Ireland, relying on the support of the inhabitants. It retreated to France without landing any troops. Seven ships were lost by a storm. Hoche lost his way, and got back to Brest several days after the rest of his fleet, after being hotly pursued by Lord Bridport.
l. 33. practised assassin Hoche. The allusion is to the execution of the invaders at Quiberon. Driven by the national army to an isolated rock, and unable to escape to the British ships, all surrendered and were shot. Many of the wretched émigrés who thus perished were personally known to Burke.
P. 224, l. 5. mask of a Davus or a Geta. Characters of slaves in the Roman comedy.
P. 225, l. 15. hypothecated in trust. By the Treaty of Peace with Prussia, concluded at Basle April 5, 1795, the left bank of the Rhine was to be occupied by the French pending a general pacification. The French evacuated the Prussian territories on the right bank.
l. 26. Lucchesini. An Italian adventurer who had ingratiated himself with Frederick the Great, and had ever since been a diplomatist of high repute. Burke’s contemptuous mention of him here is interesting, for it was he who negotiated for Prussia after the battle of Jena.
l. 33. Prince of Peace. Properly, “Prince of the Peace,” a title conferred on Godoy in honour of the disgraceful peace negotiated by him between France and Spain, July 22, 1796. By this peace, the Spanish part of St. Domingo, and the Spanish possessions in North America were ceded to France.
P. 226, l. 3. Tetrarch. So called by Burke, contemptuously, from his holding his crown on the sufferance of the Republic. Cp. post, p. 339, l. 32. The Sardinian king saved his crown by suing for mercy at the first irruption of Bonaparte in 1796. He ceded to the French Savoy and Nice, together with the right of occupying Coni, Ceva, Tortona, Alessandria, and six less important fortresses, and the right of passing and repassing through his dominions at any time.
l. 21. admission of French garrisons. The fate of Genoa had been clear since the first occupation of its soil in 1794. The French easily democratized the old commonwealth, and in May of this year (1797) it was abolished and replaced by a “Ligurian Republic,” which had a Directory and Councils like France.
l. 25. early sincerity. The Grand-Duke of Tuscany, weak in mind and insignificant in position, created general amusement by being the first member of the alliance to detach himself from it. This he did early in 1795.
l. 32. placed Leghorn, &c. Leghorn was seized by the French in June, 1796, notwithstanding the peace made by the Grand-Duke. They expected to seize abundance of English property, and, disappointed in this, pillaged their own allies.
P. 227, l. 16. “murdering piece.” The technical name for this species of pictures; like “landscape.”
l. 27. sunk deep into the vale, &c. Pius VI was over eighty years of age.
P. 228, l. 8. regenerated law. Burke alludes to the revival of the study of Civil Law at Bologna.
l. 9. hideously metamorphosed. In 1798 the same process was extended to Rome itself.
l. 14. work which defied the power, &c. The drainage of the Pontine marshes had been attempted at intervals by several Popes: but no progress was made until the time of Pius VI, who restored the canal of Augustus and constructed the modern road on the line of the Appian way. It is not correct to say that the same task defied the engineers of ancient Rome. Their works had fallen into decay.
P. 229, l. 16. at all times—powerful squadron. The Mediterranean had been evacuated by the British squadron employed on that station in consequence of the demands of the war in the West Indies.
l. 21. despotic mistress of that sea. “The Mediterranean a French lake.”
P. 230, l. 9. himself the victim, &c. The allusion is to the assassination of Gustavus (III) by Ankarström, March 16, 1792.
l. 16. late Empress—new Emperor. Catherine II had died Nov. 17, 1796, leaving Paul I her successor. Burke’s expectations from Paul were justified. The unprincipled aggressions of France after the peace of Campo Formio drew him into the alliance: and the tide of events on the continent was first changed by the Italian campaign in 1799, in which Suwarrow bore so important a part.
P. 231, l. 19. As long as Europe, &c. Though the possessory interest of Europe in America has practically ceased, time has confirmed Burke’s diplomatic dictum that “America is to be considered as part of the European system.”
l. 24. attempts to plant Jacobinism instead of liberty. The allusion is to the arrogant bearing and intrigues of the French envoy in the United States, where the French confidently hoped to Jacobinize the government as in Holland and Genoa. The Directory instructed their representative to take no notice of Washington, and to appeal to the people.
P. 232, l. 25. if any memory, &c. The qualification was necessary. This antiquated distinction of parties, fading early in Burke’s career (cp. vol. i. p. 72, l. 11), was now mere matter of history.
l. 33. by their union have once saved it. An ingenious account of the desertion of the Portland Whigs, with Burke at their head, in 1792.
P. 233, l. 16. other party. The followers of Fox.
P. 234, l. 25. distinguished person. Lord Auckland, a shrewd man bred to the law, had risen to some eminence as a diplomatic agent of Mr. Pitt’s.
P. 238, l. 14. when the fortune of the war began to turn. In 1793.
l. 32. noble person himself. Lord Auckland. In the debates of the early part of 1795 he had opposed the peace proposals.
P. 239, l. 7. no foundation for attributing, &c. Lord Auckland sent to Burke a copy of the pamphlet on the day of its publication (Oct. 28, 1795), with a note confessing the authorship, but stating that as regards the public he neither sought to avow the publication nor wished to disavow it. Burke’s remarks on the authorship were therefore justifiable.
l. 14. riggs of old Michaelmas. Stormy weather about that time. (Rigs = capricious tempests.)
l. 19. Speech from the throne. The speech on the opening of the Session in 1795.
P. 242, l. 4. As to our Ambassador, this total want of reparation for the injury was passed by under pretence of despising it.
P. 243, l. 15. non omnibus dormio. The allusion is to a story contained in Plutarch’s Eroticus, of one Galba, and Maecenas: Ω σ π ε ρ κ α ὶ ὁ Π ω μ α ι̑ ο ς ἐ κ ε ι̑ ν ο ς Κ ά β β α ς ε ἱ σ τ ί α Μ α ι κ ή ν α ν, ε ἰ̑ τ α ὁ ρ ω̑ ν δ ι α π λ η κ τ ι ζ ό μ ε ν ο ν ἀ π ὸ ν ε υ μ ά τ ω ν π ρ ὸ ς τ ὸ γ ύ ν α ι ο ν, ἀ π έ κ λ ι ν ε ν ἡ σ υ χ η̑ τ ή ν κ ε φ α λ ὴ ν, ὡ ς δ ὴ κ α θ ε ύ δ ω ν, ἐ ν τ ο ύ τ ῳ δ ὴ τ ω̑ ν ο ἰ κ ε τ ω̑ ν τ ι ν ο ς π ρ ο σ ρ υ έ ν τ ο ς ἔ ξ ω θ ε ν τ η̑ τ ρ α π έ ζ ῃ, κ α ὶ τ ὸ ν ο ἰ̑ ν ο ν ὑ φ α ι ρ ο υ μ έ ν ο υ, δ ι α β λ έ ψ α ς, “Kα κ ό δ ε ι μ ο ν,” ε ἰ̑ π ε ν, “ ο ὐ κ ο ἰ̑ σ θ α, ὅ τ ι μ ´ ο ν ῳ Mα ι κ ή ν ᾳ κ α θ ε ύ δ ω.”
l. 32. two confidential communications. Both delivered to Delacroix by Lord Malmesbury on Saturday morning, Dec. 17, 1796. The first contained the proposed terms of peace so far as they related to France, the second so far as they related to Spain and Holland. The Confidential Memorials were not signed by Lord Malmesbury, though his signature was affixed to the note to which they were appended: and the Directory returned the memorials to him on Sunday stating that they could recognize no unsigned documents, and demanding an ultimatum properly signed, within twenty-four hours. On Monday, Lord Malmesbury returned the memorials properly signed, with a statement that they contained not an ultimatum, but a project subject to discussion. Later in the same day he received the peremptory notice to quit Paris in forty-eight hours.
P. 246, l. 21. German War. So called at first: afterwards best known as the Seven Years’ War.
P. 247, l. 29. the Empire and the Papacy. Neither of the two Cardinal powers of mediaeval Europe, now in their political decay, were so formidable to progress as is now often supposed. The continual attacks directed against them proceeded mainly from the politicians, and date back long before 1789.
P. 248, l. 13. body of republics. Alluding especially to the Ligurian and Cispadane Republics in Italy. The establishment of the Parthenopaean Republic confirmed Burke’s augury.
l. 19. universal empire—universal revolution. In a very short time the justice of the charge was confessed by the best friends of France. No sooner was the peace of Campo Formio signed than the attacks on Rome, Switzerland, and Naples, made it clear that faith would be kept by the Directory on no other terms than a submission to republican principles.
P. 249, l. 2. Scrap of equivalents. His contemptible list of proposed cessions to France in exchange for the Austrian Netherlands.
P. 250, l. 7. very dubious struggle. The result of the war in the rest of the West Indies was still doubtful.
P. 252, l. 10. family of thieves. The allusion is to the division of power between the two assemblies—the Council of Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred.
l. 29. The identical men, &c.
l. 30. original place—dirtiest of chicaners. The allusion is to the two lawyers Rewbel and Lepaux.
P. 254, l. 23. “The slothful man,” &c. Proverbs xxii. 13.
P. 255, l. 4. open subscription —of eighteen millions, proposed by Mr. Pitt, December 7, 1795. For every £100 in cash the subscriber became entitled to £120 3 per cents., and £25 4 per cents., with further addition in the Long Annuities. The loan was notoriously not an open competition. It was placed in the hands of the mercantile house of Boyd. The circumstances attending the loan were brought to light by Mr. W. Smith in a motion for a Committee of Enquiry. An ample account may be seen in the Parliamentary History.
l. 8. whiff and wind of it, &c.
l. 25. Ne te quaesiveris extra. Persius, Sat. i. 7.
P. 256, l. 18. ritually, i.e. formally, properly.
P. 257, l. 2. very lucrative bargain. The premium on the loan amounted to no less a sum than £2,160,000!
P. 258, l. 14. The love of lucre, &c. i.e. as productive of capital. Burke may have had the following passage in his ear when he wrote the above clause: “The inclination is natural in them all, pardonable in those who have not yet made their fortunes: and as lawful in the rest as love of power or love of money can make it. But as natural, as pardonable, and as lawful as this inclination is, where it is not under check of the civil power, or when a corrupt ministry,” &c. Swift, Examiner, No. xxiv.
l. 23. “with all its imperfections,” &c. This well-known phrase from Hamlet is a favourite quotation with Burke. See vol. i. p. 243, l. 28.
P. 260, l. 27. “wherever a man’s treasure,” &c. Luke xii. 34.
P. 267, l. 18. “Modo sol nimius,” &c. Ovid, Met. Lib. v. 483.
P. 269, l. 1. How war, &c. Milton, Sonnet xvii. l. 7.
l. 19. Proving its title, &c. Among many embodiments of this commonplace, Shakespeare’s is perhaps the best:
P. 270, l. 5. “palmy state.” Cp. note, p. 65, l. 13, ante.
l. 6. brighter lustre than in the present, &c. Burke alludes to the English campaign in the Low Countries under the Duke of York. The British contingent took the field at the investment of Valenciennes, which surrendered to the Duke of York, July 28, 1793. A month after, the Duke was besieging Dunkirk: but was forced to raise the siege suddenly by the arrival of overwhelming reinforcements to the enemy. He took the lead in the succeeding year, capturing all the posts between Courtray and Lille; and the English contingent was distinguished in the repulse of the French at Tournay, May 10, 1794. The English ranks were greatly thinned by the terrible fighting at Turcoing, on the 18th and 22nd, while the severe losses they inflicted on the enemy drew from the Convention a decree denying all quarter to the British and Hanoverian troops. Moreau and several other French generals, to their honour, refused to execute this savage decree. A month afterwards, the decisive battle of Fleurus gave Flanders to the French. At the head of an overwhelming number of troops, Pichegru drove the Duke into Holland. The states of Holland having submitted to the French early in 1795: and the English army, pursued by Macdonald and Moreau, had to retreat through a practically hostile country into German territory. They embarked at Bremerhaven for England, 1795.
l. 21. distant possessions. West Indies.
l. 23. neighbouring colonies. The British West Indies.
Ibid. one sweeping law, &c. That of August, 1793, which decreed a levy of the people en masse until the enemy should be driven from the soil of the Republic.
P. 271, l. 6. invasion. The alarm of invasion naturally began to be felt as England was gradually deserted by the Allies, as a consequence of the great development of France, and her bitterness against England. After the Peace of Campo Formio England was left absolutely alone, and the probability of invasion was redoubled.
l. 13. forty years ago. In the time of the elder Pitt and his vigorous war-policy.
P. 272, l. 27. much more to dread. See Burke’s famous Letter to a Noble Lord.
P. 273, l. 1. The excesses of delicacy, &c. The argument is amplified in a note of Southey’s: “It is the lowest class which supplies the constant consumption of society. It is they who are cut off by contagious diseases, who are poisoned in manufactories, who supply our fleets and armies. The other class of society are exempt from most of these chances of destruction, yet they produce little or no surplus of population, and the families of all such as have been truly illustrious soon become extinct. The most thoughtful people taken as a body are the least prolific. An increase of animal life depends on something more than animal passion, or the abundance of the means of subsistence.”
l. 9. whose name, &c. These touching words allude to the recent death of the author’s only son in 1794.
l. 13. the ancients. Burke alludes to his favourite philosopher, Aristotle.
P. 282, l. 24. The allusion is to the statutory registration of deeds in that county.
P. 286, l. 26. “migravit ab aure voluptas.” Hor. Ep. ii. 1. 187.
P. 287, l. 23. all the three theatres. The famed old ones of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, and the “Little Theatre” in the Haymarket, made popular by Foote and Colman.
P. 288, l. 10. my first political tract. The “Observations on the State of the Nation.” See ante, p. 245. The publication of the quarto edition of his works evidently attracted Burke’s attention anew to this early production.
P. 299, l. 18. The different Bills. The first bill, originated by a private company, was introduced in the previous session (1795–6), supported by the leading merchants, and by the East India Company. It was defeated by the interest of the corporation of London. The second bill, containing the rival scheme of the corporation, was introduced early in 1797.
P. 303, l. 1. bore —an exceptionally high tide.
P. 304, l. 34. Famish their virtues, &c. The image belongs to Young: “Eusebius, though liberal to the demands of nature, rank, and duty, starves vice, caprice, and folly.” Letter on Pleasure, iii.
P. 305, l. 7. mines of Newfoundland. The fisheries. The expulsion of the French from St. Pierre and Miquelon (see Introduction) had thrown them exclusively into English hands.
P. 309, l. 27. eternal duration. See for examples the conclusion of Horace’s Odes and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
P. 310, l. 4. Parisian September. The allusion is to the memorable September of 1792.
l. 7. pleasant author. Voltaire.
l. 32. Rider’s Almanack. Then and long afterwards the best popular almanack.
P. 312, l. 2. Second edition. Burke waited to watch the effect of Lord Auckland’s work on the public. It had been out about two months when the criticism was begun.
l. 12. Qualis in aethereo. Tibullus, Lib. iv. Carm. 2.
l. 16. simple country folk. Burke was no longer in Parliament: he lived in retirement at Beaconsfield.
P. 314. The style here, as in many other parts, is that of a speech in debate.
P. 317, l. 5. Esto perpetua. Father Paul Sarpi’s dying prayer for his country (Venice). See Dr. Johnson’s Life of him.
P. 318, l. 7. restored the two countries, &c. Thomson alludes to the idea, “Liberty,” Part iv.:
P. 319, l. 21. “That strain I heard,” &c. Milton, Lycidas.
l. 23. a style which, &c. Burke somewhat unfairly contrasts the flimsy style of Auckland’s pamphlet with that of Grenville’s Declaration. The compositions were in different kinds.
P. 321, l. 16. first republic in the world. Holland.
l. 27. Pomoerium. The limit of the precincts of ancient Rome.
P. 322, l. 2. boulimia. See ante, p. 203, l. 1.
l. 19. Doctor in Molière. See “Le Malade Imaginaire.”
P. 323, l. 18. opinion of some. See the opening of the first chapter. That empires fall by their own weight is not only an ill-formed analogy, but formed on false premises. A tree, or a building, never falls by its own weight until some other cause has done its work.
P. 324, l. 11. “once to doubt,” &c. Othello, Act iii. sc. 3.
l. 25. excellent Berkeley. Bishop Berkeley’s Queries, mainly directed to the condition of Ireland, make an important epoch in the history of Political Economy.
P. 326, l. 12. dare not be wise. “Sapere aude.” Horace, Epistles, i. 2. 40.
l. 15. “To-morrow and to-morrow,” &c. See Macbeth, Act v. sc. 5.
P. 327, l. 27. the famous Jurieu. Pierre Jurieu (1637–1713) a Protestant theologian of some eminence, had satisfied himself by study of the Prophets and Apocalypse that the year 1689 would witness the final triumph of Protestantism over Rome. As the time approached, so jubilant were the partisans of his views that a medal was struck in his honour with the legend “Jurius Propheta.” The year 1689 however, passed without seeing his predictions fulfilled. Jurieu reapplied himself to his studies, and discovered that he had made an error of twenty-six years, and that 1715 was the real date of the second advent of the Messiah and the fall of Antichrist. Before this date the prophet died. Among his numerous writings is a curious one entitled “Les Soupirs de la France esclave qui respire après la liberté.” It denounced the tyranny of Louis XIV, and asserted the sovereignty of the people.
l. 29. Mr. Brothers. Richard Brothers was a harmless fanatic who prophesied and published various pamphlets containing his prophecies. In 1792 “he was commanded by the Lord God to go down to the House of Parliament and acquaint the members for their own personal safety and the general benefit of the country that the time of the world was come to fulfil the 7th chapter of Daniel.” But on his publishing his prophetic mission to George III to “deliver up his crown, that all his power and authority might cease,” he was taken up on a warrant, on suspicion of treasonable practices. One member of Parliament, a Mr. Halhed, believed in him, and repeatedly strove to bring his wrongs before the house.
P. 328, l. 35. gemitus Columbae. Cooings. Isaiah lix. 11 (Vulg.).
P. 330, l. 3. untimely wisdom, &c. “Eventus ille stultorum magister,” Livy.
P. 332, l. 17. Jourdan Coupe-tête. Matthew Jourdan, the illiterate ruffian who devastated the Comtat Venaissin, and executed the horrible “Massacre de la Glacière” at Avignon. The Revolutionary Tribunal rid the world of him in 1794.
l. 18. whose Predecessor, &c. Joseph the Second.
P. 333, l. 14. Juignie—Cardinal de Rochefoucault. Juigné, Bishop of Chalons, had taken part in the famous sitting of the 4th of August, 1789, and proposed a Te Deum in celebration of it. He was now in exile at Constance. As to the Cardinal de Rochefoucault, see note to vol. ii. p. 213, l. 31.
l. 16. their very beings. Perhaps borrowed from what Grattan had said of the famous preacher Dr. Kirwan: “In feeding the lamp of charity he had almost exhausted the lamp of life.” Speech on the Address, Jan. 19, 1792.
P. 334, l. 15. D’Espremenil. D’Espremenil had been a minister before the Revolution. On the establishment of the Convention he had retired to the country, and ceased to take any part in politics. From his country seat he was suddenly called before the Revolutionary tribunal, condemned, and executed, in 1794.
l. 17. Malesherbes. The famous ally of Turgot, in his plans for saving France by timely fiscal and constitutional reforms. He had been the king’s advocate at his trial. After the king’s execution, he also retired to the country: whence he was brought before the Revolutionary tribunal, condemned, and executed with D’Espremenil. Sainte-Beuve calls him “ce Franklin de vieille race.”
P. 335, l. 13. “last that wore the imperial purple.” The prophecy was to meet with a striking fulfilment.
P. 336, l. 13. humility and submission—silent adoration—trembling wings. As in the fine passage page 163, Burke is using classical materials. Pope, Essay on Man, i. 91:
P. 337, l. 4. old Trivulzio. The famous old general was then (1515) in his seventy-fourth year. The battle of Marignano was fought by him at the head of a French army. It gained Francis I, for a short time, possession of the whole Duchy of Milan.
Ibid. battle of Marignan. Burke quotes from memory the famous description of this battle in Mezeray, Book iii: “Il se trouva sur le champ quatorze mille Suisses morts et pres de quatre mille François: ceux-là pour la plus grande part brisez de coups de canons ou percez de traits d’arbaleste, et ceux-cy fendus et hachez par d’horribles et larges playes. Aussi Trivulce, qui s’estoit trouvé à dix-huit batailles, disoit que celle-cy estoit une bataille de géants, et que toutes les autres n’estoient en comparison que des jeux d’enfans.”
l. 14. Origenist, &c. So Young, Satire vi:
P. 338, l. 13. usurper, murderer, regicide. Claudius. See Hamlet, Act iii. sc. 3.
l. 33. massacre at Quiberon. The captured French emigrants, not being recognised as belligerents, were all shot. Burke alludes to this in the Third Letter, p. 170, where he speaks of the “practised assassin Hoche.”
P. 339, l. 16. Taedet harum, &c. Terence, Eun. ii. 3. 6.
l. 24. Muscadin. Perfumed with musk.
l. 32. Tetrarchs. Cp. p. 226, l. 3.
P. 340, l. 31. “pride, pomp, and circumstance.” Othello, Act iii. sc. 3.
P. 342, l. 2. Anacharsis Cloots. Jean Baptiste Clootz, or, properly, Klotz, a wealthy German settled in Paris, and greatly inflamed with revolutionary ideas. He assumed the name Anacharsis in honour of the philosophic Scythian, when travelling in Europe before the Revolution. His early exploit is abundantly described by Burke. He afterwards added to his assumed title of “Ambassador of the Human Race” that of “Personal Enemy of God.” By a decree of the 26th of August, 1792, the title of citizen was conferred upon him: on which occasion he thanked the French people at the bar of the Convention, and pronounced a panegyric on the regicide Ankarström. Cp. note to p. 230, l. 9, ante. He perished a victim to the Terror, March 23, 1794.
P. 343, l. 1. their Cotterel. Sir Clement Cotterell was a high official of the Court of George III.
l. 5. gaudy day. An annual festival.
P. 344, l. 3. grown philosophick. This keen sarcasm refers not only to the late Emperor, Joseph the Second, and to Louis XVI, but to such living sovereigns as the Grand Duke of Tuscany. See p. 226, where he is spoken of as a “pacific Solomon.”
l. 6. Cappadocia. Burke of course means that Prussia had become to France what Cappadocia was to Rome; a humble province of the regicide empire.
l. 8. Judean representation. Burke likens Austria to Judea, as he has just likened Prussia to Cappadocia.
l. 14. daughter. Marie Antoinette.
l. 26. Moriamur, &c. The story of the unanimous enthusiasm of the Hungarian Diet is apocryphal. The words were used by Charles, Maria Theresa’s husband, and a certain number of the nobles repeated it after him: but the majority murmured, and demanded a readjustment of taxation.
P. 346, l. 15. Lord Auckland—Duke of Bedford. The latter was one of the leaders of the opposition in the Lords.
P. 347, l. 23. I do not believe, &c. Burke is right. Washington bore no hatred to Great Britain.
P. 348, l. 15. infernal altar. The allusion is to the story of Hannibal, as stated by Livy. Cp. note to p. 64, l. 18.
l. 28. an Author who points, &c. Tacitus.
P. 350, l. 10. Marquis de Montalembert. This veteran soldier was still living, and actively employed in the service of the Republic. He wrote more than one “Military Treatise.”
l. 26. Mire sagaces, &c. Horace, Odes, Lib. ii. 5. 22.
l. 32. old coarse bye-word. “God sends meat, and the devil sends cooks.”
l. 35. Thomas Paine. The author of the Rights of Man had been installed as a member of the Convention.
P. 351, l. 10. house that he has opened. Burke goes on in his happiest vein of humour, to apply to Paine the amusing lines of Swift on the old and the new Angel Inns.
l. 32. light lie the earth, &c. Cp. ante, p. 96, l. 4.
P. 352, l. 7. Republic of Europe. The argument is amplified in the First Letter.
l. 24. I have reason to be persuaded, &c. Cp. the earlier pages of the Reflections (Select Works, vol. ii.). Thiers, in his History, says that the French political clubs were modelled on those of England.
l. 29. formal distributions—moral basis. See the arguments in vol. ii. p. 278, and following.
P. 353, l. 15. Astraea. The goddess of Justice, said to have quitted the earth when the Golden Age ceased.
P. 354, l. 6. I have heard that a Tartar believes, &c. Butler, Hudibras (Part i. c. 2):
So Shaftesbury, Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour: “For, in good earnest, to destroy a philosophy in hatred to a man implies as errant a Tartar-notion as to destroy or murder a man, in order to plunder him of his wit, and get the inheritance of his understanding.”
l. 14. tontine of Infamy. A happy stroke. A Tontine (so named from its inventor) is a lottery in which the longest livers divide the produce of the stock, with its accumulations. Cp. vol. ii. p. 361, l. 7.
l. 26. Murderers and hogs, &c. This grim humour is borrowed from Bacon’s “Spurious” Apophthegms, No. 16.
l. 30. Pantheon. Cp. ante, note to p. 126, l. 2.
P. 357, l. 10. regardants. A “villain regardant” is the old legal term for an ordinary serf.
l. 11. even the Negroes, &c. Burke goes too far. At this time the condition of the negroes in the British West Indies, which Burke had been the first to characterise adequately, in a juvenile production forty years before, was being widely discussed.
l. 26. more at large hereafter. See the Second Letter.
P. 358, l. 34. genethliacon. A birth-song. Burke’s observation is correct. It was the strength of the opposition in the Assembly, and the goodness of their cause, that led to the Revolution of Fructidor, and the triumph of the war-party, in 1797.
P. 361, l. 35. “splitting this brilliant orb,” &c.:
P. 365, l. 8. eundem Negotiatorem, &c. The Roman negotiator or factor was usually a slave.
l. 14. master Republick cultivates the arts, &c. The allusion is to Virgil’s well-known lines:
l. 33. by inch of candle. By auction; the time for bidding limited by an inch of candle.
Ibid. dedecorum pretiosus, &c. Horace, Odes, Lib. iii. 6. 32.
l. 35. Prince of Peace. See ante, p. 225, and the note.
P. 366, l. 2. pesos duros. Dollars.
l. 24. death of Philip the Fourth. Burke works out this hint in the First Letter, p. 111.
P. 369, l. 6. this holy season. Cp. p. 312. From the two passages it may be concluded that the work was begun late in December 1795.
P. 370, l. 19. transatlantic Morocco. Burke alludes to the political rights which according to French principles were granted to the free blacks and men of colour in the French West Indies, and to the stimulus which this would give to communities originally founded on piracy, and always addicted to it.
P. 372, l. 28. Here ends that part of the critique upon Auckland’s Letter which Burke corrected for the press. The following pages, down to p. 376, l. 28, were made up by Bishop King from loose uncorrected papers.
P. 373, l. 7. bought by so much blood. Burke has in mind his favourite lines from Addison’s Cato:
P. 376, l. 1. They never will love, &c. Dr. Johnson “loved a good hater.”
l. 16. best accounts I have, &c. Burke alludes to the strict retirement in which he was living, since the death of his son.
l. 18. “some to undo,” &c. The line is from Denham’s “Cooper’s Hill.”
l. 28. Here the original terminates. The remaining portion of this letter does not belong to Burke’s confutation of Lord Auckland. It was added by Bishop King from a separate copy, already put into type, but never finished or published. The Bishop says that it formed part of the Third Letter of Burke’s original scheme (see p. 148), and was laid aside in consequence of the rupture of the negotiations.
P. 377, l. 17. tremblingly alive. The expression is Pope’s. Essay on Man, i. 197.
l. 24. “vanished at the crowing,” &c. Shakespeare, Hamlet.
l. 26. us poor Tory geese. The allusion is to the story of the Capitol of Rome saved from the Gauls by the cackling of geese, Livy, Lib. v. c. 47.
l. 33. Hic auratis, &c. Virgil, Aen. viii. 655.
P. 378. This bitter tirade, which applies to most of Burke’s former political associates, cannot be read without pain. It must be remembered that he did not publish it.
P. 383, l. 13. jewel of their souls, &c. Othello, Act iii. sc. 5.
P. 384, l. 31. awful and imposing. The allusion is clearly to Windsor Castle, as seen on the approach from the uplands of Buckinghamshire, where Burke was living in retirement.
P. 385, l. 30. for a few days, &c. This indicates that the fragment was written while Malmesbury’s negotiations were yet going on, and a favourable conclusion was anticipated.
P. 387, l. 17. coaches of Duchesses, Countesses, and Lady Marys:
P. 389, l. 2. Is it for this that our youth of both sexes are to form themselves by travel? Wordsworth illustrates the warning:
Much of this book may be read to show the working of the French Revolution on the minds of many of the young men of England.
P. 392, l. 32. Tenth wave. Silius Italicus, xiv. 121.
So Taylor, “Mercy of the Divine Judgments”: “If Pharaoh will not be cured by one plague he shall have ten, and if ten will not do it, the great and tenth wave which is far bigger than all the rest.” Young, The Brothers, Act iv.:
P. 394, l. 26. Mr. Hume’s Euthanasia, &c. In his early Essay “On the British Government,” Hume argues from a fallacy already confuted by Burke (see p. 62) that the “English constitution” must end either in a republic or an absolute monarchy. The latter he thought the easiest and most natural.