Front Page Titles (by Subject) C H A P T E R X X I I I: General Observations on the Conduct of the British King and Parliament, after the Intelligence of the Capture of Lord Cornwallis and his Army • King's Speech • Address of Thanks opposed • Proposition by Sir Thomas Pitt to withhold - History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 2
Return to Title Page for History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
C H A P T E R X X I I I: General Observations on the Conduct of the British King and Parliament, after the Intelligence of the Capture of Lord Cornwallis and his Army • King’s Speech • Address of Thanks opposed • Proposition by Sir Thomas Pitt to withhold - Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 2 
History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations, in Two Volumes, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1994).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
C H A P T E R X X I I I
General Observations on the Conduct of the British King and Parliament, after the Intelligence of the Capture of Lord Cornwallis and his Army • King’s Speech • Address of Thanks opposed • Proposition by Sir Thomas Pitt to withhold Supplies from the Crown • Vote carried in Favor of granting Supplies • General Burgoyne defends the American Opposition to the Measures of the Court • Variety of desultory Circumstances discussed in Parliament
chap. xxiii The close of the campaign in Virginia, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-one, was an era interesting to the empire of Britain,1781 and indeed to the European world, as well as to the United States of America. The period was beheld by the latter with a mixture of pleasure and astonishment, more easily imagined than described; and by some of the former, especially Great Britain, with chagrin and mortification, equal to their designs of conquest and subjugation. The relief of the southern colonies, and the capture of lord Cornwallis and his army, was not less unexpected than humiliating, to the king, the minister, and the British nation at large; yet from their deportment there did not appear any immediate prospect of peace.
 From the situation of American affairs at home, from the expected accession of new allies, and the general disposition of the European powers, to acknowledge the independence of the United States, and from their successes and their perseverance, it might rationally have been expected, that the contemplation of a general pacification among the contending powers, would at this time have originated in England: more especially when the expenses of the nation were calculated, and the misfortunes Great Britain had suffered during the war were considered.
Her national enemies abroad were accumulating; discontents and riots at home increasing; the complaints of Scotland alarming; and Ireland nearly in a state of insurrection. But the pride, the spirit, and the resources of the nation, appeared almost inexhaustible; and the stake of the colonies was too great to relinquish yet, though the ministry had hitherto played a losing game.
Thus when the British parliament met, after the confirmation of the loss of the army in Virginia, the capture of lord Cornwallis and his brave troops, the total defeat of the expedition to the Chesapeake, and the declining aspect of affairs in the more southern colonies, the speech from the throne was yet manifestly dictated by the spirit of hostility. The king, though he  lamented in the preamble of his speech, the loss of his brave officers and troops, and the unfortunate termination of the campaign in Virginia, he still urged the most vigorous prosecution of the war, and of measures that might extinguish that spirit of rebellion that reigned in the colonies, and reduce his deluded subjects to due obedience to the laws and government of Great Britain.
“The war,” he observed,
is still unhappily prolonged by that restless ambition which first excited our enemies to commence it, and which still continues to disappoint my earnest and diligent exertions to restore the public tranquillity. But I should not answer the trust committed to the sovereign of a free people, nor make a suitable return to my subjects for their constant and zealous attachment to my person, family, and government, if I consented to sacrifice, either to my own desire of peace, or to their temporary ease and relief, those essential rights and permanent interests, upon the maintenance of which, the future strength and security of this country must ever principally depend.
The late accounts from America had in some measure weakened the influence of the ministry, and in proportion, strengthened the party who had always execrated the American war.  But administration, too much agitated by the desire of revenge, and too haughty and powerful to bend to terms of pacification, flattered themselves, that events had not yet fully ripened a general disposition for peace. Of course, the usual compliment of an address of thanks for the speech from the throne, was brought forward; but it was opposed with unusual acrimony.
It was boldly asserted, that the speech breathed nothing but “rancor, vengeance, misery, and bloodshed.” The war was directly charged, by the advocates for peace, to the wild systems of government adopted early in the present reign. They alleged, that it was ineffectual, delusory, and ruinous; that it was founded, not in the restless ambition of the Americans, but that it ought to be charged on a ministry who were “a curse to their country; who had cut up the British possessions in the colonies, and separated England from their fellow subjects in America;” who had drawn them to the point of losing their settlements both in the East and the West Indies; who had distressed their commerce, robbed them of the once undisputed sovereignty of the seas, and rendered the nation the ridicule of Europe.*
 This was the language of Mr. Fox. Sentiments and opinions nearly similar, were expressed by Burke, Barre, and the son of the celebrated Pitt; by the lords Saville, Shelburne, Conway, and others, in the house of commons. The same temper and opinions appeared in the house of lords: the duke of Richmond, the lords Rockingham, Fitzwilliam, Maitland, and many others on the list of nobility, varied little in opinion or expression from the minority in the house of commons. They with equal warmth opposed an address to the king; they freely discussed the principles held up in the speech, and as severely censured the measures it tended to enforce.
The dissenting lords observed, that
by an address of thanks, their honor might be pledged to support a war, that from near seven years’ experience, a determination to pursue it, appeared in the highest degree frantic, desperate, and ruinous; that the principles of the present war could never be justified; that the delusions by which parliament had been led on from year to year to pursue it, were criminal; that the abuse and mismanagement of the marine department had occasioned the loss in Virginia; that the minister at the head of the board of admiralty might be justly charged with negligence, incapacity, and guilt.
 The character of Sandwich, first lord of the admiralty, was justly portrayed on this occasion, and exhibited in those glaring colors merited by his private life, as well as his political blunders. In short, every motion for a further coercion of the colonies, was reprobated by a large and respectable party in both departments of the great assembly of the nation. The opponents of administration in both houses of parliament, observed, that they were actuated by the same principles, and urged by the same motives, that had induced them to oppose for several years, the pernicious, destructive, and ruinous system of government, that had involved the nation in irretrievable difficulties.
It was even proposed in the house of commons, that the representatives of the nation should withhold all farther supplies of monies to the crown, until a redress of grievances should take place; and thus by a legal compulsion, oblige their sovereign and his ministers to act with more moderation and justice.
The son and the nephew of the late lord Chatham distinguished themselves in this debate. They seemed at that time to have the national interest at heart, and to inherit the graces of oratory and the fire of eloquence, that had through all his life been displayed by their admired and illustrious ancestor.
 Sir Thomas Pitt called for a division of the house, on the question of withholding supplies. He declared at once,
that if he retired to the doors of the house alone, he should withhold his assent to entrusting any more public monies in the hands of ministers, who had already dissipated so much wealth, and wasted such streams of human blood, in wild and fruitless projects, and who had yet shewn no contrition for the peril and disgrace in which they had involved their country.
On the other hand, many powerful reasons were urged against a step that would tend to disunite, and stain with dishonor, a nation which had been renowned for their unconquerable spirit. Lord North observed, that a generous grant of supplies to the crown, would convince their enemies, that no calamities could sink them into despair. He added,
that he always considered the American war as a matter of cruel necessity, but that it was founded on a truly British basis; that he regretted it as peculiarly unfortunate for himself, and that he would willingly make any personal sacrifices for the restoration of peace; but that the refusal of supplies to the crown, in the midst of a war raging like the present, must inevitably lead to irretrievable calamity and disgrace, while it gave strength, animation,  and triumph, to France, Spain, Holland, and America.
But the party in opposition, not appalled by his reasoning, stood firm and immoveable. They claimed a right coeval with the institution of parliament, and essential to a free government, to withhold supplies from the crown, when measures were adopted that threatened to involve the empire in endless calamities.
It is undoubtedly true, that the most effectual check on an arbitrary executive is, for the representatives of the people to hold their hand on the string of the purse. This privilege once relinquished to the will of a sovereign of whatever name, his power is without control, and his projects and his extortions may lead to poverty, misery, and slavery, beyond redemption, before a nation is apprised of its danger. “Honest and generous nations perish oftener through confidence than distrust.”
To return to the question in debate: it terminated according to the expectations of the observers of political operations. The rhetoric or the reasonings of a member of the British parliament, seldom do more than display the brilliancy of his genius, and the graces of elocution; his arguments on the one side or the other, have little influence on the pre-determinations of party; their opinions are generally  made up before the public discussion of the subject. All parties are so sensible of this, that they mutually consent, when weary of their places by protracted debate, and agree to what they call pairing off; that is, when one chooses to retire, a member of the opposite party retires with him. Thus the equilibrium or the balance continues the same at the conclusion of the most pathetic, interesting, and energetic debate, that it was in the beginning; the minister holds his dependents, and the popular speakers retain their adherents.
The numbers and the names of each are generally known, before they enter the dome that rings with the beauty, the harmony, the sublimity of their language, and the musical elegance of their finished periods. Thus the decision of the question is usually calculated, both within and without doors, previous to entering on debates on which depend the honor, the interest, and the fate of the nation.
This mode of conduct may be consistent enough with the present state of society in Europe. It is a fair deduction, that the result of human action is owing more to the existing state or stage of society, than to any deviations in the nature or general disposition of mankind. All political transactions were now systematized: reasoning on the principles of  equity and truth lost all its efficiency, if it clashed with the measures of a minister, preconcerted in the cabinet of his prince.
A very sensible writer has observed,
that in the state of society which had taken place in America, the foundations of her freedom were laid long before the nations of Europe had any ideas of what was taking place in the minds of men. Conquest, religion, law, custom, habits, and manners, confirmed by military power, had established a state of society in Europe, in which the rights of men were obliterated and excluded. The property and power of a nation had passed into the hands of the sovereign, nobility, and church.
The body of the people were without property, or any chance of securing any, and without education or knowledge to form them to any rational principles and sentiments: without property and without principle, they were of little or no consequence in the view of government: nothing was to be seen but one general degradation of the people, and an unnatural and excessive exaltation of those who had acquired power. This every where tended to corrupt both, and to give the most unfavorable idea of the capacity of the former, and of the dispositions of the latter.
 Thus, (he observes) the ministers of Britain at the time of the American contest, were men of great eminence and ability in managing business upon the European system; but they had no ideas of the state of things in America, or of a system in which nature and society had combined to preserve freedom. What they called rebellion was only the tendency of nature and society to preserve freedom, made more active by their opposition. *
Thus when the motion was made by sir Grey Cooper for the decision of a question that held out a signal for peace, or the continuance of an absurd and luckless war, the vote in favor of the latter, and of generous supplies to the crown for its support, was carried by a large majority; one hundred and seventy-two appeared in support of administration, while only seventy-seven were counted in the minority.
It would be unjust to pass over in silence the behavior of general Burgoyne at this period. He had recovered his seat in parliament, his health, and in some measure his military reputation: and no one more warmly advocated every measure for the immediate restoration of peace. He supported the motion for the recal  of all British troops from America; he pressed an immediate exchange of prisoners both in England and America; and strenuously urged every pacific advance that might comport with the honor, the equity, and the dignity of the British nation. He even justified the principles of American opposition to the measures of administration, and parliamentary decrees. He acknowledged, that when he engaged in the service against the United States he thought differently; but that he had been brought to conviction by the uniform conduct of the American states.
He added, that it was presumption to allege, that they were not in the right to resist. He observed, that it was reason, and the finger of God alone, that had implanted the same sentiments in the breasts of three millions of people: and that comparing the conduct of the ministry, as time had developed their system, he was convinced, that the American war was formed on a part of the general design against the constitution of Britain, and the unalienable rights of man.
Thus had the experience of severity from the cabinet, of ingratitude from his king and country, and of adversity in the wilds of Saratoga, taught this veteran officer, once armed for the destruction of her rights, and the desolation of America, to stand forth a champion for her invaded  liberties, a defender of the principles of her resistance to the crown of Great Britain, and an advocate for the restoration of peace, which equity required, and humanity claimed.
It is true, the principles of Americans were so fixed, and the opposition to the encroachments of parliament had been so long sustained by the united colonies, with such cool intrepidity, such a spirit of perseverance, and such a defiance of danger, as had brought almost all England to wish for the restoration of peace, even on the humiliating idea of a dismemberment of the empire, and an explicit acknowledgment of American independence. Though their affection was too generally alienated from the inhabitants beyond the Atlantic, they saw the ruin of their trade and manufactures, and felt the miseries of a war protracted from year to year, without any nearer prospect of obtaining its object.
Yet, notwithstanding the disposition of the people, neither the king, the ministry, or the majority in parliament, were at all softened by the wishes or sufferings of the nation. Nothing that could touch the passions, or operate on national interest or pride, was left unessayed by the orators in favor of reconciliation and peace. A retrospect was taken of every important transaction in the course of the war; the conduct and manoeuvres of the principal actors revised, scrutinized, and censured; yet  this interesting session ended without any conciliatory prospects.
Among the variety of affairs that were brought forward relative to America, and that were discussed with masterly precision and dignity, the cruelties exhibited at St. Eustatia, which will be immediately related, were not forgotten. The injustice exercised toward the sufferers of that unhappy island, was criminated in the most pointed language.
The treatment Mr. Laurens had received, while a prisoner in the tower of London, was recollectcd and reprobated with equal severity. The situation of other prisoners in their jails and prison ships, was painted in colors that could not fail to excite compassion. The defeat of British armies, the degradation of their best officers, the disgrace brought on the nation by the rank given to, and the confidence placed in, the infamous Arnold, were brought into the scale of accusation. Indeed, every ministerial measure was in this session censured in the house of commons, with the acrimony of resentment, and the boldness of truth, without being softened by the delicacy of the courtier.
We have seen above, that immediately after general Arnold had forfeited his honor, betrayed his trust, and endeavoured to sell his country,  he received his pecuniary reward from general Clinton, and was appointed to a distinguished military command in the Chesapeake. He was in a few months recalled from Virginia by sir Henry Clinton, ostensibly to assist in the defence of New York, but more probably to quiet the murmurs of men of more virtue, talents, and merit, than himself. They could not brook the insolence with which this dignified traitor sustained the caresses of his employers, nor the degradation felt by many officers of high rank and superior genius, to see one placed over their heads, whom all acknowledged deserved no elevation but by a halter.
The British commander in chief at New York, contrary to the old adage, appeared not to hate, but to love the traitor as well as the treason. Immediately on his recal from the Chesapeake, general Clinton had vested him with a new commission, and licensed him to ravage the borders of the state of Connecticut, and to pillage and burn the fair towns that spread along the margin of the Sound. This was a business very congenial to the character and genius of Arnold. He was accompanied by a detachment under the command of colonel Eyre. This excursion was attended with much slaughter and devastation: the inhabitants of several defenceless towns were shamefully  plundered and abused, without distinction of age or sex.
New London was more seriously attacked; and after a short and brave resistance, plundered and burnt. As soon as the town had surrendered, a number of soldiers entered the garrison: the officer who headed the party inquired who commanded it? the valiant colonel Ledyard stepped forward, and replied with ease and gallantry, “I did, sir, but you do now;” at the same moment he delivered his sword to a British officer. The barbarous ruffian, instead of receiving his submission like the generous victor, immediately stabbed the brave American. Nor was his death the only sacrifice made in that place, to the wanton vengeance of the foes of America: several other officers of merit were assassinated, after the surrender of the town; while their more helpless connexions experienced the usual cruel fate of cities captured by inhuman conquerors.
Some members in parliament endeavoured to extenuate the guilt, and defend the promotion of general Arnold, and the confidence placed in him by sir Henry Clinton. But after a recapitulation of the above transactions, and some similar events, Mr. Fox observed, that Arnold
had dispersed his panegyrics, and scattered abuse on the characters of British officers; but that he shuddered at the predicament  in which his gallant countrymen were placed, when in their military capacity they were marked with so infamous a degradation, as to have any thing to apprehend, either from the reproaches or the applauses of general Arnold: that in the character of an American officer, he had treacherously abandoned his command; and now rewarded with an active military promotion in British service, he might probably proceed hereafter to similar transactions, and sacrifice for lucre the troops of Britain.
Mr. Burke was equally severe on the character of this perfidious traitor. He observed,
that such a person could not be held by any laws, to serve with strict fidelity, the people and the sovereign against whom he was before in arms, and to whom he had fled in the very midst of acts of treachery to the states whose cause he had deserted. A man whose conduct had been marked by glaring strokes of cruelty and perfidiousness, and which had furnished an indubitable proof, that he who on one side would have sacrificed an army, was too dangerous to be trusted with the command of troops belonging to the opposing party.
He lamented that the honors of high office were thus scattered on the worthless, and frequently on men who had no inconsiderable share in the measures that tended to the disgrace and ruin of their country.
 Mr. Burke indeed, had always appeared to have a thorough detestation of corrupt men and measures. He advocated the cause of liberty, not only with the ability of an orator, but with an enthusiasm for the establishment of freedom in all countries. He was an advocate for the distressed Irish; and stretched his genius to the eastern world, to survey the abuses, and to criminate the cruelties perpetrated there by his own countrymen; and, with a pathos peculiar to himself, brought before the tribunal of the public eye, the criminal laden with the rich spoils, the diamonds and jewels of the princely widows, and the immense treasures of the distant nabobs.
He ever appeared opposed to the powerful oppressors of the people, and attached to the defenders of freedom in every nation; was the friend of Franklin and Laurens; corresponded with the first on American affairs, and made great exertions to mitigate the sufferings of the last, while in rigorous imprisonment. But this unfortunate gentleman, notwithstanding the influence of many powerful friends, which he had in the house of commons, was refused his liberty, and detained in the tower until near the close of the war.
However, Mr. Laurens survived his persecutions in England, returned to his native country, and spent the remainder of his days in private  life. After several years of virtuous preparation for his exit, his only surviving son closed his eyes. His fond affection for his father led him to deviate from the usual customs of his countrymen, in the manner of interring their friends. He reared an altar on which he burnt the body of the patriarch, and carefully gathered the ashes from the hearth, deposited them in a silver urn, and placed them in his bed-chamber, with reverence and veneration, where they remained to the day of his death. This circumstance is mentioned as a peculiar instance of filial affection, and at once a mark of the respect due to the memory both of the patriot and the parent.
The celebrity of Mr. Burke for his general conduct, and his spirited speeches in favor of the rights of man, during the revolutionary war, were justly appreciated throughout America. He was admired for his oratorical talents, and beloved for the part he took in the cause of suffering individuals, either American prisoners or the oppressed in his own country. His feelings of humanity extended to the Ganges; and by his lively descriptions of the miseries of the wretched inhabitants of India, he has expanded the human heart, and drawn a tear from every compassionate eye. Certainly, to such a man, the tribute of a tear is equally due, when he shall be beheld in the decline of  life, deviating from his own principles, and drawing his energetic pen to censure and suppress the struggles for liberty in a sister kingdom.*
When we retrace the powers of the human mind, and view the gradations of the faculties, or the decline of genius, it is a humiliating reflection, that a more advanced period of life so often subtracts from the character of the man, as it shone in full lustre in the meridian of his days. Perhaps in the instance before us, a deviation from former principles might be more owing to a decline in correct political sentiment, than to any physical debility that was yet apparent.
It is an anticipation which many reasons render excuseable, to bring forward in this place, the subsequent declension of this gentleman’s zeal in favor of the general liberties of mankind, when his flowery epithets, argumentative elocution, and flowing periods, were often equally entertaining with the best theatrical exhibitions. But, without further apology it is proper to observe, that before he finished his political drama, the world was astonished to behold Mr. Burke, fulminating his anathemas against a neighbouring nation, who were struggling  with every nerve for the recovery of the freedom and the natural rights of man, of which they had long been robbed, and which had been trodden under foot, if not annihilated, by despotic kings, unprincipled nobles, and a corrupt clergy. It was surprising to hear a man, who had so often expressed the most humane feelings for the depression of his fellow beings of every class, afterwards regretting, in the most pathetic strains, only the sorrows of royalty, without a momentary pang for the miseries of a nation.*
If a just portrait has been drawn below, and Mr. Burke was never at heart, a genuine friend to the liberties of mankind, we will sigh over  the versatility of human conduct, and leave him to reflect on his own inconsistency; while the florid diction of his oratory is admired by his contemporaries, and the generations that succeed him will be delighted with the brilliant periods that adorned his eloquence on every occasion.
The admiration of the finished rhetoric and fascinating talents by which the speeches of Fox, Burke, and many other British orators, were embellished, has occasioned the above digression, which we now wave, and observe, that the agents who had brought on a ruinous war with the colonies, and defection, alienation, and hostility, with surrounding nations, had not sufficient talent, subtilty, or sophistry, to quiet the people of England under the ideas of a longer continuance of the war. They had long amused them by the musical powers of language,  which they also possessed; but they could no longer counteract the arguments and efforts of men of abilities, equal to any in the ministerial interest, and possessed of more humanity, who wished to put a period to the destructive calamities that had now for seven years embarrassed and distressed the nation.
The most gloomy prospect pervaded every mind on the contemplation of a further protraction of war, at the same time that the termination of the campaign in Virginia, had nearly defeated the flattering hopes of those who had labored with so much zeal and fervor, to subjugate the united colonies of America. It was said in parliament, that
the immense expense, the great accumulation of public debt, by the ever to be lamented contest with America, the effusion of human blood which it had occasioned, the diminution of trade, and the increase of taxes, were evils of such magnitude, as could scarcely be overlooked even by the most insensible and inattentive.
It was the unanimous opinion of those who had ever been favorers of more lenient measures, that any further efforts to reduce the revolted colonies to obedience by force, under the present circumstances, would only increase the mutual enmity, so fatal to the interests of Great  Britain and America, and forever prevent a reconciliation; and that it would weaken the efforts of Great Britain against the house of Bourbon, and other European enemies.
It is true, that the standard of respectability on which Great Britain had long been placed, was already shaken; that she had in a degree lost her political influence with, and was viewed by, surrounding nations through a less terrific medium, than at any period since the immense increase of power acquired by her formidable navy.
The colonies alienated, Ireland in a state of desperation, Scotland little less discontented, a considerable part of the West Indies lost to Great Britain, the affairs of the kingdom in the East Indies in the most deranged and perturbed state, by the mismanagement and avarice of their officers vested with unlimited powers wantonly abused; it was impossible, under the load of calumny, opposition, and perplexity, for the old ministry, the ostensible agents of these complicated evils, longer to resist the national will.
Many plausible arguments were urged in vindication of the measures of administration, at the same time that the fatal consequences were acknowledged by their defenders; but acknowledged only as the common events which have been  experienced by other nations, who have failed in their best concerted enterprises, and been humbled before the enemies whose destruction had too sanguinely been calculated. But the minister was implicated by the increasing opposition, as the author of all the calamities a just Providence had seen fit to inflict on a nation, who at the close of the preceding reign had considered all the world at their feet.
The parliamentary debates indeed, were at this time very interesting. Lord John Cavendish observed, that above an hundred millions sterling had been expended within five years on the army and navy, and backed his assertion by several resolves, criminating the ministry as totally deficient in point of ability, to retrieve the wretched state of the nation, after they had thrown away the thirteen colonies and other appendages of the empire. However, had their talents been sufficient to have retrieved the public misfortunes, in which their pernicious councils had involved their country, there did not appear the smallest disposition in the present ministry to make the attempt, or to resign their places.
A detail of the expenses of the fruitless war with America, was laid before the house of commons in a very impressive style; and though many arguments were used in favor of the ministry, no subterfuge could screen them, nor  any reluctance they felt, retard the necessity of their resignation. This was called for from every quarter, in terms severe and sarcastic. One gentleman requested, that
whenever the prime minister, to the unspeakable joy of the nation, should really go to his sovereign to resign his employments, as he had once promised to do when parliament should withdraw its confidence from him, he hoped now that period was come, he would not forget to lay before the king, a fair representation of the flourishing state in which he found his majesty’s empire when the government of it was entrusted to his hands, and the ruinous condition in which he was about to leave all that remained of it.
Some thought that the party in opposition were too ready to draw degrading pictures of the calamitous state of the nation, and the blunders of its officers: it was their opinion, that thus by exposing the national weakness, they might strengthen the hands of their enemies, now triumphant at the misfortunes that had already befallen them. But the irresistible force of truth, combined with imperious necessity, wrought conviction on some, and softened the obstinacy of others, by which a majority was obtained, and the late measures decidedly condemned.
The old ministry were soon after obliged to relinquish their places, and a new line of public  measures adopted. The hollow murmur of discontent at last penetrated the ear of royalty, and impelled the pride of majesty to listen to the general voice in favor of the immediate restoration of tranquillity; and however sanguine the king of England had long been, in favor of coercing his American subjects to unconstitutional and unconditional obedience, he could not much longer withstand the torrent of opposition to the cruel system.
Events were now nearly ripened, which soon produced a truce to the scourge of war, which had so long desolated families, villages, and cities. The energetic arguments and perspicuous reasonings, which do not always apply in their full force on the minds of those prepossessed by partial affection and esteem, covered with the veil of prejudice in favor of political opinions similar to their own, were necessarily laid aside, and the opposition to peace daily drawn into a narrower compass. Reason, humanity, policy, and justice, urged so forcibly by men of the best abilities, could not longer be withstood. Among these were many who shed the tears of sorrow over the ashes of their friends, who had fallen in the “tented fields” of America. In others, the feelings of indignation arose from a survey of the profuse expenditure, and the wanton waste of public money. Besides these, not a few persons were mortified at the eclipse of military glory, which had formerly emblazoned  the laurels, and illumined the characters of British chieftains.
Indeed, America at this period was not a theatre on which generous Britons could expect, or wish to acquire glory. They were sensible that their success must eradicate the noble principles of liberty, for which their ancestors had reasoned, struggled, and fought, against the invasions of their arbitrary kings, from the days of William the Norman to the Tudors, and from the last of the Tudor line, their adored queen Elizabeth, through the race of the Stuarts, no less contemptible than arbitrary, until the necessity of equal exertion was revived in the reign of George the third. At the same time, it was too evident to all, that repeated defeat had already tarnished the lustre of British arms. The celebrity of some of their most renowned commanders was shrouded in disappointment; their minds enveloped in chagrin doubly mortifying, as it was the result of exertion from enemies they had viewed with contempt, as too deficient in talents, courage, discipline, and resources, to combat the prowess and imagined superiority of British veterans. From these circumstances it had been calculated, that Americans might be reduced even by the terror of their approach, and the fame of that military glory long attached to the character and valor of British soldiers.
 But He who ordains the destiny of man, conceals his purposes till the completion of the designs of divine government. This should teach mankind the lessons of humility and candor, instead of an indulgence of that fierce, vindictive spirit, that aims at the destruction of its own species, under the imposing authority of obtrusive despotism.
[*]See Mr. Fox’s speech in the house of commons; also, several speeches in the house of lords at this period. [See Cobbett, XXII: 878 ff. Also see, Annual Register (1782), “History of Europe,” pp. 151-153. Fox moved for an inquiry into the causes of the navy’s want of success, January 24, 1782.]
[*]Dr. Williams’s History of Vermont. (Samuel Williams, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont (Walpole, N.H., 1794), pp. 369, 370, 373.]
[*]Philippic against France. [Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to that Event (London, 1791).]
[*]A political writer has observed, that “the late opinions of Mr. Burke, furnished more matter of astonishment to those who had distantly observed, than to those who had correctly examined the system of his former political life. An abhorrence for abstract politics, a predilection for aristocracy, and a dread of innovation, have ever been among the most sacred articles of his public creed. It was not likely that at his age, he should abandon to the invasion of audacious novelties, opinions which he had received so early and maintained so long, which had been fortified by the applause of the great and the assent of the wise, which he had dictated to so many illustrious pupils, and supported against so many distinguished opponents. Men who early attain eminence, repose in their first creed. They neglect the progress of the human mind subsequent to its adoption; and when, as in the present case, it has burst forth into action, they regard it as a transient madness, worthy only of pity or derision. They mistake it for a mountain torrent, that will pass away with the storm that gave it birth. They know not that it is the stream of human opinion, in omne volubilis aevum, which the accession of every day will swell, which is destined to sweep into the same oblivion, the resistance of learned sophistry and of powerful oppression. Mackintosh’s Vindiciae Galliciae, on Mr. Burke’s Philippic against the French Revolution. [James Mackintosh, Vindiciae Galliciae. Defence of the French Revolution Against the Accusations of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke. . . . (London, 1791), pp. i-ii. Mackintosh refers to Burke’s Reflections as a “philippic.”]