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William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works, vol. 4 [1835]

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William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works: being a complete abridgement of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “Porcupine” and the “Weekly political register.” With notes, historical and explanatory. By John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. (London, Ann Cobbett, 1835). Vol. 4. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2694

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Volume 4 of a six volume collection. Vol. 4 contains writings from the Political Register 18011-16.

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SELECTIONS from COBBETT’S POLITICAL WORKS:
being A COMPLETE ABRIDGMENT OF THE 100 VOLUMES WHICH COMPRISE THE WRITINGS OF “PORCUPINE” AND THE “WEEKLY POLITICAL REGISTER.” WITH NOTES, HISTORICAL AND EXPLANATORY.
BY JOHN M. COBBETT AND JAMES P. COBBETT.
VOL. IV.
LONDON:
PUBLISHED BY ANNE COBBETT, 10, RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET; W. TAIT, EDINBURGH; AND W. WILLIS, MANCHESTER.
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London: Printed by Mills and Son,

Gough-square, Fleet-street.

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CONTENTS OF VOLUME IV.

  • King’s Illness.—The Regency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 1
  • Continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
  • Continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
  • Continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
  • Dissenters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
  • Continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
  • To the Prince Regent, on the Dispute with the American States . . . . . . . . . . 60
  • To the Prince Regent, on the same, Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
  • —————————— Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
  • —————————— Letter IV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
  • —————————— Letter V. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
  • —————————— Letter VI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
  • —————————— Letter VII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
  • —————————— Letter VIII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
  • —————————— Letter IX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
  • —————————— Letter X. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
  • American War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
  • American States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143
  • The Luddites, No. I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
  • The Luddites; or, the History of the Sealed Bag, No. II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
  • ————————————— No. III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
  • To the Thinking People of England, on the Affairs of the East India Company. Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168
  • To the same, on the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
  • To James Paul, of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania, on Matters relating to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
  • To the same, on the same. Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 190
  • —————— Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
  • —————— Letter IV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
  • —————— Letter V. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
  • —————— Letter VI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238
  • —————— Letter VII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
  • General Enclosure Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255
  • Price of Bread . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263
  • Same subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 269
  • To Mr. Alderman Wood, on the subject of Teaching the Children of the Poor to Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277
  • To the same, on the same. Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282
  • Mr. Canning’s Speech at Liverpool answered . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286
  • Corn Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303
  • To the People of Southampton, on the Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 306
  • To Mr. Coke, on the Dispute about Corn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 320
  • Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324
  • Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 328 Edition: current; Page: [iv]
  • Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333
  • Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337
  • Corn Bill. To the People of Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343
  • Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346
  • Corn Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 348
  • Letter to a Correspondent in America, on the Expenses, the Taxes, &c. of Great Britain, compared with those of America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 352
  • To Lord Sheffield, on his Speech at the Lewes Wool Fair. Letter I. Intended to show, that the real Cause of the Distress of the Farmers is not to be looked for in the low Price of Wool and Grain, nor in the existence of Tithes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365
  • To Lord Sheffield, on his Speech at the Lewes Wool Fair. Letter II. Intended to show, that his Lordship’s Hopes of a more flourishing Trade, in consequence of the Devastations in other Countries, are fallacious . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 369
  • To Lord Sheffield, on his Speech at the Lewes Wool Fair. Letter III. Intended to show, that Manufactures of all kinds are carried on to a great extent in America, and that Machinery has been put into use with great success in the making of Woollen and Cotton Goods . . . . . . 373
  • To Lord Sheffield, on his Speech at the Lewes Wool Fair. Letter IV. Intended to show, that so extensive is the Growth of American Wool, that some of that Wool is exported to England, and that, though the importation of Wool is great in proportion to the whole quantity used, to impose a Tax upon importation would be injurious to the country . . 376
  • To Lord Sheffield, on his Speech at the Lewes Wool Fair. Letter V. Intended to show, that the situation of England compared with that of America, is such, and the inducements to Emigration so great, that, in order to preserve our Manufactures, not only ought there to be no Tax upon Wool imported, but that the Corn Bill ought to be repealed . . . . . . 380
  • To the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390
  • To the same. Letter II. Quack Remedies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394
  • To the same. Letter III. Real Remedies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401
  • To the same. Letter IV. Something to be done still.—Marquis of Buckingham and Mr. Benett. — Another Branch of a Real Remedy pointed out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410
  • To the same. Letter V. Reduction of Property-tax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 417
  • To the same. Letter VI; enclosing a Letter to the People of America, on the present State of the Mother Country . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421
  • To the same. Letter VII. On the proposed Reduction of the Property-tax 438
  • To the same. Letter VIII. On the Advantage which the WHIGS are endeavouring to take of the present Embarrassments of the Country . . 440
  • To the same. Letter IX. On the strange Notions of the Edinburgh Review, for October last, on the subject of our Finances . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 444
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, Bart.; on the Distresses of the Country, and on the Measures to be adopted to prevent Confusion and Devastation . . . . . . . . 451
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, Bart.; on the Book of the Board of Agriculture . . 468
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, Bart.; on the Remedies proposed by the Correspondents of the Board of Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, Bart.—What good would a Reform of Parliament now do? and in what manner can it take place without creating Confusion? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499
  • To Sir Francis Burdett, Bart.—In what manner can a Reform of Parliament take place without Confusion? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 514
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Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY. (continued.)

  • “The hope of the HYPOCRITES shall perish.”

I repeat my motto; and the denunciation I have no fear of seeing completely verified. The hypocritical editor of the Courier and the crew of hypocrites who approve of his efforts, all this base, canting crew, now driven to their resource, crocodile tears, will not find, any longer, a cloak sufficiently thick to disguise them.

Gulls as the people of this country have long been, they are not any longer to be cheated by this hypocrite and his like. It is hypocrisy that has, for years, been the bane of England; but, I do trust, that it will now, by being unmasked, be deprived of its power to do us further mischief.

In my last, I exposed an attempt, on the part of the Editor of the Courier and his brother hypocrites, to make the people believe, that all those, who were for using extreme caution in again imposing upon the King the functions of royalty, meant to dethrone him. I exposed this attempt pretty well; and showed how base and wicked were the motives from which it had manifestly proceeded. I showed, that the assertions of the hypocrites were false; and that, as a last resource, they had resorted to cant and crying with a view to calumnious insinuations against the Prince of Wales, calculated to excite the foulest suspicions against him, and to render him odious in the eyes of the people. The gist of what they were, and still are, endeavouring to inculcate, is this: That the “new men,” as they call them, have discovered a disposition, nay, and a resolution, to dethrone the King; because they have recommended great caution to be observed in calling upon him again to exercise the kingly office. This is the point, at which they are incessantly labouring; with efforts directed to this point, they fill column after column; and, it is easy to see, that they do, and must include the Prince amongst the “new men.

That there is ground for great caution no one will, I think, deny, after what has recently come to light. Nevertheless, this same hypocritical writer and his brother hypocrites, who furnish matter for his paper, are still endeavouring to prevail upon the public to consider as an act of hostility to the King, every effort that is made to provide against a premature resumption of the royal authority on the part of the King.

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I shall, in the present Number, notice, in a particular manner, and, I trust, fully expose, another of these attempts to cajole the people; and, when I have done that, I shall examine into the truth of these venal men’s assertions respecting the Charges of Lord Grey against the Lord Chancellor. They assert these charges to be groundless; and, it, therefore, becomes us to refer to dates, and to compare them and the Evidence of the Physicians with the statements of Lord Grey. For, though the speech of his lordship was plain and full, as to all points, still it was impossible for any man (especially under a prohibition to take any speech in short hand) to give it perfectly correct even as to the substance; much less to give it in detail.

With the whole of the Evidence before me, and with the history of the times referred to, also before me, I shall, I trust, be able to give a more full and clear statement of the matter, than has yet reached the public eye.

But, I must first notice the article, above alluded to, in the Courier of the 30th of January; because in this article the reader will have a view of another of the tricks, which the hypocrites are playing off for the purpose of keeping up their deceptions a little longer. They are hard put to it. They know not what to be at; and, though as cunning as Old Satan himself, they do, I verily believe, begin to despair of gulling and cheating the public any longer. The dullest of the people now begin to see them in their true colours. The exposures have been so often repeated, that, at last, they begin to have effect.

The trick which I am now about to notice is an attempt at alarm; an attempt to cajole the people into a belief, that those who protest against using the King’s name before he is restored to a perfectly sound mind, wish to set him aside; wish to do some violent act of injustice towards him.

“The attempts,” says this venal hypocrite, who really appears to me to be pretty nearly a match for an old North-of-England political acquaintance of mine, whom I have, for many years, called Hypocrisy Personified, and who, to a Lazarus-like look given him by nature, has added all that art can afford, and who is, even in this age, certainly the most consummate hypocrite in existence. Talk of the Saints of the Long-Parliament! There was not one of them fit “to hold a candle to him.”—Yet, this creature, the most perfect of his kind, and who has duped nearly as many people as were duped by Mahomet, or any other of the lucky impostors that have lived in the world; even this hypocrite is not far out-done by these venal men, these MEAN, MERCENARY and MALIGNANT men, upon the writings of one of whom I am now about to comment.

“The attempts,” says he, “daily making to prepare the public mind for setting the King aside, altogether, cannot fail of exciting alarm. The design was scouted with indignation by both Houses of Parliament, on the first day of its meeting, but it has ever since been disclosing itself, and certainly is acting upon. We have already given very striking proofs of this from the Journals. Men startled at these things at first, but silence and impunity make them bold. The Weekly Register, and others of the same character, deprecate the return of the King to power till he is quite well, by which they mean something better than at his age he is ever likely to be, allowing him to be as well in mind as ever. Out of mere kindness to the King they would not allow him to return to the fatigues of business. One member of the House of Commons asserts, that a man subject to hurries never can be fit to reign, and Sir F. Burdett last week roundly affirmed, the King could never be fit to govern at his age; with his blindness, and liable as he is to derangement. Thus the design proceeds.

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What design? What design have we? What do we mean, or what can we mean, more than we say? We “deprecate the return of the King to power till he is QUITE WELL.” And what, then? To be sure we deprecate it; and are we not right in so doing? Ought he, in mere common mercy to himself, to be permitted to resume his authority before he is quite well? Are we not right to express our opinions, that he ought not to be called upon to resume his authority; to exercise the powers of life and death; to make war and peace: are we not right in deprecating the idea of his being called upon to resume such powers until he be quite well? Aye, and was I not right, when, about a fortnight ago, I took timely opportunity to suggest the propriety of some measure to prevent him from being so called upon, until there had been some months, or weeks, at least, of probation, after complete recovery? Was not this right? Will any man now deny, that the suggestion was proper? Indeed, it arose out of a perusal of the very evidence upon which Lord Grey has made his late statements, in the House of Lords, and upon which Lord King founded his motion for erasing the name of Lord Eldon from the list of the Queen’s Council.

But, this venal man says, that, by the words quite well, we mean “something better than the King, at his age, is ever likely to be.” His age! Age does not naturally deprive men of the use of their senses. The age of the King is not very great. There is Mr. Baron Maseres at the age of eighty, writing with as much clearness and strength as he did at the age of forty. We say nothing about the age of the King. His is by no means an age to produce mental feebleness. But, we see, in the evidence upon oath, that he is in a state of mental derangement; that he has been in that state now three times within eleven years; and, we also read in that evidence, that he was in that state while his assent was given to many acts of parliament, some of them granting away crown lands and imposing penalties of death; this we see, and seeing this, are we to be accused of designs to set him aside; because we wish, that there should be clear proof produced of his being quite well, before he is again called upon to exercise the Royal Authority?

All this is equally false with the former. Mr. Wood gave no preference

“Another most unconstitutional doctrine,” continues this venal writer, “advanced in many quarters, but particularly in the Common Council by Mr. Alderman Wood, is, the preference given to the Prince of Wales as our Chief Magistrate in consequence of its being known, that he will adopt measures different from those of his father, that he will grant Catholic emancipation, conciliate Ireland, &c. For these and similar reasons they express a wish that his Royal Highness should wield the Sovereign authority instead of his Majesty. To proceed on such principles is to do neither more nor less than to elect a King. The Prince is to be chosen in preference to George the Third, because he will do better things. If such atrocious doctrines as these are to be listened to, there is an end of our Constitution! It may be discovered that Sir Francis Burdett would do better things still than the Prince of Wales, and, upon the same principles, propositions might be entertained of vesting him with the sovereign authority. Such language tends to bring upon us the evil of an elective monarchy like that of Poland, which no doubt would speedily involve us in a similar destruction with that which has annihilated Poland as a nation. All this erroneous view of things arises from the very false grounds upon which the restrictions on the Regency have been debated by the Opposition, they wishing to act as if they were appointing a King, instead of appointing a deputy for a King during a temporary indisposition, as if the Throne were vacant, not as it really is, full. Such doctrines are truly alarming. They tend strongly and rapidly to a Revolution, to scenes of confusion and anarchy long unknown in this happy land.

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to the son before the father. He imputed no wrong to the King; but he censured the measures of his ministers; and he expressed his hope, that such men would be chosen to succeed them, as would adopt better measures. It is false, therefore, to say, that the Prince was set up in preference to the King. But, let the reader bear with me while I once more remark, that this is the constant practice of those hypocrites who call themselves “the King’s friends.” Every thing you say against the measures of the government, they immediately apply it to the King; and it cannot be forgotten, that they have invariably acted thus.

As to what this hypocrite says about the dangers of making this an elective monarchy, what a fine slap in the face he gives here to all those, and to himself amongst the rest, who have contended for restrictions, and have denied the right of the Prince to be sole Regent! This charge, if due to any body, belongs to them. If there really be any danger in the notion of an elective monarchy, on their heads be the consequences, and not on ours, who have all along, contended, that the whole of the Royal powers and prerogatives, without any dividing, chipping away, or reserving, ought to have been, at once, and without any delay, given to the Prince, who is the undoubted heir to the throne and to every thing attached to it.

But, the truth is, that the hypocrites know not what to say; they are at the last gasp; even lying and crying begin to fail them; and it is little wonder, that they forget what they are about. The wonder, and, to the country, the shame, is, that they should not, before now, have been sunk quite into the earth; that they should still dare to show their faces above ground; much less to send forth their verbose columns of cant, in various shapes, and under various names, as they have yet the assurance to do.

We now come to the other subject of which I proposed to treat; namely, the state of the King in the years 1801 and 1804, at times when several very important acts were performed in his name, and, apparently, with his approbation and authority.

The public need not be told what has recently passed upon this subject in the House of Lords; for, certainly, never was there any thing that attracted more general observation, or that excited a more general or higher interest. It has, since it took place, been the great topic of conversation with every body.

In my last, I inserted the speeches of Lords Grey and Eldon and the motion of Lord King. These were all less full than was to be desired; but, I took the fullest reports I could find, and the substance was pretty nearly, in all probability, preserved.

Nevertheless, it is possible to put the matter in a plainer light than it there appears; and, this it shall now be my endeavour to do.

But, I have first to observe, that in another part of this Number, I have inserted the whole of the Evidence of Drs. Willis and Heberden, as given upon oath before the Lords’ Committee a few weeks ago. These two persons attended the King upon the former occasions of his mental derangement.

This Evidence should be carefully read, particularly that of Dr. Heberden, upon which the charges of Lord Grey were founded.*

I have also inserted, in this Number, a Protest of certain Lords, upon the subject of the motion for erasing Lord Eldon’s name, in Edition: current; Page: [5] which Protest the charges against him are distinctly stated. This also should be read with care; and I have thought it right not to lose a moment in giving it as wide a circulation as it is in my power to give it; because it appears to me, that the matter is of the greatest importance to us all; or, at least, to all those who wish to see the English constitution not totally annihilated.

From the same motive it is, that I am now induced to add some observations of my own, by which I hope to make the matter so plain as not to leave the smallest chance of being misunderstood.

There were two occasions mentioned by Lord Grey, and some confusion of dates and other circumstances has been made for want of a sort of history of each. The first was in 1801, at the time Mr. Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) became Prime Minister; the second was in 1804, he being still Prime Minister. The transactions, connected with the former we will treat of hereafter; for, if possible, they are even more important than those connected with the latter. But, at present, we will confine ourselves to the latter epoch; and, it will be useful, here, to give a list of the Ministry, as it then stood, namely, in February, March, and April, 1804, when the King was afflicted, as will be seen by Dr. Heberden’s evidence, with the very same malady that he now is afflicted with.

Cabinet Ministers. Duke of Portland President of the Council. Lord Eldon Lord High Chancellor. Lord Westmoreland Lord Privy Seal. Right Hon. Henry Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) { First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Prime Minister.) Earl St. Vincent First Lord of the Admiralty. Earl of Chatham Master-General of the Ordnance. Right Hon. Charles Yorke Sec. of State for the Home Department. Lord Hawkesbury (now Earl of Liverpool) { Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Lord Hobart (now Earl of Buckinghamshire) { Secretary of State for the Department of War and the Colonies. Lord Viscount Castlereagh { President for the Board of Control for the Affairs of India. Law Officers. Mr. Spencer Perceval Attorney-General. Sir Thomas Manners Sutton Solicitor-General.

Thus was the ministry composed. Here we have them all before us. This is of great use, because the people are apt to forget. They have confused ideas of who and who were together.

Well, now to the point. Dr. Heberden, being upon his oath before the Lords’ Committee, on the 18th of December last, gave the following evidence:—

“Will Dr. Heberden state to the Committee what was the whole duration of his Majesty’s illness in 1804?—I was first called upon to attend his Majesty on the 12th of February 1804; and I believe his Majesty presided at Council on the 23rd of April following; I should consider the interval between those periods as constituting the duration of his disease at that time.

At what time did Dr. Heberden’s attendance on his Majesty cease?—After the period when his Majesty was so far recovered as to be able to transact business at any period of any day: he still retained such marks of indisposition about him, as made it expedient that some one of his physicians should be Edition: current; Page: [6] about his person for some months afterwards. In this situation I was in attendance upon his Majesty so late as to the end of October.

Between the 12th of February and the 23rd of April did not the appearances of disorder continue more or less?—I believe that for some days previous to the 23rd of April they had so far ceased as to make his Majesty’s physicians conceive him competent to exercise all the usual functions of his high office.”

Thus, then, quibble to eternity, if you will, one of these two things must be; either the King was in a state of mental derangement (for that is the term now given to the malady) from the 12th of February to within some days of the 23rd of April, or Dr. Heberden has taken a false oath, which latter is not to be believed, especially as, in the reports of the speeches of Lord Eldon, in answer to Lord Grey’s charge, no insinuation of the kind was thrown out, and, as Dr. Heberden gave his evidence in the presence of Lord Eldon and Lord Sidmouth, and most of the rest of the ministry of 1804, who might, if they had chosen, have contradicted or cross-examined him.

The public must well remember, that, in 1804, Dr. Simmons of St. Luke’s Hospital, and his men, attended the King; and Lord Grey asserted, and challenged contradiction, that these persons remained with him until the 10th of June of that year! Nobody accepted Lord Grey’s challenge. Nobody attempted to contradict him. But, I will, if the reader chooses, leave this circumstance wholly out of consideration; and stick to the facts stated upon oath by Dr. Heberden, according to whom the King’s malady continued from the 12th of February to within some days of the 23rd of April.

Now, then, what can have been meant by the words “some days?” The hypocrite, who writes in the Courier, says it may mean any time: any length of time; that it may mean “a fortnight, at least.” But, is this the interpretation that sound sense and a love of truth and justice will allow of?

No: it is clear, that Dr. Heberden meant a few days; some number within a week: but, even in those days, his words by no means admit, that the King was perfectly recovered; and, after all, we find that the Doctor, or another physician, had to remain constantly about him even to the month of October afterwards, on account of the still remaining appearances of indisposition.

Leaving out of the question, therefore, Earl Grey’s uncontradicted assertion as to the attendance of Dr. Simmons and his men, until the 10th of June, Dr. Heberden’s evidence is full as to the point, that the malady continued from the 12th of February to the 23rd of April.

What, then, was done during this time, in the name of the King, and as by his express authority? Whether any commissions may have been granted, any leases of crown-lands let or renewed, any titles or honours bestowed, any sentences of death confirmed, during that time, are particulars that I have not, at hand, the means of ascertaining; but, I have the means of ascertaining in what cases the very highest functions of royalty, the giving assent to Acts of Parliament, the making of laws, affecting the property, liberty, and lives of fifteen millions of people, were exercised, and these I shall accurately state.

Remember, that the space of time mentioned by Dr. Heberden, was, from the 12th of February to the 23rd of April, 1804.

On the 9th of March of that year, the King’s assent was given by Commission under his hand, and signed with the great seal, to seven public Edition: current; Page: [7] Acts of Parliament, being the Acts from Chapter 19 to Chapter 25 of the 44th year of George III.

On the 23rd of March, the King’s assent was, by a like Commission, given to six public Acts of Parliament, being the Acts from Chapter 26 to Chapter 31.

This was still very far from the 23rd of April. It was more than some days. It was more than the fortnight which the hypocrite of the Courier contends for. It was, in fact, a full Calendar month.

The Acts thus assented to were some of them of a nature peculiarly important. Some of them contained penalties of death; others imposed taxes; others authorised the raising of soldiers; one was a continuation of the Bank Restriction; Chapter 25 granted away from the Crown the fee for ever of certain manors, lands, and houses; and Chapter 30 was a bill of indemnity, relative to acts done without law, in pursuance of certain Orders of Council.

All this was done in the King’s name, and as by his express authority, at a time when, according to the evidence now given upon oath by a physician who attended him, the King was in the same state of incapacity that he is now.

Nay, on the 26th of March, that is to say, twenty-eight days before the 23rd of April, Mr. Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) brought down to the House of Commons A MESSAGE from the King! It related to a measure of great importance, namely, the bringing of the Irish militia into England. It had the royal signature to it, and began in these words: “His Majesty thinks proper to acquaint the House of Commons, &c. &c.

This, even this, was done on the 26th of March, that is, twenty-eight days before the 23rd of April.

And yet, with these facts before us; with all this before us, we are not to be allowed to express our opinion, that great caution ought to be used in the resumption of the royal authority by the King; we are not to be allowed to say, that care ought to be taken to prove that he is quite well first; we are not to do this, upon pain of being marked out by the impudent and venal editor of the Courier, as men who wish to dethrone the King, to throw him into a corner, to pluck the crown from his head and to bind it with thorns! But these are the last struggles of knavery and hypocrisy combined; and they will not succeed.

Thus stands the case up to the 23rd of April. I beg the reader to bear the dates in his mind. Thus stands the case up to the 23rd of April; but, as the reader may attach great importance to the assertion of Lord Grey respecting the attendance of Dr. Simmons and his men till the 10th of June, it is proper to inform him, that, between the 23rd of April and the 10th of June, 24 public Acts of Parliament received the King’s assent by Commission, as in the former cases. And, by the 30th of July, 36 more public Acts; thus making the number 91 Acts, receiving the King’s assent, by Commission, after the 12th of February in that year; and, July, the reader will bear in mind, was still long before the month of October.

There are still some circumstances to notice, in order to make the history of these transactions complete. A change of ministry took place between the 23rd of April and the 10th of June.

Mr. Addington, Lord St. Vincent, Mr. Yorke, and Lord Hobart, went out of the cabinet; and Mr. Pitt, Lord Melville, Lord Harrowby, Lord Camden, and Lord Mulgrave came into it. The others remained; and Edition: current; Page: [8] the law-officers also remained. This change was completed on the 18th of May: so that Lords Eldon, Castlereagh, Hawkesbury, Westmorland, and Chatham were in both cabinets.

Nothing more need be said. The thing is so plain; the chain of facts so complete; the statement so incontrovertible, that it sets all pettifogging at defiance. There are, however, two points, upon which I shall just say a word or two; namely, the declaration of Mr. Addington (now Lord Sidmouth), during the King’s malady in 1804; and the individual responsibility of Lord Eldon

As to the former, it was called forth by a question, and afterwards a motion, of Sir Robert Lawley, in the House of Commons, on the 27th of February, 1804. Sir Robert Lawley asked the minister for an explicit statement as to the state of the King. To this Mr. Addington answered, that no such statement was necessary in the opinion of his Majesty’s confidential servants. Whereupon Sir Robert Lawley moved an adjournment of the House. This produced a long debate, which was very interesting at that time, and certainly not less so now. In this debate Mr. Addington spoke no less than five times. He made explanation upon explanation; and at last it came to these words:

“The hon. Gentleman has stated, that I have set up my own opinion in opposition to that of his Majesty’s Physicians. All I can say on this part of the accusation against me is, that I have stated nothing as matter of speculation, or opinion, of my own, but upon authority of the physicians. I wish to be distinctly understood here to re-state, that there is not, at this time,” [27th of February mind] “any necessary suspension of such royal functions as it may be necessary for his Majesty to discharge at the present moment.

He was pressed further by Mr. Grey, and he then said: “I meant distinctly to state, that there is not at this time, any necessary suspension of the royal authority for any act which may be necessary to be done.

This was what Lord Grey alluded to the other night; and, if it had any meaning at all, it meant one of these three things: that it was not necessary that the King should be deranged in mind; or, that it was not, at that time, necessary for him to have the use of his senses; or, that his faculties were not so much impaired as to render him unfit for business.

The two former it cannot be supposed that any man could mean; and, therefore, we must take the latter; and, then, all we have to do, is, to compare it with the Evidence of Dr. Heberden.

I should now enter upon the subject of individual or collective responsibility; but as my space is so narrow, and as I see, that the subject will demand room, I must defer it till my next.

WM. COBBETT.
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KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Continued.

This subject is now drawing towards a close; but, like most other pieces of the kind, it grows more and more interesting, or, at least, more and more curious. The people, in general, appear to be resolved to be merely spectators; but, at any rate, let us hope, that they will well observe, and bear in mind what passes. The scenes now exhibiting are wholly without an equal. They have the decided merit of originality; though, it must be confessed, that they are not calculated to excite surprise in the reflecting mind, seeing that they are the natural produce of the system that has existed for the last 26 years.

I shall, in this article, begin again with some observations upon the writings of the venal man of the Courier, who, in the passage that I am about to quote, has actually verified the soundness of the opinion expressed by me, in a previous article, respecting praises of the King, brought forward in support of an argument against his son, and, indeed, against the rights and liberties of the people.

I there observed, that it was base in the extreme, and that it was always so, to introduce, in the way of argument, praises of those whom no man dared attack; and, on the praises of whom no man dared put a negative.

And what answer does the venal man give to this? How does he attempt to refute me? You shall hear:

Restrictions on Calumny.—The Weekly Register, of Wednesday, contains a passage plainly avowing how much it would contradict all the praises of the King, and hold him up to execration upon a review of his conduct, if it dared, if it was not restrained by the fear of the law. This passage is written too no doubt by the Editor of the Weekly Register, who two years ago publicly and personally at a County Meeting at Winchester, praised the King to the skies on account of his amiable qualities, whether viewed as a man or as a king. Most honest and consistent Editor of the Weekly Register!”

Now, what an answer is this! Thus, you see, that I was either to admit his argument, founded on praises of the King; I was to admit it, expressly or tacitly; or, I was to be charged with a wish to hold the King up to public execration; and that I was only restrained from so doing by a dread of the law. This is the way, in which this venal man answers an argument. His language, and that of the whole of the hypocritical tribe, to which he belongs, is, in fact, this: “We rest our conclusions upon the assertion of the virtues of the King; we say, that this or that ought to be done, or not to be done, because the King has such and such virtues; if you contradict us, you are calumniators of the King; and if you refuse to assent to our assertions upon which our conclusions are grounded by waving the discussion, you prove, that you would hold the King up to public execration if you dared.” This is, in fact their language; so that there is no escaping them. They Edition: current; Page: [10] have their net so set for you, that to escape it is absolutely impossible. You must either yield to their argument; you must admit their conclusions; or, according to them, you are, either in act or wish, a calumniator of the King.

As to the words imputed to me, as having been spoken at Winchester, they are by no means a correct representation of what I then said; but, what if they were? How does it show any inconsistency in me? It was not to the praise that I objected; but to the use that was made of it. I objected to its being brought forward in the way of argument; to its being made a ground in a controversy; because, as I said before, no one who was on the other side in the controversy, would if he could, dare, contradict it; and, for this reason, to bring it forward, in such a way, was, I said, extremely base; an opinion, of the correctness of which, if there could have been any doubt, this venal man has now, by his own act completely confirmed.

But, the great objection that I have to the using of the King’s name in this way, is, that it is part of a system of making the King a screen for his ministers. The doctrine of the Constitution is, that the King can do no wrong; and, if he is to be blamed for nothing, is it not base to put forward assertions as to his good qualities in defence of any measures that have been adopted? Is not this, in fact, making him responsible, instead of his ministers, as far as it is possible for a public writer to make him responsible? However, this is the course, that the whole of that venal and corrupt and hypocritical crew, who call themselves “King’s friends” have pursued for many years past; and in spite of all the exposures of them, this is the course, that they will still pursue. But the imposture has, daily, less and less success. The powers of cant daily diminish; and when one considers how long the nation has been humbugged; when one considers what a regular system of cheatery these venal men have pursued; when one considers what complete masters of their art these our English hypocrites are; when one considers that hypocrisy has been studied and taught by them with as much labour and pain as Newton pursued his discoveries; when one considers how numerous are the teachers and practisers of this art; when one considers all these things, one can hardly expect the cloak to be completely pulled off in a day, however resolute the hand that attempts it. But, imposture has, as I said before, less success than it had. Scarcely a day passes without stripping it of some part of its garments; and, events, events, those powerful co-operators of truth, are steadily at work to destroy this bane of the country. There are no tricks that will finally keep up the imposture. They will serve for awhile; they may defer the complete destruction of it; but destroyed it must and will be; and we shall at no great distance hence, hear thousands of people, who are at this moment the dupes of the venal men, expressing their surprise that they ever could have been so duped, and venting their just resentment against the cheats. They will then be just as much distinguished by their resentments as they now are by their credulity; they will flock round the venal imposture like the dupes in the play, each one heaving his blow.

This is an object of interesting observation with the philosophical mind. The man of sense will not be disturbed by the tricks of these venal men and the cullibility of their readers. He will coolly look on, and see the thing work; being quite sure, that, in the end, truth and justice will prevail, and that he shall see hypocrisy receive its reward. Edition: current; Page: [11] All that such a man has to do, is, to lend a helping hand in the way of exposure, whenever occasion serves, and according to the best of his means; and without feeling any great degree of anxiety, wait the natural effect of time. But he ought to miss no such occasions; miss no occasion of sowing the seeds of truth; having done that, he may be sure the harvest will come; and, he has only to guard against the indulgence of impatience. He must not stop to see the actual effects of one truth, before he inculcates another. He must like the provident and steady cultivator, prepare for a second sowing the moment the first is in the ground. His calculations of produce ought to embrace years. Truths, like trees, are of various speed in their progress; and it not unfrequently happens, that the slower the progress, the more durable and more valuable the result.

I never liked your despairing gentry; your gentry that throw up in disgust; which, to say nothing else of it, is sure to bring somewhat of ridicule upon those who fall into such a course of proceeding; for, the world wags on without them; and, if they cannot change the world, why, they must still take it as it is.

The way to succeed in any thing where success merits praise, is, to keep steadily on as long as it is possible; and, if the endeavours thus made have truth on their side, it is very seldom that they will fail of success.

So with respect to the imposture of these venal writers, what has been for years and years growing together is not to be destroyed in a moment. But, dropping, incessant dropping, will wear away the marble; and if one once makes a fair opening into this hollow, rotten, vile imposture, away it goes into a million pieces. Within the last six months; since I have been in this jail, see what has been done; See what a change! See the many many things, which the people behold in their true light, and with regard to which they were before wholly in the dark, or rather under the grossest deception. Only reflect for a moment; look for six months and see the progress that truth has made; and then despair if you can.

My attention is now called from these venal men and their hypocritical cant by a measure, which has excited more surprise in the public, I find, than it has in me; I mean, His Royal Highness the Prince having chosen Mr. Perceval and his colleagues for his ministers. More than four persons; or, four, at least, could now produce letters from me, foretelling, nearly a month ago, that such would be the case.

And, says the reader, how did you, shut up in a jail, come to know it? Why, a jail only shuts up the body. It leaves the mind at liberty; it leaves reason at large; and, reason told me, that in this way the struggle would end.

Upon what grounds my opinion was founded I will by-and-by state; but, we will first hear what has been said of this measure by the prints of the contending parties. This is a most curious affair altogether. It will make a great figure in the history of these times. It behoves us, therefore, to put upon record what the leading advocates of the two parties say upon the subject.

Yesterday (Monday, the 4th of February) was the day, when the public were, through the press, to have the matter broken to them. Till Saturday the public were full in the expectation of a change of ministry; a total change. After what had passed; after the manner in which the Edition: current; Page: [12] Prince had received the proposition of Mr. Perceval; after his declining to see him; after the Protest of his Brothers; after the speeches of Mr. Sheridan; after the Answer of the Prince to the Deputation from the two Houses; after all this, and especially after the charges of Lord Grey against Lord Eldon, the public could not believe it possible, that the present men would be retained by the Prince. Alas! those who thought thus, knew little of the matter. They did not reflect at all upon the motives of action in such a case. They did not see into the nature of the Prince’s situation. They knew that it required only a word to dismiss the ministers, and another word to choose others; but, they did not consider any further; they did not take into their consideration the difficulties that would attend the pronouncing of these two words, or, rather, that would instantly grow out of the pronouncing of them.

Therefore, the news, when it came out, produced universal astonishment.

The Morning Chronicle, which may be regarded as speaking officially, the sentiments, and uttering the assertions, of the OUT party, who expected to come in, endeavours to put a good face upon the matter. It represents the Prince as having taken this unexpected step from motives of filial affection, and the persons kept out as having highly approved of his conduct.

But, we must read this most curious article, before we make any further remarks upon it. The reader must, and will, regard it as the Official Declaration of the OUTS, especially of those persons, who were embodying themselves under Lords Grenville and Grey, who have been aptly enough termed the Twins of the Political Zodiac. I beg the reader to mark well the contents of this article, which is matter for history; and the substance of which must have a prominent place in the historian’s account of this matchless intrigue.

“The reports made to the Prince of Wales of the progressive amendment in the King’s health, and the hope that the Physicians give of his re-establishment, have made a deep impression on the breast of his Royal Highness, whose feelings of affection and reverence for his Father and Sovereign are necessarily combined with the sense of obligation which he owes to the public. He had thought it his duty, in the contemplation of having the affairs of the Realm committed to his charge for a length of time, and in a way which might have enabled him to exercise his judgment in the administration of the Royal Authority for the honour of his Majesty’s Crown, and the best interests of the people, to lay his commands on Lord Grenville and Lord Grey, to make an arrangement for a Council that should possess his entire confidence; and it is known that these noble Lords undertook the task; fully sensible of the irksome and arduous labour they had to fulfil, but feeling that it was only left for them to meet the awful and accumulated difficulties of the crisis, with a confident expectation that their exertions, under the restraints which had been imposed on the Regent, would be duly appreciated by the country; and at the same time with an earnest hope, that the prospect of a speedy return of his Majesty to the personal exercise of his Royal functions would make their services unnecessary.

It had accordingly been their uniform advice to his Royal Highness (and in which he most cordially concurred) that when the time should come for his being called on to take upon himself the duties of the Regal Office, in the name of the King, he should examine the Physicians to satisfy his own mind, and be governed accordingly, in the full conviction that there might be more detriment to the public interests in a temporary change of system, than even in the continuance for a short time of an erroneous system. This examination has actually taken place at Carlton House. The physicians have been severally and successively examined by the Prince’s Chancellor, in the presence of Edition: current; Page: [13] his Royal Highness; and we understand, that the result of that inquiry is, that though they cannot speak with any greater degree of certainty than at their examinations before the two Houses, as to the precise time when it may be expected that his Majesty could safely return to the exercise of his Royal functions, whether it is probable that he should be able to return at the end of two months or of three months, yet they all concur in expressing their confident belief in his ultimate recovery.

In consequence of this opinion, we understand, the Prince sent a message to Lord Grenville and Lord Grey, at a late hour on Friday night, announcing to them his determination not to make any change of Ministers at this time. The message was conveyed by Mr. Adam and Lord Hutchinson, and was expressed in the most handsome terms of approbation of their conduct, and of thanks for the readiness with which they had yielded to his request to form an arrangement, if circumstances should make it proper for him to interpose his own judgment, as to the fit and wise system of measures to be pursued on the present alarming condition of our affairs; and concluding with a declaration of his unabated confidence in their wisdom and ability, to conduct the Administration upon principles the most advantageous to the Crown and People. This intimation will be received with real satisfaction by the friends of those noble Lords, who must all feel with them that nothing but a sense of imperious duty could have induced them to enter into office in the dilemma created by a temporary defect in the Royal Authority. Three months, the most important perhaps that have ever occurred in our history, have already passed under a total suspension of the functions of Government—and another month must necessarily have been added to the delay, if the Prince had yielded to the patriotic sentiment of his mind, and recurred all at once to the principles upon which he thinks the Administration would be most beneficially conducted. So much time would have been required for the re-election of those who must have vacated their seats, and for the re-establishment of the routine of office—a delay which certainly might be productive of more serious calamity than what can be conceived probable from the perseverance in the system, until the hopes held out by the physicians shall be realized; or until time shall have destroyed these hopes. It is a moment, too, when public business of the most urgent nature calls for instant prosecution—and we need not add that it is a moment when, whatever may have been the rashness or the folly of embarking in the career of the present system, it is too late to interrupt its march, or even to avert its issue—and above all, we are sure the whole nation will concur in respecting and applauding the filial and affectionate motives of reverence to his Royal Father, which have influenced his Royal Highness to take this step.—The noble Lords, we understand, received the intimation in a way corresponding with their high character and their just sense of the public interests. They had the honour of a long audience of the Prince at Carlton House yesterday, when he was graciously pleased personally to renew the assurances of his perfect esteem and confidence.

We have uniformly stated to our readers, that if circumstances should force his Royal Highness to call upon the noble Lords to take upon them the administration, they would not shrink from the duty, however arduous,—and that they would be prepared with an arrangement that would give equal satisfaction to his Royal Highness, and the people of the United Kingdom. All the stories in the Ministerial papers of cabals and differences about the adjustment of places are totally false. There was no contention whatever: indeed, the minds of men must be singularly composed, who, at such a period, should be ready to jostle for situations. In fact, however, it was an arrangement to be made of one united compact body of men, all holding the same principles, and all animated by the same views; there was no contrariety of sentiment whatever; and an Administration of more internal strength, by the ties of mutual friendship—of more public influence by talents, integrity, and stake in the country, never has been submitted to any Prince. We say so much from what we hear of the public functionaries; for we believe that the arrangement did not go lower, and that it was never formally presented to the Prince for his approbation.

The proceedings which remain to be pursued on the Regency Bill are few. The Resolution for putting the Great Seal to the Bill, though unwarranted by any precedent, or by any analogy in the books, will pass the two Edition: current; Page: [14] Houses this day; and the Regent may be sworn in before the Privy Council to-morrow. It will be then for Mr. Perceval and his friends to submit to his Royal Highness their further plan of proceedings; but whether they will propose to him a short prorogation, or only an adjournment for a day or two, we shall not, from obvious motives of delicacy, presume to anticipate.

It is certain that up to four o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday ministers had made preparations for their retreat, and with some of those preparations the public will in due time be made acquainted. Whether they will still retire, notwithstanding the determination of his Royal Highness to keep them, if they think proper, we shall probably learn in the course of this day or to-morrow.”

Reader, was there ever so miserable an attempt as this to disguise a defeat? The tale is perfectly piteous. It is lamentable. One almost feels compassion for the persons who could condescend to dictate or to pen it.

Let us, however, as being a tale of woe, as being the defence of the unfortunate, hear it with patience, and so far treat it with respect as to bestow on it a few short observations, though, in reality, it stands in need of none.

We are first told, that the Twin Lords received the commands of the Prince to form a ministry for him, and that they had done so; but, that, at the same time, they earnestly hoped, that the King’s speedy recovery would prevent the necessity of their coming into office.

Well, now suppose this last assertion to be true, in the face of all the earnest endeavours that have been used to inculcate the notion (and a very proper notion), that, even in case of a recovery, the King ought not to be called upon to resume the royal authority for some time; in the face of the charges against Lord Eldon; in the face of all that we have seen, supposing it to be true, that these two Lords earnestly hoped, that the King might be brought out again to business speedily; suppose this; still, it seems, they had got their new ministry ready, and had been commanded to get one ready, and, we shall see, by-and-by, how this squares with the rest of the tale.

An examination of the Physicians, by the advice of these Lords, took place. The result was, that there was no certainty when the recovery would take place; it might be two months, or three months, or longer; and, this being the case, the Prince resolved to keep in the present ministry, which was very wise, and was highly approved of by these Lords, because it would have taken a month to settle the new ministry, and it was better to let a bad system go on uninterrupted than suspend it for a short time, and because the keeping in of the King’s servants was a mark of filial affection in the Prince towards his father, which all the nation must approve of.

Aye, this is a very pretty story; but the worst of it is, it will not bear the test of dates; for, as to the result of the examination of the Physicians at Carlton House, as here stated, it is precisely the same as that of the Examination of them by the Lords’ Committee, which took place six weeks ago. How, then, could this examination have produced any change in the intention of the Prince as to the forming of a ministry? The Examination before the Lords’ Committee, as will be seen in the Report (See Part I, of Vol. 18, of the Parl. Debates, p. 202) amounts to precisely the same as the examination is said to have done at Carlton House. In both, the opinions of all the Physicians went to ultimate recovery; and, as to the time, they are no more precise in the latter case than they were in the former.

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Now, then, let it be observed, that the Resolutions relative to the plan of a Regency were not presented to the Prince till long after the Examination before the Lords’ Committee, which took place on the 17th of December; and, of course, the Prince could not give his commands about a new ministry, until he had accepted of the Office of Regent; so, that, it follows, of course, that, when he gave his commands to form a ministry for him, he had just the same prospect before him us to his father’s recovery that he had on Friday last.

This at once knocks up all the miserable pretence about a change of views in the Prince proceeding from the examination of the Physicians at Carlton House. The examination upon oath before the Lords’ Committee represents the King as getting better, as improving, all the Physicians say, and swear, that they look confidently to ultimate recovery, but that the time required for it may be longer or shorter. And, is not the same result said to have appeared at Carlton House? Is there any thing new that has come out of that examination? And, who, then, can be so very stupid as to believe, that the change in the Prince’s intention as to his ministers has grown out of the examination at Carlton House?

These same facts, and precisely the same reasoning, apply to what is said by the Morning Chronicle with regard to the motive of “filial affection in the Prince towards his father.” If this motive has now induced him to keep in the present men, how came it to have no weight with him a fortnight or a month ago? The motive is childish. It might do well enough in common life, where a man has nothing but his family’s interest to set against any supposed predilection of his father; but, in the case of the Prince it is something a great deal worse than childish to suppose that it could have any operative effect; for, if he did, as we are here told he did, look upon Lords Grenville and Grey as the fittest persons to advise him in this “awful crisis of the country,” what are the people to think of his setting those Lords aside, and keeping in the present men, because the putting of them out would be likely to give offence to his father; especially after he himself, has, in so solemn a manner, declared, that all the powers and prerogatives of the crown are vested there for the benefit of the people, and in that light only are sacred? Oh, no! This will never do; and, therefore, this notion of the motive of “filial affection,” must be regarded as a mere invention for the purpose of accounting for the change in the Prince’s choice in a way the least humiliating to those, whom he has, at last, rejected, and whose chagrin it is the object of the Morning Chronicle to disguise, not considering, perhaps, that, in ascribing such motives of action to the Prince, inferences very injurious to him, as regards the people, are clearly conveyed.

But, if we were to admit, for argument sake, that such motives have produced this change in his choice, how unaccountable does his conduct then appear, seeing that the same motives ought to have operated, if at all, at every stage of the proceedings? If he is now induced to keep in the present men because the putting of them out would be offensive to his father, would give pain to his father, why did not this motive weigh with him before, and prevent him from giving his commands to the Twin Lords to form a ministry for him? The hopes and expectations of recovery were the same a month ago that they are now. They were sworn to before the commands to form a ministry could possibly have been given by the Prince. But, at any rate, what no one will attempt to Edition: current; Page: [16] deny is this: that, from first to last, all the Physicians, in all their examinations, have distinctly declared their confident opinion, that the King will ULTIMATELY recover. Now, this being the case, what becomes of the motive ascribed to the Prince by the Morning Chronicle? What becomes of this motive which the Chronicle says will be applauded by the whole country? At every stage, all the Physicians declared, in a manner the most decided, that they relied on ultimate recovery; therefore, as the Prince must be well aware, that the King’s feelings would be hurt, if hurt at all, by the dismission of his servants, and that this pain would take place whenever the recovery came, is it not most pitiful to pretend that the change of intention has arisen from the motive of “filial affection?” Just as if that motive would not have restrained him from giving his commands to form a new ministry, if it has now restrained him from putting out the King’s servants. What had time to do with the matter? What was the consequence whether he gave his father pain at the end of two months or at the end of six months? The nature and the quantity of the pain would have been exactly the same. What! will the Morning Chronicle accompany with praises of the Prince an assertion, that he would run the risk of giving, nay, that he would actually give, his father that pain at the end of a year which he would not give him at the end of a month?

No: this is too palpable. This pretence; this attempt to break the fall of the rejected party is too grossly absurd to be entertained for a moment.

With regard to the real motives, by which the Prince was, in all probability, actuated in the change of his intention, we will, by-and-by, offer an observation or two; but, we have not yet done with the Morning Chronicle.

The Prince, we are told, notified this change of intention to the two noble Lords, “in the handsomest manner.” Oh, aye, I’ll warrant him he has not lived forty-eight years in the Court of George the Third without knowing how to do such a thing handsomely. Earl Grey (then Lord Howick), when he announced his own dismission to the House of Commons, also spoke of the graciousness of the King to him personally. Aye; but the dismission took place. Words cost nothing. It is from acts that we ought to judge.

But, we are told by this writer, that the Prince has assured the two noble Lords, that he will, if the King’s illness should be of long duration, avail himself of their advice; that is to say, that he will have them for his ministers, and of course will turn off his father’s servants.

As to their ever being the ministers of the Prince we will inquire into the probability by-and-by; but as to his having assured them, that he will have them, in case of a lengthened duration of his father’s illness, the supposition, especially when taken into view along with the other statements in this article, is an outrage to common sense. What! “filial affection for his father” restrains him from turning out his servants at this moment; but, it does not restrain him from telling the world, and, of course, that same father, that he will do it, if he has a prospect of possessing the power of so doing for any length of time! And this, if the declaration were made, the father must know the moment he is restored to the use of his reason, and, perhaps, before he is so perfectly restored to it as not to be in imminent danger of a relapse. The father, that father towards whom the Prince, as we are here told, has so Edition: current; Page: [17] much of “filial affection,” is, upon his recovery to find, what? Not that his son has turned off his servants. No: he is to be spared that pain. He is not to find that. But, according to this writer, he is to find, that his son has declared, that he would have turned out these servants if he had had the power for any length of time; and, he is to find too, that his son would have taken in those whom his father lately turned out, because their principles are best calculated to rescue the country from the perils with which it is surrounded; aye, he is to find, clearly recorded by inference in a declaration of his son, that it would be good for the country if he had not recovered.

Was there ever any thing more monstrous than this? Was there ever anything more revolting to all just sense of feeling? Is it possible to place his Royal Highness in a worse light than he has here been placed by this writer? And for what? What have these pretended motives been conjured up for? For what but to palliate the humiliation of the party rejected. The real motives, of which we will speak by-and-by, would not answer this purpose. Others, therefore, were to be discovered; and I am persuaded the reader will agree, that, in the selection, it was almost impossible to show less regard for the character of the Prince.

Now, before we come to our observations upon the real cause of this alteration in the Prince’s intention as to a change of the ministry, let us put upon record the answer which the Courier gives to the article above quoted from the Morning Chronicle, which article it very properly styles the Manifesto of those, who have had the delicious cup of place and power and profit and patronage dashed from their lips. This article of the Courier is a stinger. The writer speaks in the voice of triumph; he laughs and scoffs at his opponent, and well he may. The victory is so clearly on his side. It is so complete; that if he did not exult, he would exhibit an instance of magnanimity by no means to be expected from him.

“We stated on Thursday that the dismission of the present Ministers was intended as soon as the Regency Bill had received the Royal Assent.—Something like an official notification to that effect was conveyed to them, and they had made the necessary preparation in their respective offices. ‘The Prince had laid his commands upon Lords Grenville and Grey to make an arrangement for a Council that should possess his entire confidence, and these noble Lords undertook the task.’ This has been officially stated to-day. In consequence of his Royal Highness’s commands an arrangement was formed. Lord Grenville was to be the Prime Minister, Earl Grey holding the same situation he did before. Lord Grenville, however, is said to have at first expressed his doubts whether so immediate a change of Ministers would be advisable. But the Foxites, always rapacious and thirsting for place, maintained a contrary opinion—they were for immediate dismissal, and Lord Grenville’s doubts were removed. But the Regent, escaping on a sudden from that baneful advice that would have made him dismiss his father’s Ministers, merely because they were his father’s, and select others who were known not to be in possession of his father’s confidence, has adopted a determination that will entitle him to the thanks of the whole country. He has resolved not to make any change of Ministers at this time. This resolution was formed after an examination of his Majesty’s physicians by his Royal Highness’s Chancellor, Mr. Adam, in the presence of his Royal Highness, at Carlton House, on Friday last. The public have seen the attempts made of late to throw discredit upon the bulletins, and to insinuate that his Majesty was not so well as they represented him to be. His Royal Highness has ascertained the contrary to be the fact, and the physicians all concurred in their examination before him, in expressing their confident belief that his Majesty’s health will be completely restored, and in all probability at no distant period. This unanimous declaration of the physicians convinced his Royal Highness of the detriment that Edition: current; Page: [18] must accrue to the public interests from calling men to his Councils who were known to possess principles so diametrically opposite to those of the present Ministers, and who would in all likelihood adopt a total change of system. Soon after the examination, therefore, of the physicians, and at a late hour on Friday night, his Royal Highness sent Mr. Adam to Lord Grenville, and Lord Hutchinson to Earl Grey, with a message (most unexpected, no doubt, by them), announcing it to be his Royal Highness’s determination not to make any change in the Administration. His Royal Highness expressed his thanks for the readiness with which they had acceded to his request to arrange a new Ministry, ‘if circumstances should make it proper for him to interpose his own judgment, as to the fit and wise system of measures to be pursued on the present alarming condition of our affairs; and concluding with a declaration of his unabated confidence in their wisdom and ability, to conduct the Administration upon principles the most advantageous to the Crown and people.’ This intimation of his Royal Highness’s determination to persevere in the present system will be received with real satisfaction, not as the Morning Chronicle says, by the friends of the noble Lords, or the noble Lords themselves, but certainly by the whole country. But it is not a little curious and ludicrous to hear the supporters of those personages now applaud the Prince for rejecting the advice they gave, and for declining to proceed in that career which they had marked out for him. ‘So much time,’ they say, ‘would have been required for the re-election of those who must have vacated their seats, and for the re-establishment of the routine of office; a delay which certainly might be productive of more serious calamity than what can be conceived probable from the perseverance in the system, until the hopes held out by the physicians shall be realized; or until time shall have destroyed these hopes.’ Is this a new discovery? Has not this been obvious from the commencement of the business? If delay would have been so calamitous to the public service, why did not they state it to his Royal Highness? Why did not they declare that the public business demanded instant prosecution, which a change of ministers must necessarily prevent? Why did they place it upon record as they have done, that desire of power and place was more powerful in their minds than the good of the public service, which they now avow, now when their assistance is not wanted, would have been exposed to serious injury by the dismissal of the present ministers? These are questions which we leave for them to answer in that leisure and retirement to which, happily for the nation, they are doomed to remain. But they affect to be quite pleased with the Prince for his message; they are not disappointed, not angry; no, not in the least. Like Sir Fretful Plagiary, each exclaims, ‘I’d have you to know, Sir, I’m vastly satisfied; not at all angry, quite happy and contented.’ The Prince, who was the theme of their panegyric when he was going to take them in, is equally the theme of their panegyric now that he is determined to keep them out. They are ‘fit for either field.’ They blow hot and cold at once. And above all, they add ‘we are sure the whole nation will concur in respecting and applauding the filial and affectionate motives of reverence to his Royal Father, which have influenced his Royal Highness to take this step.’ We are sure of this also, and that while the country will loudly and universally applaud this determination of his Royal Highness, it will view with abhorrence and indignation the conduct of those who would have had him follow a different line of conduct. What answer the noble personages returned to the Prince’s message we know not.

The Morning Chronicle has thrown a veil over it, only assuring us briefly that they received the ‘intimation in a way corresponding with their high character and their just sense of the public interests.’ Both Lord Grenville and Earl Grey had long audiences of his Royal Highness yesterday.—But if the Prince is convinced of the danger and injury that would arise from a change of ministers, why cannot the party suppose that his Majesty’s ministers are equally sensible of it themselves? The Regent of course would have had the power to deprive them of office, and to call others to his Councils, but their retirement would not have been their own act. This was explicitly stated when their dismissal was determined upon and made public. A fortiori, they will not think it their duty to resign, now that the Regent has notified his sense of the danger that would accrue from a change of men and measures.—This resolution of the Regent to walk in the steps of his father has brightened Edition: current; Page: [19] the prospect before us. It has placed his character, both public and private, in the most amiable point of view. He feels that it is only by keeping the principles of his Father steadily in view that he can preserve the nation in its present situation of unequalled pride and glory and power, commanding the world.—The Regent will be sworn in before the Privy Council to-morrow, and it is probable that both Houses will adjourn to Monday next, when his Royal Highness will go down in state, and open the Session. In the acclamations that will be bestowed upon him in his procession to the House, he will find the recompense and the approbation of the conduct he has determined to adopt.

In the hey-day of his triumph, one must excuse a little bombast, and, therefore, the idea of the country being now placed in a situation “to command the world” may be passed over. But, what he says in some other parts is delicious. It must be to the balked party as pleasant as hot lead poured down their backs. Yes, yes. “The Prince has age and experience;” the Prince is “capable of forming a right judgment;” and the Prince, having had time and opportunity to examine into the matter, finds, that to pursue the system of his revered father, to tread in his step, and, of course, to have the same ministers, is the only way to insure the safety and happiness of the nation! This is excellent. This is right on to the point; and it is what I defy the Morning Chronicle to controvert. We shall now hear from this venal man of the Courier no more insinuations against the Prince of Wales; no more threats to revive “unpleasant discussions as to his pecuniary affairs;” no more assertions of his “pecuniary embarrassments having been the greatest cause of his unpopularity.” We shall now hear nothing more of this sort from him. Nor do I think, that we shall again hear him calling the other Princes “GREAT BABIES.” He will find all of a sudden, that they have acted a very wise part, especially if it be true, as we are told in the newspapers, that some of them were the bearers of the glad tidings to Lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval. He will now discover, that they are fit for something more than “dancing at a Duchess’s Ball;” a discovery, which the unfortunate OUTS have, with lips half bitten through, already made.

The Morning Post, too, lifts its hoof at the fallen party, now that it sees them down. It has been pricking up its long ears for some days past; it has been braying out some very significant compliments to the Prince: and, now back goes its hoof in a jerk, at those very men, whom, only ten days ago, it denominated “highly respectable individuals,” as distinguished from Sir Francis Burdett and his crew.

It is worth while to hear a little of what this man now says, being, however, very cautious how we believe him.

The Manifesto, of which he speaks, is the article above quoted from the Morning Chronicle.

“The Manifesto to which we allude (for it clearly is a Manifesto, authorized by a part, at least, of the Opposition), gives us to understand, in the first place, that the determination to retain the present Ministers was grounded upon the opinion given by the Physicians, upon their examination by the Prince’s Chancellor, of his Majesty’s ultimate complete recovery. Now, we undertake to assert, without fear of contradiction, that this examination took place very early in the last week; and we are distinctly informed by the Organ of Opposition, that it was not until Friday night that the resolution was taken to make no change in the Administration. We therefore believe it to be a misrepresentation as important as it is complete, to say that the resolution followed the report of the Physicians;—important, as well because it is calculated to support the assertion that there were no difficulties in the arrangement of the Edition: current; Page: [20] projected Government, as because it implies that it was at the advice of the Noble Lords who, as we were given to understand, were commanded to prepare the new lists, that the change of Ministry was rendered dependent upon the state of his Majesty’s health. We assert, without any fear of contradiction, that at the very moment in which the determination was communicated to the Noble Lords, they were engaged in discussing their projects of a new Administration; the communication (if we are not more grossly misinformed than, as we suspect the Morning Chronicle will tell us that we are), so far from being the result of any advice or opinion submitted to the Royal Personage by the Noble Lords, was a complete surprise upon the whole party, who rather expected a message to hasten their deliberations, than one which put a stop to them altogether.

These facts would perhaps be of little importance, if they did not entirely overturn a delusion, which it is, evidently enough, the purpose of the Manifesto to encourage, namely, that every preparation for forming a new Administration originated with the Great Person himself; that it was with exceeding reluctance that the Noblemen and Gentlemen who were intended to compose it, consented to take upon themselves so heavy a burden; and that to be relieved from it was to them a cause of unspeakable joy! This representation is equally untrue and mischievous; that it is untrue the language of every person concerned, throughout the whole of Saturday and Sunday, before, in short, the Manifesto was issued to convince them that they were the luckiest of human beings, will sufficiently testify; its mischief appears in the disloyal and dishonest attempt to fix upon his Royal Highness the desire of changing the Government, and upon those whose wishes were to be gratified by the change, nothing but an humble obedience to his Royal Command.

This is all fair, To an attempt to make the public believe, that the OUTS did not wish to come into power, it is impossible to affix any epithet too contemptuous, What! after all that we have seen; after what has been before our eyes for the last three years; after the language of the men themselves and of their partizans for the last three months only; nay, but the last week, are we to be told, that they were solicitous to avoid place and power? This really is too impudent. If, however, this be their talk, they stand a good chance of being gratified to their heart’s content; for, unless all my reasoning upon the subject be grossly erroneous, never will any set of men, with Lords Grenville and Grey, or either of them at their head, be ministers again in this country. Their exclusion from political power appears to me to be irrevocably passed; and for my thinking so I will now state the reasons.

From what has been said above, there cannot, I think, remain, in the mind of any man of common sense, the smallest doubt, that the motives which have been alleged by the Morning Chronicle for the Prince’s having changed his intention, have no foundation in truth.

The real motives, in my opinion, were very different; and, it will be found, I think, upon examination, that, placed as the Prince was at last, it was impossible for him to do otherwise than he has done, unless he had resolved upon a total, a radical, change of system, at once, a prominent feature in which system would have been that reform of the Commons House of Parliament, which has so long been the chief object with so large a part of the people.

The Morning Chronicle tells us, that the two Lords had formed a famously good ministry: “an Administration of more internal strength, by the ties of mutual friendship, of more public influence, by talents, integrity, and stake in the country, than ever has been submitted to any Prince; one united, compact body of men, all holding the same principles, and all animated by the same views.”

Edition: current; Page: [21]

This is a very fine description. Here are friendship, INFLUENCE, talents, integrity, and STAKE, (that is to say money,) and principles; but what principles is not stated; nor is there a word said about what this fine ministry would have done for the people.

Whether there had been any differences as to who should compose the ministry is more than I can say; but if I may judge from the past, a ministry elected by Lords Grenville and Grey would have excluded almost the whole of those, to whom the Prince was most attached; and, if he was thus to be treated, it is very clear, that it was, as far as personal feeling went, better for him to keep the present men, who, I believe, had always treated him and his particular friends much better than they were treated by the late ministry.

I shall be told that these are considerations that ought not to have much weight in so momentous a case. Very true. They ought not; but it is quite impossible to divest ourselves of all feeling; and, though I am disposed not to ascribe any very great weight to these considerations, still they must have some weight given to them.

There were two sets of ministers talked of. One, with Lord Holland at its head, and the other with Lords Grenville and Grey, for these two are always put together. From the former, the people would have expected something: from the latter nothing. It was supposed, with what correctness I know not, that his Royal Highness, the Prince, leant towards the former; but, it was, at the same time, very evident, especially after the Restrictions were carried, that he could not, without a dissolution of Parliament, go on with a ministry so composed.

It is likely that the bent of his mind was towards Lord Holland, and men of that description; and, at any rate, it must be supposed, when we look back to 1806, that he would not, if he had had his free choice, have delivered up himself and his particular friends into the hands of Lords Grenville and Grey.

The probabilities are, therefore, that he had not, from the beginning, any liking to a ministry of their forming; and if he did give his commands to them to form a ministry, the progress might more and more tend to convince him that he should do better with the present men than with them.

This, however, I give to the reader as mere conjecture; but, I think, it is evident, that, situated as he was at last, he could not have gone on with a ministry of their making up; that he could not, by any means, in the present state of the Parliament, have carried the government on for a week with such a ministry.

If the Regency had been given to him without restrictions (which restrictions, be it observed, Lord Grenville supported), such a ministry might have gone on as well, or, rather as ill, as the ministry of 1806, composed of the same persons. But, when the power of making peers; the power of granting pensions; the power of granting office for life or in reversion; when the control over the Crown Lands; when the immense patronage of the Household; when the privy purse; when all these were taken from him, how was he to go on with a dead majority against him in both Houses of Parliament? It is nonsense to talk about his choice or his wishes or his affections or his commands to form a ministry; I ask, how he was to go on? There was only one way of even attempting to go on under such circumstances, and that was first proposing a reform of Parliament, and then, whether that proposition Edition: current; Page: [22] were rejected or not, dissolving the Parliament, or in the words of the King’s speech of 1807, “appealing to the sense of the people.” This was the only course left to be pursued. This course was not to be expected from Lords Grenville and Grey. To follow it he must have chosen other men, if such men had been to be found. His only choice lay, therefore, between the present system, whole and unmixed, and untouched, and parliamentary reform. There was no middle course for him to pursue. In short, to represent the things by persons, his choice lay between Mr. Perceval and Sir Francis Burdett, and I am sure the OUTS, who so manfully “rallied round” the former against the latter, cannot, when they have taken time to reflect (and time enough they will have for reflection) do otherwise than commend the choice that has been made. When Mr. Madox made his motion, his ever-memorable motion about the seat-selling, the OUTS “rallied round” Mr. Perceval; they defended, they justified him; they, therefore, ought to be amongst the last men in this whole world to find fault of the present choice of his Royal Highness; and, as to the people, if they find one free man in all England to join them in finding fault of Mr. Perceval’s being preferred to them, I will acknowledge that I know nothing at all of the disposition of my countrymen.

Now, as to their future prospects; I mean the future prospects of those who would have composed a ministry with Lords Grenville and Grey at the head of it.

We are told by the Morning Chronicle, that the Prince has intimated to them, that when he is at liberty to pursue his own plans, he will avail himself of their talents.

We have before remarked upon the injury that this assertion (if believed) is calculated to do to the character of the Prince: it only remains for us to remark upon the folly of indulging any hope in the prospect that it holds out.

If the King recover speedily, there is, at once, an end to the hopes of those who entertain this expectation of future favour. He will either recover speedily, or he will not; if the latter, then, let it be observed, that Mr. Perceval is still Minister, that it is he who has all the current patronage, and, which is a great deal more, he is sure to be King’s Minister again; he is, in fact Minister, in reversion, if the King recover during Mr. Perceval’s life; he has, from this peculiarity of circumstances, a footing far more solid than any Minister ever had before.

This will give him great weight amongst those with whom he has to do, and whose support it is most material for him to have. Being now the Prince’s adviser, he will be the person to be consulted as to the granting of pensions, places for life, and the like; and, then, the restrictions will, in fact, in this respect, be of no consequence; for, whatever the Prince may be advised to grant, will, of course be confirmed, in case of the resumption of the royal authority by the King. Are the OUTS not aware of all this? Do they not perceive how much easier and pleasanter the Prince will get on with Mr. Perceval, than he could have got on with them?

There is now nothing that his Royal Highness may wish to do for any one attached to his person (so that the party to be served meddle not with politics) which will not readily and cheerfully be done. Nay, I should not wonder much if Mr. Tierney and another or two were admitted into the buildings at Whitehall; but, as for the ministry-makers, Edition: current; Page: [23] the men of “stake,” never will they again put their noses into those buildings.

But, “at the end of the year the restrictions expire.” Yes; so they do; but a year is a long while; many things happen in a year; and, if all other matters hold together till next February, Mr. Perceval must be a very lame man indeed if he be not much more powerful than he now is, and if the Prince have not much stronger reasons for keeping him in than he had for choosing him.

In short, with the Grenvillites and the Greyites the game is up; completely up. They thought, and I told them they were deceived, that they could go on without an appeal to the people. They have already found themselves deceived. Hitherto in England there have been a court party and a country party; the King’s party and the people’s party; but, here we had a party, who would acknowledge neither. A party composed of men of “stake.” Well, let them keep their “stake;” but let them not hope, that the people care a straw about their stake.

One comfort will be, that all their apprehensions will now be removed about the King being brought out again before he be perfectly recovered. We shall now hear no expressions of alarm upon this score. All parties will now be perfectly agreed as to this important point. The Prince’s choice, like the Knight-Errant’s balsam, heals all wounds, past, present, and to come.

Indeed, the thing is so complete, the discomfiture of the men of stake is so decisive, that I am thoroughly persuaded they never can “rally” again. I made a promise almost as strong as an oath, some years ago, that I never would go into the gallery of the House of Commons, again; but, if I were not, like the Bank, under the influence of a restraining law, I certainly should be tempted to break my promise. I should like, of all things in the world to see some men now with my own eyes, and hear them with my own ears.

The fall of the men of stake has proceeded solely from their contempt of the people generally, and particularly from the contumely, with which they have treated the applications for reform; and now, all those who have any sense must perceive, that this is the only ground left whereon to stand in opposition to any ministry carrying on the government upon the present system. There used to be a talk about the Prince, and what the Prince would do, when he came to the throne, which, by the by, was very unconstitutional talk; but, now they see what he will do, what he can do, and I have clearly shown, I think, that, unless he had had men ready to propose and stand firmly to a proposition for parliamentary reform, the Prince could do nothing but what he has done, unless he had refused the Regency altogether.

I do not lump together the whole of those persons who composed the late ministry; nor do I wish, by any means, to impute any base motives to Lord Grenville or Lord Grey; but, in the latter, there is so much disregard of the people, that he never can be a popular minister, and haughtiness towards the people is, too, the more resented on account of his former professions. Lord Grenville is a sensible man, and he has nothing of the mean intriguer about him. But there is that in his whole family, in all their connections and situations, which forbid the people to look towards them for a reform of Parliament, without which no other measure will ever again make any minister popular, be he who or what he may. Indeed (and it cannot be too often repeated) this is now the only Edition: current; Page: [24] ground of opposition to any ministry; and those who will not join their voices in calling for this great measure, will excite neither interest nor attention. What is the use of cavilling and carping at this or that little thing? What is the use of a contest, which all the world knows will lead to no practical effect, and which has, indeed, no practical effect in view? Even great things, such as the fate of Sir John Moore’s army and the affair of Walcheren, excite no interest, because the people do not see, that they would be bettered by any change of councils that the struggle may produce. It would be just the same in case of a failure in Portugal. Some borough, under the control of him who found an interest in getting it, might send up a petition; but, in this whole kingdom, not a free man would move pen or tongue to put out the ministry upon any such ground. But, once let the question of reform be espoused by any considerable number of the members of Parliament; once let that question be agitated in a way that would show the parties to be in earnest, and you would see that the people of England are still alive to the interests and honour of their country. It is quite useless for the men of “stake” to fold up their arms and be sulky. There they may remain folded up till they grow to stone. If they care nothing for the people, the people care as little for them. The people have a stake as well as they; and, if this be denied, why, then, those who possess no stake have no stake to lose.

WM. COBBETT.

KING’S ILLNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Continued.

The last scene of this curious political drama has been performed, and every man of sense is now able to decide upon the character and conduct of the different actors. There nevertheless requires some observations, in addition to those offered in my last Article, as to the catastrophe of the piece; not because the thing itself is of a puzzling nature; but because so many and such strenuous attempts are made, by the writers of the two conflicting parties, to disguise the truth. It is the interest of the two parties to ascribe the Prince’s choice of the present ministers to motives precisely opposite; but it is the interest of neither to ascribe them to the true motive. The two parties are quite in earnest as to the desire of annoying each other; but they are both alike anxious not to expose themselves to the contempt of the people. They would fain tear each other to pieces; each would fain annihilate the other; but, both prefer even defeat and disgrace from the hands of each other, to any confession that would tend to show, that a want of the people’s confidence has had any weight in the event. All considerations as to the people, both are anxious to keep out of sight; but, there is no reason why the public should keep them out of sight; on the contrary, this conduct of Edition: current; Page: [25] the writers of the two parties is, of itself, a sufficient reason for stripping the matter of all the disguise that has been attempted to be thrown over it, and to place it upon record in a way that shall prevent the possibility of misunderstanding it.

In my last Article I left it pretty plain, I think, that the Morning Chronicle had assigned wrong motives to the Prince (whom we must now call the Regent) for the change in his intention as to the choice of his ministers. It was there clearly shown, that to ascribe his conduct to the re-examination of the Physicians at Carlton House, or to a feeling of filial affection for his father, at the same time that he was said to have declared his resolution to change the ministry if he held the Regency for any length of time; it was clearly shown, I think, that this account of the matter, while it was barely possible to be true, was improbable in the extreme, and, if true, greatly injurious to the understanding and the character of the Regent; that it placed him in the most disadvantageous and even odious light, exhibiting a fickleness of mind, a want of all feeling for the people, a want of constancy towards his known friends and adherents, and, though the contrary was affected, a want of even outward respect for the public character of his father, seeing, that, while it stated him to have declined changing the ministry lest it should give pain to his father, it made him declare, that such a change was necessary for the good of the country, and that he was only prevented from immediately making it lest it should give pain to his father, aye, lest a change for the good of the country should give pain to his father upon his recovery, and of course by that declaration inferring, that his father’s recovery would not be for the good of the country.

It was, I think, very clearly shown, that the true motive had been disguised by the Morning Chronicle for the purpose of saving its friends from ridicule, on account of their defeat.

Nor is there any more truth and sincerity in the motive assigned by the writers of the other party, who tell us, that the determination not to change the ministry was produced by a Letter from the Queen to his Royal Highness. There is something so childish in such a notion; it is so inconsistent with all ideas of wisdom and manliness; it has so much of the nursery and the leading-strings in it, that when one thinks of it in connection with the age of the Prince, one can scarcely forbear bursting out into laughter. But, when one considers it as applying to a measure affecting the happiness of fifteen millions of people, affecting the safety of a kingdom, it really fills one with indignation that any man should openly assert such a motive to have been the ground of action.

The writer, who ascribes the Regent’s change of intention to a Letter from his Mother, does not, let it be observed, attempt to deny, that he had actually given his commands to Lords Grenville and Grey to form a new ministry; on the contrary, he fully admits it, and gives us a most ludicrous description of the confusion which the announcing of the change of intention produced amongst them, who, he says, had already begun to address each other in the titles of their intended offices. This writer, then, clearly admits that the Regent, had, after abundance of time to consider of the matter, actually given orders for the changing, totally changing the ministry; and he asserts, that, after all this, the Regent suddenly, and completely changed his intention upon receiving a letter from his mother, which letter, and that alone, induced him to reject the men he had at first chosen, and to take the men whom he had resolved to discard.

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Now, in what a light is this to place his Royal Highness? The two sides have their different ways of exhibiting him; but neither seems disposed to spare his character. Both seem alike regardless of him, so that they annoy one another.

It is to be supposed, that, if the Prince Regent went so far as to give his orders for the forming of a new ministry (and it is admitted that he did); it is to be supposed, that before he did this, before he actually took so important a step, he had brought his mind to a thorough conviction, that a change of ministry was called for by the good of the country; that it was necessary to the public welfare; that it was a measure which the people’s benefit and perhaps the safety of the country demanded. This must be supposed; and, in what a light, then, would the Prince be placed, if we were to admit the assertion of this venal writer, that, after this conviction was formed in the mind of the Prince, he was induced to abandon the measure, to abandon a measure which he was convinced was necessary to the good of the country, merely because he received a letter from his mother, desiring him to abandon it, lest it should give pain to his father?

How is it possible to devise any thing more injurious to the Prince’s character than this? How is it possible to suggest any thing more likely (if it could be believed) to lessen him in the opinions of all men of sense and of public spirit? If this were universally believed, what reliance would any one ever place upon his firmness in future? If the people could be persuaded, that he had, from such a motive, abandoned a measure which he thought wise and necessary to their good, would they not have good reason to fear, that he never would be proof against assaults of the same, or a similar, kind, coming from that quarter, or from other quarters? Without supposing it probable or even possible, that the Queen should ever entertain any mischievous intention; an intention, or wish, hostile to the public welfare, we may very easily suppose her to have erroneous views of public affairs; we may easily suppose her not to be a proper judge of a measure like that under consideration; and, in this particular case, we may easily suppose her to attach, and excuse her for attaching, even more weight than ought to be attached to the feelings of the King when compared with the vital interests of the nation. But, that circumstance, so far from arguing in favour of listening to her advice upon such an occasion, naturally argues the other way, and ought to excite a greater degree of caution. In short, view the matter in which way we will, the imputation of having abandoned the intended change from such a motive is extremely injurious to the character of His Royal Highness, and as such, the belief of the statement will be rejected by the public, unless much better evidence of its truth, than we have yet had, be produced.

The real cause of the change in the Prince’s intention was, the inability to go on with the proposed ministry; or, at least, of this I am quite sure, it would have been impossible to go on with them. A ministry without Lord Grenville, a ministry that would have, at once, dashed at Parliamentary Reform would have gone on; because the people would have been so decidedly for them, that there would have been every thing to expect from a dissolution of Parliament. But, what would a dissolution of Parliament with the restrictions in being, have done for the late ministry?

The original coalition between the Foxites and Lord Grenville was Edition: current; Page: [27] before, and now again has been, the cause of the fall of the party; especially as Lord Grenville was, and was now to be again, at the head of affairs.

The junction was unnatural. It was as absurd as it would be to couple the shepherd’s dog with the wolf. In was in vain to attempt to make the individuals harmonize; and, if that had been possible; if that had been actually effected, it was little short of insanity, to hope that the people would not view the harmony with a suspicious eye. It was useless to tell the people of the strength of the ministry; of the combination of talents and of stake; for, their answer was, “aye, but what will this Ministry do for us?

Lord Grenville had been a party, and not only a party but an active, and even a prominent, party, to the whole of Mr. Pitt’s measures; and, indeed, he had been, to all appearance, one of the principal advisers of all those measures, which had given the most offence to the people, and the remembrance of which was most deeply engraven on their hearts, some of which measures, indeed, were actually brought forward by himself, and to this day, bear his name as part of their title in common conversation.

Against all these measures the Foxites had sworn eternal hostility; not an hostility founded on degree; or an hostility as to the more or the less; but an hostility against the principle of the measures, which they held to be outrageous and abominable at all times and under all circumstances.

Was it any wonder, then, that a ministry so composed should not have had the confidence of the people? The Foxites had gained the good will of the people by this their hostility to those measures. Whatever they had of popular estimation was founded upon their opposition to Mr. Pitt and his measures, and upon the confident hope that the people cherished, that, whenever the Foxites came into power, they would undo those measures as far as it was possible, and that they would act upon those opposite principles, to which they had been so long and solemnly pledging themselves.

An union with Lord Grenville, therefore, was ominous in its very sound. It promised nothing that the people wanted; but, on the contrary, was a death-blow to their hopes.

There were some, however, who still hoped, that it was impossible, that the Foxites should not have taken care to insure the predominance of their principles, and that, of course, Lord Grenville had (in which there would have been nothing dishonourable) made up his mind to abandon the system of Mr. Pitt, which had brought so much misery upon the country. But, alas! this hope soon vanished. The predominance of Lord Grenville appeared in every thing; in every act of the administration; and in every word of the whole party. To praise “the great statesman now no more” seemed to have been a positive stipulation on the part of the Foxites, who, to the inexpressible shame, mortification, and finally, rage of all those who had formerly been attached to them, seemed to vie with each other in seizing upon occasions, and making occasions, for uttering those offensive and insulting praises.

Nor was the effect of this compromise confined to words. It was seen in acts of all sorts, as well of omission as commission. No changes were to be made in any of the offices, except those which immediately appertained to the ministry. The offices being all filled by the Pittites, Edition: current; Page: [28] the persons filling them were the friends of Lord Grenville, not a few of whom had, indeed, been promoted under his patronage. He and Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville had, in fact, appointed the far greater part of the persons in office; and, as if there had been a design effectually to exclude the Foxites, Mr. Addington and his set of statesmen were included in the coalition; and, of course, those whom he also had appointed were to be kept in their places.

Thus, there was no change, worth speaking of, in this respect. People still saw the same faces at all the offices; the same influence was felt; and the same spirit animated the whole body. Whether in the Army, the Navy, the Law, the taxing offices, the Church, the Magistracy; in all departments, in every corner, the same influence, the same spirit, the same system, still prevailed.

When the Foxites wished to remove this or that person, to make this or that change, they found that the person was a friend of either Lord Grenville or Mr. Addington, or, that he was a friend of “the great statesman now no more;” and, as to changing measures, it was impossible to propose such change, without finding fault with the existing measures, without conveying, by inference, at least, a censure on those measures; that could not be done without a tacit censure on Lord Grenville or Mr. Addington, or on “the great statesman now no more;” and, to censure Lord Grenville, either expressly or tacitly, was not to be expected from men. who had placed him at their head.

Yet, all this might have been borne by the people, who might have assented to this species of forbearance; but, when they saw forty thousand pounds of the public money voted away by the Foxites to pay the debts of Mr. Pitt, upon the grounds, expressly stated by them, of HIS SERVICES TO THE COUNTRY; when they saw these same Foxites, who had gained the people’s favour solely by opposition to, and reprobation of, the measures and the whole system of Pitt; when the people saw those Foxites, not a man of whom had not a thousand times repeated the assertion, that Pitt was the greatest enemy that England ever saw, and who had, indeed, seen the fulfilment of all their predictions as to the effects of his measures; when the people saw these same Foxites voting away forty thousand pounds of their money to pay the debts of this man, and voting him also a funeral at the public expense, and upon the grounds, expressly stated by them, that HIS SERVICES TO THE COUNTRY demanded this tribute to his memory; when the people saw this, away went, at once, and for ever, all their confidence in the Foxites, all their friendship and all their respect.

This was amongst the first acts of the new ministry, and, of all their acts, it certainly was that which produced the greatest and most durable impression against them. It was so mortifying, it was such a cutting insult, it was such a cruel stab, a heart’s core stab, to their former friends and supporters, not a few of whom had such everlasting reason to remember “the public services” of Mr. Pitt, and the whole of whom had become attached to the Foxites, because they constantly exposed and execrated his measures.

In proportion as the Foxites sunk in the people’s estimation they became more vulnerable, and the whole ministry became more easily assailed by the then opposition, who are now in power; but, the Foxites suffered in two ways: for, every thing that sunk them in the eyes of the people, sunk them also in the ministerial scale, made them of less consequence Edition: current; Page: [29] there, and, of course, added to the relative weight of Lord Grenville, who, indeed, in a very short time, obtained a complete predominance, and, the ministry became, as to all its measures, as to every thing affecting the nation, only another set of Pittites, every principle, every part and particle of the Pitt system being not only adhered to, but adhered to upon the express grounds of being that system. And, it was curious enough to hear both sides of the House contending, in many cases, not so much whether the thing in question was good or bad, as whether it had been sanctioned by the example or the principles of “the great statesman now no more,” and both sides claiming the honour of being his close imitators.

What a scene was this for those to witness, who had, for so many years, been supporters of the Foxites! It was impossible, that they should not be shocked at it. It was quite impossible to retain or regain their confidence after this; and, accordingly, a more hearty abhorrence of public men certainly was never excited than that excited by the Foxites upon this occasion. At first men were silent; the shame which always arises, in a greater or less degree, from misplaced confidence, restrained for awhile the utterance of their indignation; but, this restraint did not last long; and, when it did find a vent, indignation more strong never was expressed in this world.

Here, too, Lord Grenville had the advantage; for, as the people had no reason to expect any thing in the way of change of system from him, he had not deceived them. He had never made them any promises; he had never professed any of those principles, by the profession of which the Foxites had gained the people’s confidence. He was well known to belong to the Pitt school; so far from ever having disclaimed it, he had taken all occasions of avowing its principles. He, therefore, lost nothing, while he gained, in the ministry, all the predominance that the sinking of the Foxites was calculated to give him; and thus, with them, the candle was burning at both ends: they were daily losing with the people, and daily losing with him; and, at every successive fall they fell further and further at a time; till, at the end of a year, scarcely a man of them durst open his lips, except for the purpose of supporting some measure or some principle which the whole of them had formerly condemned.

In this state was the late ministry, when it was broken up and dispersed with as little trouble and with as little impression upon the public as would arise from any man’s discharging a dozen or two journeymen, and taking on others in their stead.

They were supplanted by men, whom they affected to despise; men whom they had laughed at; men who, indeed, had had so much dread of them, that they had, only fifteen months before, scampered away out of office at their approach. But, these men had the sagacity to perceive, that their opponents were sunk in public estimation; that the Foxites had been tried and found wanting; and that, as to the people, all the parties were now alike. They saw, that a total indifference as to public men had taken possession of the people’s minds; and, which was of more importance than all other considerations put together, they had seen their opponents do those things which would, in future, disarm them. They saw, in short, their opponents fairly launched into the system; they had, at their fingers’ ends, the example of their opponents for all that they themselves could wish to do: and, to crown all, they had Lord Grenville, at the head of these opponents, a sure guarantee that no hostility against Edition: current; Page: [30] them would, upon any occasion, be pushed to extremity; a sure guarantee, that the system would not be assailed, and that, to secure themselves against all assaults, they had nothing to do but tread in the steps of “the great statesman now no more.”

These were the grounds upon which the present men went in supplanting the last; and experience has fully verified all their expectations.

While Lord Grenville is in the opposition what have they to fear; at least while he is the acknowledged head of the opposition; and of course, while the whole party have an eye to him in all their words and actions? While this is the case, the ministers do not, I warrant it, feel any apprehensions of a rude attack. They may have to encounter now and then a question of a diplomatic, or commercial kind, or relating to general policy, or to the wisdom or folly of an Expedition; but, in THE SYSTEM they are safe. There may be some very able manœuvring upon the plain; some fine regular combats, in which the ministers may be pushed to the glacis, with the loss, perhaps, of their outworks; but, in the SYSTEM, in the body of the place, covered by the name of “the great statesman now no more,” they are safe; for that is a rampart that Lord Grenville will never consent to scale or to batter. The opposition, under Lord Grenville, do, and always must, fight in muffles, while their opponents come at them with good bony fists. It has always been regarded as a great thing to have a friend in the enemy’s camp; what must it be, then, to have for that friend the enemy’s Commander-in-Chief?

How fearful must the odds, then, be? Yet, it is with an odds of this kind against them, that the Foxites have been carrying on the political warfare ever since January 1806. No wonder that they have had such an abundance of “negative success.

I do not impute to Lord Grenville any double-dealing. On the contrary, he appears to me to have acted, all along, a very open part. He will join in endeavours to put out the ministry and get into their places, if he can do it with certain means; if he can do it without going beyond certain lengths; if he can do it without violating any of the principles of the Pitt System; if he can do it, and be at the head himself, and make all those under him laud the Gods for having given birth to William Pitt, he will do it, but he will not do it upon any other conditions. There is nothing at all unfair in this; it is natural in him to exact the conditions on which he intends to co-operate; the only thing to be astonished at is, the folly (to say nothing worse of it) of the Foxites in supposing that they will ever obtain power by yielding to such conditions.

I know well, that Mr. Fox had no stomach to the ministry that was formed in 1806. He was decidedly against its being composed as it was. He wished to be left out of it personally, and would have given it support where he could. He was, after a great deal of persuasion, prevailed upon to take office; but, I take upon me to assert, that he did it with extreme reluctance. This I know to be true. He must have foreseen the consequences. They soon began to make their appearance; and, there can be no doubt, that they hastened his death; which, for his own sake, should have happened one year sooner than it did.

Such is the true history of the late ministry; and, after this retrospect, is it possible for any one to suppose, that the Prince Regent could, if he wished it, have gone on with a ministry composed in the same way, starting with a majority against them in both Houses, and having such small means of influence as the Restrictions had left in the hands of the Edition: current; Page: [31] Prince? I repeat my opinion, that the Regent had no great liking to a ministry with Lord Grenville at its head, notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary. There were many reasons for his not liking such a ministry; and, it cannot be supposed; it is to contradict the voice of human nature to suppose, that he could like to take as his prime minister, the man who had been the principal cause of imposing the restrictions upon him. It was Lord Grenville and his immediate connections who decided the question in both Houses. If they had joined in the vote for Address and not Bill, it would have been carried, and the Prince would have been Regent without any Restrictions two months ago. Lord Grenville laid most manfully on upon the ministers; but it was with respect to points of comparatively trifling importance. He laid on upon them with great force with regard to inferior points; the greater part of his speeches were very much against them; but, upon all the material points, he gave them his vote. He might have prevented the Restrictions; he and his immediate connections turned the scale. It was owing to them, therefore, that the Restrictions were imposed; and, indeed, that the Houses proceeded by Bill instead of Address.

I shall be told, perhaps, and so, I dare say, the Prince was, that this line of conduct was necessary to preserve the consistency of Lord Grenville, who had taken the same line in the time of the “great statesman now no more.” To which, had I been in the Prince’s place, I should have answered, “Very well; that may be very right in Lord Grenville; but, let him, then, keep his consistency to himself, and let me exercise what little power he has left me under the advice of another.”

But, was the consistency of Lord Grenville so great, so mighty an object, that the consistency of the Prince was to be wholly overlooked? It should be recollected, that, in 1788, the Prince expressed certain opinions and principles, as well as Lord Grenville; the Prince then declared most decidedly against such restrictions, as hostile to every principle of the constitution; and, having again now repeated the substance of that declaration, in his Answer to the Deputation from the two Houses, would it have been very consistent in him to take Lord Grenville as his prime minister? But, I dare say, that there are people, who think nothing at all of this, compared with the precious consistency of Lord Grenville.

The Prince has taken Mr. Perceval, I shall be told, who proposed those restrictions against which his Royal Highness had protested. But, there is a great deal of difference in the two cases. He, in all probability, liked the one much about as much as the other; but, the conduct of the two, though tending to the same point with regard to him, must be viewed in a very different light. Mr. Perceval was the minister of the King, Lord Grenville was not; Mr. Perceval was acting, in appearance at least, in pursuance of his duty or attachment, towards another; Lord Grenville was the champion of his own consistency.

Besides, there is a wide difference between the making of a minister, and the taking of a minister ready made to his hands. If Lord Grenville had become minister, it would have been the Prince’s own act, and he would have been looked upon as, in reputation at least, responsible for the measures and principles of the administration. He now merely suffers his father’s ministers to go on as they were going on before, and as they would have gone on, if nothing had happened to his father.

Here are reasons more than sufficient to account for the Prince’s preferring Edition: current; Page: [32] Mr. Perceval to Lord Grenville; but, if there were not, others would not be wanting; for, I insist, that it would have been impossible for the Prince to have carried on the Government with Lord Grenville at the head of it. The ministry would have been made up of men, who would have had no part of the community cordially with them. All the old true Anti-Jacobin tribe, all the contractors, all the tax-gatherers, the restrained Bank people, the Eastern Empire people, the country Bankers, the Lloyd’s and the Exchange people, a great majority of the Clergy and of the Justices of the Peace, and nine-tenths of the good old women of both sexes; all these are for the present ministers. If a Parliamentary Reforming ministry had been chosen, they would have had all the active and independent part of the people of England and of the whole kingdom. But, a ministry with Lord Grenville at its head, would have had nothing for them but their “stake,” as Mr. Perry calls it; nothing but their estates and their tenants; and that is not sufficient, think of it what they will.

So that, as I said in my last, leaving all likings and dislikings out of the question, the Prince had no other choice, than that which lay between the parliamentary reformers and the present men. Had I been in his place I should have chosen the former: but, men differ in their tastes; and, at any rate, let not the most of those who composed the late ministry blame the Prince for taking Mr. Perceval, whom they supported and “rallied round” upon every occasion, when it was interesting to the people that they should be his assailants. They have now their reward for that: and, much good may it do them. They called the petitions of the people “popular clamour,” they call the parliamentary reformers, “a low degraded crew:” they have recently flung Sir Samuel Romilly overboard for denying to Mr. Pitt the character of “a great statesman,” and now they are flung overboard themselves, with the mortification of seeing not a single hand stretched out to save them, and of hearing millions of voices exclaim, Down! down! down to the lowest deep, never to rise again!

They were prepared, I believe, to fling overboard some others besides Sir Samuel Romilly. Every one who had taken the side of Sir Francis Burdett. When Lord Archibald Hamilton brought forward his motion about Lord Castlereagh, last session, how did they then act? Even then they “rallied round.” And is there, can there be any man beast enough to regret, that the Prince has rejected them? I trust not; and am quite sure, that all those who can make a retreat from them, will do it. They may attempt other coalitions; but, they will not succeed. There is now no ground left for an opposition to stand upon, but Parliamentary Reform; and, those who will not stand forward boldly for that great measure, may as well hold their tongues.

Wm. COBBETT.
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KING’S ILNESS.—THE REGENCY.—Concluded.

This subject, as one of regular discussion, I shall here bring to a close, having, I think, borne my part in it from the beginning to the end. It was I, who, as the saying is, broke the ice, as to the proper mode of considering and treating the matter. Till I entered upon the subject, nothing was heard, through the channel of the public prints, but lamenting and weeping and wailing and snivelling and canting. There were, in all human probability, more lying and hypocrisy in England during that month, than ever have been witnessed in any other country in the course of a year. If I were to select any particular month of the history of my country as the most disgraceful, I should have no hesitation in selecting that. The Bank Restriction month, that is to say, the last week of February and the three first of April, 1797, had, in my opinion, theretofore the shameful pre-eminence; but, the folly and baseness then so conspicuous in the country, were surpassed by the folly and baseness of the first month of the King’s illness. The venal writers, who dealt in such doleful strains had their object in view, and a very rational one it was, though very malignant and mischievous. Their object was, by the means of incessant lamentations and howlings, to leave it to be clearly inferred, that if the kingly part of the government got into other hands, ruin, destruction, perdition, would come swiftly upon us all; and such has been the beastly stupidity of many of the people in this country since the year 1792, that I should not much wonder, if there were some of them who were, by these and the like means, made to believe, that even their natural lives depended upon that of the King.

It is true, that this description of persons, would, in an hour of need, be of no more consequence than so many snails or caterpillars; but, they count as to numbers, and they talk as much as the hale and the brave.

There seemed to be, in the hostile daily prints, a rivalship as to which should go farthest in the way of lying and canting; so that it is not a subject of much wonder, that the public caught the disgraceful tone.

What must foreigners have thought of this? The Americans, who say pretty freely what they think of us, do, to be sure, laugh most unmercifully at our despair. One of them, who seems to have got hold of the Morning Chronicle of about the beginning of November, breaks out into a pathetic apostrophe to us, does not expect us to survive the affliction, and calls upon us to repent before we depart, of our manifold sins and wickednesses, “especially those committed upon the highway of the water.” In short, the cant, the incomparable cant, contained in our newspapers of the month of November last, seems to have convulsed the American continent with laughter. Some of the writers there put the case as it might have related to themselves. They suppose, for argument’s sake, that they had still been subjects of the King. They ask what, in such a case as this, and with the doctrines of our newspapers in vogue, would have been their fate.

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Then they turn to the memorable stories promulgated by the Morning Post, and laugh ready to split their sides. They repeat a great deal of the cant of our prints; they explain certain passages to their readers as they go on; they say what none of us would, for delicacy’s sake, think of saying; they are not so refined a people as we are; they relate anecdotes; they state things in so many words, and when they insert the sham letters which the Courier publishes as coming from Windsor, they burst out into laughter in such a way that you almost fancy you hear them laugh as you read their columns.

One would think, that those who have brains enough to manage even the business part of a daily paper, would have too great a sense of shame to be content to live in the state of a laughing-stock; and, when they have got money, and are able to say, that they can live all their days without any thing more than they have; that they have a plenty for all their purposes; when men are in this state, it really is astonishing, that they can voluntarily expose themselves to laughter and contempt for the sake of adding a few thousands to their gains. But, when men have lied and canted themselves into pelf, they are, I am afraid, generally found to persevere to the last. If such men were to become farmers, they would lie and cant to their labourers; or, in default of human beings to deceive, they would lie and cant to their horses or sheep.

I do not confound the Morning Chronicle with the venal prints, which have so distinguished themselves upon this occasion; but, I often meet with what I cannot approve of in that paper; an instance of which I have now under my eye, in a passage relating to the Speech of the Prince. In the passage I am alluding to the writer makes these remarks:

“In one paragraph of it, at least, his Royal Highness will most cordially concur in the sentiment which will be introduced; namely, the expression of deep sorrow at the cause which has imposed upon him the afflicting duty of supplying for a time the Regal Authority. No man in the King’s dominions can more perfectly sympathize in that expression than the Regent; for all those who have had the best opportunities of ascertaining the inmost feelings of his heart from his earliest infancy, assure us, that at no time, even when most embittered by the effects of the mischievous misrepresentations made to his detriment, was he ever known to manifest other than the most affectionate and pious reverence for his Royal Father. And we believe it has been well rewarded; for on the other side, we understand it has been remarked, and set down as an infallible symptom of the access of his Majesty’s complaint, that his paternal confidence in the affection, virtues, and conduct of his Son and Heir, was loudly declared by him to be the chief source of consolation to his heart on every alarm of approaching malady. On this point at least the Commissioners will speak the sense of the Regent.”

Now, in the first place, it is impossible that Mr. Perry can know any thing at all of this matter. He cannot know any thing about it. He can know, for certainty, no more about the thing than I do; and I know no more about it than any of the ladies, my near neighbours, who are upon the eve of a trip to Botany Bay, with intentions much less mischievous than those with which another description of ladies take a trip to India, the latter having riches derived from plunder in view, while the former confine their views to a bare existence.

It is silly affectation to pretend to know any thing of such matters. It throws general discredit over the contents of the paper.

But, suppose Mr. Perry to know all this to be true? What then? What use is it of? What is there “rich or rare” in it? Are we to Edition: current; Page: [35] be called upon to express, or to feel, admiration at a thing which is so very common in common life? Do we stand in need of assurances, of positive assertions, that the Prince of Wales loves and respects his father, and that his father has a confidence in him? I forget who it is that says, in speaking of the assertions or arguments of some one in favour of Christianity, that “he wrote so long about it, that even believers began to doubt it.” And, though a similar fate cannot, of course, attend these asseverations of the Morning Chronicle; yet, the writer may be assured, that, if there were any doubts as to the facts of which he speaks, these asseverations would not remove them; no, nor tend to remove them, in the smallest degree.

Besides, what is it after all? A son loving and respecting his father, and a father loving and having confidence in his son. Just as if this was news to tell to the public! Just as if there was something peculiarly meritorious in this! Why, the question is not, where the like is to be found; but, where it is not to be found. It is to be found in almost every family in all ranks of life; from the great family mansion to the shepherd’s hut; and, not only in the shepherd’s hut, but in the shed of his dog.

How foolish is it, then, to make a grand display of so very commonplace a thing; to take that, the existence of which nature bids us assume, and blazon forth as something requiring particular acquaintanceship to have discovered? Love his son! and where is the wretch so unnatural as not to love his son! Confide in his son! and where is the father so unfortunate, or jealous, or so perverse as not to confide in his son?

Let us hear no more of this, then; for, at the very best, it can do no good, it can strengthen no man’s belief, and amongst people not understanding the cause of such publications, it may possibly excite suspicion; especially when, in almost the same breath, this same writer tells us, that, if the Prince had it in his power to do what he could wish, he would instantly turn out the ministers chosen and kept in and preferred to all others by his father.

I dislike exceedingly all these appeals to the private personal qualities and disposition of the royal personages. We know nothing at all about them; nor are they of any consequence to us. It is by their acts, by the measures and effect of the measures of their reign, or regency, that we must judge of them; and all the attempts, in whatever way, that are made to bias our judgment by appeals to the private qualities of the King or Regent, are mischievous and ought to be reprobated.

So much for the cant of the subject, which, however, cannot be too often exposed. It cannot be too often or too strongly condemned; for, if the effects were traced to their real causes, we should find no small part of our present difficulties and dangers fairly ascribable to this poisonous source.

I should here quit the subject of the Regency; but it seems necessary, by way of a close to it, just to take a view of, and put upon record, the tone which the two contending parties have now assumed.

The Morning Chronicle labours hard to make its readers believe, that the Ministry are slighted by the Prince, and that they are now puzzled and hampered by the restrictions, which they themselves imposed; and, in short, that the keeping of them in was a clever trick.

Let us, however, take the whole article, it being the last time that we shall, at any length, touch upon the subject. I beg the reader to Edition: current; Page: [36] pay particular attention to it. He will see its object in a moment; but there are particular passages, the very words of which we shall, I am sure, have hereafter to refer to:

“We cannot view the melancholy and almost ridiculous situation in which the King’s ministers are placed at this moment, without feelings of real and undivided pity. Ministers without confidence, the jest of Windsor, of Carlton House, and of their own friends, distrusted even by their own retainers, who consider them only as upon sufferance, how can we in common humanity refuse them our sincere compassion? With all the responsibility, all the trouble and all the plague of Government, they possess none of the means of rendering their situations beneficial to the public, grateful to their friends, or formidable to their enemies. Knowing how little they had deserved the applause of the people or the confidence of the Prince, they judged of him as they would of themselves, and looked only to their own immediate dismissal, because they took for granted that the Prince would take advantage of his father’s illness, as they had done, and endeavour to turn it to the objects of his own ambition, as they had to theirs. Under this impression their sole object was to make the task of the Regent’s future government, as irksome to him and to those who possessed his confidence as they could. Restrictions were heaped upon restrictions, not because they were to be found in the precedent of 1788 (for from that precedent they departed) but because by restrictions the Regent’s Ministers would be prevented from conferring those acts of grace and favour which might tend to attach meritorious talent to his service and to add strength to their Government. Every runner of the Treasury enjoyed a joke which was so much to the taste of Mr. Perceval and within the comprehension of Mr. George Rose. Even Mr. Secretary Ryder made shift to understand it, and Lord Melville’s son acknowledged the force as well as the wit of a project, the end of which was to prevent Ministers from practising jobs. The delusion however was quickly torn away, and their faces, distended with smiles, are now in most ridiculous contrast lengthened into sadness. The Prince, with a degree of filial piety and affection towards his father which must endear him to the country, resolves, so long as the favourable symptoms in his father’s malady continue, to permit the King’s Ministers to drag on the machinery of the State. The poisoned chalice is returned to their own lips, the restrictions operate upon themselves, they find themselves destined to try the experiment with how small a portion of royal power they can carry on a Regent’s Government; the Regent is determined too that they shall try with how small a portion of royal confidence they can perform their task, and they find themselves chained in bonds they forged for others, and burning in their own bull. In charity, then, we must give these poor men the consolation of our compassion!—We again state as a fact which we know cannot be disputed, that in the Council Chamber the Prince Regent showed the strongest and most flattering marks of his favour and of kindness to all those connected with the men known to possess his confidence, whilst to the King’s Ministers and their adherents his deportment, always gracious, because to none can it be other than gracious, marked to all who were present, as well as to themselves, the distance at which he meant to hold them, and the terms upon which he permitted them to continue the Government; and lest they should mistake him, he gave away the first thing which came within his gift, without communication with them and in direct opposition to their known intentions and wishes. We repeat, that the audiences of Mr. Perceval and of the other Ministers did not exceed two minutes each, with the exception of the Lord Chancellor, whom his Royal Highness detained whilst he communicated to him that he would not go down to Parliament to read the speech written by Ministers who did not possess his confidence. For the truth of this statement we are ready to make any appeal the ministerial newspapers may require. We are ready even to appeal to the Lord Chancellor’s conscience.”

Taking this in its order, we find, then, that it is now considered an arch trick to have kept the ministers in their places. But, surely, this cannot have been written by Mr. Perry, nor inserted with his hearty consent. He has too much sense of decency to approve of so palpable an attempt to deceive the public; so pitiful an endeavour to disguise disappointment Edition: current; Page: [37] and envy by the means of affected compassion. No: this proceeded not from the mind of Mr. Perry, who is only to blame, in this case, for fathering the stupid effusions of some underling of the twin statesmen.—This clever trick would now be held forth to us as having been contrived for the purpose; but, who was it that contrived it? Not the Prince, for he, as the Morning Chronicle has told us, gave his orders to the twin statesmen to form a ministry for him. Not the twin statesmen, for they, after the passing of the Resolutions, occupied themselves, as the French call it, in forming that ministry. And, difficult as the situation of ministers now is, they were, it seems, quite willing to undertake it. So that, at any rate, if there be any cleverness in the trick of keeping the present ministers in power, it is not to be ascribed to those who it is acknowledged, were ready to supply their places.

But, what are those difficulties; and what reason have the present ministers to wear long faces; and how are they burning in their own bull?

With them all is smooth. Whatever is conferred by the Prince, under their advice, will be confirmed by his father, if he recover; and, if he do not recover, must, in the end, be confirmed by the Prince himself.

The present ministers lose nothing in the way of power by the restrictions; for, whatever in the way of patronage cannot be disposed of previous to the King’s resumption of the royal authority, will be to be disposed of then; and thus are these things, these “rewards of merit,” as the Morning Chronicle calls them, accumulating for the benefit of those “meritorious” persons, who may have been, and may still be, found faithful to the present men.

Where, then, is the sense of talking of embarrassments to the present men from the restrictions? It is, perhaps, quite impossible to conceive any thing, short of absolute despotic sway, more complete than the hold which these men have upon power, as far as power is dependent upon patronage. Their hold is even mere strong than if, during the King’s malady, they had all the kingly powers in their hands; for, in that case, they must, as they proceeded, actually reward some “meritorious persons” and disappoint and offend others, especially where “meritorious persons” are so very numerous as they are in this country; but, now, they disappoint no one, they disoblige no one, they hold every one in expectancy, every one in cheering and heart-enlivening hope, and those “meritorious persons,” seeing the quantity of “rewards” daily accumulating, will become, of course, every day more attached to the ministers. “Where the carcass is,” says the Scripture, “there will the eagles be gathered together.” And, of course, the more carcases the more eagles. And thus, so firm a bond of attachment, so strong a hold of such numbers of “meritorious” supports, no ministry in England ever had before.

Nay, they will have this without any trouble at all. They will not only have nothing to refuse to any one; but no one will attempt to plague them for any thing included in the restrictions. And, yet, this writer would fain have us believe, that the restrictions which they hatched are to operate against themselves!

I was in hopes, that the idea of the Prince’s having changed his intention from motives of filial piety had been so completely scouted as never to be again brought forward; but, if it was again to be mentioned, surely it ought not to have been accompanied with a statement of his having resolved to put out the King’s servants if his malady continued any length of time, and also with a statement of his having treated those servants with contumely, and told them that he would not go down Edition: current; Page: [38] to the Parliament to read a speech written by ministers who did not possess his confidence? To make these statements, to state these things so positively, and, at the same time to assert, that the Prince kept in the ministers out of filial piety to his father, who had chosen them, is to do this writer’s best to exhibit the Prince in a light the most disadvantageous that can possibly be conceived; for, any thing more inconsistent, more unworthy of a great, or even of a rational mind, it is, I think, very difficult to imagine.

The Courier, who is the newspaper champion of the ministry, sees this matter in another light, and is accordingly quite successful in his answer.

“In pursuance,” says he, “of the plan for attacking the person as well as the Government of the Regent, the Opposition represent him as behaving with marked rudeness to his Majesty’s Ministers, that he purposely showed in the Council Chamber the distance at which he meant to hold them, whilst he smiled most graciously at the Opposition. This no doubt originated in his Royal Highness’s humanity. He saw the poor creatures so chap-fallen, so woe-begone, looking with such misery, at each other, and with such envy at the Ministers, that he threw a smile at them to keep them from despair. Now, as to holding the Ministers at a distance, Mr. Perceval, and the other Members of the Cabinet, have reason to be perfectly satisfied with the Prince’s behaviour towards them. It is most gracious. The conferring the 67th Foot on General Keppel was not against the wishes of the Ministers, though if the Opposition had been in, it might probably have been against their wishes. And as to the audience of Mr. Perceval, we adhere to our first assertion. But what must his Royal Highness think of those styling themselves his friends, who say that he detained the Lord Chancellor whilst he communicated to him, ‘that he would not go down to Parliament to read the Speech written by Ministers who did not possess his confidence.’

“The Opposition would have us to believe the Prince to be subject to all the low little selfish passions that fill their breasts. Did he, or could he so deliver himself to the Chancellor? We are persuaded it is impossible; and let it be recollected, that whether the Speech be read by the Regent in person, or by his Commissioners, it is still a Speech which must have previously received his sanction and approbation.

This is a complete answer to the Morning Chronicle. There is no doubt at all, that the Prince finds himself less thwarted by the present men, than he would have found himself with a ministry made up by Lords Grenville and Grey. No doubt at all of it. But, it does not follow, that he is to be regarded as answerable, to the extent here aimed at, for the Speech that may be delivered in his name. The Speech is a measure of the Ministry, in the same way as a Proclamation or an Order in Council or a Message is a measure of the ministry, and, as such it must be considered; as such Speeches from the Throne have always been considered, or else, how could they, without demolishing all respect for the King, be discussed either in Parliament or in print? And, if this be the true doctrine as to the King, who has no restrictions upon his authority, and who chooses whom he pleases for his ministers, it, surely, must apply still more forcibly to the case of the Prince, who has so small a part of the kingly powers and prerogatives left in his hands, who has had nothing to do in the choosing of the ministers, and who merely suffers them to remain where he found them, not having power either to choose or reject. Whether he ought to have accepted of the Regency upon such conditions is another matter; I should have advised him against it; but, this is quite a separate question; and, neither Mr. Perceval nor Lord Grenville can possibly impute any blame to him upon that score, seeing that the former proposed, and the latter supported, those restrictions.

Edition: current; Page: [39]

I am the more inclined to dwell upon this topic of the Prince’s assumed “previous sanction of the Speech;” because I am aware, that the assumption has not been now introduced without design. The venal writer has not introduced it without thinking what he was about; and the design is to play off the old trick of shifting the responsibility from the shoulders of the minister to those of the Prince. “Here,” we shall be told: “Look here: here is the Prince’s own Speech. See what he says, if you want to know what he thinks.” And, in this way, if the Speech contain praises of all that has been done for the last three years, and deprecate any change in so delightful and prosperous a system, we are to be taught to believe, that these are the genuine opinions of the Prince.

It is very true, however, that, in spite of all that can be said, this, to a great extent, will be the effect; and here it is that his Royal Highness will feel the evils of having taken the office upon him with such limited powers. In the eyes of the mass of the nation, the speech will be his speech; and, it will require a great deal more than his particular friends, will, I am afraid, be either able or willing to do, to remove that impression, which may, one day or another, prove greatly injurious to his interests.

He will, unless great exertions are made to prevent it, become, to a great extent, identified with the Pitt system, the consequences of which no man can calculate, and, if any one could, it is to be feared, that there are very few who would honestly lay the result of the calculation before his eyes.

I am now writing while the Speech is delivering to the two Houses, and, I shall not see it, till long after this is gone to the press; but, it is hardly possible, that it should omit to speak of the affairs in Portugal, and, if it speak in commendation of what has been done there, it will be very difficult to keep the Prince from appearing to be a party to that famous war.

The prudent way would be, to say, that, “thus and thus my Royal Father has thought proper to order; and this and that have taken place under the direction of my Royal Father’s ministers.”

The minister could not object to this; and thus would the Prince keep clear of the system; but, I can conceive no other way for him to do it.

As to the Opposition, which will now show itself in Parliament, it will be pretty nearly what it was before, but weaker. The King’s recovery would so completely confirm the power of the present people for his life, that there would not remain the smallest hope of supplanting, amongst those who have hitherto had that object in view; and as to the people, they like one of the parties just as well as the other; it being impossible for them to discover any difference in them, as far as the people’s interests or feelings are concerned. Those who are OUT, and who, of course, wish to come in, tell us that they would have conducted the war better. We do not know that. But, what is the war, compared with many other things? Would they have lessened the Taxes? Would they have lessened the sinecures and the pensions? Did they do this? Did they attempt to do it? No: but they abused, like pickpockets, all those who called upon them for any such measure. It was they who swelled the Income Tax from Six to Ten per Cent., and who, for the first time, exempted the King’s funded property (in whatever name entered) from paying any tax at all. But, they did so many odious things; they discovered so decided a contempt for the people in every way; they so Edition: current; Page: [40] outraged public feeling, that it is impossible for the people ever to like them again.

I do not confound them; I do not lump them altogether; and, I was in hopes of seeing the Prince so situated as to be able to divide them, and to form a ministry of those, from whom the people would have expected something; but, if we were to have merely the late ministry revived, we are full as well as we are, and he is much better than he would have been.

The Morning Chronicle tells us, that the Opposition will not feel themselves under any restraint in attacking the ministers. O dear, no! no restraint at all, except that of the system; except that they will not dare to attack Lord Grenville’s late colleague and relation; except that they must carefully guard their tongues against any reflection, even the most distant, on any measure of “the great statesman now no more.”

This restraint they will be still under, and that is all the ministers want. Only let them keep their muffles on, and the ministry will beat them I warrant it.

If the war in Portugal should end in a fatal way, we should hear of inquiries again; and, indeed, we are told, that it was in order to let this war end in the hands of the ministers, that they were suffered to remain in place. But, what of that? Have we not had a Corunna Affair, and a Cintra Affair, and a Walcheren Affair? And what did the motions about them produce? What was the result? Why, an expense of printing Parliamentary Papers to the amount of many thousands of pounds in addition to the enormous expenses of the Expeditions.

The discussions about Corunna and Walcheren were excessively unfortunate. Each of them was thwarted by a question in which the people were interested: the first, by the question relative to the Duke of York, and the latter by the question relating to Sir Francis Burdett. Away went the regular fights. Not a word more could you get any one to say about them. Mr. Tierney, I remember, complained, that there were certain persons, who kept away, and took no part at all in the “great questions relative to the conducting of the war; but who were all alive upon motions like that of Mr. Madox.

Aye, this was because the people had an interest in the latter; because these questions affected them; and, because, as to the war, the manner of its being carried on was nothing compared to the principle of it, of which the Regular Opposition approved.

This is the state of parties, then. The true bred Pittites are in power; they, therefore, are the most powerful set. The Opposition, which originally consisted of Foxites, have been subdued by Lord Grenville and the Court, and are thus disarmed as to every question favouring the interests or feelings of the people. So that, these two parties, as far as they act in corps, must be considered as having the SAME PRINCIPLES to all intents and purposes. Some men imagine the OUTS wiser than the INS. It is not want of talent that occasioned those measures here which have put Napoleon in possession of all the continent of Europe. It is not want of talent; and, if it were, I do not see so much difference amongst the leaders as some men would fain make us believe there is. There is, in fact, no difference at all in the two parties. They are precisely the same in principle, in every thing regarding the Rights and Liberties of the people, which has been proved by their votes and their speeches and their measures, over and over again and in all manner of ways.

As long, therefore, as the Foxites, or any persons in Opposition, continue Edition: current; Page: [41] to cling to Lord Grenville and the name of “the great statesman now no more,” the people would be rank fools to wish to see them supplant the present men, it being as clear as day-light, that such a change could be productive of nothing more than an addition to the pension list, which is quite long enough already to satisfy any reasonable man.

There are some politicians, who wish for a Reform of Parliament. These belong to neither of the other parties. If they were to increase, from them the people would expect something; and, from them the ministry would have something to fear, because they are not restrained by the system; they drive at the whole system, “great man now no more” and altogether; they do not fight in muffles. This party, however little numerous, is formidable; and, if it increase, though but little, it will become an object of terror. Whether its increase will be speedy, whether it will be slow, when its power will be felt, I shall not pretend to say; but, that its power will, sooner or later, be felt, and will prevail, I am confident, and I am also confident, that its prevailing is absolutely necessary to the safety of the nation.

I began the discussion and I have closed it. In the course of it I have brought into view every material fact and argument, the production of others or of my own mind. I have given a proper place to every actor of any consequence; and, as far as my knowledge has enabled me, I have done strict justice to the actions and motives of every one. If I have, in any case, yielded to feelings of partiality, it has been in favour of the Prince of Wales, and the reason was, that, of all the parties concerned, he was the man whom I saw with the fewest real friends amongst those who were taking a part in the discussions; and further, because, some years attentive and pretty close observation as to politics and public men, long ago convinced me, that there was a settled design with some men to calumniate him by the means of canting insinuation, and thus to excite against him a prejudice that should stick to him through life.

The Courier, a few days ago, in remarking upon one of my articles on the Regency, observed, that it was well calculated to serve the Prince with the Mob (no bad service neither, as things may happen!), and that, it was to be regarded as having somewhat of authority about it, seeing that the writer was intimately acquainted with one of the Royal Dukes.

How ready these venal men are to ascribe motives of venality to others!

I have spoken to the Duke of Kent four times in my life, and no more. I have not seen even at a distance him or either of his brothers for these last five years, and have never had any communication, directly or indirectly, with any one of them of any sort, since that time; and I never received or asked from any one of the Royal Family any favour, of any kind, in all my life.

In the part I have taken upon this occasion, I have been actuated solely by a love of truth and of my country, and by a corresponding hatred of hypocrisy and of the worst enemies of that country, faction and corruption.

Wm. COBBETT.
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DISSENTERS.

At the end of this article, I insert the Resolutions recently passed at a Meeting of the Protestant Dissenters, relative to the Bill, which is now before the House of Lords, and which has been brought in by Lord Viscount Sidmouth, late Mr. Henry Addington, sometime prime minister of this country.

Thinking people as we are, I am disposed to believe, that the subject now before us is not very well understood; and, as I see, that the Courier and other venal prints are complaining, that the well-meaning Dissenters are deceived respecting the object and the natural effects of the Bill, if it should pass into a law, I will endeavour, with my Lord Sidmouth’s leave, to make the thing clearly understood.

The enactments of this Bill are stated to be as follow. I have not seen any copy of the Bill itself; but, I take it for granted, that they are correctly stated in the published Resolutions of so respectable a body as the Meeting above-mentioned.

I. That such Ministers, upon being admitted to the peaceable possession and enjoyment of the peace of Ministers of a separate Congregation, may, on a certificate in writing, under the hands of several substantial and reputable Householders belonging to such Congregation, signed in the presence of some creditable witness, who is to make proof of their signatures upon oath at a General Sessions of the Peace, be permitted to take oaths and to sign the Declarations previously required, and shall then, and then only, during their continuance to be Ministers of such separate Congregation, be entitled to all the privileges and exemptions which the former acts had conferred.

II. That any other person who may desire to qualify himself to preach as a Dissenting Minister, must procure several substantial and reputable householders, being Dissenters of the same Sect, and of the same Congregation, to certify on their consciences, in writing, to his being a Protestant Dissenting Minister of their Sect, and of the same Congregation, and to their individual and long knowledge to his sobriety of conversation, and to his ability and fitness to preach; and that such Certificate must be proved as before stated, before he be permitted to take the oath and subscribe the declaration, before he be exempt from the pains, penalties, and punishments to which he would otherwise be liable as a Dissenting Minister.

III. That any person of sober life and conversation admitted to preach on probation to any separate Congregation, must produce a Certificate from several Dissenting Ministers, who have taken the oath (to be also proved on oath at a General Sessions) of his life and conversation, and to their long previous knowledge, before he can be admitted to take the Oaths and subscribe the Declaration, and that he may then, during a limited period, to be specified in the Certificate, officiate as a probationer to any Dissenting Congregation, and be, during a limited period, exempt from prosecution and punishment; but neither of the two last-mentioned classes of persons will be entitled to any privileges, or to the exemptions from offices conferred on Dissenting Ministers by the Toleration Act.”

Such is, it is said, to be the substance of the new Act; and, how it will affect the Dissenters, what an alteration it will make respecting them, we shall now see.

Previous to the first year of the reign of William and Mary, the Dissenters were liable to divers severe penalties and punishments for doing Edition: current; Page: [43] that which they now do by law; and their Ministers, or Teachers, were liable to be punished in a very severe manner. But, in the year just mentioned (1688) an Act was passed, which is generally called the TOLERATION ACT, and which is the 18th chap. of the first year of William and Mary.

This Act took away great part of the hardships, under which the Dissenters before laboured; but, it still left them subjected to a load of oaths and subscribings, and some of these they are still subjected to; so that, one would have wished for the abolition of these shackles, rather than the imposing of new ones.

There were also certain Exemptions provided for by the Toleration Act. That Act not only did away punishments but created exemptions. The proposed Act would create the grounds of punishments, and would take away exemptions.

By the Toleration Act any man, be he who he might, could become a Dissenting Minister, upon the conditions there prescribed; namely, taking of an oath of fidelity to the King, of abjuration of popery, and subscribing the Articles of the Church of England, with some exceptions. These conditions were hard; for, why should they subscribe any of the articles of the Church, of the Episcopal Church? However, such were the conditions, and the only conditions.

In the 19th year of the present king’s reign (1779) an Act was passed (Chap. 44) to do away the obligation to subscribe the Articles of the Church of England; and to substitute in lieu thereof, simply a declaration of the person’s being a Protestant Dissenter, of his being a Christian, and of his belief in the Old and New Testaments.

Thus, then, as to qualification for the Ministry, stands the law at this hour.

Before a man can preach or pray or teach, or, in any way officiate, as a Dissenting Minister, he must obtain a Certificate of his actually being a Dissenting Minister; and, this is the way in which he is to obtain it. He is to go to a General Sessions of the Peace, held for the County or Place, where he lives, and there he is to take the oaths of fidelity and abjuration, and is to make the declaration last-mentioned, and, when he has done this, the Justices present are to give him a Certificate of his having so done, and this constitutes him a Dissenting Minister, and authorizes him to officiate as such, in any part of the kingdom where he pleases. The Justices cannot refuse to admit him to take the oaths and to make the declaration; and, when he has so done, they cannot refuse him his Certificate. The Act is positive and peremptory; and, indeed, if it had not been so, it would have been a most wicked Act; for it would have given to the Justices the power of selection, which they might have used for the worst of purposes. It would have been much worse than to pass no Act at all.

Such is the mode of qualification; and, when a man is once qualified in this way, he is by the Toleration Act, exempted from serving upon any Jury, and from being chosen, or appointed to bear, the office of Churchwarden, Overseer of the Poor, and all other Parochial offices, and all offices of the Hundred or Shire, such as Constable, and the like. And, the Act of the 19th year of the present reign carries the exemption to SERVICE IN THE MILITIA, which is a very important thing, indeed, especially since the passing of Lord Castlereagh’s LOCAL MILITIA Act, which makes every man in England, between the ages of 18 and 30 (I Edition: current; Page: [44] believe it is) liable to the operation of that military discipline, having written about which some people have such excellent reason to remember to the latest hour of their lives.

The reader will stop here a little and fix his eye well upon this. This is the main point to keep in view, as he will see sufficient proof of by-and-by.

We must now look back at the provisions of the proposed Act of Lord Sidmouth, which we shall not, I think, want much said to convince us, strikes at the very root of the two Acts of Toleration; for, if this Act pass, the obstacles to the Ministry will be so great, that very few men will have either the ability, or the inclination to surmount them.

The First provision in the intended law, relates to persons, who have actually become Ministers of separate Congregations; and, it is proposed to enact, that, any man being settled in this capacity, may go and take the oaths and sign the declaration before-mentioned, and that he shall then, and as long as he continue to be Minister of that specific Congregation, be exempted from burdensome offices, and from the militia; but, that, if he ceases to officiate as minister to that particular congregation, he then becomes again liable to the service in offices, and to MILITARY DISCIPLINE, which is a much more serious thing.

If the Act were now passed, any Dissenting Minister, not 45 years of age, not having a fixed Congregation, might be ballotted into the old Militia; and, if between the ages of 18 and 30, he might be drafted into Lord Castlereagh’s Locals! And, if he has not money to pay the fine in the latter case (where no clubs will avail him), he must go and serve, and, of course, leave his congregation.

This was not so before. When a man had once become a Minister, he always remained so. He still enjoyed the exemptions attached to the character, though he might, from some cause or other, cease to officiate, just as our Church Ministers, who, whether they have livings or curacies, or not, are still exempted from the Militia and from burdensome office: other offices, some of them have no objection to. But, if this bill become a law, there will be no security for the Dissenting Minister, who may be preaching one day, and fighting the next.

There are many causes, whence a Dissenting Minister may cease to officiate. Illness may throw him out of his ministry, and cause his place to be supplied by another; and, when recovered from his illness, it may be impossible for him to recover his former situation, though he may be a very worthy man; but this circumstance at once subjects him to the Militia, and, as I observed before, if he be under 30 years of age, and has not money to pay the fine, he may be under the study of military discipline, in the Local Militia, the next day after his recovery.

Well, but, having lost his congregation, “he may get another.” Yes, if he can; but, how is he to get it if he be ballotted for the militia in the meanwhile, or compelled to become Overseer of the Poor, or Constable? How, in that case, is he to get another congregation? He is almost necessarily disabled from getting another by the consequences naturally flowing from his loss of the one he now has; and this, of course, must have a tendency to degrade these Ministers in general; because men of character and of education will not like to place themselves in such a precarious situation, while it would inevitably happen in frequent instances, that a man seen in the pulpit to-day, would be seen Edition: current; Page: [45] undergoing military discipline (that phrase is delicate enough I think) to-morrow.

A Dissenting Minister may be settled in a place where he, or his family, have ill-health. It is requisite for him to remove; but, if he does, he becomes liable to military discipline, unless he gets another Congregation immediately. And why should this be? The Ministers of our Church are not liable to military discipline, though they remove from their congregations for many years together. It is notorious that one-half of those, who own the livings in England and Wales, do not reside upon them. They are elsewhere, and very frequently the excuse is, that the air of the place does not agree with them. And, is no allowance of this sort to be made for the Dissenting Ministers? Why are they to be exposed to the ballotting for the militia the moment they leave their place of abode?

But, how is a man to become a Minister, if he be not one already? How is he, if this Act should pass, to obtain his Certificate?

We have seen, that, as the law now stands, he has nothing to do but to go to the Justices at their Quarter Sessions, and offer to take the Oaths and to sign the Declaration, and that having done it, he has his Certificate of course, the expense being settled by law at sixpence. But, what is he, if this Act pass, to do in order to get his certificate of being qualified? Not of being a Minister; for, he is not to be looked upon as such, nor to be entitled to any exemptions, until he has actually gotten a separate congregation of his own.

In order to be permitted to qualify, he must, before he can show himself to the Justices at the Sessions, procure several substantial and reputable householders, belonging to the same congregation with himself, to certify, on their consciences, in writing, to his being a Protestant Dissenter of their sect and of the same congregation, and to their individual and long knowledge, to his sobriety of conversation, and to his ability and fitness to preach; he must bring credible witnesses to prove that such certificate was duly signed by the parties; and, until he has done all this, the Justices are not to permit him to take the oaths and sign the declaration, and, if he officiates as a Minister without it, he is to be liable to all the heavy penalties and punishments, which were in existence before the Toleration Act was passed.

Now, the reader will easily perceive the effect of this provision. The trouble, the expense, and the difficulties of many sorts. But, even after this; after all these difficulties are got over, a person of this description, who has qualified for the Ministry, but who has not actually got a congregation, is not to be entitled to any of the exemptions above-mentioned. He may still (though he has qualified as Minister) be ballotted for the militia and may undergo the study of military discipline, whether he has a taste for such study or not.

The remaining provision relates to the admitting of men to be Ministers on probation, or trial. And here the man, to be so admitted, must bring a certificate from several Ministers of the same sect, who have taken the oaths, the signatures to which certificate are to be proved to the Justices as in the other case. This certificate, too, is to talk of long previous knowledge about life and conversation; and, when the Justices are satisfied, and have suffered him to take the oaths and subscribe the declaration; they may then, for a limited time to be specified in the Certificate, let him officiate as a probationer to any Dissenting Congregation, Edition: current; Page: [46] and, during a limited time, they may exempt him from prosecution and punishment under the old laws.

But, even during the time that he is in this state of probation as a Minister, he is not to be exempted from burdensome offices, or from the Local, or the other militia; and, it may so happen, that his captain or serjeant will come and take him out of his pulpit and put him into the guard-house or black-hole.

What an alteration is here! As the law now stands any man may become a Minister without any certificate or witness or any thing else but his own oaths and his declaration; and, the moment he does become a Minister, he is secured against being forced into the militia, or to become a constable or other peace or parochial officer.

It is very clear, that if this Act of Lord Sidmouth should pass, that the Justices will, in fact, have the selecting of all the Dissenting Ministers; for, there is so much placed in their power, that it would be impossible to avoid this effect.

The Act will not, perhaps, say, that they shall have it in their discretion to refuse certificates; but, if it make provision for signatures of recommendation by substantial and reputable persons, it will, and it must, make them the judges of whether the parties signing be of this description. That’s enough! Leave any one point wholly to them. Make them the sole masters of any link in the chain, and you do, in reality, put the whole thing in their power. You give them the selection of the persons to be Ministers, and you also enable them to limit the numbers; and, of course, the Toleration Act would be virtually repealed.

I shall be told, that this is not the intention at all; that nothing is further from the views of the author of the bill; and that I am quite mistaken as to the effect of it. As to what may be the views of the author of the bill, that is another matter. I am speaking of what the bill would produce; and, if it be what it is represented to be, it would produce what I am now describing.

It will not, perhaps, say, that the Justices shall have it in their discretion to reject any man on account of their dislike of him, or without any reason assigned. The Act will not say this perhaps; but as to the fulfilment of its own provisions relative to the substantial and reputable householders, it must give the Justices a discretion; they must be the judges and the sole judges of the recommendations they receive; it must be left to them to decide whether the persons signing the recommendation be, or be not, substantial and reputable people; and, we all know very well, that what one man may think substantial another may not, and that, with regard to who is, or is not, reputable, the difference in men’s opinions may be still wider. Those whom Major Cartwright, for instance, would think very reputable people, John Bowles (who is a Justice by the bye) would be very likely to think just the contrary; and, if a flat refusal were not grounded upon such an objection, there might, at least, be delay; the applicant, together with his witnesses, might be sent away to seek more reputable vouchers for his character; when he came, he might be sent back again; his witness to the signatures might be questioned and cross-questioned; and thus the vexation and humiliation might become so great, and, indeed, the expense, that, with one thing and another, it might amount to a very serious persecution.

But, why should I suppose that the Justices would act thus. I do not say that they would. It is not necessary for me to say that they would. Edition: current; Page: [47] It is enough for me to know that they could. I am not saying what would be, but what might be. I am reasoning and not conjuring.

But when one is reasoning upon probabilities; when one is endeavouring to ascertain what it is likely the Justices would do, it is worth while to ask what the Justices are.

In the country, more than two-thirds, I believe, of those who attend at the Sessions are Clergymen of the Church of England. Where this is the case it surely is not too much to expect, that the road to the Dissenting Ministry will not be smoothed by the Justices. And, as to the other Justices, they must have taken the Test at any rate. There are very few, perhaps, who do not belong to the Church of England; but, at the least, they must have taken the Test; they must have done an act, by which they do, in fact, declare themselves to be of that Church, so that they cannot be expected to be favourable to the Dissenters.

But, what I look upon as of more consequence than all the rest, is, the political influence that might, and that inevitably would, prevail here. The Justices are all appointed, they are all selected, by the Government. The Sheriffs are all selected and appointed in the same way. Every one, who will have power from this bill, does, except in a few of the Corporations, derive that power from the same source. This being the case, can any one suppose, that, in a matter where there is discretion, the decision will not be on the side of the Government, especially in cases where there is no apparent injury done to the party; for, to some persons it will always be difficult to make it out that a man is injured by a refusal to suffer him to preach; and, as to the public, I would fain see the man who would undertake to prove to a dozen of Clergymen and ’Squires that a well-set young fellow would not be better employed in the Local Militia, fighting for the preservation of their Tithes and Estates, than in preaching and praying to a Dissenting Congregation.

Such as were admitted as Ministers would, at any rate, have to pass review before the Justices, who would naturally have a leaning against all those whom they looked upon as bad politicians. If, for instance, I were to apply for a qualification. A thing by no means probable, to be sure; but, I put it as a strong case. If I were to apply to the Justices, does the reader not imagine, that they would think a little before they granted it? To be sure they would; and, indeed, no man can doubt, that, in every instance, political considerations would have great weight. The Act would, in short, give the Government, or rather the Ministry, through the Justices, the selection of the Dissenting Ministers; and, to suppose that they would select such as were not favourable to their own views, one must first see them in the habit of supporting at elections those whom they expect to oppose them in the House.

Does any one imagine, that this was not seen clearly at the time of passing the Toleration Act? It was clearly seen, that, if there was any discretionary power lodged with the Justices, the Act would either have no effect in the way of toleration, or would cause toleration to be bartered for political purposes. Therefore it was that the Toleration Act left no discretion at all; but made it imperative upon the Justices to grant and to record the document constituting any man a Dissenting Minister, if he presented himself before them and offered to comply with the conditions specified in the Act.

But, there is a further consideration that must now have great weight Edition: current; Page: [48] given to it. At the time when the Toleration Act was passed, the custom of making clergymen Justices did not, I believe, prevail to any extent worthy of notice; and, indeed, I believe, it did not exist at all. This custom, if it had existed, would certainly have been an additional motive for the imperative provision of the Toleration Act; for to conclude that a clergyman, acting as a Justice, would, as far as possible, increase the obstacles to the Ministry of the Dissenters, it is not necessary to suppose him a bad man, but on the contrary, to conclude that he would not increase these obstacles, you must first suppose him completely divested of every thing worthy of the name of zeal for the Church, to whom every virtuous and able Dissenting Minister must necessarily be a formidable enemy. Either, therefore, your clerical Justice must be something very little better than a traitor to the Church, or he must be almost irresistibly drawn to raise obstacles in the way of good and clever men in their way to the Dissenting Ministry. This consideration, however, though weighty, is trifling compared to another arising out of the change in the magisterial part of our government since the time when the Toleration Act was passed. I allude to that very material measure, the Appointment of Justices of the Peace with SALARIES, and REMOVEABLE AT PLEASURE. Such a thing had never been heard of in England in 1688. It has been heard of now, and seen too; and we now have in the metropolis, twenty-four men, commonly called POLICE MAGISTRATES, who have all the powers of Justices of the Peace, not only in the metropolis itself, but in all the four populous counties adjoining it, namely, Middlesex, Essex, Kent, and Surrey, for all which counties they have Commissions of the Peace, and, of course, where they are amongst the Justices sitting at the General Sessions for these counties. These men were first appointed under an Act of Parliament, passed in the year 1792, just upon the eve of the late, or Anti-Jacobin war. They are paid 500l. a year each, free of all deductions.

Amongst other provisions in the Act by which they were appointed, they were disqualified, as Excisemen are, to vote at elections, for members to serve in Parliament. But, they are fully qualified by the Police Act to sit cheek by jowl with the gentlemen of the counties of Essex, Middlesex, Kent, and Surrey, at the General Sessions of the Peace of those counties; and, of course, they would be fully qualified to hear, and to determine on, the applications of persons to become Dissenting Ministers, if the proposed Act were to be passed. Here, in and round the metropolis, are, it is well known, the greater part of the Dissenters. A fourth part, perhaps, of the population of England, if not more, live within the jurisdiction of these STIPENDIARY JUSTICES, who, from their numbers, are at all times likely to form a majority of the Justices present at the General Sessions of the Peace held in any of the above four counties; and, who, from the very nature of their situation, must be disposed to do nothing hostile or displeasing to the Ministry of the day, their places being held at the pleasure of the Crown.

The nature of their situation, with regard to the Ministry, and the natural tendency of it to create an undue bias in politics, is clearly marked out by the provisions of the Act by which they were appointed, and which, as to elections, for Members of Parliament, puts them upon a footing with Excisemen and others, who are deprived of the elective franchise merely on account of the strong temptations of their offices. Yet, if the Act of Lord Sidmouth were to pass, these men would have Edition: current; Page: [49] the discretionary power that I have shown above in the licensing of one-half, perhaps, or more than one-half of all the Dissenting Ministers in England and Wales; because it is from the Metropolis chiefly that these Ministers start.

After what has been said, there is no one, I imagine, who can doubt, that the effect of the proposed Act would be to lessen the number of Dissenting ministers, and, indeed, if the Act could be enforced, to render the Toleration Act, or, rather, Acts (for the last is a very important one) of none, or, of very little, avail. Upon this point there can, I think, be very little difference of opinion: whether it be right to render these Acts a nullity is another question, but this is a question which I have not time to discuss here, though I shall not fail to do it in my next.*

Wm. COBBETT.
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THE DISSENTERS.—Continued.

This measure, to the great mortification of the lovers of wrangling, has been abandoned.

The Bill, of which I took notice, and the substance of which I gave, in the preceding pages, was brought forth for a second reading, in the House of Edition: current; Page: [51] Lords, on Tuesday last, the 21st instant, by its author, Lord Viscount Sidmouth, late Mr. Addington, and sometime Prime Minister of this kingdom.

When he brought it out for a second reading there was, it appears from the report of the proceedings in the House of Lords, not less than five hundred petitions against it, presented by different peers.

After these petitions had been presented, Lord Sidmouth moved that the Bill should be then read a second time. He complained of the misrepresentations that had gone forth about his Bill, and said a great deal in its justification; but the tide was too strong against him.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury said, that no persecution was intended; but, he recommended the stopping of the Bill.

Several other Lords spoke; some, and especially the Lord Chancellor and the Earl of Buckinghamshire, defended the Bill; but, still thought it not advisable to press it at that time.

When, therefore, the question was put upon the motion of Lord Sidmouth, it was negatived without a division.

Thus ended this offspring of the statesman of Richmond Park; but, since the subject has been brought forward, there is something more to be said upon it than has yet been said.

I have before endeavoured to show the effects which the Bill would produce; and, my conclusion was this: that it would lessen the number of Dissenting Ministers, and, indeed, render, as to them, the Toleration Act of very little avail; but, whether it was right to do this was a question that I did not then enter upon, and that I reserved for the present Article.

In order to answer the question whether it would be desirable to lessen the number of Dissenting Ministers, we ought first to inquire a little into what sort of people they are, and what is the nature and what the tendency of their ministry. For, upon the good or evil that they produce depends the answer to the question before us.

That men, that all men, should be allowed to worship their Maker in their own way, is, I think, not to be doubted; but, if the government once begins to meddle, it must establish somewhat of an uniform creed, and that this creed will not suit all men is very certain. Whether the government ought ever to meddle with religion is a question that I will not now attempt to discuss; but this I am not at all afraid to assert: that, without a state religion, a kingly government and an aristocracy will never long exist, in any country upon earth; therefore, when the Dissenters, as in the present case, come forward and volunteer their praises of kingly government, and boast so loudly, and so perfectly gratuitously, of their “ardent loyalty to their venerable Sovereign,” whose goodness to them “has made an indelible impression upon their hearts;” when they do this, they do, in effect, acknowledge the utility and the excellence of a state religion; because, as I said before, and as all history will clearly prove, without a state religion a kingly government cannot exist.

If this be the case, it must be allowed that the government is bound to protect its own religion, which is to be done only by keeping down others as much as is necessary to secure a predominance to that of the state. And, then, we come to the question: whether it ought not, for this purpose, now to do something to lessen the number of Dissenting Ministers, who are daily increasing, and whose influence increases in proportion beyond that of their number. Indeed, if we allow that a state religion is necessary, this is no question at all; for, in proportion as these Dissenting Ministers increase, the Church of England must lose its power.

But, in another view of the matter, in a moral view, I mean, it may still be a question with some persons, whether the increase of these Ministers be a good or an evil. I say, in a moral view; for, as to religion without morality, none but fools or knaves do, or ever did profess it.

Now, as to the moral benefit arising from the teaching of Dissenting Ministers, it is sometimes very great, and I believe it is sometimes very small indeed, and, in many cases, I believe, their teaching tends to immorality and to misery.

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Amongst the Ministers of some of the sects there are many truly learned and most excellent men, and such there always have been amongst them; and, even amongst the sects called Methodistical, there have been, and, doubtless, are, many men of the same description. But, on the other hand, it must be allowed that there are many of the Methodistical Preachers, who are fit for anything rather than teaching the people morality. I am willing to give the most of them full credit for sincerity of motive, but to believe, that the Creator of the Universe can be gratified with the ranting and raving and howling that are heard in some of the Meeting-Houses, is really as preposterous as any part of the Mahommedan Creed; and, if possible, it is still more absurd to suppose, that such incoherent sounds should have a tendency to mend the morals of the people, to make them more honest, industrious and public-spirited, for this last is a sort of morality by no means to be left out of the account.

I have heard it observed by very sensible and acute persons, that even these ranters do more good than harm; but, if they do any harm at all, the question is, I think, at once decided against them; for, that they can do any good appears to me utterly impossible.

I am clearly of opinion, that, to lessen the number of this description of Ministers (for so they are called) would be a benefit to the country, provided it could be done without creating a new source of political influence. And, as to the politics of the whole sect of the Methodists, they are very bad. Never has any thing been done by them, which bespoke an attachment to public liberty. “Their kingdom,” they tell us, is “not of this world;” but, they do, nevertheless, not neglect the good things of it; and, some of them are to be found amongst the rankest jobbers in the country. Indeed, it is well known, that that set of politicians, ironically called THE SAINTS, who have been the main prop of the Pitt system; it is well known, that under the garb of sanctity, they have been aiding and abetting in all the worst things that have been done during the last twenty years. These are very different people from the Old Dissenters, who have generally been a public-spirited race of men. The political history of THE SAINTS, as they are called, would exhibit a series of the most infamous intrigues and most rapacious plunder, that, perhaps, ever was heard of in the world. They have never been found wanting at any dirty job; and have invariably lent their aid in those acts, which have been the most inimical to the liberty of England.

Their petitioning now, I look upon as a selfish act. If a Bill had been before the House to enable the government to bring 200,000 German soldiers into the country, not a man of them would have petitioned. They never petitioned against any of the acts of Pitt and his associates, from the year 1792 to the year 1799; and, therefore, I give them very little credit for their alacrity now.

Seeing them in this light, I must confess, that I do not wish to see their numbers increase; and, at any rate, I cannot imagine any ground, upon which their Ministers can, without having congregations, claim exemption from service in the Militia. As the law now stands, any man, be he who he may, except he be a Catholic or an Infidel, can exempt himself from the Militia service for life, by only paying sixpence. An exemption from Militia service is now, to a young man, worth 100 pounds at least. But he can obtain it for a sixpence. A carter, for instance, who is 25 years of age, is now liable to be drafted into the Old Militia and also into Lord Castlereagh’s Locals, may obtain a security for life Edition: current; Page: [54] for sixpence. He has only to go to the Quarter Sessions and there take the oath of fidelity and that of abjuration, and to declare that he is a Protestant and a Christian and that he believes in the Scriptures. He has only to do this and pay sixpence, and he is secure against military discipline for his life. And what objection is there to it? Who need object to take the oath of allegiance to the King, to abjure the Pope, or to declare himself a Christian? This is all; and thus, you see, as the law now stands, any man but a Catholic or an Infidel may, without any perjury or falsehood, exempt himself from all militia service. So that, really the project of our good old Richmond-Park Minister, was not wholly destitute of reason in its support.

He is reported to have given some instances of the abuse of this privilege. He mentioned an instance in Staffordshire of a man’s having taken out a license who could neither write nor read. And why not, as the law now stands? The man, in all likelihood, did not relish MILITARY DISCIPLINE, and, being told that there was a law to exempt him from it for life, if he would but take a couple of true oaths and make one true declaration and give a sixpence, he, of course, betook himself to these cheap and simple and infallible means. There is many a young man who is prevented from marrying by this dread of military discipline: here is the remedy at hand: here is the law come in to his aid. Our old friend of Richmond Park seems to have taken it for granted that his man in Staffordshire actually became a Preacher. Why should he? The law does not require it. It gives him a license to preach, and protects him from the Militia discipline; but, it does not compel him to preach, nor does it require of him any declaration that he will preach, or, that he intends to preach, or that he ever had such a thought in his head. The man need not be a Dissenter at all. A Church-goer may take out the license as well as any other man; and, indeed, any man but a Catholic or an Infidel has this protection at his command.

Now, surely, this is not the way in which it was intended the law should stand? We see, that it is possible, for the militia to be left without any body to fill its ranks, except Catholics, Jews, Turks, Heathens, and other Unbelievers; for, every Christian Protestant may excuse himself if he will, and that, too, without any perjury, falsehood, or deception. For suppose John Stiles, who is just coming 20 years old, and who has a stronger liking for some milkmaid than he has for what the soldiers call the Drum-Major’s Daughter; suppose he is a church-goer; what is that to him or to the Justices? They have no authority to ask him whether he can write or read, or what he means to do with his license when he has got it. His license is to show to a constable, when he comes to warn him for militia duty. He has paid for his license, and has, of course, a right to use it for whatever purpose may appear most beneficial to himself.

It is something curious, that the law should be so made as to leave the country to the chance of being defended solely by Catholics, Jews, Turks, and Infidels; that the law should enable every one to exempt himself from the service of defence; except those only, in whom the government will not put trust!

It is, too, not much less curious, that the Catholics should, in this respect, be put upon a footing with the Jews, and Turks; and, I must say, that, when I hear the Dissenters complaining of persecution, I cannot help reflecting on the behaviour of some of them towards the Edition: current; Page: [55] Catholics, with respect to whom common decency ought to teach them better behaviour. But, whether I hear in a Churchman or a Dissenter abuse of the Catholics I am equally indignant; when I hear men, no two of whom can agree in any one point of religion, and who are continually dooming each other to perdition; when I hear them join in endeavouring to shut the Catholic out from political liberty on account of his religious tenets, which they call idolatrous and damnable, I really cannot feel any compassion for either of them, let what will befal them. There is, too, something so impudent; such cool impudence, in their affected contempt of the understanding of the Catholics, that one cannot endure it with any degree of patience. You hear them all boasting of their ancestors; you hear them talking of the English Constitution as the pride of the world; you hear them bragging of the deeds of the Edwards and the Henrys; and of their wise and virtuous and brave forefathers; and, in the next breath, perhaps, you hear them speak of the Catholics as the vilest and most stupid of creatures, and as wretches doomed to perdition; when they ought to reflect, that all these wise and virtuous and brave forefathers of theirs were Catholics; that they lived and died in the Catholic faith; and that notwithstanding their Catholic faith, they did not neglect whatever was necessary to the freedom and greatness of England.

It is really very stupid as well as very insolent to talk in this way of the Catholics; to represent them as doomed to perdition, who compose five-sixths of the population of Europe; to represent as beastly ignorant those amongst whom the brightest geniuses and the most learned men in the world have been, and are to be found; but still, the most shocking part of our conduct is to affect to consider as a sort of out-casts of God as well as man those who have, through all sorts of persecution, adhered to the religion of their and our forefathers. There is something so unnatural, so monstrous, in a line of conduct, in which we say, that our forefathers are all in Hell, that no one but a brutish bigot can hear of it with patience.

Why, if we pretend to talk of toleration, should not the exemptions from military discipline extend to Catholic Christians as well as Protestant Christians? What good reason can be found for the distinction? None; and, while this distinction exists, and while I hear not the Protestant Dissenters complain of it, I shall feel much less interest in any thing that concerns them. Why do they petition now any more than at any other time? Because they were now the object of attack. They were quiet enough while none but the Catholics were the object of attack; and, indeed, they have not now noticed it at all; they have not even glanced at the hardships on the Catholic, who was expressly shut out from the benefit of the Toleration Act. They could, and still can, see him treated in that way, without uttering a word in his behalf. He is in the very state they were petitioning not to be placed in; and yet they say not one word in his behalf.

Lord Holland is reported to have said, that “every man had a right to preach if he pleased to any body that would hear him.” Agreed, my lord, but, surely, every man ought not to have a right to exempt himself from the militia service? Yet, this right he has, unless he be a Catholic, a Jew, a Turk, or an Infidel of some sort or other. This is what I should have dwelt upon, if I had had a bill to bring in on the subject. I do suppose that the greater part of those who take out licenses actually Edition: current; Page: [56] go a preaching; but, if they do, is there to be no limit to their number? Is every broad-shouldered, brawny-backed young fellow that chooses to perform what he calls preaching, to be excused from service in the Militia? Who is there that would not much rather sit and hear a score or two of young women sing at a meeting-house two or three times a week than be liable to be a hearer, much less a performer, at a military circle, though it were but once in a year? It is easy enough to talk about carrying the Cross and mortifying the flesh; but, when it comes to the pinch, when the hour of performance comes, we find men disposed to act by a figure of rhetoric, rather than to do the thing in their real, proper, natural person.

The Dissenters may, indeed, say, that it is not their fault, that the Militia Laws have been passed, and that so many thousands of men are liable to these laws; and this is very true; but, there are such laws, and, as they have said nothing against them, we may suppose that they approve of them.

We are now, however, to look at the matter in another light. I cannot help thinking, that one of the reasons, if not the great reason of all, for the bill that has made all this noise, is, the great increase of the congregations of the Methodists in particular, and the consequent diminution in the congregations of the Church of England. This has long been a subject of alarm to the Clergy of the Church, who imagine, that, in time, people, from so seldom seeing the inside of a church, will begin to wonder why the tithes should be given to the clergy of that Church; and, we may be very sure, that the Dissenting teacher will put himself to no very great pains to prove to his flock, that the tithes are due to the Clergy. This defection from the Established Church bears a strong resemblance to the defection from the parochial Clergy in the second and third century of the Catholic Church of England, when the laziness and neglects of those Clergy and their endless pluralities, had thrown the people into the hands of the itinerant monks and friars, who appear to have been a most active and vigilant description of men, and, indeed, to have borne a strong resemblance in most respects, to the itinerant Methodist preachers of the present day, Such hold did they get by means of their exertions, that, as the benefices fell in, the patrons bestowed many of them in fee upon the Abbeys and Priories, who thus became the patrons, and who, of course, supplied the churches from their own houses, and took the greater part of the tithes to their own use, but who, having become rich in their turn, became also in their turn lazy and neglectful as the parochial clergy had been; and hence came that change which we call the Reformation, which originated not in any dislike on the part of the people to the tenets or ceremonies of the Catholic Church, but in the laziness, the neglects, and, in some cases, oppressions of the Clergy, aided by a quarrel between the King and the Pope.

Men looked back into the cause of the existence of the tithes and benefices. They inquired into the grounds upon which they stood. They asked why they were granted. They came to a clear understanding as to what was expected and what was due from the Clergy in return for them. And, at every step, they found, that endowment and residence went together. They found, in short, that the parish churches, the parsonage-houses, the glebes, and the tithes, had been originally granted for the purpose of insuring the constant residence of a Priest in each Edition: current; Page: [57] parish, there to teach the people, to give them religious instruction, to feed the poor, and to keep hospitality. These were the express conditions, upon which the grants were made; and, when, instead of fulfilling these purposes, the livings were given away to Abbeys and Priories and religious communities of various descriptions, who merely kept a sort of journeymen in the parishes called Vicars, to whom they gave the nails and the hair, while they took the carcase home to be spent at the Convent; when this was the case, and when, in another way, the Popes were bestowing living after living upon one and the same person; when, in short, a very considerable part of all the parishes in the kingdom were thus deprived of nearly all that they had a right to expect in return for their tithes; when this was the case, it was no wonder, that the people were ready to listen to reformers. And, I beg the reader to bear in mind, that these were the real efficient causes of what we call the Reformation, and not any fault that the people discovered in the doctrines or ceremonies of the Catholic Church; for, after all, we believe in the Creed of St. Athanasius, and what can any Catholic or Pope want us to believe more? We hold, that a man cannot be saved unless he believes the whole of this Creed; and will any man believe, then, that the Reformation had a quarrel about doctrine for its cause.

Such being the short but true history of the causes of the Reformation, that is to say, the taking of the tithes from Catholic Priests and giving them to Protestant Priests, keeping back a part to be given to favourite Lords and Ladies, and which are now called lay impropriations; such being the history of this grand event, which, after all, was merely a shifting of the Church Property from one set of hands to another, is it not worth while for the present Clergy, that is to say, the present possessors of that property, to consider a little of the state in which they are with regard to their parishioners? They evidently have considered this, or somebody else has for them. The complaint, on the part of the Church, of the increase of the Methodists, has been made for some years. The evil increases; and dangers, greater than those of former times, menace; because, if once the church property be touched now, it never returns.

But, let us now see how they attend to their parishes. Let us see how vigilant they are in the discharge of their duty. The following list of absentees is copied from a paper laid before Parliament in 1808. None of the same kind has, I believe, been laid before Parliament since that year; but, that the number of non-residents has not decreased I infer from the fact, that, for the three years of which an account of the non-residents is given, numbers kept increasing.

ABSTRACT of the Returns of the Number of NON-RESIDENTS in 1806-7. Want or unfitness of Parsonage-House 1063 Residence on other Benefices 1137 Infirmity 430 Literary or Ecclesiastical Employment 396 Offices in Cathedrals 183 —— in Dioceses 32 —— in Universities 113 Chaplaincies in Royal or Noble Families 27 ——— in the Navy 15 Residence in own or Relatives’ Mansion 123 Members in Universities, under 30 Years of Age 5 Metropolitan Licenses 38 Without Notification, License or Exemption 2446 No Church 12 Sinecures 17 Vacancies 33 Imprisonment 5 Sequestration 19 Recent Institutions 23 Livings held by Bishops 21 Doing Duty and resident in a House belonging to a Sinecure in the Parish 2 Abroad 5 Total 6145

Now, it is impossible to look at this List, recollecting, at the same time, that there are only about 11,000 livings in the whole, without seeing a quite sufficient cause for the great increase of Dissenting Congregations. We see here above half the parishes unattended by the persons who have undertaken the “care of the people’s souls” in those parishes. These are the words: “Care of their souls.” What can a man say in his defence; what can he think of himself, to undertake such a charge, and never go near the spot? And, is it to be wondered at, that the people should go to Meeting-houses, while this is the case? Here we see, that there were nearly a fourth part of all the Rectors and Vicars in England, not only absent from their parsonage-houses and their parishes, but absent without leave or license, and even without condescending to notify their absence to their Bishop, though expressly required so to do by the law, and by a law, too, passed for their ease and indulgence.

The first head, it will be observed, contains the numbers absent from the want, or unfitness, of the Parsonage-house. If not fit, why not made fit? Why not appropriate part of the income of the living to this purpose?

Some, you see, are absent upon literary pursuits. What! Writing Reviews, or Political Pamphlets, or Paragraphs, or what? But, at any rate, what literary pursuit could be so proper as the writing and study tending to effect the object of the living? What! a man receives an income for life, and he engages at the same time to take upon him the care of the souls of the people of a parish; and, he, while he keeps the income, leaves the people of the parish to take care of their own souls, because some literary pursuit calls him away elsewhere!

When he takes upon him the office of Minister he declares, in the most solemn manner, that he believes himself to be called by the Holy Ghost to take upon him the ministry of the Gospel and to labour in the saving of souls. When he is inducted into a living, he promises to watch constantly over his flock, to aid them with his advice, to comfort them in their troubles and sufferings.

What can be more amiable than such an office! What a blessing it must be where punctually discharged! But, what is it if the man who takes this office upon him; who enters into this engagement; who makes these solemn promises; if he, as soon as he has insured the revenue of the living, as soon as he has just ridden into the parish and taken possession, sets off again, and never more hears of, or asks after his flock Edition: current; Page: [59] again, except at shearing time, but leaves them, body and soul, to the care of a stipendiary, whom he has never even seen, perhaps, in all his life time?

With this before their eyes, is it any wonder, that the people prefer the itinerant preachers, who, however deficient in other respects, are seldom wanting in zeal?

I shall be told, perhaps, that, if the incumbent is not resident, his curate is. Sometimes. But, what is that? The curate serves two, perhaps, and sometimes three churches; and, he has not the pecuniary means, if he has the talents, to do all that might be done by the incumbent.

Indeed, it is notorious, that to the neglect of the Clergy the rise of the Methodists is owing. And, how neglectful, how lazy, must they be to suffer any sect to rise its head only an inch high! When one looks over the country and sees how thickly the churches are scattered; when one considers how complete is the possession of the country by the Clergy; when the force of habit is taken into view; when we consider, that they are the keepers of the records of births and of the bones of ninety-nine hundredths of the dead; when we behold them and their office having all the large estates, all the family consequence and pride on their side; when one considers all this, one cannot help being astonished that there should be any such thing as a Meeting-house; but, when we reflect, that the Clergy have the power of speaking, as long as they please, to the people, in every parish in the kingdom, once a-week at least, and in a place where no one dares to contradict them, or would ever think of such a thing; when we reflect upon this, and calculate the number of hours that the Pitt system would exist, if we Jacobins had the use of the pulpits only for one fortnight, when we consider this, we cannot find words to express our idea of the laziness, the incomprehensible laziness that must prevail amongst the Clergy of the Established Church.

There are, however, some worthy and diligent men amongst them; and, at any rate, I do by no means believe, that public liberty would gain any thing by exchanging the Clergy for “The Saints,” who have been the most steady abettors of the Pitt system, and who have been full as eager as any of the Clergy in the cry of “No Popery.

In short, they are Dissenters merely because they have no tithes, and in that name only do they resemble the Dissenters of the times before the Revolution: they are as much like the Dissenters of old times as a horse-dung is like an apple. Those were fanatics, but they were honest and just men, full of courage and full of talent; they understood well the rights and liberties of Englishmen, and upon the maintenance of them they staked their lives. The mongrel “Saints” of our days are as keen for places, pensions, contracts, and jobs, as the inhabitants of any perjured borough in the kingdom; and, indeed, if I were to be put to it to find out the most consummate knaves in all England, I should most assuredly set to work amongst those who are ironically denominated “Saints.” They were the great corps of scouts in the famous times of No Popery, and did more with that base and hypocritical cry than all others put together. One of the bawling brutes in my neighbourhood told the people, that “the King, Lord bless him! had saved them all from being burnt by the papishes.” Was it for a service like this that he was to be exempted from Lord Castlereagh’s Local Militia? A congregation Edition: current; Page: [60] of these “Saints,” in a neighbouring county, cashiered their Minister because he spoke at a town meeting, against the clamorous outcry of “No Popery;” and, in consequence thereof, a gentleman gave him a living in the Church.

Many, very many, instances of their base time-serving in politics might here be mentioned; but, enough has, I think, been said to show, that the increase of their members cannot be expected to be attended with any good effect. I would let them alone; but, I would give them no encouragement. There are persons who like them, because they look upon them as hostile to the Church. Their hostility is for the tithes, which they would exact with as much rigour as the present Clergy, and would, if possible, deserve them less. But, my great dislike to them is grounded on their politics, which are the very worst in the country; and, though I am aware, that there are many very honourable exceptions amongst them, I must speak of them as a body; and, as a body I know of none so decidedly hostile to public liberty. This is an age of cant. The country has been ruined by cant; and they have been the principal instruments in the work, and have had their full share of the profit.

WM. COBBETT.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
29th Aug. 1811

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

Sir,

Feeling, as the people of this kingdom do so severely, smarting, writhing, as we are, under the effects of the war with France, and considering how easily this war might, in 1793, have been avoided without either danger or dishonour to England; thus feeling and thus reflecting, it is natural for us, when threatened with a new war, to inquire betimes, what are the grounds of such war; whether it would be just; if just, whether it would be necessary; and, be the cause what it may, whether the consequences are likely to be good or evil.

If, Sir, the counsels of Mr. Fox had been listened to, in the years 1792, and 1793, the state of England, of Europe, and of the world, would have been very different indeed from what it now is. A war against opinions and principles would not have been waged; England, instead of becoming a party in that fatal and disgraceful war, would have been a mediatress between the conflicting parties, if, indeed, she had not wholly prevented the conflict. So many governments would not have been overthrown; such rivers of human blood would not have been shed; reformation might and would have been produced, because the state of things and the temper of men’s minds demanded it; but nowhere need there have been destruction; all the states of Europe might have remained on their old foundations, and the Bourbons might at this day have been upon the Thrones of France and Spain. This kingdom, too, might Edition: current; Page: [61] and must have shared in the reformation; but, such reformation would have made no inroads upon rank or property; and the nation would have avoided all those measures of coercion, all those before unheard-of laws to which the contest gave rise; and those enormous expenses, which, first producing Debt and tenfold Taxation, led by degrees to that pauperism and paper-money, which now form the two great and hideous features in the state of our internal affairs, and which no man, who really loves the country, can contemplate without the most serious apprehensions.

Such being the consequences of that war, or, rather, a part of these consequences, the far greater proportion of them being, in all probability, yet to come, it behoves those who have power to act to consider well, before they launch the country into a new war; and it is the right of every man to express, in the way which he may think most likely to be efficient, his opinions upon the subject. This right I am now about to exercise, and if I have chosen, as the vehicle, an address to your Royal Highness, it is because that respect, which inclination as well as duty dictate upon such an occasion, will not fail to make me dismiss from my mind all partiality and prejudice, and to offer nothing unsupported by fair reasoning and undeniable facts.

As to the grounds of the present dispute with the American States, they are some of them of very long standing. The conduct of this government relative to the war against those States was extremely unwise; but, its conduct since the war is, I am convinced, unparalleled in the annals of diplomatic folly. The moment that war was at an end, the people of the two countries, attached to each other by all the ties which imperious nature has provided, were ready to rush into a mutual embrace, and like children of the same common parent, whose harmony had been disturbed by a transient quarrel, to become even more affectionate towards each other than they had been before. Not so the governments. With them ambition and resentment had something to say. But, the American Government being, from the nature of its constitution, a thing of such transient possession, it would have been impossible for any set of men long to remain in power if they had been discovered to entertain a vindictive disposition towards England; that is to say, if the government of England had discovered no such disposition towards America. Unhappily such a disposition was but too plainly seen in the whole of the conduct of our government; and hence we have witnessed, from the end of the American war to this day, a dispute and an angry dispute too, upon some ground or other, constantly existing and in agitation between the two countries, to the great injury of them both, to the great injury of the cause of freedom, and to the great advantage of France as a nation, and to the cause of despotic sway all over the world. The war was at an end, but the quarrel seemed only to have begun: a seven years’ war, and an already eight and twenty years of quarrel!

It was full ten years before we condescended to send a Minister to reside in America, and when we did it, the object seemed to be only to recall, or to render more active, ancient animosities. A miserable dispute about old claims for debts due to English subjects on one side, and about negroes carried off at the peace on the other side, clouded and made gloomy the dawn of this new diplomatic intercourse. This dispute was kept alive till new claims for vessels unlawfully confiscated arose on the part of the American Government. The treaty of 1794, which provided for Commissioners to settle these claims would, it was hoped, produce Edition: current; Page: [62] harmony; but it is well known that it only widened the breach. At last, however, we patched up this matter: we yielded, but it was without magnanimity: we gave our money, the nation was taxed to make up for the blunders of the cabinet; but we gave without the credit of generosity. In the meanwhile, the English creditors have remained, many of them until this day, unsatisfied, while a Board of Commissioners, who have been sitting either here or in America ever since the year 1794, or, at least, have been paid all that time, have swallowed up in expenses to the nation, a great part of what would have sufficed to satisfy our own claimants without any application for money for that purpose to the American States. In the course of this part of the dispute there was much unfairness on the part of the American Government: and we might have been fully justified, strictly speaking, in coming to a rupture upon that ground. But, we came to neither a rupture nor a reconciliation: we asserted our claims and then gave them up; but we took care to choose that manner of doing it, which effectually took all merit from the thing.

This point was hardly patched up, when another subject of dispute arose: to that another and another and another have succeeded, the long-contested question relative to the impressment of American Seamen running through the whole. So that, at last, there has grown together a mass of disputes and of ill-blood, which threatens us with a new war, and which war threatens us with new burdens, and, still worse, which threatens the world with the extinguishment of some part, at least, of its remaining liberties. The points, however, more immediately at issue, are those relating to the present non-importation law and the affair between the American Frigate, President, and our sloop of war, the Little Belt. As to the former points in dispute the Americans were the complainants: they called for satisfaction, and, whether they ought to have obtained it or not, it is certain that they have not yet obtained it. Upon these two recent points, therefore, as being thought likely to lead to war, and as being so represented by those public prints which are known to be under the influence of persons in power, I shall now proceed most respectfully to offer to your Royal Highness such remarks as the occasion appears to me to demand.

The Non-importation Act, that is to say, the law which has been passed in America to prohibit the importation of any thing being the growth or manufacture of Great Britain or Ireland, and which law is now in force in America, must doubtless be regarded as a measure of a hostile, though not of a warlike nature, because the same law does not apply to the enemy with whom we are at war; and, besides this commercial prohibition, our ships of war are shut out from the harbours, rivers, and waters of the United States, while our enemy’s ships of war are permitted freely to enter and abide in them. These are distinctions of an unfriendly nature: they are, indeed, measures of hostility; but, then, I beg your Royal Highness to bear in mind, that they are acts of a much lower degree of hostility than were the acts of your Royal Father’s ministers against France in the year 1792, though they, to this hour, contend, that that war was a war of aggression on the part or France; and, of course, their own doctrine, if now cited against this country, would be quite sufficient on the part of America. But, the fact is, that the Non-importation Act and the exclusion of British ships from the waters of America, while importation is permitted from France Edition: current; Page: [63] and while French ships have free entrance and abidance in the waters of the United States, are acts of a hostile nature, and would, if unjustified by provocation, fully authorize, on our part, acts of reprisal and of war.

But, Sir, these measures on the part of America have not been adopted without alleged provocation and without loud and reiterated remonstrances. They have, in fact, arisen out of certain measures adopted by us, and which measures are alleged to be in violation of the rights of America as a neutral nation; and, therefore, before we can justify a war in consequence of the hostile measures of America, we must ascertain whether her allegations against us be true; for, if they be, we may find, perhaps, that she is not only not blamable for what she has now done, but is entitled to praise for her forbearance and moderation.

That we have violated the rights of America as a neutral state, there can be no doubt. The fact is not denied; nor is it pretended, that the violation would not, in itself, be sufficient to justify any degree of hostility on the part of the offended state. Indeed, to dispute these facts would be to show a total disregard of truth; for, we have published, and, as far as in us lies, we have carried, and still carry into execution, an interdict against all trade on the part of America, except such as we choose to license. We have said to her, that she shall not carry the produce of her soil and exchange it for the produce of the soil of France, Italy, or Holland. If we meet with one of her ships laden with the flour of Pennsylvania and owned by a Pennsylvanian merchant bound to any port of the French empire, we compel such ship to come into some one of our ports, and there to unlade and dispose of her cargo, or else, to pay duty upon it, before we permit her to proceed on her voyage. In short, we have issued and acted upon such edicts as establish an absolute control and sovereignty over the ships of America, and all that part of the population and property of America that are employed in maritime commerce.

That the rights of America are herein openly violated all the world knows. Your Royal Highness need not be reminded of the dispute, so long continued, relative to the right of search; that is to say, a right on the part of a belligerent to search merchant neutral ships at sea, in order to ascertain whether they had on board contraband goods of war, or goods belonging to an enemy. It was contended by those who denied the right of search, that no belligerent had a right to search a neutral at sea in any case; and, that, if this point was given up, the goods of an enemy in a neutral ship ought not to be seized, for that the neutrality of the ship protected the goods. To this doctrine English writers and statesmen have never subscribed; they insisted, that we had a right to search neutral ships upon the high seas, and if we found contraband articles or enemy’s goods on board of them, to seize them, and, in some cases, to make ship as well as cargo lawful prize. But, no statesman, no lawyer, no writer ever pretended, that we had a right to seize in a neutral ship the goods of a neutral party. No one ever dreamt of setting up a right like this, which, in fact, is neither more nor less than making war upon the neutrals; because we do to them the very worst that we can do, short of wanton cruelty, of which the laws and usages of war do not allow.

In justification of the adoption of these our measures towards America, our Government asserted, that France had begun the violation of the neutral rights of America, and that our measures were in the way of retaliation, Edition: current; Page: [64] and that the laws of war allowed of retaliation. It is a singular species of law, which, because a weak nation has been injured by one powerful nation, subjects it to be injured by another. If Belcher were to beat Mr. Perceval and Lord Liverpool in the street, Crib would not, for that reason, be justified in beating them too: this would, I presume, be deemed a new and most outrageous species of retaliation; and there is little doubt that the belligerent pugilists would soon be sent to a place where they would have leisure to study the laws of war. But, it is alleged by our Government, that the Americans submitted to the decrees of Napoleon; that they acquiesced in his violation of their rights; and that it was just in us to treat them in the same manner that he had treated them, because they had so submitted and acquiesced. The same reason would apply equally well in justification of the above supposed retaliatory measures of Crib, who also might, with just as much truth, accuse Mr. Perceval and Lord Liverpool of submission and acquiescence with regard to Belcher; for they could not avoid submission and acquiescence to superior force; they might cry out, indeed, and, they would cry out; and so did the Americans, who, from the first day to the last of the existence of the French Decrees, ceased not to remonstrate against them, and that, too, in the strongest terms; and, therefore, there appears not to have been the slightest ground whereon to build a justification of our measures as measures of retaliation.

But, Sir, if our measures were not justifiable upon the supposition that this violation of neutral rights was begun by the enemy, surely they must be declared to be wholly without justification, if it appear, that we ourselves were the beginners in this career of violation of the rights of America as a neutral state; and that this is the fact is clearly proved by the documents, which have long ago been laid before the public, but which I beg leave to call to the recollection of your Royal Highness.

This rivalship in the violation of neutral rights began in a declaration on our part, made to America through her Minister here, that she was to consider the entrances of the Ems, the Weser, the Elbe, and the Trave as in a state of rigorous blockade, though it was notoriously impossible for us to maintain such blockade by actual forces. The grounds for this measure were stated to be, that the King of Prussia (and not France) had forcibly and hostilely taken possession of various parts of the Electorate of Hanover and other dominions belonging to his Majesty, and had shut English ships out of the Prussian ports. This might be a very good reason for shutting the Ems, the Weser, the Elbe, and the Trave against Prussian ships; but, surely it gave us no right to shut them against the ships of America, whose government had had nothing to do with the King of Prussia’s hostile seizure upon the Electorate of Hanover; who had neither aided him, abetted him, nor encouraged him in any manner whatever; and, it was very hard that the people of America should be made to suffer from the result of a dispute, be it what it might, between the King of Prussia and the Elector of Hanover. The King of Prussia is closely connected by marriage with your Royal Highness’s illustrious family; it is not therefore for me to dare to presume that he should have been capable of any thing unbecoming his high rank; but this I may venture to say, that, whatever his conduct might be, there could be no justice in making the people, or any portion of the people, of America suffer for that conduct. Indeed, Sir, it appears to me, that to involve, in any way whatever, England in this dispute about Hanover was not very closely Edition: current; Page: [65] conformable to that great constitutional Act by which your Royal Highness’s family was raised to the throne of this kingdom, and which Act expressly declares, that in case of the family of Brunswick succeeding to the throne, no war shall be undertaken by England for their German dominions, unless by consent of Parliament. If the measure of blockade above-mentioned had produced war on the part of America, that war would have been made without consent of Parliament; and, though a measure fall short of producing war, it may be equally a violation of the Act of Settlement, if its natural tendency be to produce war, or to cause England to support warlike expenses, which this measure manifestly has done, and has, at last, led to something very nearly approaching to open war with America, though, in the meanwhile, Hanover itself has been wrested from the King of Prussia and formed into a member of another kingdom.

Thus, then, at any rate, this attack upon the rights of neutrals did not begin with France. If it was not begun by us, it was begun by the King of Prussia, though it is not very easy to perceive how he could violate the maritime rights of America by any act of his in the heart of Germany. The Decrees of France have grown out of our measures. They carry in themselves the proof of this. The first (for there are but two), issued from Berlin, was expressly grounded upon our Orders issued in consequence of the conduct of the King of Prussia in Hanover; and thus the Emperor Napoleon became, towards us, the avenger, as far as he was able, of that very King of Prussia, whom he had just driven from his dominions! Alas, Sir, what a scene was here exhibited to the people of Europe! First the King of Prussia, closely related to the family of the King of England, seizes upon the German dominions of the latter: the latter protests against this, and by his Secretary of State, declares that he never will make peace without obtaining the restoration of these dominions: while this quarrel is going on, Napoleon marches against the King of Prussia, defeats him, drives him from his dominions, takes Hanover, the object in dispute, and bestows it on a third party; and, from the capital of the King of Prussia’s dominions, issues a decree against England, avenging the cause of the King of Prussia!

Napoleon in this his first decree, declares England (who had, by this time, extended her blockade from the Elbe to the port of Brest) in a state of blockade, and prohibits all trade and all commercial communication with England. But, this Decree, which was little less practicable in all cases than our blockade, was declared to be retaliatory, and was to be repealed whenever England repealed her Orders in Council which had then been issued. Certainly this was not the beginning. We had begun, and that, too, under the administration of those who have since so loudly censured the Orders in Council; and, which must, I presume, be a subject of regret with your Royal Highness, the state paper in which this beginning was announced to the American government, came from the pen of Mr. Fox, who appears to have yielded implicitly to the principles of his new associates in politics. At any rate, this Decree of the Emperor Napoleon was not the beginning of the open attacks upon neutral rights; and, what is of still more importance, it was not Napoleon, but it was the King of Prussia, who committed those acts of aggression in Hanover which produced our first of that series of measures, called the Orders in Council, and which measures have finally led to the exclusion of our goods and our ships from the American ports. This is a fact of Edition: current; Page: [66] great importance in the dispute, and especially if that dispute should end in war. It will be right, in that case, for us to bear in mind the real grounds of the war; the true origin of it. And endeavour to cast the blame where we will, it will, at last, be found in the aggression of the King of Prussia upon Hanover.

The Berlin Decree brought forth new Orders in Council from us; and these brought from the Emperor Napoleon the Decree issued at Milan, in December 1807. This ended the series of invasions of neutral rights; for, indeed, nothing more was now left to invade. Both parties called their measures retaliatory. Crib having taken a blow upon a third party in the way of retaliation on Belcher, Belcher takes another blow upon the same party in the way of retaliation on Crib. Both parties declared, that they were perfectly ready to repeal their Decrees; that they regretted exceedingly the necessity of adopting them; each explicitly promised, that, whenever the other gave up the new restrictions he would also give them up too. Napoleon said his measures had been forced upon him by us: we said our measures had been forced upon us by him. The Americans, who complained of both, were told by us, that we should always be ready to revoke our Orders if the enemy would revoke his Decrees. This was saying very little, seeing that his Decrees had been issued in consequence of our Orders, and, of course, he was not to be expected to revoke first, especially as the Decrees themselves declare that their object is to cause our Orders to be revoked.

The American government having remonstrated so long in vain, and seeing no likelihood of obtaining redress by the means of diplomatic entreaties, and yet not wishing to plunge the country into a war, resort to the measure of exclusion from their ports, giving to both parties an opportunity of preventing the execution even of this measure of demi-hostility. During the session of Congress in 1809-10, a law was passed providing, that, if both France and England continued in their violation of the rights of America till and after the 1st day of November, 1810, the ships and goods of both should be prohibited from entering the ports and waters of the American States; that, if they both repealed their obnoxious Decrees and Orders, then the ships and goods of both were to have free admission; that if one party repealed and the other did not, then the ships and goods of the repealing party were to be admitted, and the ships and goods of the non-repealing party were to be excluded. Napoleon, the Americans say, has repealed: we have not, and accordingly, our ships and goods are excluded, while those of France are admitted into the waters and ports of the United States.

This is one source of the present ill-blood against America, who is accused of partiality to France; but, before this charge can be established, we must show that the measures she has adopted are not the natural and necessary result of an impartial measure; a measure in execution of an impartial law. If a pardon were tendered to Belcher and Crib upon condition that they ceased to beat the parties as above supposed, and if Belcher persisted while his enemy did not, the injured parties could not fairly be accused of partiality in pardoning Crib while they punished Belcher. The American Government and people may, however, without any crime, or, at least, without giving us any just cause of complaint against them, like, and show that they like, Napoleon better than Messrs. Perceval and Rose and Lords Liverpool and Wellesley. It may be bad taste in the American Government and people Edition: current; Page: [67] to entertain such a liking; it may be great stupidity and almost wilful blindness that prevent them from perceiving how much more the latter are the friends of freedom than the former. But, so long as the American Government does no act of partiality affecting us, we have no reason to complain: so that justice is done to a man in court, he has no reason to complain of the personal likings or dislikings of the judge or the jury. The people in America look at France and at the state of Europe in general with minds pretty free from prejudice. They are in no fear of the power of Napoleon. They have amongst them no persons whose interests are served by inflaming the hatred of the people against him. They reckon dynasties as nothing. They coolly compare the present with the former state of Europe; and, if they give the preference to the present state of things, it must be because they think there has been a change for the better. They may be deceived; but, it can be the interest of nobody to deceive them. Those who have the management of their public affairs may have a wrong bias; but they cannot communicate it to the people; for they have no public money to expend upon a hireling press. The government and the people may all be deceived; but the deception cannot be the effect of any cheat practised upon either; it cannot be the work of bribery and corruption. If, therefore, the government and people of America do really entertain a partiality for Napoleon, we have, on that account, good ground for regret, but certainly none for complaint or reproach. They have a right to like and to dislike whom they please. We, for instance, have a great attachment to the court and government of Sicily, and also to the courts and ancient governments of Spain and Portugal. We should not permit the American government or people to interfere with these attachments of ours; and, I presume, it will, therefore, not be thought reasonable that we should arrogate to ourselves the right of judging whom the American people and government are to like.

When we are told of the “partiality for France,” which is a charge continually preferred against the American government, we should ask what acts of partiality they have been guilty of, and that is the test by which we ought to try their conduct in the present instance. They have put their law in force; they have shut out our goods and our ships, while they freely admit those of France; and this is called partiality, and is made the grounds of one of those charges, by the means of which, it appears to me, that the venal press in England is endeavouring to prepare the minds of the people for a war with the American States. But, to make out this charge, it must be shown, that the French have done nothing that we have not done in the way of repealing the injurious Decrees. Indeed, this is what is asserted; and, though a regular communication has been made to the American government by the French government, that the Berlin and Milan Decrees are revoked; though they are by the American Minister here asserted to be revoked, and no longer in operation; still it is asserted by some here, that they are not revoked. The American government, however, is satisfied that they are revoked, and it has, accordingly, put its exclusion law in force against us.

To settle this point of fact the Americans have not been told what sort of evidence we shall require. They present us the letter of the French minister for foreign affairs to the American minister at Paris, telling him, that the Decrees are revoked, and that the revocation is to go into effect on the 1st of November 1810. This we say is nothing at all, Edition: current; Page: [68] because it is clogged with this remark, “it being clearly understood that the English Orders in Council are to be revoked at the same time.” Certainly. This was to be naturally expected; and England had promised that it should be so. The Decrees have actually been revoked, without this condition being complied with on our part; but, if they had not, it was to be expected that the American Government would put their exclusion law in force against us at the time appointed; because we ought to have declared our intention at the same time and in the same manner that the French declared their intention. It was in the month of August 1810, that Mr. Pinckney, the American minister in London, communicated to our Foreign Secretary, Lord Wellesley, that the French Decrees were revoked, and that the revocation was to take effect from the 1st day of the then ensuing November. The answer which Mr. Pinckney expected was, that the English Orders in Council were also revoked, and that the revocation would take effect from the 1st of November. That he had a right to expect this will clearly appear from the communications made to the American Government by our ministers in that country, who, in answer to the complaints of America upon this score, always declared, that the King their master was exceedingly grieved to be compelled to have recourse to such measures; that nothing could be farther from his heart or more repugnant to his feelings than a wish to injure or harass the commerce of neutrals; that he had taken these odious measures in pure self-defence; that it was his “earnest desire” (I quote one of these declarations) “to see the commerce of the world restored to that freedom, which is necessary for its prosperity, and his readiness to abandon the system, which had been forced upon him, whenever the enemy should retract the principles which had rendered it necessary.” When, therefore, Mr. Pinckney, who had this declaration before him, communicated to Lord Wellesley the fact that the French Decrees were revoked, and that the revocation was to go into effect on the 1st of November, he had a full right to expect an immediate revocation of our Orders in Council, and an assurance that such revocation should go into effect on the same day when the French revocation was to go into effect. But, instead of this he received for answer, that we would revoke our Orders, when the revocation of the French Decrees should have actually taken place. But there was another condition, “that whenever the repeal of the French Decrees shall have actually taken place, and the commerce of neutral nations shall have been restored to the condition in which it stood previously to the promulgation of these Decrees,” then the King will relinquish his present system. Here is a second condition. We do not here content ourselves with the revocation of the Decrees; no, nor even with that revocation having actually gone into effect. We call for something more, and that something greater too than the thing for which we before contended. We here say, that, before we revoke our Orders, we will have the neutral commerce restored to its old footing; that is, that we will have the “Continental System” abandoned by France, with which system the Americans have nothing to do, and with regard to which they can have no right to say a word, it being a series of measures of internal regulation, not trenching upon nor touching their maritime commerce. It is a matter wholly distinct from the other; it relates to the reception or exclusion of English goods in France and her dependencies; and, if we are to make America answerable for the conduct of France in that respect, it would follow that France would have Edition: current; Page: [69] a right to make her answerable for our conduct in excluding the goods of France from the ports of England.

We had, it appears to me, no right to require any thing of America, previously to our revocation of the obnoxious Orders, than an official and authenticated declaration, that the French Decrees were revoked. And, what more could we ask for than was tendered to us, I am at a loss to conjecture. The French Government officially informed the American Government that the Decrees were revoked, and that the revocation was to have effect on the 1st of November. This was officially communicated to us by the American Government through their accredited minister. We were, therefore, to give credit to the fact. But, no: we stop to see the 1st of November arrive. This was not the way to convince America of our readiness, our earnest desire, to see neutral commerce restored to freedom. The course to pursue, in order to give proof of such a disposition, was to revoke our Orders in Council, and to declare that the revocation would begin to be acted upon on the 1st of November. This would have been keeping pace with the French; and, if we had found that the revocation did not go into operation in France on the 1st of November, we should have lost nothing by our revocation; for we might immediately have renewed our Orders in Council, and we should then have continued them in force, having clearly thrown all the blame upon the enemy.

This line of conduct would, too, have been perfectly consonant with our professions to the American Government, to whom, in 1808, our minister had declared, that, in order to evince the security of our desire to remove the impediments to neutral commerce, we were willing to follow the example of France in the way of revocation, or, to proceed step for step with her in the way of relaxation. Our minister, upon the occasion here alluded to, in communicating the several Orders in Council to the American Government, declared that “the king felt great regret at the necessity imposed upon him for such an interference with neutral commerce, and he assured the American Government, that his Majesty would readily follow the example, in case the Berlin Decree should be rescinded; or, would proceed, pari passu with France, in relaxing the rigour of their measures.” Agreeably to this declaration, we should, it clearly appears to me, have done exactly what France did in August 1810, and not evaded it by saying that we would revoke after her revocation should have been actually put into operation; that is to say, that we would condescend to begin after France had ended.

This is the view, may it please your Royal Highness, which clear and unclouded reason takes of this matter. This is the light in which it has been seen by the American Government and by the people of that country, who, though they do not wish for war, will assuredly not censure those who manage their affairs for acting as they have done upon this occasion. The measure of exclusion adopted against us by America is too advantageous to France for the latter not to act upon the revocation of her Decrees; and, indeed, there appears now not to be the smallest doubt, that, as far as relates to America (and she is in reality the only neutral), the Decrees are, in deed as well as in word, revoked. It is notorious that our Orders are not revoked; and, for my part, I am wholly at a loss to form an idea of the grounds upon which any complaint against America can be founded, as far as relates to this part of the dispute.

WM. COBBETT.
Edition: current; Page: [70]

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH AMERICA.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
5th September, 1811

LETTER II.

Sir,—

Intelligence, received since the date of the former Letter, which I did myself the honour to address to your Royal Highness, makes it more imperious upon us to examine well the grounds upon which we are proceeding with regard to the American States. The President has called the Congress together; and, there can be little doubt of his object being to propose to them, for their approbation, some measure more of a warlike character than any which he has hitherto adopted; nor, can we it seems to me, be at all surprised at this, if, as is rumoured, it be true, that Mr. Foster, our new minister in America, has made a communication to the American government, making the revocation of our Orders in Council depend upon the conduct of Napoleon as to the Continental System.

The rise and progress of the Orders in Council and of the French Decrees have already been noticed, and sufficiently dwelt upon; it has been shown, that the grounds of the present dispute, namely, the flagrant violation of neutral rights, did not originate with France, but with England, or, if not with England, with Prussia; it has been shown, and no one will attempt to deny the fact, that the French Decrees were passed after the issuing of our Orders in Council; that they were passed expressly in the way of retaliation; that they were to be revoked when we revoked our Orders. It has been shown, that we professed to be animated with a sincere and most earnest desire to revoke our Orders, and, indeed, that we expressly declared that we would revoke them whenever the French would revoke their Decrees. It has been shown, that the French officially informed the American Government, that the Decrees were revoked, and that, thereupon, the American Government called upon us to fulfil our promises in revoking our Orders; but, that we did not do this; that we evaded the fulfilment of these promises, and, in short, that we have not revoked, or softened the rigour of, any part of our Orders. It has, in a word, been shown, that while the French have revoked their Decrees, while they, in consequence of the remonstrances of America, have ceased to violate her neutral rights, we persevere in such violation.

The pretext for this was, at first, that the Emperor Napoleon, though he said he had revoked his Decrees, had not done it, and meant not to do it. This, may it please your Royal Highness, was, it appears to me, a very strange kind of language to use towards other powers. It was treating the American government as a sort of political idiot. It was telling it that it did not understand the interests of America, and that it was unworthy to be intrusted with power. And, it was saying to the Emperor of France, that he was to be regarded as shut out of the pale of sovereigns; that he was on no account to be believed; that no faith was Edition: current; Page: [71] to be given to the official communications of his ministers, or of any persons treating in his name. Thus, then, the door against peace, against exchange of prisoners, against a softening of the rigours of war in any way or in any degree, was for ever barred; and, the termination of war was, in fact, made to depend upon the death of Napoleon.

But, this pretext could not last long; for the Decrees were actually revoked; the revocation went into effect; and those Decrees are now wholly dead as to any violation of the neutral rights of America. It was, therefore, necessary to urge some new objection to the revocation of our Orders in Council; and it is now said, that Mr. Foster has demanded, that, as a condition of the revocation of our Orders in Council, the French shall revoke all the commercial regulations which they have adopted since the Orders in Council were issued; that is to say, that Napoleon shall give up what he calls the Continental System, and admit English goods into the Continent of Europe.

I do not say, may it please your Royal Highness, that Mr. Foster has been instructed to make such a demand: I state the proposition as I find it described in our own public prints; but, this I can have no hesitation in saying, that a proposition so replete with proof of having flowed from impudence and ignorance the most consummate is not to be found in the history of the diplomacy of the universe. The Government of America can have no right whatever to interfere with the internal regulations of the French Empire or of any other country; and, the Continental System, as it is called, consists merely of internal regulations. These regulations have nothing at all to do with the rights of neutrals; they do not violate in any degree, any of those rights; and, therefore, America cannot, without setting even common sense at defiance, be called upon to demand an abandoment of that system.

But, Sir, permit me to stop here and to examine a little into what that system really is. It forbids the importation into the Empire of Napoleon and the states of his allies any article being the manufacture or produce, of England or her colonies. This, in a few words, is the Continental System. And your Royal Highness certainly need not be reminded, that it is a system which has been very exactly copied from the commercial code of England herself. Your Royal Highness’s ministers and many members of Parliament have spoken of this system as the effect of vindictiveness on the part of Napoleon; as the effect of a mad despotism, which threatens Europe with a return of the barbarous ages; but, I see nothing in this system that has not long made part of our own system. It is notorious, that the goods manufactured in France are prohibited in England; it is notorious that French wine and brandy are forbidden to be brought hither; in short, it is notorious that no article being the manufacture or produce of France is permitted to be brought into England; and, that seizure, confiscation, fine, imprisonment, and ruin attend all those who act in infraction of this our commercial code.

This being the case, it does seem to require an uncommon portion of impudence or of self-conceit for us to demand of the Americans to cause the Continental System to be abandoned as a condition upon which we are willing to cease to violate their rights. But, it has been said, that Napoleon enforces his system with so much rigour and barbarity. This does not at all alter the state of the case between us and America, who has no power, and, if she had the power, who has no right, to interfere with his internal regulations. Yet, Sir, it is not amiss to inquire a little Edition: current; Page: [72] into the fact of this alleged barbarity of Napoleon. All rulers are content with accomplishing their object; and, in this case, it would not be his interest to inflict greater penalties than the accomplishing of his object required. Our own laws against smuggling are not the mildest in the world; and, we have seen them hardened by degrees, till they answered the purpose that the Government had in view. We have been told, indeed, that Napoleon punishes offences against his commercial code with enormous fines, with imprisonment, and we have heard of instances where he has resorted to the punishment of death. These severities have been made the subject of most grievous complaints against him here; they have brought down upon him reproaches the most bitter; they have been cited as proofs indubitable of the intolerable despotism, under which his people groan. But, Sir, I have confidence enough in your justice and magnanimity to remind you, that there is nothing which his commercial code inflicts; that there is nothing in any of the punishments that even rumour has conveyed to our ears; no, nothing in any of these surpassing in severity; nay, nothing in any of them equalling in severity, the punishments provided for in the commercial code of England, having for their object, towards France, precisely that in view which the Continental System has in view towards England, namely, her embarrassment, and finally, her overthrow.

In support of this assertion I could cite many of the acts in our statute-book; but I allude particularly to that which was passed in the month of May 1793, at the breaking out of the war against the Republicans of France. That act, which appears to have been drawn up by the present Lord Chancellor, makes it high treason, and punishes with death, and also with forfeiture of estates, all those persons, residing or being in Great Britain, who shall have any hand whatever, either directly or indirectly, in selling any goods (mentioned in the said act) to the French government, or to any body residing in French territories. This act punishes in the same awful manner, any one who shall send a Bank-note to any one residing in the French territory, or shall have any hand, in the most distant manner, in causing such notes to be sent. It punishes in the same manner any person residing or being in Great Britain, who shall have any hand in purchasing any real property in any country under the dominion of France; and it extends its vengeance to all those, who, in the most distant manner, shall have any hand in such transaction. This act is the 27th chap. of the 33rd year of the reign of George the Third; and I have never seen and never heard of any act or edict that dealt out death and destruction with so liberal a hand.

It was said at the time, by the present Lord Chancellor, and by the greater part of those men who compose your Royal Highness’s ministry, that this act, terrible as it was, was demanded by the safety of the nation. This Mr. Fox denied, and he strenuously laboured to prevent the passing of an act so severe. I shall offer no opinion upon this matter; but it is certain that the code of Napoleon is not, because it cannot, be more terribly severe than this act; and this being the case, common decency ought to restrain those who justified this act from uttering reproaches against the author of the continental code. Our Government then said that the act of 1793 was necessary in order to crush the revolution that had reared its head in France, and that was extending its principles over Europe. They justified the act upon the ground of its necessity. So does Napoleon his code. He says that that code is necessary to protect Edition: current; Page: [73] the continent against the maritime despotism and the intrigues of England. His accusations against us may be false, but he is only retorting upon us our accusations against France; and between two such powers, there is nobody to judge. In truth our Government passed its act of 1793, because it had the will and the power to pass and to enforce it; and Napoleon has established his continental system, because he also has the will and the power. It is to the judgment of the world that the matter must be left, and I beseech your Royal Highness to consider, that the world will judge of our conduct according to the evidence which it has to judge from, and that that judgment will leave wholly out of view our interest and our humours.

To return and apply what has here been said to the case on which I have the honour to address your Royal Highness, what answer would have been given to America, if she, in the year 1793, had demanded of our Government the rescinding of the act of which I have just given a faint description? In supposing, even by the way of argument, America to have taken such a liberty, I do a violence to common sense, and commit an outrage upon diplomatic decorum; and it is quite impossible to put into words an expresssion of that indignation which her conduct would have excited. And yet, Sir, there appears to me, to be no reason whatever for our expecting America to be permitted to interfere with Napoleon’s continental system, unless we admit that she had a right to interfere with our act of 1793. The dispute between us and America relates to the acknowledged rights of neutral nations. These rights of America we avow that we violate. We have hitherto said, that we were ready to cease such violation as soon as the French did the same; but now, if we are to believe the intelligence from America and the corresponding statements of our public prints, we have shifted our ground, and demand of America that she shall cause the continental system to be done away, or, at least, we tell her that it shall be done away, or we will not cease to violate her rights.

The language of those, who appear to be ready to justify a refusal, upon the ground above stated, to revoke our Orders in Council, is this; that it was natural to expect that the revocation would be made to depend upon a real and effectual abolition of the French decrees; that the revocation is merely nominal unless all the regulations of Napoleon, made since 1806, are also repealed; that when these latter are repealed, it will be right for America to call upon us for a repeal of our Orders in Council, and not before; and, it is added, that the American President will not have the support of the people if he attempt to act upon any other principles than these. So that, as your Royal Highness will clearly perceive, these persons imagine, or, at least, they would persuade the people of England, that, unless the President insist upon the admission of English manufactures and produce into the dominions of France, he will not be supported by the people of America in a demand of England to cease to violate the known and acknowledged rights of America. The President is not asking for any indulgence at our hands: he is merely asking for what is due to his country; he is merely insisting upon our ceasing to violate the rights of America; and if what the public prints tell us be true, we say in answer: “We will cease to violate your rights; we will cease to do you wrong; we will cease to confiscate your vessels in the teeth of the law of nations, but not unless Napoleon will suffer the continent of Europe to purchase our manufactures and commerce.” If Edition: current; Page: [74] my neighbour complain of me for a grievous injury and outrageous insult committed against him, am I to answer him by saying, that I will cease to injure and insult him, when another neighbour with whom I am at variance will purchase his clothing and cutlery from me? The party whom I injure and insult will naturally say, that he has nothing to do with my quarrel with a third party. We should disdain the idea of appealing to America as a mediatress, and, indeed, if she were to attempt to put herself forward in that capacity, indignation and vengeance would ring from one end of the kingdom to the other. Yet, we are, it seems, to look to her to cause the French to do away regulations injurious to us, but with which America has nothing at all to do.

As to the disposition of the people of America, your Royal Highness should receive with great distrust whatever is said, come from what quarter it may, respecting the popular feeling being against the President and his measures. The same round of deception will, doubtless, be used here as in all other cases where a country is at war with us. It is now nearly twenty years since we drew the sword against revolutionary France; and, if your Royal Highness look back, you will find, that, during the whole of that period, the people of France have been, by those who have had the power of the press in their hands in this country, represented as hostile to their government, under all its various forms, and as wishing most earnestly for the success of its enemies. The result, however, has been, that the people have never, in any one instance, aided those enemies; but have made all sorts of sacrifices for the purpose of frustrating their designs. On the contrary, the people in all the countries, allied with us in the war, have been invariably represented as attached to their government, and they have, when the hour of trial came, as invariably turned from that government and received the French with open arms. After these twenty years of such terrible experience, it is not for me to presume, that your Royal Highness can suffer yourself to be deceived with regard to the disposition of the American people, who clearly understand all the grounds of the present dispute, and of whom, your Royal Highness may be assured, Mr. Madison, in his demands of justice at our hands is but the echo. The Americans do not wish for war: war is a state which they dread; there is no class amongst them who can profit from war: they have none of that description of people to whom war is a harvest: there are none of those whom to support out of the public wealth the pretext of war is necessary: they dread a standing army: they have witnessed the effects of such establishments in other parts of the world: they have seen how such establishments and loss of freedom go hand in hand. But, these considerations will not, I am persuaded, deter them from going far enough into hostile measures to do great injury to us, unless we shall, by our acts, prove to them, that such measures are unnecessary.

The public are told, and the same may reach the ear of your Royal Highness (for courts are not the places into which truth first makes its way), that the American President is unpopular; that the people are on our side in the dispute. Guard your ear, I beseech you, Sir, against such reports, which are wholly false, and which have their rise partly in the ignorance and partly in the venality of those by whom they are propagated. It is a fact, on which your Royal Highness may rely, that, at the last election (in the Autumn of 1810) the popular party had a majority far greater than at any former period; and, it is hardly necessary Edition: current; Page: [75] for me to say how that party stands with regard to England; for, from some cause or other, it does so happen, that in every country where there is a description of persons professing a strong and enthusiastic attachment to public liberty, they are sure to regard England as their enemy. We are told, that these are all sham patriots; that they are demagogues, jacobins, levellers, and men who delight in confusion and bloodshed. But, Sir, the misfortune is, that these persons, in all the countries that we meddle with, do invariably succeed in the end. Their side, proves, at last, to be the strongest. They do, in fact, finally prove to form almost the whole of the people; and, when we discover this, we generally quit their country in disgust, and, since they “will not be true to themselves,” we e’en leave them to be punished by their revolutions and reforms. In America, however, it will, I think, be very difficult for any one to persuade your Royal Highness that those who are opposed to us are sham patriots, and men who wish for confusion. Every man in that country has enough to eat; every man has something to call his own. There are no baits for sham patriots; no fat places to scramble for; no sinecures where a single lazy possessor snorts away in the course of the year the fruit of the labour of hundreds of toiling and starving wretches; none of those things, in short, for the sake of gaining which it is worth while to make hypocritical professions of patriotism. As an instance of the sentiments of the people of America with regard to political parties, I beg leave to point out to your Royal Highness the circumstance of Mr. Pickering (who is held forth as the great champion of our cause in America) having, at the last election, been put out of the Senate of the United States, of which he had long been a member, being one of the Senators for Massachusetts, his native state. The people of the State first elect the two Houses and the Governor of the State, and these elect the persons to serve them in the Senate of the Union. Thus Mr. Pickering was, then, rejected, not merely by the people; not merely at a popular election; but by the deliberate voice of the whole legislature of the State. And this, too, in that part of the Union called New England; in the State of Massachussetts too, which State it is well known takes the lead in the Northern part of the country, and which State has always been represented as disposed to divide from the States of the South. If we had friends any where in America, it was in this State; and, yet, even in this State, we see the most unequivocal proof of disaffection to our cause.

It is useless, Sir, for us to reproach the people of America with this disaffection. They must be left to follow their own taste. In common life, if we find any one that does not like us, we generally endeavour, if we wish to gain his liking, to win him to it by kindness and by benefits of some sort or other. We go thus to work with animals of every description. In cases where we have the power, we but too often make use of that to subdue the disinclined party to our will. But, where we have not the power, we are seldom so very foolish as to deal out reproaches against those whose good will we do not take the pains to gain. It is, therefore, the height of folly in us to complain that the Americans do not like our government, and prefer to it that of Napoleon. The friends of England accuse them of giving support to a despot. They do not love despot, Sir, you may be assured; and, if they like Napoleon better than they do our government, it is because they think him less inimical to their freedom and their property. This is the ground of their judgment. They Edition: current; Page: [76] are not carried away by words: they look at the acts that affect them; and, upon such grounds, they might, under some circumstances, justly prefer the Dey of Algiers to the ruler of any other state.

I am, &c. &c.
WM. COBBETT.

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH AMERICA.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
12th September, 1811.

LETTER III.

Sir,

Before I enter upon the affair of the American Frigate and the Little Belt, permit me to call your Royal Highness’s attention, for a moment, to the servility of the English press, and to offer you some remarks thereon.

Towards the end of last week a Council having been held, and an Order relative to American commerce having been agreed upon, it was, by those who merely knew that some order of this kind was about to come forth, taken for granted, that it contained a prohibition against future imports from the American States into this country, by way of retaliation for the American Non-importation Act. There needed no more. The busy slaves of the press, who endeavour even to anticipate the acts of government, be they what they may, with their approbation, lost not a moment. This “measure of retaliation,” as they call it, was then an instance of perfect wisdom in your Royal Highness’s ministers: it was a measure become absolutely necessary to our safety as well as our honour; and, indeed, if it had not been adopted, we are told, that the ministers would have been highly criminal. Alas! It was all a mistake: there was no such measure adopted: and, oh! most scandalous to relate! These same writers discovered, all in a moment, that it would have been premature to adopt such a measure at present!

I have mentioned this fact with a view of putting your Royal Highness upon your guard against the parasites of the press, who (though it may be a bold assertion to make) are the worst of parasites, even in England. “Hang them, scurvy jades, they would have done no less if Cæsar had murdered their mothers,” said Casca of the strumpets of Rome, who affected to weep, when Cæsar fainted, and who shouted when he came to again. And, be your Royal Highness well assured, that these same writers would have applauded your ministers, if, instead of an Order in Council to prohibit the importation of American produce, they had issued an order to strip the skin over the ears of the Roman Catholics, or to do any other thing, however tyrannical, however monstrous, it might have been.

Suffer yourself not, then, Sir, to be persuaded to act, in any case, from what is presented to you in the writings of these parasites. Reflect, Sir, Edition: current; Page: [77] upon the past. During the whole of the last twenty years, these same writers have praised all the measures of the government. All these measures were, according to them, the fruit of consummate wisdom. Yet, these measures have, at last, produced a state of things exactly the contrary of what was wished for and expected. All the measures which have led to the victories and conquests of France, that have led to her exaltation, that have produced all that we now behold in our own situation, the paper-money not excepted; all these measures have received, in their turn, the unqualified approbation of the parasites of the press. To know and bear in mind this fact, will be, I am certain, sufficient to guard your Royal Highness against forming your opinion of measures from what may be said of them by this tribe of time-serving writers, who have been one of the principal causes of that state of things in Europe, which is, even with themselves, the burden of incessant and unavailing lamentation. Buonaparté! “The Corsican Tyrant”! The “towering despot,” Buonaparté! Alas! Sir, the fault is none of his, and all the abuse bestowed upon him should go in another direction. The fault is in those, who contrived and who encouraged the war against the Republicans of France; and, amongst them, there are in all the world none to equal the parasites of the English press.

In returning, now, to the affair of the American frigate and the Little Belt, the first thing would be to ascertain, which vessel fired the first shot. The Commanders on both sides deny having fired first; and, if their words are thus at variance, the decisions of Courts of Inquiry will do little in the way of settling the point. This fact, therefore, appears to me not capable of being decided. There is no court wherein to try it. We do not acknowledge a court in America, and the Americans do not acknowledge a court here. Each government believes its own officer, or its own courts of inquiry; and, if the belief of the American government is opposed to what ours believe, there is no decision but by an appeal to arms. But, there is a much better way of settling the matter; and that is to say no more about it, which may be done without any stain upon the honour of either party. And this is the more desirable, if the supposed attack upon the Little Belt can possibly be made, in some general settlement of disputes, to form a set-off against the affair of the Chesapeake.

Yet, may it please your Royal Highness, there is a view of this matter which it is very necessary for you to take, and which will never be taken by any of the political parasites in this country. We are accustomed to speak of this supposed attack upon the Little Belt, as if it had taken place out at sea, and as if there had been no alleged provocation ever given to the American ships of war. But, Sir, the Americans allege, that the Little Belt was found in their waters; that she was one of a squadron that formed a sort of blockade of their coast; that this squadron stopped, rummaged, and insulted their merchantmen; and, that in many cases, it seized and carried away their own people out of their own ships within sight of their own shores. The way for us to judge of the feelings that such acts were calculated to inspire in the bosoms of the Americans, is, to make the case our own for a moment; to suppose an American squadron off our coast, stopping, rummaging and insulting our colliers, and, in many cases, taking away their sailors to serve them; to be exposed to the loss of life in that service; and, at the very least, to be taken from their calling and their families and friends.

Your Royal Highness would, I trust, risk even your life rather than Edition: current; Page: [78] suffer this with impunity; and you would, I am sure, look upon your people as unworthy of existence, if they were not ready to bleed in such a cause. Your Royal Highness sees, I am fully persuaded, but one side of the question, with regard to America. The venal prints present you with publications made by the enemies of the men at present in power in America; that is to say, by the opposition of that country. But, the fact is, that all parties agree in their complaints against our seizure of their seamen, with instances of which their public prints abound. This is a thing so completely without a parallel, that one can hardly bring oneself to look upon it as a reality. For an American vessel to meet a packet between Cork and Bristol and take out some of her sailors and carry them away to the East or West Indies to die or be killed, is something so monstrous that one cannot bring ourself to feel as if it were real. Yet, this is no more than what the Americans complain of; and, if there be good ground, or only slight ground; if there be any ground at all, for such complaint, the affair between the American Frigate and the Little Belt is by no means a matter to be wondered at. I beg your Royal Highness to consider how many families in the American States have been made unhappy by the impressment of American seamen; how many parents have been thus deprived of their sons, wives of their husbands, and children of their fathers; and, when you have so considered, you will not, I am sure, be surprised at the exultation that appears to have been felt in America at the result of the affair with the Little Belt.

As a specimen of the complaints of individuals upon this score, I here insert a letter from an unfortunate impressed American, which letter I take from the New York Public Advertiser of the 31st of July.

Edwin Bouldin
Bouldin, Edwin
30th June, 1811

Mr. Snowden, I hope you will be so good as to publish these few lines.—I, Edwin Bouldin, was impressed out of the barque Columbus, of Elizabeth City, Captain Traftor, and carried on board his Britannic Majesty’s brig Rhodian, in Montego Bay, commanded by Capt. Mobary.—He told me my protection was of no consequence, he would have me whether or not. I was born in Baltimore and served my time with Messrs. Smith and Buchanan. I hope my friends will do something for me to get my clearance, for I do not like to serve any other country but my own, which I am willing to serve. I am now captain of the forecastle and stationed captain of a gun in the waist.—I am treated very ill because I will not enter.—They request of me to go on board my country’s ships to list men, which I refused to do, and was threatened to be punished for it.

I remain a true citizen of the United States of America,
Edwin Bouldin.

This, may it please your Royal Highness, is merely a specimen. The public prints in America abound with documents of a similar description; and thus the resentment of the whole nation is kept alive, and wound up to a pitch hardly to be described.

Astonishment is expressed, by some persons, in this country, that the Americans appear to like the Emperor Napoleon better than our government; but, if it be considered, that the Emperor Napoleon does not give rise to complaints such as those just quoted, this astonishment will cease. Men dislike those who do them injury, and they dislike those most who do them most injury. In settling the point, which is most the friend of real freedom, Napoleon or our Government; there might, however, be some difference of opinion in America, where the people are free to speak and write as well as to think, and where there are no persons whose trade it is to publish falsehoods. But, whatever error any persons might Edition: current; Page: [79] be led into upon this subject, the consequence to us would be trifling, were it not for the real solid grounds of complaint that are incessantly staring the American people in the face. There may be a very harsh despotism in France for any thing that they know to the contrary; though they are not a people to be carried away by mere names. They are a people likely to sit down coolly and compare the present state of France with its state under the Bourbons; likely to compare the present situation of the great mass of the people with their former situation; and extremely likely not to think any the worse of Napoleon for his having sprung from parents as humble as those of their Jefferson or Madison. But, if they should make up their minds to a settled conviction of there being a military despotism in France, they will, though they regret its existence, dislike it less than they will any other system, from which they receive more annoyance; and in this they do no more than follow the dictates of human nature, which, in spite of all the wishes of man, will still continue the same.

The disposition of the American people towards England and towards France is a matter of the greatest importance, and should, therefore, be rightly understood by your Royal Highness, who has it in your power to restore between America and England that harmony, which has so long been disturbed, and which is so necessary to save the remains of freedom in the world. I here present to you, Sir, some remarks of a recent date (25 July), published in an American print, called the “Baltimore America.” You will see, Sir, that the writer deprecates a war with England; he does not deceive himself or his readers as to its dangers; he makes a just estimate of the relative means of the two nations; and, I think your Royal Highness will allow, that he is not ignorant of the real situation of England. I cannot help being earnest in my wishes that your Royal Highness would be pleased to bestow some attention upon these remarks. They are, as a composition, not unworthy of the honour; but, what renders them valuable is, that they do really express the sentiments of all the moderate part of the people in America; they express the sentiments which predominate in the community, and upon which your Royal Highness may be assured the American government will act:

“God forbid that we should have war with England, or any other nation, if we can avoid it. For I am not of the temper of that furious federalist, who would have unfurled the American colours long ago against a less offender. I had rather see her starry flag floating in the serenity of a calm atmosphere than agitated and obscured in the clouds, the smoke and flashes of war. But if Britain’s unchangeable jealousy of the prosperity of others, her obdurate pride and enmity to us, should proceed upon pretence of retaliating upon what she has forced, to more violent and avowed attacks, I trust that your older and younger Americans will meet her with equal spirit, and give her blow for blow. I have never expected her to abstain from injury while our merchants had a ship or our country a seaman upon the ocean, by any sense of justice—but have trusted only to the adverse circumstances of her state, to restrain her violence and continue our peace. Heaven grant that it may be preserved, and if possible without the distress of her own partly innocent people. But if her crimes will not allow it; if urged by the malignant passions she has long indulged, and now heightened by revenge, she throws off all restraint, and loosens war in all its rage upon us, then, as she has shed blood like water, give her blood to drink in righteous judgment.—I know too well, that we must suffer with her. Dreadful necessity only justifies the contest. I call you not, young Americans, to false glory, to spoil and triumph. You must lay down your lives, endure defeat, loss and captivity, as the varying fate of war ordains. But this Edition: current; Page: [80] must not appal you. Prepare for it, with unsubmitting spirit, renew the combat, till your great enemy, like the whale of the deep, weakened with many wounds, yields himself up a prey to smaller foes on his own element. This, by the order of Providence, has been the case before. When they possessed the sea in full security, our sailors issued out in a few small barks, mounted with the pieces dug from the rubbish of years, and scanty stores of ammunition, seized their trade, and baffled their power. From such beginnings grew a numerous shipping, that fearlessly braved them on their own coasts, and on every sea; that brought plenty into the land, and at once armed and enriched it. What shall prevent this again? Have our enemies grown stronger, or we become weaker? Or has Heaven dropped its sceptre, and rules no more by justice and mercy? We are now three times as many as in 1775, when we engaged them before. Our territory is greatly enlarged, and teems with new and useful products. Cotton, formerly known only to the domestic uses of a part of the people in two or three States, is now in sufficiency to supply clothing to all America, and from its lightness can be easily conveyed by land to every quarter. Wool, flax and hemp are furnished in increasing quantities every day.—Machines for every work, manufactories for every useful article, are invented and establishing continually. Large supplies of salt, sugar and spirits are provided for in the western countries, and can never be wanting on the sea coast. Lead, iron, powder and arms we have in abundance—parks of artillery for the field and fortifications—magazines and arsenals ready formed and increasing—a sufficient force of disciplined troops and instructed officers to become the basis of larger armies—a number of ships of war, with men and officers trained and prepared for naval enterprise—a people ready in the spirit of independence, to rush against the enemy that wrongs and challenges them—a government formed, established, operating all round, with every material for intelligence, direction and power—revenues, credit, confidence—good will at home and abroad—justice and necessity obliging, and Heaven, I hope, approving.—It is a common opinion that our enemies are stronger; but this appears an illusion, from the fleets of other nations having been vanquished one by one, and left the ocean. Her strength has not increased in proportion. She indeed possesses a thousand ships of war, but no increase of people. Her commerce is distressed, her manufactures pining, her finances sinking under irrecoverable debts; her gold and silver gone, her paper depreciating; her credit failing—depending upon other countries for food, for materials of manufacture, for supplies for her navy; her wants increasing; her means lessening. Every island and port she takes demands more from her, divides her force, increases her expense, adds to her cares, and multiplies her dangers. Her government is embarrassed, her people distracted, her seamen unhappy and ready to leave her every moment. The American commerce has been a staff of support, but will now become a sword to wound her. Instead of supplying, we shall take her colonies. Her West India possessions will be able to contribute nothing; their labour’s turned to raise bread. Their trade stopped as it passes our coast; obliged to make a further division of her forces, her European enemies will seize the opportunity to break upon her there. Ireland is in a ferment and must be watched. The East Indies bode a hurricane. She is exposed to injury in a thousand places, and has no strength equal to the extension. She may inflict some wounds on us, but they cannot go deep; while every blow she receives in such a crisis may go to her vitals. She will encounter us in despair; we shall meet her with hope and alacrity.—The first occasion that has presented, proved this fact; though the sottishness of her Federal Republican attempted to prevent the volunteer offering of our seamen to Decatur, as a proof of our inability to procure men.—Had we impressed, as England does all her crews, what would it have proved by the same logic?

An Old American.

Such, Sir, are the sentiments of the people of America. Great pains are taken by our venal writers to cause it to be believed, that the people are divided, and that Mr. Madison is in great disrepute. This, as I had the honour to observe to you before, is no more than a continuation of the series of deceptions practised upon this nation for the last twenty years with such complete and such fatal success. If, indeed, the Americans Edition: current; Page: [81] were to say as much of Ireland, there might be some justification for the assertion; but, there is no fact to justify the assertion as applied to America, in the whole extent of which we hear not of a single instance of any person acting in defiance of the law: no proclamations to prevent the people from meeting; no calling out of troops to disperse the people; no barracks built in any part of the country; no force to protect the government but simply that of the law, and none to defend the country but a population of proprietors voluntarily bearing arms. There can be no division in America for any length of time; for, the moment there is a serious division, the government must give way: those who rule, rule solely by the will of the people: they have no power which they do not derive immediately from that source; and, therefore, when the government of that country declares against us, the people declare against us in the same voice.

The infinite pains which have been taken, in this country, to create a belief, that the American President has been rendered unpopular by the publications of Mr. Smith, whom he had displaced, can hardly have failed to produce some effect upon the mind of your Royal Highness, especially as it is to be presumed, that the same movers have been at work in all the ways at their command. I recommend to the perusal of your Royal Highness, an address to this Mr. Smith; and, from it, you will perceive, that, by some of his countrymen at least, he is held in that contempt, which his meanness and his impotent malice so richly merit. And, Sir, I am persuaded, that his perfidy will meet with commendation in no country upon earth but this, and in this only amongst those, who have always been ready to receive with open arms, any one guilty of treason against his country, be his character or conduct, in other respects, what it might. This person appears to have received no injury but what arose from the loss of a place which he was found unfit to fill, and from which he seems to have been removed in the gentlest possible manner. Yet, in revenge for this, he assaults the character of the President, he discloses everything upon which he can force a misconstruction; and, after all, after having said all he is able to say of the conduct of the President, whose confidence he seems to have possessed for nearly eight years, he brings forth nothing worthy of blame, except it be the indiscretion in reposing that very confidence. The publication of Mr. Smith is calculated to raise Mr. Madison and the American government in the eyes of the world; for, how pure, how free from all fault must the government be, if a Secretary of State, who thus throws open an eight years’ history of the cabinet, can tell nothing more than this man, animated by malice exceeding that of a cast-off coquette, has been able to tell!

The praises, which have, in our public prints, been bestowed upon the attempted mischief of this Mr. Smith, are by no means calculated to promote harmony with America, where both the government and the people will judge of our wishes by these praises. This man is notoriously the enemy of the American government, and, therefore, he is praised here. This is not the way to prove to the American government, that we are its friends, and that it does wrong to prefer Napoleon to us. That we ought to prefer the safety and honour of England to all other things is certain; and, if the American government aimed any blow at these, it would become our duty to destroy that government if we could. But, Sir, I suspect, that there are some persons in this country, who hate the American government because it suffers America to be the habitation of Edition: current; Page: [82] freedom. For this cause, I am satisfied, they would gladly, if they could, annihilate both government and people; and, in my mind there is not the smallest doubt, that they hate Napoleon beyond all description less than they hate Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Madison. This description of persons are hostile to the existence of liberty any where, and that, too, for reasons, which every one clearly understands. While any part of the earth remains untrodden by slaves, they are not at heart’s ease. They hate the Emperor Napoleon because they fear him; but they hate him still more because they see in his conquests a tendency to a reforming result. They are the mortal enemies of freedom, in whatever part of the globe she may unfurl her banners. No matter what the people are who shout for freedom; no matter of what nation or climate; no matter what language they speak; and, on the other hand, the enemy of freedom is invariably by these persons, hailed as a friend. Such persons are naturally averse from any measures that tend to restore harmony between this country and America, which they look upon as a rebel against their principles. What such persons would wish, is, that America should exclude not only from her ships, but also from her soil, all British subjects without distinction. This would exactly suit their tyrannical wishes. This would answer one of their great purposes. But this they never will see. No government in America would dare to attempt it. The very proposition would, as it ought to do, bring universal execration down upon the head of the proposer.

The charge against the Americans of entertaining a partiality for the Emperor of France is one well worthy of attention; because, if it were true, it would naturally have much weight with your Royal Highness. But, from the Address to Mr. Smith, you will perceive, that the same men in America, who complain the most loudly of Great Britain, condemn, in unqualified terms, the system of government existing in France. And, which is of much more interest, Mr. Jefferson himself (supposed to be the great founder and encourager of the partiality for France) expresses the same sentiments, as appears from a letter of his.

With these papers before you, Sir, it will, I think, be impossible for you to form a wrong judgment as to the real sentiments of the American government and people; and, I am persuaded that you will perceive that every measure, tending to widen the breach between the two countries, can answer no purpose but that of favouring the views of France. Even the Order in Council, issued on the 7th instant, will, I fear, have this tendency, while it cannot possibly do ourselves any good. The impossibility of supplying the West India Islands with lumber and provisions from our own North American Provinces is notorious. The Order, therefore, will merely impose a tax upon the consumer, without shifting, in any degree worth notice, the source of the supply. And, indeed, the measure will serve to show what we would do if we could.

There is one point, relative to the intercourse between America and England, of which I am the more desirous to speak, because I have heretofore myself entertained and promulgated erroneous notions respecting it: I allude to the necessity of the former being supplied with woollens by the latter. Whence this error arose, how it has been removed from my mind, and what is the real state of the fact, your Royal Highness will gather from the Preface to an American work on Sheep and Wool, which I, some time ago, republished, as the most likely means of effectually eradicating an error which I had contributed to render Edition: current; Page: [83] popular, and the duration of which might have been injurious to the country. This work, if I could hope that your Royal Highness would condescend to peruse it, would leave no doubt in your mind, that America no longer stands in absolute need of English wool or woollens; that, if another pound of wool, in any form, were never to be imported by her, it would be greatly to her advantage; and, in short, that it comports with the plans of her most enlightened statesmen not less than with her interests and the interests of humanity, that she should no longer be an importer of this formerly necessary of life. This, Sir, is not one of the most trifling of the many recent revolutions in the affairs of the world; and, it is one, which, though wholly overlooked by such statesmen as Lord Sheffield, is well worthy of the serious consideration of your Royal Highness.

There is no way in which America is now dependent upon us, or upon any other country. She has every thing within herself that she need to have. Her soil produces all sorts of corn in abundance, and of some sorts, two crops in the year upon the same ground. Wool and flax she produces with as much facility as we do. She supplies us with cotton. She has wine of her own production; and, it will not be long, before she will have the oil of the olive. To attempt to bind such a country in the degrading bonds of the Custom-house is folly, and almost an outrage upon nature. In looking round the world; in viewing its slavish state; in looking at the miserable victims of European oppression, who does not exclaim: “Thank God, she cannot so be bound!” A policy on our part, that would have prolonged her dependence would have been, doubtless, more agreeable to her people, who, like all other people, love their ease, and prefer the comfort of the present day to the happiness of posterity. We might easily have caused America to be more commercial; but, of this our policy was afraid; and our jealousy has rendered her an infinite service. By those measures of ours, which produced the former Non-importation Act, we taught her to have recourse to her own soil and her own hands for the supplying of her own wants; and then, as now, we favoured the policy of Mr. Jefferson, whose views have been adopted and adhered to by his successor in the Presidential chair.

The relative situation of the two countries is now wholly changed. America no longer stands in absolute need of our manufactures. We are become a debtor rather than a creditor with her; and, if the present Non-importation Act continue in force another year, the ties of commerce will be so completely cut asunder as never more to have much effect. In any case they never can be any thing resembling what they formerly were; and, if we are wise, our views and measures will change with the change in the state of things. We shall endeavour, by all honourable means, to keep well with America, and to attach her to us by new ties, the ties of common interest and unclashing pursuits. We shall anticipate those events which nature points out: the absolute independence of Mexico, and, perhaps, of most of the West India Islands. We shall there invite her population to hoist the banners of freedom; and, by that means, form a counterpoise to the power of the Emperor of France. This, at which I take but a mere glance, would be a work worthy of your Royal Highness, and would render your name great while you live, and dear to after ages. The times demand a great and far-seeing policy. This little Island, cut off, as she will be, from all the world, cannot, I am persuaded, retain her independence, unless she now exert her energies in something Edition: current; Page: [84] other than expeditions to the continent of Europe, where every creature seems to be arrayed in hostility against her. The mere colonial system is no longer suited to her state nor to the state of Europe. A system that would combine the powers of England with those of America, and that would thus set liberty to wage war with despotism, dropping the Custom House and all its pitiful regulations as out of date, would give new life to an enslaved world, and would ensure the independence of England for a time beyond calculation. But, Sir, even to deliberate upon a system of policy like this, requires no common portion of energy. There are such stubborn prejudices and more stubborn private interests to encounter and overcome, that I should despair of success without a previous and radical change of system at home; but, satisfied I am, that, to produce that change, which would infallibly be the ground-work of all the rest, there needs nothing but the determination, firmly adhered to, of your Royal Highness.

To tell your Royal Highness what I expect to see take place would be useless: whether we are to hail a change of system, or are to lose all hope of it, cannot be long in ascertaining. If the former, a short delay will be amply compensated by the event; and, if the latter, the fact will always be ascertained too soon.

I am, &c. &c.
WM. COBBETT.

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
January 30, 1812

LETTER IV.

Sir,

In looking back to the real causes of the miseries, which afflict this country, and of the greater miseries with which it appears to be threatened, your Royal Highness will, I am persuaded, find that one of the most efficient has been the prostitution of the Press. It is, on all hands acknowledged, that the Press is the most powerful engine that can be brought to operate upon public opinion and upon the direction of public affairs; and, therefore, when used to a bad end, the mischief it produces must necessarily be great. If left free, it is impossible that it can, upon the whole, produce harm; because, from a free press free discussion will flow; and where discussion is free, truth will always prevail; but, where the press is in that state, in which a man dares not freely publish his thoughts, respecting public men and public affairs, if those thoughts be hostile to men in power, the press must of necessity be an evil; because, while it is thus restrained on that side, there will never be wanting slaves to use it in behalf of those who have the distribution of the public money. Thus the public mind receives a wrong bias, and measures are approved of which in the end prove destructive, and which would never have met with approbation, had every man been free to communicate his thoughts to the public.

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Where there is no Press at all, or, which is the same thing as to politics, where there is a Licenser, or person appointed by the government to sanction writings previous to their publication, the press does no good, to be sure, but neither does it any harm; for, the public well knowing the source of what they read (and very little they will read), suffer it to have no effect upon their minds. They read a licensed newspaper as they would hear the charge of an accuser, who should tell them beforehand that the accused party was not to be suffered to make any defence. But, where the press is called free, and yet where he who writes with effect against men in power, or against public measures, is liable to be punished with greater severity than the major part of felons, the press must be an engine of incalculable mischief; because, the notion of freedom of the Press is still entertained by the greater part of readers, while there exists this terrific restraint on him who would write strongly, and, perhaps, effectually, against public men and public measures, if it were not for the fear of almost certain ruin.

Thus the press becomes a deceiver of the people; it becomes prostituted to the most pernicious purposes. Few men of real talent will condescend to write with a bridle in their mouths; the periodical press falls, for the far greater part into the hands of needy adventurers, who are ever ready to sell their columns to the highest bidder; Falsehood stalks forth and ranges uncontrolled, while Truth dares not show her face; and if she appear at all, it is under so thick a covering, in so crawling an attitude, and with so many apologies to power, that she always disgraces her character, and not unfrequently injures her cause.

Hence we may trace all the severe blows which our country has suffered, and which have at last reduced us to a state, which every man contemplates with a greater or less degree of apprehension. At the outset of the American war, Mr. Horne Tooke, who wrote against the project of taxing America by force of arms, while she was unrepresented in Parliament, was harassed with state prosecutions and was pent up in a jail, while Dr. Johnson,* who wrote in defence of the project, and in whom venality and pride contended for the predominance, was caressed and pensioned. The nation, by the means of a press thus managed, were made to approve of the measures against America; they were made to expect the contest to be of short duration and the success to be complete. They were induced to give their approbation to the sending of German Troops, Brunswickers and Hessian mercenaries, to make war upon the fellow-subjects, the brethren of Englishmen. If we look back to that day, we shall see the periodical press urging the nation on to the war, and promising a speedy and successful termination of it. The Americans were represented as a poor contemptible enemy; as ragamuffins without arms and without commanders; “destitute,” as one writer asserted, “of money, of arms, of ammunition, of commanders, and, if they had all these, they had not courage to apply them to their defence.” Thus were the people of England induced to give their approbation to the measures of the ministry at the outset; and, by similar means were they inveigled into a continuation of that approbation from one campaign to another, and were only to be undeceived by the capture of whole armies of English troops, by those whom they had been taught to despise.

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To the same cause may, in great part, be attributed the war against the Republicans of France, a war, which has laid low so many sovereign princes, rooted out so many dynasties, and which, however it may terminate, has already occasioned more misery in England than she ever before experienced. If there had been no Press in England at the commencement of the French Revolution, the people of England would have formed their judgment upon what they saw and what they felt; or, if men had been on both sides of the question, free to publish their thoughts, the people, hearing all that could be said for as well as against the cause of France, would have come to a decision warranted by truth and reason. But, while those who wrote against the Republicans of France and urged the nation on to a war against them were at perfect liberty to make use of what statements or arguments they chose for that purpose, those who wrote on the other side were compelled to smother the best part of what they might have urged, that is to say, they could not write with effect; or, if they did, they exposed themselves to ruin, and, perhaps, to premature death; for, there are not many bodies able to endure sentences of long imprisonment, without receiving injuries that are seldom overcome. Mr. Gilbert Wakefield lived out his two years in Dorchester-jail; but he did not for many months survive the effects of his imprisonment, leaving a wife and family to starve, had not his virtues bequeathed them friends. Mr. Wakefield’s crime was the answering, the triumphant answering of a Bishop, who had written against the Republicans of France, and the tendency of whose publication was to encourage the people of England to go on with the war then begun. After the example made of Mr. Wakefield, after such a reply to his pamphlet, the war would of course meet with few literary opponents, or, if any, so shy and so timid as to produce little or no effect; while, on the other side, the advocates of the war, with nothing to fear, and everything to hope in the way of personal advantage, could not fail to succeed in persuading the people that to push on the war was just and necessary. The delusion was kept up, through the same means. In spite of discomfiture and disgrace; in spite of facts that might have been supposed almost sufficient to enlighten a born idiot, they were made to hope on from campaign to campaign; and, though they saw league after league dissolved, they were still induced to give their approbation to new leagues. Without a Press, such as I have described, this would have been impossible. A total destruction of the Press; or, the establishment of a Licenser, would have prevented the possibility of such delusion; because then the people would have judged from what they saw and what they felt; they would have judged from the actual events of the war, and from the effects which the war, as it proceeded, produced upon themselves. But, by the means of the press, such as I have described it, by the means of a succession of falsehoods, coming upon the heels of one another so quick as to leave little time for reflection, the people were hurried on from one stage to another of the war, till at last they saw no way of retreating; and thousands, when they saw, in the end, the fatal consequences of the measures they had been so zealous in supporting, continued, rather than acknowledge themselves dupes, the partisans of those by whom they had been deceived; and so they continue to this day.

But, sir, amongst all the instances, in which this prostituted press has abused the public ear, I know of no one where it has worked with more zeal or more apparent effect than with regard to the present Dispute with the American States. The grounds of complaint on the part of Edition: current; Page: [87] America have been sedulously kept out of sight; her remonstrances, against what no one can deny to be a violation of her rights, have been constantly represented as demands made upon us to give up some of our rights; her people have been represented as being on our side and against their government; and, at last of all, when this prostituted press can no longer disguise the fact, that the Americans are preparing for war against us, it represents the American Legislature as well as the President as acting under the influence of France, as being instruments in the hands of Buonaparte. And by these means, it has drawn the public along from stage to stage, in an approbation of the measures, which have now brought us to the eve of a new war, in addition to that which we find sufficiently burdensome and calamitous, and to which there is no man who pretends to see the prospect of a termination.

I have before taken the liberty to address your Royal Highness upon this subject; and, if I now repeat, in part, what I have already said, my excuse must be, that the state of things is now more likely, in my opinion, to excite attention to my observations. Under this persuasion, and in the hope of being yet able to contribute something towards the prevention of a war with the American States, I shall here again take a view of the whole of the question, and shall then offer to your Royal Highness such observations upon the subject, as appear to me not to be unworthy of your attention.

There are two great points, upon which we are at issue with America; the Orders in Council, and the Impressment of American Seamen. The dispute with that country has lately turned chiefly upon the former; but, it should be made known to your Royal Highness, that the latter, as I once before had the honour to observe to you, is the grievance that clings most closely to the hearts of the people, so many of whom have to weep the loss of a husband, a brother, or a son, of whom they have been bereft by our impressments.

In proceeding to discuss the first of these points, I will first state to your Royal Highness how the Americans are affected by our Orders in Council. An American ship, though navigated by American citizens and laden with Indian corn, or any other produce of America, bound to any part of France or her dominions, is, if she chance to be seen by one of our ships of war or privateers, brought into any one of our ports, and there she is condemned, ship and cargo, and the master and seamen are sent adrift to get back to America as they can, or to starve in our streets. The same takes place with regard to an American vessel, bound from France or her dominions to America. These captures take place on any part of the ocean, and they have often taken place at the very mouth of the American ports and rivers; and, as great part of the crews of vessels so captured are taken out by the captors to prevent a rescue, the sailors so taken out are frequently kept at sea for a long while, and, in many cases, they have lost their lives during such their detention, which to them must necessarily be, in all cases, a most irksome and horrible captivity.

That this is a great injury to America nobody can deny, and, therefore, the next point to consider is, whether we have any right to inflict it upon her; whether we have a right thus to seize the property of her merchants, and to expose to hardship, peril, and death, the persons of her sailors. And, here, Sir, I have no hesitation in saying, that our conduct is wholly unjustifiable according to all the hitherto known and Edition: current; Page: [88] settled rules of the neutral law of nations, even as recognized by ourselves. For, never until since the year 1806, that is to say, till since the issuing of the Orders in Council, did England pretend to have a right to make prize of a neutral ship, even carrying enemy’s goods to or from an enemy’s port, contenting herself with seizing the cargo and suffering the ship to go free. And, as to the seizure of the goods of a neutral on board a neutral ship, the very attempt to set up the pretension of a right to do that would have marked out the author as a madman. Indeed, such a pretension puts an end to all idea of neutrality; it at once involves every maritime nation in every war that shall exist between any other maritime nations; and is, therefore, a pretension so tyrannical in its principle and so desolating in its consequences as to be abhorred by all but those who delight in the troubles and miseries of mankind and the waste of human life.

Conscious that general usage and reason are against us, we ground our justification upon a rule of war, which says that one belligerent may retaliate upon another. It is not, for instance, held to be right, to kill prisoners made in war; but, if our enemy kill the prisoners he takes from us, we may, according to this rule, kill the prisoners we take from him; though, even in that case, not exceeding the number that he has killed belonging to us. No rule of retaliation could apply to the case before us. We were not at war with America. She had seized no ships belonging to England. She had not been guilty, and she was not charged with being guilty, of any breach of the laws of neutrality. But, if she had been guilty of no offence, France had, and the retaliation was to fall upon America.

This leads me to solicit the patient attention of your Royal Highness to the History of the Orders in Council, which Orders we have always called retaliatory measures. The Emperor Napoleon isssued two Decrees, the first from Berlin and the second from Milan. These Decrees were levelled against the trade carried on between neutrals and England, or, rather, between America and England, America being, in fact, the only neutral then left. The Decrees were a gross violation of the neutral rights of America. Napoleon had not, indeed, the power of enforcing them; but, he would have done it if he could; and, the very attempt, the very existence of the Decrees, was a violation of the theretofore acknowledged rights of neutrals. Such was the conduct of Napoleon. We issued what we called Orders in Council, the nature and effect of which I have above described. We have contended, that these Orders were in the way of retaliation for the French Decrees. This the Americans have always treated as an outrage on every principle of justice. They have, as well they might, denied that we have a right to act with injustice towards them upon the pretence, true or false, that another power has acted with injustice towards them. They have scoffed at such a principle of action; but they have, at the same time, observed, that even if this monstrous principle were admitted, we should find in it no justification of our Orders, the commencement of which they trace to a date prior to that of the first of Napoleon’s Decrees.

The first of this series of measures, of which America complains, was adopted by our Government, and that, too, under the Administration of those who are now OUT. It was a blockade of the entrances of the Ems, the Weser, the Elbe and the Trave, in consequence of the king of Prussia having taken possession of various parts of the Electorate of Edition: current; Page: [89] Hanover, and having, as was asserted in Mr. Fox’s letter, done other things injurious to English commerce. Thus this dispute with America grew, in part at least, out of the connection with Hanover. This regulation, against which the Americans immediately protested as being a gross violation of their neutral rights, was dated on the 8th of April, 1806. Before the month of November in that year, Napoleon had put an end to all disputes between us and the king of Prussia by attacking, defeating, and overthrowing the king of Prussia, and taking possession of Prussia itself as well as Hanover. Being at Berlin, he, on the 21st of November, 1806, issued that Decree before spoken of, called the Berlin Decree. This measure he called a measure of retaliation for our regulations against neutrals. We followed him with more restrictions upon neutrals, or rather, upon America, under the form of Orders in Council, and these we declared to be measures of retaliation for the Berlin Decree. Then came Napoleon with his Decree from Milan, as a retaliation for these Orders. And we have followed him with Order upon Order since that time, still calling them measures of retaliation.

America complained of both the belligerents, and was told by each that he had been compelled to deviate from the law of nations in his own defence, and that he only wished to reduce his adversary to the necessity of returning to an observance of the rules of that law. We, more especially, expressed our sorrow at being obliged to give annoyance to neutral commerce; and we said, we were so anxious to see this obligation at an end, that we would wave the point of priority of violation, and would repeal our Orders, step by step, with the repeal of the French Decrees; that is to say, that, whenever Napoleon was ready to begin the work of repealing, we would begin too, and keep pace with him, till the whole mass of obnoxious Decrees and Orders were removed.

As neither did begin, however, America fell upon a mode of inducing one or the other, or both, to do it by a temptation to their interests. She passed an Act, in May 1810, which provided, that, if neither of the belligerents had repealed before the 1st of November in that year, the ships and goods of both should be excluded from her ports and harbours; that if both repealed, the ships and goods of both should continue to be admitted; that, if one repealed and the other did not, the ships and goods of the non-repealing nation should be excluded.

Napoleon, in the month of July 1810, signified to the American Minister at Paris, that his Decrees were repealed, and that the repeal would be acted upon on the appointed 1st of November. Whereupon the President, as the Act required, declared the fact of the repeal, and declared, at the same time, that unless England had repealed her Orders before the 1st of February 1811, her ships and goods would from that day be excluded. England did not repeal, and her ships and goods have been excluded accordingly, to the woeful experience of our wool-growers and manufacturers, and to the infinite satisfaction doubtless of the Emperor of France.

The reasons we have given for not repealing, are, first, that Napoleon has not repealed; and, second, that if he had, he has erected the continental system in the stead of his Decrees. As to the first of these reasons, it is telling the American Government, that it utters wilful falsehoods, or that it is so blind and foolish as not to be able to ascertain a fact of such importance to the interests of the nation. And, as to the latter reason, it is, in fact, calling upon America to compel Napoleon to alter Edition: current; Page: [90] his internal laws in favour of English goods; or, it is telling her, that we will continue to punish her if she does not do that, or join us in the war. America is satisfied that Napoleon has repealed his Decrees; she has declared it through her Minister here, and through her President in his Proclamations and his Messages to the Congress; and still, we deny the fact. This is a ground of action that no nation will endure, unless it be wholly destitute of spirit, or of the means of obtaining redress or revenge.

The matter is now taken up by the Congress, to whose proceedings therein I will speak when I have submitted to your Royal Highness a statement of the nature of the other great point in dispute; namely, the impressment of seamen out of American ships by our ships of war.

Our ships of war, when they meet an American Vessel at sea, board her, and take out of her, by force, any seamen whom our officers assert to be British subjects. There is no rule by which they are bound. They act at discretion; and, the consequence is, that great numbers of native Americans have been thus impressed, and great numbers of them are now in our navy. The total number so held at any one time cannot, perhaps, be ascertained; but, from a statement published in America, it appears, that Mr. Lyman, the late Consul here, stated the number, about two years ago, at fourteen thousand. That many of these men have died on board of our ships, that many have been wounded, that many have been killed in action, and that many have been worn-out in the service there can be no doubt. Some obtain their release through the application of the American Consul here, and of these the sufferings have, in many instances been very great. There have been instances where men have thus got free after having been flogged through the fleet for desertion.

But, it has been asked, whether we are not to take our sailors where we find them. To which America answers, yes, but take only your own; “take,” said Mr. Lyman, “your whole pound of flesh, but take not a drop of blood.” She says, that she wishes not to have in her ships any British sailor; and she is willing to give them up, wherever the fact of their being British sailors can be proved. Let them, she says, be brought before any Magistrate, or any public civil authority, in any of your own ports, at home or abroad; and she is willing to abide by the decision. But, let not men be seized in her ships upon the high seas (and sometimes at the mouth of her own rivers) where there is nobody to judge between the parties, and where the British Officer going on board is at once accuser, witness, judge and captor. Let not your officer, who cannot know the men, except by mere accident, be taken to be a better judge of the fact than the commander of the ship in which they sail. Let it not be admitted, that he is never to be believed, and that even the protections given by the American authorities are to be received as falsehoods, and disregarded accordingly.

We have hitherto refused to alter our practice. The grievance has been growing greater and greater, as it necessarily must with the continuance of the war, till, at last, the number of persons impressed, the number of sufferers, and the corresponding number of complaining parents, wives, and children in America, are become so great, that the whole country cries out, War! war! or an end to impressment!

I beg your Royal Highness to consider what must be the feelings of a people at the existence of a grievance like this; and, if you do seriously Edition: current; Page: [91] consider it, I am sure you will see cause to despise those parasites of the press in England, who are using their utmost endeavours to persuade the public, that the American Congress are, in their resentful language against England, “stimulated by the intrigues of Buonaparte.” As if the intrigues of Buonaparte were necessary to make an Assembly of real Representatives of the American people feel for the ruin of so many hundreds of their merchants and for the greater sufferings of so many thousands of their seamen and of the relations of those seamen! As if the intrigues of Buonaparte were necessary to make such an Assembly feel at seeing their country, whose independence was purchased with the blood of their fathers, treated, at sea, as if it were still no more than a colony! As if to feel acutely and to express themselves strongly upon such an occasion, it were necessary for them to be instigated by the intrigues of a foreign power!

Having now, with as much clearness as I have been able to combine with brevity, submitted to your Royal Highness the nature and extent of the complaints, which America prefers against England, I next proceed to state to you what has been done by the Congress, in the way of obtaining redress for those grievances, after which will naturally come such observations, as I think not unworthy of your serious attention, relative to the consequences of a war with a country, which, until this moment, the prostituted press of this country has studiously treated with contempt.

It is necessary to begin here by observing on the means, which this press has, on this subject, made use of to deceive the public. The writers, to whose labours I allude, were employed, during the last spring and summer, in representing Mr. Madison as a falling character; they told us that Mr. Smith’s disclosures had ruined the reputation of the former; they expressed their opinion that he would never more show his face in the Congress; and, the people of America they represented as being decidedly against a war with England. So that the public here were led to believe, that, let our Ministers do what they might with regard to America, there was no danger to be apprehended. I took the liberty, many months ago, to endeavour to guard your Royal Highness against the adoption of opinions founded upon such statements; and, I then expressed to you my firm conviction, that an immediate change of conduct, on our part, towards America, was necessary to prevent a war with that country. When the President’s Speech reached us, breathing a spirit of resentment, and suggesting the propriety of arming, these yelpers of the venal press, as if all set on by one and the same halloo, and as if forgetting their predictions about his fall, flew at him in a strain of abuse such as I have seldom witnessed, except when I myself have had the honour to be thought by their setters-on an object worthy of their mercenary malice. They likened the style of his Speech to that of the Wabash and Shawanese Savages; they called him a tool of Buonaparte; they represented him as a mean, low-minded, ignorant man; and I have never heard, that any one of them has been called to account for this conduct. They soon found, however, what every man of sense anticipated, that the sentiments of the President’s Speech were but a faint sketch of the picture to be finished by the Congress, who, therefore, next became an object of attack. But, by degrees, as the accounts of the proceedings of the Congress have reached us, these deceivers of the English people have grown more measured in their abuse. At the arrival of every new menace from the city of Washington, they have, as Edition: current; Page: [92] is in the nature of the true-bred bully, become more and more gentle; till, at last, they have softened down into a tone of civility. They do not now “make a mockery” of war with America; they even hope that it may be prevented; and, they “trust empty punctilio will not stand in the way of reconciliation;” that very reconciliation, which they had done all in their power to prevent.

But, still sticking to their character of deceivers, they are now employed in garbling the debates in the Congress. They are employed in suppressing the sentiments of those members, who are advocates for a resistance of England, and in puffing forth the speeches of those who are on the opposite side. The speech of one gentleman in particular, Mr. Randolph, they praise beyond bounds, for which, however, they have one reason, which they do not avow; and, which, as it is somewhat curious, I will, even at the expense of a digression, make a subject of remark.

In reading the speech of this gentleman, as copied into some of our newspapers, I could not help wondering that a thing so incoherent and so weak should have called forth the praises even of these prints. I wondered that even they should describe such at once wild and vapid matter as “full of acuteness and sarcasm.” I had, indeed, frequently heard them bestow encomiums on the speeches of Lord Liverpool and Mr. Perceval; but anything so inappropriate as this I had never heard them hazard before. When, however, I came to see the Speech itself, in the American newspapers, and found that I myself had been an object of Mr. Randolph’s attack, the wonder ceased. It was no longer a matter of surprise, that the mercenary tribe had discovered in the speech of Mr. Randolph everything characteristic of acuteness and profundity and public spirit. But, really, it was dealing very unfairly with their readers not to treat them to a participation in the enjoyment of these sarcastic passages, especially when they would not thereby have diminished their own; and it is not a little surprising, that they should, in copying the speech of their champion, have taken the pains to exclude precisely these passages. Since, however, they have done it, I will fill up the gap.

Mr. Randolph had, it seems, been accused of not being a republican, and of being devoted to England, in the way of answer to which he makes the following personal remarks and allusions. “I do not like this republicanism, which is supported by Mr. Adams on this side the Atlantic, and by Cobbett on the other, who, if he could break jail, would assist in revolutionizing New England. Republicanism of John Adams and William Cobbett, par nobile fratrum, united now as in 1798. Formerly Mr. Adams and Porcupine would have called me a Frenchman; now, if worthy notice, both would call me an Englishman . . . . . . . . From whom,” says he, in another part of his speech, “come these charges? From men escaping from jails in Europe, and here teaching our fathers and sons their political duties.” Now, in the first place, I have great satisfaction in learning from such unquestionable authority, that I agree in political opinions with Mr. Adams. Mr. Adams was one of those who, at the earliest date, made a conspicuous figure in the cause of no taxation without representation; he was American minister at the Hague, afterwards at Paris, afterwards in England; he was Vice-President of the United States all the time that General Washington was President; he was afterwards himself President of the United States: and, having been, at the next election, supplanted by Mr. Jefferson, he Edition: current; Page: [93] has, since his retirement, had the rare virtue to acknowledge, upon further reflection, that the system of his successor was the most advantageous to his country; and, upon that ground, to give that system all the support in his power. He lives now, in the simplest style, at the age of about seventy-five, in his native State of Massachussets, beloved and venerated by all around him, and without having, or being suspected of having, added to his own private means a single dollar of the public money. Such is the man, whose opinions I am now charged with holding, and in company with whom I am said to have changed my former opinions as to American politics; upon which I can only say, that no effort of mine shall be wanting to render myself worthy of such an honour. As to what Mr. Randolph says about my being in jail, that is a mode of answering which he must have learnt from our mercenary prints. That is the way that they answer my arguments. But, this gentleman’s general accusation against those who have been in jails in Europe; his objection to their teaching politics to the people of America; these are worthy of some attention. For the present, laying my own case out of the question, I would, if I were within his hearing, ask this gentleman, how long it is since the bare circumstance of having been imprisoned in a jail has been looked upon as sufficient to disqualify a man for teaching political duties. It seems to me, on the contrary, that the circumstance ought, if such man has suffered on account of his politics, to be considered as one qualification at least, seeing that it must necessarily have impressed strongly upon his mind the nature and effect of the political institution, under which he has suffered. But, surely, Mr. Randolph cannot have been serious; for, he boasts of having descended from the country of Hampden and Sidney, and of having imbibed his political principles from them. Indeed! Why, then he should have recollected, that the former, if he had not, in a glorious fight for the liberties of England, died in the field, would have perished on the scaffold; and, that the latter, after having, for a long while inhabited a jail, did actually lose his life under the hands of the executioner. And, if the brave Sidney, who was found guilty by a packed jury, and who, when condemned by a corrupt judge, stretched out his arm to him and bade him feel his pulse to see if he trembled; if this undaunted advocate of freedom had escaped before the day of execution, and arrived in America, would Mr. Randolph, had he been then living, have objected to him as a teacher of political duties merely on the ground of his having escaped from a jail? And Prynn, who was persecuted by the then Attorney-General of England, and who, by the tyrannical judges of that day, those base instruments of a corrupted court; if he, who was imprisoned and fined and pilloried and mutilated almost beyond mortal endurance, and who, after all, lived to bring one of his judges to the block; if Prynn, who was thus punished on a charge of seditious libel, had “broke jail,” this very jail of Newgate, where he was at first confined; if he had “broke jail,” and gone to America, would Mr. Randolph’s forefathers, of whom he boasts, have objected to such a teacher of political duties? Why, though, perhaps, Mr. Randolph does not know it, William Penn was prosecuted for seditious libel, and was confined in this very jail of Newgate too, though his time here was rendered short by a jury, who had the sense to know their duty, and the courage to resist the browbeating of a corrupt political judge; and, was William Penn thought an unfit teacher of political duties? I am pleading here, not my own cause, but that of many others, who are now Edition: current; Page: [94] in America, and who have been in jails in Europe. This, however, is unnecessary; for, it is a fact, and a fact, too, which your Royal Highness should know, that these gentlemen have been received there, not as Mr. Randolph seems to have wished, but with kindness, respect, and honour. Mr. Emmett and Mr. Sampson are amongst the first advocates at the bar in New-York, and their associate, Dr. M‘Nevan, is at the head, or nearly so, of the Physicians. The instance of Mr. Duane is worthy of particular notice. He was a printer at Calcutta, where his types and property were destroyed, himself thrown into a guard-house, and soon afterwards shipped off to Europe. He found his way to America, and to his pen England owes no inconsiderable portion of the hostility that has since existed against her in that country. I can remember the time, when he, and he alone, as far as the power of the press went, kept alive the opposition to the English interest. All the other writers seemed to be weary of the strife; but his inextinguishable remembrance of the past sustained him under all difficulties, and he finally saw that cause triumph, of which, at one time, every body else seemed to despair. He, above all others, has been a teacher of “political duties,” as Mr. Randolph calls them; and, assuredly, if success be a proof of merit, few men ever had so much. If Mr. Finnerty were to exchange a solitary cell in Lincoln-jail, to which he has been consigned, at a distance from his friends and from his means of obtaining a livelihood; if he were to change that situation for the free air of America, leaving his present dreary abode to the occupancy of the next man, if another such man should be found, to comment on the character of Castlereagh; if Mr. Finnerty were to make this exchange, does Mr. Randolph imagine, that the people of America would regard him, who has given such proofs of his talents and integrity, as a very unfit teacher of political duties? And now, as to myself, it appears to me, that Mr. Randolph would have better consulted the dignity of his situation as a legislator, if he had answered my arguments rather than made an allusion to the situation in which he knew me to be. I had not given him any offence; I had not even named him in any of my articles on American affairs. I had used the best of my humble endeavours to prevent the necessity of, and to remove all pretence for, those warlike measures, of which he appears to have been so determined an opponent; and, surely, if I did happen to differ from him in opinion, the circumstance of my being in a jail was not to deprive me of all right to exercise my judgment and to put the result upon paper. Such a deprivation made no part of my sentence. Judges Grose and Ellenborough and Bailey and Le Blanc, did, indeed, sentence me to be imprisoned for two years in Newgate, where Prynn had been before me, but they did not sentence me to be blindfolded and have my hands tied, all the time; they did, indeed, further adjudge that a thousand pounds should be taken from me and paid to the King, but they did not condemn me to be bereft of my reason! they did, indeed, sentence me to give bail for my good behaviour for the further term of seven years, making altogether much more than the average calculation of the duration of man’s life, but they passed no sentence of imprisonment on my thoughts. Nor did they, in their sentence, include a prohibition against my thoughts finding their way to America; no, nor against their producing an impression there proportioned to their correctness and to the force with which they might be expressed. Therefore, I presume, it will be thought, that Mr. Randolph censured me without cause, though I must confess, that his censure is Edition: current; Page: [95] more than compensated for by the information that he has given me and the world that my efforts, as to America, coincide with those of Mr. Adams; and, in return, I will inform him, that he has the honour to agree, not only in sentiments, but also in expressions, with every literary slave in the British dominions, with every one whose hand is like the beggar’s dish, and whose columns have a price as regular, though not, perhaps, so moderate, as stalls at a market or beds at an inn.

From this digression I should now return to the Proceedings in the American Congress, a regular account of which I should lay before your Royal Highness; but the performance of this duty must, for want of time, be deferred till my next.

I am, &c. &c.
WM. COBBETT.

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
Feb. 13th, 1812

LETTER V.

Sir,

I now proceed to place before your Royal Highness an account of the measures proposed by the American Congress to be adopted, in consequence of the refusal of our government to comply with the demands of the American President, relative to the Orders in Council and the Impressment of American Seamen.

The Lower House of Congress began by receiving and approving of a Report of their Committee of Foreign Relations. That Report can be regarded in no other light, than as a manifesto against England. It sets forth the grounds of complaint; and it then recommends preparations for war.

This recommendation has been acted upon, and preparations for war are actually going on.——An Act was brought forward immediately for raising a body of regular troops; and, after much deliberation, this Act appears to have been passed, the number of troops amounting to 25 thousand men. And, here let me beg your Royal Highness to observe, that these troops are to have a bounty in lands, of which every man is to receive 160 Acres. These men will have the soil to fight for; their motive of action will not be of that vague and indefinite kind which is held forth by Colonel Dillon, in his work addressed, as he says, by permission, to you. That these troops are not intended for purposes of mere defence will be obvious to your Royal Highness; but, of the way in which they will probably be employed I shall speak by and by.

Besides these the President is to be enabled to employ 50 thousand Volunteers, whose services may, at any time, be extended beyond the limits of the United States, if the parties volunteering choose to be so employed.

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The Militia, consisting of all the able men in the country, without any exception as to rank or degree, the President may call out in such numbers as may be found necessary.

Some national ships are to be built; those that they now have, are to be repaired and armed; gun-boats are to be fitted out; and the merchant ships are to be permitted to arm and to defend themselves at sea. But, the greatest of the maritime measures is, a high reward to be offered to any Americans on board British ships, and to the associates of such Americans, in case of their bringing in to an American port any British ship of war. This is, in fact, a reward offered to the crews of British ships to desert to the enemy, and to carry their ship with them, upon the same principle, I presume, that our Consul at Valencia and our commandant at Gibraltar are, in our public prints, said to have offered so much a man to each soldier of the French army that should desert to them, and so much in addition provided the deserter brought his horse. Whether this be consistent with morality, I shall not, at present inquire; but, of this I am very sure, that the measure adopted, or proposed to be adopted, by the Congress, is of a very dangerous tendency, especially when we consider how large a portion of Americans and other foreigners we have on board of our ships.

These measures are not, Sir, to be considered as the measures of a faction, whose object, in getting the nation into a war, is to create the means of fattening themselves and their families and dependents and supporters; they are the measures of the people of America, speaking through the lips of their real Representatives, unbribed themselves and chosen without the aid of bribery; and they arise out of the grounds of complaint against us, which I before had the honour to lay before your Royal Highness. The prostituted press of London has, for many months past, been endeavouring to make its deluded readers believe, that the partisans of England, in America, were the most numerous; and that, if the government engaged in war against us, the people would turn against it, and that a separation of the States would take place. I endeavoured to guard the public and your Royal Highness against these delusive statements; and we now see, that, though there are two parties in America, both parties have united against us, with as much cordiality as the two parties in our House of Commons united against Mr. Madocks’s motion of the 11th of May 1809 for an inquiry into the Sale of Seats in that Hon. House, and, surely, an union more cordial than that has seldom been heard of between opponents of any description. Those members of the Congress who have voted against the war with England are so few, and those who have spoken against it, are, for the most part, so notoriously contemptible, that the measure may be regarded as having been adopted without opposition. The Congress has not been long elected; they have just received the instructions of their constituents; and it will not be long before those constituents will again have an opportunity of deciding upon their merits or demerits. None of those members hold offices of any sort; none of them have pensions or sinecures, and none of them can touch, in any way, a farthing of the money which may be expended in consequence of their votes for the creation of any office. This being the case the voice of the Congress must be the voice of the nation; and it would be delusion unexampled to believe, that the people of America are not entering heartily into this war.

Our prostituted press, unable any longer to keep up the delusion of Edition: current; Page: [97] the disinclination of the American nation to resist by force of arms, now tell the public, that the war will not be of long duration; and, this prediction they found chiefly upon the supposition, that America has not the pecuniary means sufficient for the carrying on of war.

The collection of taxes, is, indeed, what the Americans do not like; but, it does not follow, that, for a great purpose, they would not submit to a trifling tax; and a very trifling tax, indeed, would suffice. It is true, that they now pay but little. In America the taxes do not amount to a Dollar a head; taking the people one with another; here, if we exclude the army, the navy, the paupers, and the prisoners, the taxes amount to fifty Dollars a head. By putting on a second Dollar, the Government would double its means; and, surely, an American can pay 2 Dollars as well as an Englishman can pay 50. One of your Royal Highness’s servants, that stirring old gentleman, Mr. George Rose, assures us, that our population increases in war, and that the longer the war continues the faster we increase in numbers. He says nothing of the increase of paupers; but, upon his principle, American population cannot be checked by war; for, he will hardly contend, that this quality of fecundity appertains exclusively to us. Another of your servants, Lord Harrowby, has lately asserted, that the prosperity of this country is now greater than it ever was. Your Royal Highness will not, therefore, believe, that America is to be beggared and ruined by a war, which, in all probability will last only a few years.

Besides, the resources of America in her lands are very great. She has, owing to her peculiar situation, a species of fund to draw upon which no other nation has. She is now about to raise an army with a bounty, in money, of 16 Dollars a man. The rest of his bounty is to consist of lands, which, of course, cost the people nothing; and, in this same way a large portion of the demands of a war may and will be met.

Much has been said about the natural ties between the two countries. This, considered as an impediment to war, is the grossest of all the delusions, and never could have been practised upon any nation but this. All that remains of a recollection of the former connection is calculated to produce hostility. It is fine enough to flourish away upon the subject of the Americans being of the same family with us; but, there are many and many hundreds and thousands of men in America, who recollect that their fathers were killed by those Brunswickers and Hessians and other German Mercenaries, whom England hired to send against them, because they insisted upon the principle of No Taxation without Representation. These ideas of kindred might do very well in a poem; but, they are despicable in political reflections, and only discover the folly, or the wickedness, of those who obtrude them upon the public.

There appears, then, no good reason to suppose, that the Americans will not enter upon the war, and that they will not persevere in it, till they obtain its object, or, at least, till they have fairly tried their strength. As to the consequences of such war to us, some of them I should regard as ultimately beneficial. The loss of Canada I should deem a gain, though it is worth to us a thousand Empires in the East; that is to say, it is not a thousandth part so mischievous to us.

Another loss would be deeply felt, I mean the loss, for ever, of America as a market for our goods. Lord Sheffield has lately said, that what America does not take this year, she must take next year; that, pass what Acts she will, she must, in the end, be clothed by us. His Lordship’s Edition: current; Page: [98] mind does not keep pace with the events of the world. The Morning Post and Courier are, I suspect, his chief instructors as to what has been passing for the last ten years; or, he would have known, that manufactures have arrived at great perfection in America; that she is able to supply herself; and that she already exports cotton and wool in a partly manufactured state. A war of a few years continuance would sever the two countries for ever as to manufactures; and, this is one reason why the government of America, which wishes to cut off the connection with England, is disposed for war. This, however, is not, in my opinion, an evil. A temporary one it is: but, I can see no good that can arise to England from being the workshop for America, while we do not raise corn enough to feed ourselves.

But, Sir, there are consequences, which may be produced by a war with America, well calculated to make one think seriously on the event. Mr. Joel Barlow, who in the year 1792, went as a deputy from a Society of men in England to present a congratulatory Address to the National Convention of France, and who was, at that time, hunted down and proscribed like Paine and many others, is now American Ambassador at the Court of Napoleon, where he has to negotiate with Count Daru, who, in that same year 1792, was in England, and was chased out of England along with Mr. Chauvelin. These two men, who are old acquaintances, will not be long in coming to a clear understanding. They have both now an opportunity of repaying the kindness they received from England, and there can be little doubt of their having the disposition to do it.

By a hearty co-operation between America and France, fleets, and formidable fleets too, may be sent to sea much sooner than our overweening confidence will, perhaps, permit us to believe; and, if a force of forty ships of the line, with a suitable number of frigates, can be sent out from the ports of France and Holland, in the course of a year, there is no telling what may be the consequence to this kingdom. America has more than a hundred thousand seamen; she has facilities of all sorts for building ships; and, with the aid of France, would soon become truly formidable; because, we should not dare to send a merchant ship to any part of the world without a convoy. Americans would enter into the French naval service; those, who are now captains of merchantmen, would be tempted with the honour of commanding ships of war; they have, for the greater part, some particular cause of hatred against England, and would be animated by the double motive of ambition and revenge.

No man at all acquainted with American seamen will ever speak of them with contempt. They are universally allowed to be excellent seamen; active and daring, but not more so than they are skilful and cool. These are precisely the ingredients that the Emperor Napoleon stands in need of; and, what, then, Sir, shall be said of those English Ministers who shall force them into his hands!

A war with America would hasten the work of revolution in Mexico, and it would have the further effect of making that country, in its state of independence, start in hostility to us; because, between North and South America there would inevitably be a close connection. Indeed, Sir, this appears to me to be one of the great objects which America has, in now going to war. She sees that a revolution is taking place in South America; she sees, that, if that revolution be crushed, England, under Edition: current; Page: [99] the character of Protector of Spain, will, in fact, govern South America, if for no other purpose, for that of keeping the mines out of the hands of France. That England should govern South America is what North America can never permit; therefore the latter must, by some means or other, assist the South Americans to secure their independence; and this assistance North America cannot give with effect, unless she be at war with England; for, as she has seen, in the case of the Floridas, the moment she makes a move towards the Spanish territory, England steps forward as the Protector of Ferdinand, and complains of her conduct.

If, therefore, the President of the United States has resolved upon doing all that he is able to promote and secure the independence of South America, he must also have resolved upon a war with England, which, in that case, is not to be avoided by a repeal of the Orders in Council, and an abandonment of our practice of impressing American seamen, unless we have the wisdom to declare beforehand, that we shall leave the South Americans wholly to themselves. This is the golden opportunity for the South Americans to assert their rights and to become free. Our war against Napoleon on the land disables us (if we were inclined to do it) from sending soldiers to support the old system; and our fleets are exceedingly well employed in preventing Napoleon from sending soldiers for that purpose; the government of Old Spain has neither troops nor ships; there are no Brunswickers or Hessians or Waldeckers or Anspachers to be hired by the government of Old Spain, as in the case of the war for independence in North America; and thus are the South Americans left to settle the dispute with their own colonial governments.

To this state of things the American President as appears from his Speech at the opening of the Session, has not been inattentive; and, it appears to me very clear, that we have here the real foundation of the sudden change of the tone of the American Government towards us. It may be asked, how these views of the United States comport with those of the Emperor of France; and whether he will approve of a separation of South America from Old Spain, of which he, with but too good reason, expects to be the master? In the first place, he has seen the result of a war against independence in North America, and the love of dominion must have bereft him of reason, if he fail to profit from so memorable a lesson. In the next place, he must see, that, unless New Spain become independent, it will become dependent upon England, he not having a sufficient maritime force to keep it in colonial subjection to himself against the will of England. And, even if he were to receive it in its colonial state, at a peace, he would only be entailing upon himself and his heirs the possession of a vulnerable point, exposed to the attack of England. These reasons are quite sufficient to induce him not to oppose any project for separating New from Old Spain, who, notwithstanding the independence of the countries containing the mines, would still be a great receptacle of the treasures thence derived.

But, when to these reasons are added the many weighty reasons for seeing America engaged in a war with England, there can be no doubt as to what will be his decision. Such a war would favour his views against us in so many ways that the bare enumeration would be tedious. It would lock up the troops that we have now in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, and would demand new levies of militia and fencibles in Edition: current; Page: [100] those provinces; it would compel us to send a larger naval force to North America and the West Indies than is now there; it would compel us to send convoys with every fleet of merchant vessels to the end of their voyage; it would, of course, divide our fleets, and thereby weaken our strength in the European seas; it would (as far as that is an evil) make it much more expensive and difficult to maintain our armies in Spain and Portugal; it would greatly augment our expenses, and, at the same time, our danger.

If I were asked what ought to be done to prevent war with America, I should say, certainly, first repeal the Orders in Council; but, I am far from supposing, that that measure alone would be sufficient. Indeed, it seems to me, that the impressment of American seamen must be abandoned; and to this I would add a declaration, that England would not interfere in the affairs of Spanish South America. There would then be an end of the causes of ill-blood; we should then have in America, not a faction for us, but we should have the whole nation for our friends. We should also have a friend in South America; and, to these countries we might look with confidence for the means of forming a combination against the overwhelming power of France.

I am well aware, Sir, of the great obstacles to such an arrangement; but, those obstacles it is in the power of your Royal Highness to remove. This country, which has so long been suffering, now looks to you for some mitigation, at least of its sufferings; and I, therefore, trust, that the dawn of your authority will not be clouded with an additional war; a war that will complete the round of English hostility to nations looked upon as free. It was a fatal day which saw the sword of England drawn against the republicans of France. What a lesson do the effects of that war hold out to your Royal Highness! There is no man, be he who he may, who does not now dread the ultimate consequences. That that war might have been prevented all the world is now convinced; and, if war should take place with America, the same opinion with respect to it, will hereafter prevail, but it will prevail, perhaps, when it will be useless. Princes, more than other men, are liable to be deceived, and it is too often a matter of great difficulty to undeceive them; yet, of what vast importance it is that they should know the truth! And how urgent a duty it is to convey it to their ear if one has the power! The lives of thousands, and the happiness of millions depend upon the decision which your Royal Highness shall make with regard to this question of war or peace with America; and, therefore, that you should weigh it well before you decide must be the anxious hope of every man who has a sincere regard for the fame and the safety of the country.

I am, &c., &c.,
Wm. COBBETT.
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TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
18th June, 1812

LETTER VI.

Sir,

Since I was imprisoned in this jail for writing and publishing an article on the flogging of English Local Militiamen, at the town of Ely, and on the employing of German troops upon that occasion, I have presumed to do myself the honour to address five Letters to your Royal Highness, relative to the dispute between this country and the United States of America. In the first three of these Letters, which were published in August and September last, I exerted my humble endeavours to draw the attention of your Royal Highness to the nature of that dispute; to caution you against the danger of suffering your ministers to urge us on to a war with America; to give you a true account of the feelings of the people of America upon the subject; and to prevail on you to cause the Orders in Council to be rescinded. I had, nine months before the date of these Letters, exhorted your ministers to adopt this measure, giving them what I deemed sufficient reasons for believing, that they would be compelled to adopt it at last; or, that they would have to justify themselves for plunging the country into a war with America.

What has now taken place in the House of Commons, in that same House which have, for so long a time, supported the ministers in their adherence to the Orders in Council, can hardly fail to have awakened in the mind of your Royal Highness a recollection of these my efforts, which, to the misfortune of the country, appear to have been despised by your late minister and his colleagues. Now, however, those great teachers, experience and adversity, seem to have commanded attention; and, in consequence of a motion of Mr. Brougham, at the close of an investigation brought forward by that gentleman, and conducted by him to the close, with spirit, perseverance, and ability which do him infinite honour, and which have received, as they merit, that highest of honours, the thanks and applause of all the sensible and public-spirited part of the nation; in consequence of this motion, made on the 16th instant, the ministry appear to have yielded rather than put the question to the vote, and to have agreed, that the Orders in Council, as far as objected to by America, should be annulled.

Here, then, Sir, is an occasion for you to pause and to reflect. And, the first thing to ask is, what new grounds present themselves for the annulling of these Orders. There are none. They stand upon precisely the same footing that they have stood on ever since the month of November, 1810, when your ministers were, by the American government, called upon to annul them in imitation of the revocation of the decrees of Berlin and Milan. I backed the application of the American minister; I told your ministers that the sooner they repealed the Orders the better; Edition: current; Page: [102] I foresaw that war must, at last, be the consequence of their persisting in a refusal; I urged them to do what they ought to do of their own accord, and not to wait till they should be compelled to do it. But, Sir, your minister, that minister for whose public services we, the people of England, are now to pay 50,000l. down and 3,000l. per annum; that minister, to whose memory we are now to erect a monument; that minister persisted in his refusal, and tauntingly set America at defiance; the best, and, indeed, the only excuse, for which, is, to suppose him profoundly ignorant of the temper and the means of America, and of the interests of England in respect to her transatlantic connections.

America, whose government is very properly obliged to consult the wishes of the people at large, was slow in her movements towards measures of hostility. Like a truly wise man, the President not only used all the means in his power to avoid the extremity of war; but he also took care to prove to the world that he had done so. At last, however, the Congress began to make preparations for war, beginning with fully explaining to the people the grounds of their so doing. From one step they proceeded to another, and, at every step, their proceedings became more and more a subject of mockery with all those who, in England, take to themselves the exclusive appellation of loyal men and friends of government.

It was in this stage of the occurrences, on the 1st of February last, just after the arrival of the Report of the Committee of Foreign Relations to the Lower House of Congress, that I thought it my duty to address a Fourth Letter to your Royal Highness, the chief object of which was to exhort you not to believe the representations of the hired press, which was hard at work to inculcate a belief, that the Report in question, and that all the warlike steps taken by the Congress, were mere empty noise; mere boasting and bullying; that all would end in smoke, and that our ministers might adhere to their Orders in Council with perfect safety. I occupied no less than four pages in my earnest endeavours to impress upon the mind of your Royal Highness a distrust of this hired, this base, this prostituted press, which, while it was vilifying the President and the Congress, while it was calling them tools in the hands of France, was telling the people of England, that a war with America would be felt by them no more “than a war with the rocks of Scilly.” Many were the prints that laboured to these ends; but the print pre-eminent in this as in almost every other imposition on the public, was the Times, the prostituted columns of which has, within these two years, done England more mischief than those of all the other prints put together.

What will be said by these prints now that they see the Orders in Council annulled even before America has struck a blow, is more a matter of curiosity than of concern; but, it must, with your Royal Highness, be a subject of deep sorrow and mortification to see your ministers now lowering their tone, taking a cowering attitude, without any new reason being afforded in the conduct of either France or America, and before the ink is hardly dry of that DECLARATION, wherein you were advised to proclaim to the whole world, that you would not annul the Orders in Council, till France had, by a distinct and solemn act made an unqualified revocation of her decrees. France, so far from doing this, has, in the most distinct manner, proclaimed the contrary; and yet our Orders are, or are to be annulled! After all the bold talk of your ministers; after all the pledges of perseverance that they have put in your mouth; after Edition: current; Page: [103] all their contemptuous defiance of America, here we are doing the very act which we might have done nearly two years ago, and might thereby have prevented much of the misery, and all the melancholy consequences of that misery, in the central counties of England!

That we should be forced to adopt this measure, or to sustain a war with America, might have been foreseen, and ought to have been foreseen, by your ministers from the beginning. I am warranted in asserting this, because I foresaw and foretold it; but, so long ago as the month of January last, it became so evident to me, that I could not refrain from reiterating a positive assurance that it would and must be the case. At the time, to which I here refer, your minister, that minister to whose memory we are now to erect a monument, told the House of Commons, that America would be totally ruined if she persisted in her measures against England, and he, with a sort of supercilious benignity, observed, that he did not wish to see her “destroyed.” I saw her affairs in a very different light, and, at that very moment, told the public, that what is now come to pass would come to pass. My words of the 18th of January were these:

“The Americans said, that the Orders ought to be repealed, and we refused to repeal them; and they now say, that we shall repeal them, or that we shall have them amongst our enemies. Now, then, shall we repeal them, or shall we not? Shall we, after all, give way? Shall we, after all our vaunts and all our threats, yield at the name of war? Shall we who can conquer thirty millions of people in five days, retract our determinations at the menace of eight millions? And, shall we do it, too, in consequence of a Manifesto, in which, according to the interpretation of the Times Newspaper, our Court is called a corrupted Court? Shall we yield, at last, upon terms like these? My opinion is, that we shall. Aye, hard as the thing may be to get down, my opinion is, that we shall swallow it. . . . . . . . . . The wise-acres of the hired press say, that the Orders will be repealed, when Napoleon revokes the Decrees ‘with the same formality that he employed in promulgating them.’ Here they foolishly make new disgrace for themselves; for he will, I dare say, do no such thing. The Americans say, that he has revoked them to their satisfaction. They will not call upon him to issue any proclamations or edicts. They are perfectly satisfied with what he has done; and, therefore, this new pretension is a very foolish thing; it is keeping just the ends of the horns projecting. When the wise men were at it, they would have done well to draw them in out of sight. For, draw them in they must, or there is a war with America. . . . . . . . . . . . By-and-by I shall offer an observation or two upon the reasons the Americans have for going to war, and upon the probable consequences of such war, if it should take place. At present, I shall as to this point, only repeat my opinion that it will take place, unless the Orders in Council be repealed; and also my opinion, that these Orders will be repealed; and, that, too, without any of the saving conditions, of which the half-horned Courier is so silly as to talk. It will mortify some people, but it will be done. It will make those Jacobins and Levellers in America laugh, and Mr. Madison more, perhaps, than any body else; but I say, it will be done. Buonaparte will laugh too; but it will be done; and, perhaps, the least mortifying circumstance will not be, that it is what I recommended fifteen months ago. How much better would it have been, IF IT HAD BEEN DONE THEN! How much better in every respect; and especially how much better for our character! However, better late than never; only when it is done, I hope it will be done with as good a grace as possible, and that after that, the venal prints in London will never more foretel the downfall of Mr. Madison, and will see the folly of venting their spleen in words, against those who are beyond our reach; of showing the teeth where one cannot bite.”

These passages, Sir, were published on the 18th of January last; so that it would seem, that, though shut up in one of “His Majesty’s Jails,” Edition: current; Page: [104] I knew what was doing in the world better than “his Majesty’s Ministers” did. “How much better would it have been, if it had been done then!” These were my words five months ago, Sir; and therefore they apply with the more force now. “How much better would it have been, if it had been done then!” How much better would it have been, if my opinion had been acted upon; if my advice, so urgently and so respectfully tendered to your Royal Highness, had been followed! What national shame, what humiliation, what misery, what melancholy scenes would have been avoided! There, can, I think, be no doubt in the mind of your Royal Highness, that the troubles which we have witnessed in the manufacturing counties, have arisen chiefly from the want of employment amongst the manufacturers, which, lowering the wages at the same time that corn was rising in price, has, in the end produced all the scenes of misery, all the acts of violence, and the melancholy fate of so many of our countrymen. There can, I think, be no doubt, that the perseverance in the Orders in Council, and certain other parts of our maritime system connected with them, have been the chief cause of all these calamities; and, when we behold the sufferings of the people, as proved before the House of Commons; when we see the soldiers stationed to protect the judges in the courts of justice; when we see the soldiers employed (as is stated in the public prints) to guard the sheriff and his officers in the performance of their awful duty of executing the men at Chester; when we are now told of 38 men being just committed in a body to Lancaster-jail, out of which 8 persons have just been taken to be hanged, amongst which eight, one is stated to have been a woman, “Hannah Smith, for committing a highway robbery, by STEALING POTATOES at Bank Top, in the town of Manchester:” when we behold all these things, Sir, and scores of others that might be added to the list, and when we reflect, that they might all have been prevented if my advice had been followed a year and a half ago; when we thus reflect, and when we see that we have to pay 50,000l. down, and 3000l. to the family, and have further to be taxed to pay for a monument in honour of the minister who rejected this advice, what must be the feelings of the people?

Even in December last when the Corporation of the City of London, upon the motion of Mr. Alderman Wood, prayed your Royal Highness to take measures for “re-opening the usual channels of intercourse with neutral nations;” if, even then the Orders in Council had been annulled, the greater part of the calamities above-mentioned might have been prevented. But, your ministers, with the late Mr. Perceval at their head, advised your Royal Highness to reject this part of the prayer of the City of London, and to tell them, that “nothing should be wanting on your part to contribute towards the restoration of commercial intercourse between this country and other nations to the footing on which it had been usually conducted even in the midst of war.” This, Sir, was only repeating what your ministers had before said; but, Sir, you have not been able to do this. You have not been able to make the Emperor of France relax in the smallest degree. His Continental System remains in full vigour; and so it will remain, even after our Orders shall have been completely done away. What, then, Sir, are we to think of the minister who advised you to give such an answer to the City of London? What are we to think of a monument to the memory of that minister?

There is yet one point, and it is a point of great interest, upon which I am anxious to address your Royal Highness; and that is, the effect Edition: current; Page: [105] which the annulling of our Orders will produce in America. It has been said by the hired writers (who detest the Americans only because they are free); it has been said by these prostituted personages and their like elsewhere, that America will now demand other points to be conceded to her. I had the honour to state to your Royal Highness, in my Fourth Letter, that America had TWO subjects of complaint against us, upon both of which she must be satisfied, if we meant to have peace with her: namely, The Orders in Council, and The Impressment of American Seamen. The nature, the extent, and the grounds of the latter complaint was, in the Letter here referred to, fully stated; and I then took occasion to endeavour to convince your Royal Highness, that this was what stuck closest to the hearts of the people of America; and, in America, Sir, the feelings of the people are consulted, as they ought to be, upon all occasions.

If we look back to the Report of the Committee of Congress, of November last, we shall find, that the heaviest of its denunciations is levelled against our impressment of their seamen. After stating their grievances as growing out of the Orders in Council, they proceed to the subject of impressment, and say:

“Your Committee are not, however, of that sect whose worship is at the shrine of a calculating avarice. And while we are laying before you the just complaints of our merchants against the plunder of their ships and cargoes, we cannot refrain from presenting to the justice and humanity of our country the unhappy case of our impressed seamen. Although the groans of these victims of barbarity for the loss of (what should be dearer to the Americans than life) THEIR LIBERTY; although the cries of their wives and children in the privation of protectors and parents, have of late, been drowned in the louder clamours at the loss of property: yet is the practice of forcing our mariners into the British navy, in violation of the rights of our flag, carried on with unabated rigour and severity. If it be our duty to encourage the fair and legitimate commerce of this country by protecting the property of the merchant, then indeed, by as much as life and liberty are more estimable than ships and goods, so much more impressive is the duty to shield the persons of our seamen, whose hard and honest services are employed, equally with those of the merchants, in advancing, under the mantle of its laws, the interests of their country.”

These were the sentiments, expressed in that Report, which determined on war; and, your Royal Highness may be assured, that up to these sentiments they are prepared to act. It was from this conviction, that, in the Fifth Letter, addressed to your Royal Highness, I said: “If I were asked what ought to be done to prevent war with America, I should say, certainly, first repeal the Orders in Council; but, I am far from supposing, that that measure alone would be sufficient. Indeed, it seems to me, that the Impressment of American seamen must be abandoned; and to this I would add a declaration, that England would not interfere in the affairs of Spanish South America*.” I now, Sir, most earnestly repeat this advice. I implore you to resist the advice of those, who would fain make you believe, that we ought to persist in Edition: current; Page: [106] these impressments. I implore your Royal Highness to reflect on the manifold miseries that may arise from this cause; and, to be pleased to bear in mind, that to yield hereafter, to yield upon force or menace, will be disgrace; whereas to yield now would indicate a sentiment of justice. How many nations have, from the indulgence of the pride and obstinacy of their rulers, been, at last, humbled in the dust! But this will never, I trust, be the lot of England under the sway of your Royal Highness. That nothing may be wanting on my part to prevent your Royal Highness from being deceived into the adoption of injurious measures with regard Edition: current; Page: [107] to the question of Impressment, I will, in my next, endeavour to lay before you a true and clear statement of the case, and will humbly offer you my opinion as to what ought to be done by our Government with respect to it.

And I remain in the meanwhile, &c. &c. &c
WM. COBBETT.

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

“I implore your Royal Highness to reflect on the manifold miseries that may arise from this cause, and to be pleased to bear in mind, that, to yield hereafter upon force or menace, will be disgrace; whereas to yield now would indicate a sentiment of justice.”

Letter to the Regent, Vol. XXI. Pol. Reg. p. 789.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
4th August, 1812
Botley

LETTER VII.

Sir,

If I have now to refer to the proofs of the correctness of those opinions which I addressed to your Royal Highness many months past, upon the subject of the Dispute with America, I beg you to be assured, that I do it not in the way of triumph, but in the hope, that even yet my advice, most respectfully offered to your Royal Highness, may have some weight with you, and may, in some small degree, tend to avert that last of national evils, a war with America, a war against the children of Englishmen, a war against the seat of political and religious freedom.

In my former Letters I took great pains to endeavour to induce your Royal Highness to distrust the statements in our public prints as to the power of the English party in the American States. I assured you, that the venal press in England was engaged in promulgating a series of deceptions with regard to the opinions of the people of America. I took the liberty to point out to your Royal Highness the mischiefs which must result from listening to the advice of those whose language might correspond with that of this press; and, in short, I showed, that, if the endeavours of that pernicious, partial, and corrupt press had their intended effect, war with America must be the consequence. By this press (the vilest instrument of the vilest corruption that ever existed in the whole world) the people of England were induced to approve of the measures which have now produced a war with America; or, at least, they were induced to wink at them. They were made to believe, that our measures of hostility against America were useful to us, and that the American Government had not the power to resent them by war. The same, I Edition: current; Page: [108] doubt not, was told to your Royal Highness verbally; but, how wretchedly have the nation and you been deceived!

The state of affairs between the two countries now stands thus: There exists a Dispute on the subject of our Orders in Council, on that of the Impressment of American Seamen, and on the possession of the Floridas. There are some other matters of inferior importance, but they would admit of easy arrangement. With regard to the Orders in Council, your Royal Highness was advised to issue, on the 21st of April last, a Declaration, stating that you would not repeal the Orders in Council, until France, officially and unconditionally, by some public promulgation, repealed her Berlin and Milan Decrees. France, so far from doing this, has, in the most public and solemn manner, declared, that she will never do what your Declaration required, though, at the same time, she has repeated (and she has done no more) what she had said to the American Government in 1810, and what was then communicated to our Government by the American Minister in London. Nevertheless, you were afterwards advised to repeal the Orders in Council, though the conditions of the Declaration before issued were not at all satisfied, but were, in fact, set at open defiance.

This repeal, which took place on the 23d of June last, was, however, too late in its adoption to prevent war. The American Government, who had been making their preparations for many months, and which preparations had been the subject of mockery with the venal press in England, declared war on the 18th of June last. The intelligence of this having been received in England, your Royal Highness was advised to issue, on the 31st of July, an Order in Council for an embargo on all American vessels in our ports, and also for capturing and detaining all American vessels at sea.

This is the state of affairs between the two countries; and the main question now appears to be, whether, when the American Government hears of our repeal of the Orders in Council, they will revoke their declaration of war. This is a question of great interest at this moment; and, I shall, therefore, proceed to lay before your Royal Highness my sentiments with respect to it.

The same sort of infatuation that has prevailed here, with regard to American affairs, for many months past, appears still to prevail. Indeed, Sir, I can call it no other than insolence; an insolent contempt of the Americans, thought by those who hate them, and who would, if they could, kill them to the last man, in revenge for their having established a free government, where there are neither sinecures, jobs, or selling of seats. This insolence has induced people to talk of America as a country incapable of resenting anything that we might do to her; as being a wretched state, unsupported by anything like vigour in government; as a sort of horde of half-savages, with whom we might do what we pleased; and, to the very last minute, the great mass of the people here; ninety-nine out of every hundred, firmly believed, that America would never go to war with us. They left provocations quite out of the question. They appeared to have got into their heads a conclusion, that, let us do what we would to America, she would not go to war with us.

This way of thinking has pervaded the whole of the writings upon the subject of the Dispute with America. At every stage in the progress towards war, the corrupt press has asserted, that America knew better than to go to war with us. When she went so far as to pass Acts for Edition: current; Page: [109] raising an army and equipping a fleet, and that, too, with the avowed intention of making war against us; still the hirelings told the people, that she dared not go to war, and that she only meant to bully. I could fill a large volume with assertions from the Times newspaper alone, that we should not yield a tittle, and that America would not dare to go to war. But, the fact is too notorious to dwell upon. There is no man, and especially your Royal Highness, who can have failed to observe the constant repetition of these assertions.

At last, however, America has dared to go to war, even against that great warrior George the Third, nearly three-fifths of whose reign has been occupied in wars, exclusive of the wars in India. He has been not only the greatest warrior, but the greatest conqueror of any European prince that ever lived. Napoleon is nothing to him as a conqueror; and yet the Americans have dared to declare war against him. But, even now, now that she has actually declared war, and that too, by an Act of Congress, by a law passed by real representatives of the people; by men elected by the free voice of the nation; by an unbribed, unbought, unsold, unenslaved assembly, not by a set of corrupt knaves whom the President can at any time twist about by means of the people’s money; even now, when she has declared war in this solemn manner, the hireling newspapers in London would fain make us believe, that the whole thing is a mere make-belief; that it is a mere feint, and “will end in smoke.” At the least, they tell us, that when the news of the repeal of our Orders in Council reaches America, there must be a revocation of the declaration of war. They seem to forget, that the declaration of war in America is an Act of Congress, and that to do away the effect of that Act, another Act must pass. They seem to forget, that it is the people who have declared war; and that the people must be consulted before that declaration can be annulled, or revoked. But, Sir, the fact is, that these writers talk miserable nonsense. We are at war with America; and, before we can have peace with her again, we must have a treaty of peace.

But, the main question for rational men to discuss is: “Will the repeal of our Orders in Council be sufficient to induce America to make peace with us, without including the redress of her other grievances?” This is the question that we have to discuss; it is a question in which hundreds of thousands are immediately interested; and it is a question which I think may be answered in the negative; that is to say, Sir, I give it as my opinion, that the repeal of our Orders in Council will not be sufficient to restore us to a state of peace with America, and, I now proceed respectfully to submit to your Royal Highness the reasons, upon which this opinion is founded.

In my last Letter (page 105) I had the honour to state to your Royal Highness, that there was another great point with America: namely, the Impressment of American seamen, which must be adjusted before harmony could be restored between the two countries; and, as you must have perceived, this subject of complaint stands at the head of Mr. Madison’s statement of the grounds of war; it stands at the head of his manifesto against our Government. His own words will best speak his meaning:

“Without going beyond the renewal, in 1803, of the war in which Great Britain is engaged, and omitting unrepaired wrongs of inferior magnitude, the conduct of her Government presents a series of acts hostile to the United Edition: current; Page: [110] States as an independent and neutral nation.—British cruisers have been in the continued practice of violating the American flag on the great highway of nations, and of seizing and carrying off persons sailing under it, not in the exercise of a belligerent right, founded on the law of nations against an enemy, but of a municipal prerogative over British subjects. British jurisdiction is thus extended to neutral vessels in a situation where no laws can operate but the law of nations and the laws of the country to which the vessels belong; and a self-redress is assumed, which, if British subjects were wrongfully detained and alone concerned, is that substitution of force for a resort to the responsible Sovereign, which falls within the definition of war. Could the seizure of British subjects, in such cases, be regarded as within the exercise of a belligerent right, the acknowledged laws of war, which forbid an article of captured property to be adjudged without a regular investigation before a competent tribunal, would imperiously demand the fairest trial, where the sacred rights of persons were at issue. In place of such trial, these rights are subjected to the will of every petty commander.—The practice, hence, is so far from affecting British subjects alone, that under pretext of searching for these, thousands of American citizens, under the safeguard of public laws, and of their national flag, have been torn from their country, and from every thing dear to them,—have been dragged on board ships of war of a foreign nation, and exposed, under the severities of their discipline, to be exiled to the most distant and deadly climes, to risk their lives in the battles of their oppressors, and to be the melancholy instruments of taking away those of their own brethren.—Against this crying enormity, which Great Britain would be so prompt to avenge if committed against herself, the United States have in vain exhausted remonstrances and expostulations: and that no proof might be wanting of their conciliatory dispositions, and no pretext left for continuance of the practice, the British Government was formally assured of the readiness of the United States to enter into arrangements, such as could not be rejected, if the recovery of the British subjects were the real and the sole object. The communication passed without effect.”

The grievance here complained of is certainly very great, and cannot be expected to be borne by any nation capable of resistance. If England were at peace and America at war, and if the latter were to assume the right of stopping our merchant vessels at sea, and taking out of them by force any men whom her officers might choose to consider as Americans, what should we say to the assumption? And, would not your Royal Highness be ashamed to exercise the Royal authority without the power instantly to punish such an affront to the dignity of the Crown and the honour of the country? But, degrading as this impressment is to the national character of the Americans, it cuts them still deeper by the real sufferings it inflicts; by the ruin which it occasions to thousands of families; and by the deaths which it produces in the course of every year. I have before stated that the number of impressed American seamen is very great, or, at least, has so been stated in America, amounting to many thousands, constantly in a state of the most terrible bondage to them; and, as some are daily dropping off, while others are impressed, the extent to which the evil has been felt in America must have been very great indeed, during so long a war.

Our corrupt newspapers, with the Times at their head, are endeavouring to misrepresent the nature of the complaint of America, and thereby to provide the Ministers beforehand with a justification for war rather than afford her redress. Upon the part of the President’s manifesto above quoted, the Times makes these observations:

“She first complains of our impressing British seamen, when found on board American vessels: but this is a right which we now exercise under peculiar modifications and restrictions. We do not attempt to search ships of war, however inferior their force to ours: and as to searching merchantmen, we do not Edition: current; Page: [111] even do this, vaguely or indiscriminately; but upon positive and accurate information. And practically, we apprehend, that the criminal concealment on the part of America, is a much greater nuisance to us, than a wanton search on our part is to her. Let her, however, propose ‘such arrangements’ on this head, as are calculated to effect the recovery of British subjects, and she will find Great Britain far from averse to listen to her.”

This, Sir, is a tissue of falsehoods and misrepresentations. The President does not complain that we impress British seamen: he complains, that, under pretence of taking British seamen, we take American seamen. This is what he complains of, which is precisely the contrary of what is here stated. As to our not taking men out of American ships of war, our Government knows well, that America has no ships of war worth speaking of, and that she has thousands of merchant ships. It is said here, that we do not search American merchantmen “vaguely and indiscriminately; but, upon positive and accurate information.” One would suppose it impossible for any man, capable of writing a paragraph, to sit down coolly and state so perfect a falsehood as this. But herein we have an instance of the length to which the hirelings of the English press will go in supporting any thing which they are called on to support. It is a fact, and this writer knew it to be a fact, that any commander of any ship in our navy, when he meets an American merchantman at sea, does, or may, go or send on board of her, and that he does, or may, take out of her any persons, who, IN HIS OPINION, are British subjects. That this is a fact no one can deny; where then, is the “positive and accurate information?” It is also a fact, that the Americans have frequently asserted, that our officers have thus taken out of their ships at sea many thousands of American Citizens, under the pretence of their being British subjects. It is also a fact, which is proved by the books at our own Admiralty, that the American Government, through its Consul in London, has obtained the release from our fleet of a great number of American Citizens thus impressed, seized, and carried off upon the high seas. It is also a fact, proved by the same authority, that many of the Americans thus taken have lost their limbs in the compulsory service of England, a service which they abhorred. It is a fact that I take upon me to vouch for, that, amongst the American Citizens, thus captured and carried off, and forced into our service of late years, were two grand nephews of General Washington, and that one of the two was released from our service by the Lords of the Admiralty, in consequence of an application from the American Consul, while I was in prison for writing about the flogging of the Local Militia in the town of Ely, and about the employment of German troops upon that occasion.

And yet, Sir, in the face of all these facts, has the hired writer the audacity, the cool impudence, to assert, that we never search American vessels for seamen, “but upon positive and accurate information.” With this instance of falsehood; of wilful, shameless falsehood, before them, one would imagine, that the public would never after be in danger of being deceived by the same writer; but, alas! Sir, the cunning slave who sells his pen for this purpose knows well, that the public, or, at least, that that part of the public whom he wishes to deceive will never, till it be too late, be able to detect him; he knows that his falsehood goes where the exposure seldom comes, and, if it come at all, he knows that its arrival will be too late to prevent the effect, to produce which is his object.

Edition: current; Page: [112]

He next calls upon America to propose her arrangement, upon this subject; though in the very manifesto, upon which he is commenting, the President declares that an offer had been made to our Government to enter into an arrangement, but that “the communication passed without effect.” It is going very far on the part of America to offer to enter into any arrangement upon the subject; for, why should not she say, as we certainly should say: “Take care of your own seamen; keep them from us in any way that you please; but, you shall, on the seas, take nobody out of our vessels.” Nevertheless, she has offered to enter into arrangements, “such,” she says, “as could not be rejected, if the recovery of British Seamen was the sole object;” and yet this writer accuses her of the criminal concealment of our seamen! We have rejected this offer of an arrangement for the prevention of British seamen from taking shelter in American ships; and, yet this writer accuses America of a desire to injure us by making our ships an asvlum for British deserters!

Our Government say, that, if we do not exercise our power of searching American ships, and taking out our own seamen, our sea service will be ruined by the desertions to those American ships. For instance, a British ship of war is lying at Plymouth, and there are three or four American vessels in the same port. Numbers of the seamen get on board the American ships; they get out to sea; and, if they cannot be seized there, they go off safely to America or to any other part of the world, and are thus lost to our navy. There is no doubt, Sir, but this might become a very serious evil, if not counteracted. But, are the Americans to suffer because (for whatever reason) our sailors desert? And, above all, are real American citizens to be exposed to impressment, to be sent to be shot at, to be conveyed to the West or East Indies, to be made to end their days under the discipline of an English man of war; are real American citizens to be exposed to all this because British seamen desert, and because that desertion (a very serious crime) may become extremely dangerous to us? I am sure your Royal Highness is too just to answer this question in the affirmative.

The case must be new, because the relative situation of the two countries is a novelty in the history of nations; but, while we have an undoubted right to recover our own seamen, if we can do it without violating the rights of other nations, we can have no right in any case, to seize American citizens. America says, “I do not want your seamen. I would rather not have them. Keep them by what means you please. Take them wherever you can find them in my ships; but, before you do it, produce proof of their being yours, and that, too, before a competent tribunal.” Nothing can be fairer than this; but this necessarily sets side all impressments at sea, where there can be no proof given, because there can be no tribunal or umpire, to decide upon the proof; and we contend, that, without the power of impressing at sea, our navy would be greatly injured by desertion, and our strength thereby materially weakened.

This is the point upon which we are at issue with America. Supposing the Orders in Council to remain repealed, and the Dispute as to that matter to be settled, this is the point upon which, if not settled amicably, we shall have war with the American States. It is the point upon which the people of America, who are something, are more sore; and I am convinced that it is a point which they will not give up. They say and they Edition: current; Page: [113] truly say, that it is a mockery for them to talk of their freedom and their independence, if the very bodies of their citizens are liable to be taken upon the high seas, and forced into the service of a foreign sovereign, there to be treated according to the rules and regulations of that sovereign. A people submitting to this cannot be called free, and their country cannot be called independent. Therefore, when the time comes for entering on a treaty of peace with America, I hope your Royal Highness will resist all advice tending to a pertinacious adherence to the exercise of the power of impressment; for while that power is exercised, we shall, in my opinion, never have real peace with America.

The other point in dispute, namely the possession of the Floridas, or, at least, that part of them which belongs to Spain, is of inferior importance; but, I am of opinion that that point will not be easily overcome, unless we are prepared to give it up. America sees the possibility of Old Spain becoming a mere puppet in the hands of England, and she sees the almost certainty of its becoming a dependent upon either England or France; and, she wants neither France nor England for so near a neighbour. She has, in the adventures of Captain Henry, seen the danger of having a neighbour on her northern flank; and, the Floridas are not divided from her by immense deserts and lakes as Canada is. While the Floridas were held by the sleepy old government of Spain, America saw little danger; but, she will not, I am convinced, suffer either England or France to be mistress of those provinces.

This is a point, therefore, which, in my opinion, we should be forward in giving up, and not get into a war with America for the sake of Ferdinand, as we are continuing the war with France for his sake. The revolutions going on in South America it is the interest of the United States to encourage and assist to the utmost of their power; and I should advise your Royal Highness to show an earnest desire to avoid interference therein; for if, upon the ground of supporting the authority of Ferdinand, or, upon any other ground, you show a disposition to take part against the republicans of South America, that alone will be sufficient greatly to retard, if not wholly defeat, all attempts at an accommodation with America. Nay, Sir, to speak freely my sentiments, I do not expect peace with America while we have an army in Spain, or, at least, while there is the smallest chance of our obtaining a settled ascendancy in that kingdom; and I really think, that every mile of progress that we are making there puts peace with America at a greater distance. We, in this country, or, the greater part of us, see no danger in the increase of any power, except the power of Napoleon, whose territories half envelop our coast, and whose armies are but at the distance of a few hours’ sail. Not so the Americans. They see danger in the increase of our power, ours being that sort of power by which they are most annoyed. If they had their choice between us and France for a neighbour in South America, they would not hesitate a moment in preferring France; because her power is not of that sort which would be formidable to America. What she would wish, however, is to see South America independent of Old Spain, and, of course, of the masters of Old Spain; and she is not so blind as not to perceive, that the contest in Old Spain now is, who shall have it under her control, England or France.

For these reasons every victory that we gain in Spain will be an additional obstacle to peace with America, unless we set out by a frank and Edition: current; Page: [114] clear declaration, leaving South America to itself and the Floridas to the United States.

Before I conclude, I beg leave to notice that part of the speech, recently delivered by your Royal Highness’s order to the two Houses of Parliament, wherein mention is made of the dispute with America. The part I allude to is this: “His Royal Highness has commanded us to assure you that he views with most sincere regret, the hostile measures which have been recently adopted by the Government of the United States of America towards this country. His Royal Highness is nevertheless willing to hope, that the accustomed relations of peace and amity between the two countries may yet be restored; but if his expectations in this respect should be disappointed, by the conduct of the Government of the United States, or by their perseverance in any unwarrantable pretensions, he will most fully rely on the support of every class of His Majesty’s subjects, in a contest in which the honour of his Majesty’s Crown, and the best interests of his dominions, must be involved.”

This part of the speech has been thought, and with reason, to augur war; for, I am not aware of “any pretension” of America that she will not “persevere” in. If pretensions to be put forward, to be now originated, had been spoken of, there might have been more room for doubt; but, in speaking of pretensions to be persevered in, the speech necessarily refers to pretensions already put forward; and, I repeat, Sir, that I do not know of any pretension that America has put forward, in which I do not believe she will persevere, to do which the conduct of your Royal Highness’s ministers is eminently calculated to give her encouragement.

As to support from the people of England in a war against America, your Royal Highness, will certainly have it, if the grounds of the war be clearly just; but it would be very difficult for your ministers to make the people perceive, or believe, that the impressment of American seamen, anywhere, and especially in the very ships of America, was necessary “to the honour of his Majesty’s Crown, and involved the best interests of his dominions.” The people have now seen all the predictions of the hireling prints, with regard to America, falsified; they have been told, that America could not support herself for a year without England, and they have seen her do it for a year and a half, and at the end of that time declare war. They are not now to be persuaded that this government can do what it pleases with America.

It has been stated, with an air of triumph, by the partisans of your ministers, that the Opposition are pledged to support a war against America, unless she is satisfied with the repeal of the Orders in Council. But, the people, Sir, have given no such pledge; the manufacturers have given no such pledge; and the war will not be a jot the more popular on account of its having the support of that set of men who are called the Opposition, and for whom the people have no respect any more than they have for their opponents. The Orders in Council were a grievance to America, but not a greater grievance than the imprisonment and captivity of her citizens; not a greater grievance than to see her citizens dragged by force into a service which they abhor, on so many accounts, however pleasant and honourable it may be to our own countrymen. This grievance was known to exist; and, therefore, if the Opposition have given a pledge to support a war against America, unless she be satisfied with the Edition: current; Page: [115] repeal of the Orders in Council alone, they have given a pledge to do that in which they will not have the support of the people.

I am one of those, Sir, who do not regard a great extension of trade as a benefit; but, those who do must lay their account with seeing much of our trade destroyed for ever by a war with America. Three or four years of war would compel her to become a manufacturing country to such an extent as never more to stand in need of English goods; so that, if your Royal Highness’s ministers do insist upon exercising the power of seizing people on board of American ships at sea, those persons who manufacture goods for America must seek another market, for that is closed against them for ever.

For many years, Sir, there has existed in this country, a faction perfectly desperate in their HATRED OF FREEDOM. They not only hate all free nations, but, they hate the very sound of the word freedom. I am well satisfied that persons of this description would gladly hear of the murder of every soul in America. There is nothing that they hate so much as a man who is not a slave, and who lives out of the reach of arbitrary power. These persons will be sorely grieved to see peace preserved between the two countries on terms honourable to America; but, I am, for my part, ready to confess, that with me it will be a subject of joy; I am ready to declare, that I see less reason than ever for an Englishman’s wishing to see the people of America humbled or borne down; and that it will grieve me exceedingly to reflect that England is taxed, and that English blood is shed for the purpose of enforcing the power to impress American seamen; but this mortification I shall, I trust, be spared by the humanity and wisdom of your Royal Highness.

I am, &c. &c.
Wm. COBBETT.

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

“If I were asked what ought to be done to prevent war with America, I should say: first repeal the Orders in Council; but, I am far from supposing, that that measure alone would be sufficient. Indeed, it seems to me, that the impressment of American seamen must be abandoned.”

Pol. Register, Vol. XXI. p. 200. Feb. 15, 1812.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
15th September, 1812
Botley

LETTER VIII.

Sir,

During the time that I was imprisoned for two years in Newgate for writing about the flogging of the Local Militia, in the town of Ely, and about the employment of German Troops upon that occasion, I addressed to your Royal Highness several Letters, the object of which was to prevent Edition: current; Page: [116] this country from being plunged into war with America. I took great pleasure in offering to you advice, which I thought would be beneficial to my country; and, of course, I have experienced great sorrow at seeing that that advice has not been followed, and that, in consequence of its rejection, we are now actually in a state of war with our brethren across the Atlantic.

Those corrupters and blinders of the people, the hired writers, do yet attempt to make their readers believe, that we are not at war with the Republic of America. They it is, who have hastened, if not actually produced this war; for, they it was, who reviled the American President, and who caused it to be believed here, that he and the Congress dared not go to war. What pains, alas! have I taken to convince your Royal Highness of the folly and falsehood of these opinions! Though my mind was busied with the means of raising the thousand pounds fine to pay TO THE KING (and which you have received from me in his behalf), I let slip no occasion to caution you against believing these representations. I told you (and you might as well have believed me), that the American people were something; that they had a say in the measures of government; that they would not suffer themselves to be plunged into war for the gain of a set of lazy and rapacious fellows; but that, if their country’s good demanded it, they would go to war; and that such war would, in all probability, be very calamitous to England.

While I was telling you this, your late minister, Perceval, was laughing at the idea of America going to war; and his opinion was upheld by all the venal scribes in the kingdom; that is to say, by nineteen-twentieths, perhaps, of all those who write in newspapers, and other political works. That we really are at war with America, however, the following document clearly proves. The American Congress declared war in due form; they passed an Act making war against your Royal Sire and his people; their government issued Letters of Marque and Reprisals; but, still our hirelings said that there was no war. The following proclamation, however, issued by an American General from his head-quarters in Canada, which province he has invaded, puts the fact of war beyond all doubt:

A. P. Hull
Hull, A. P.
July 12, 1812

By William Hull, Brigadier-General and Commander-in-Chief of the North-Western Army of the United States.

A PROCLAMATION.

Inhabitants of Canada!—After thirty years of peace and prosperity, the United States have been driven to arms. The injuries and aggressions, the insults and indignities of Great Britain, have once more left them no alternative but manly resistance or unconditional submission.—The army under my command has invaded your country, and the standard of Union now waves over the territory of Canada. To the peaceable, unoffending inhabitants, it brings neither danger nor difficulty. I come to find enemies, not to make them. I come to protect, not to injure them.

Separated by an immense ocean and an extensive wilderness from Great Britain, you have no participation in her councils, no interests in her conduct; you have felt her tyranny, you have seen her injustice; but I do not ask you to avenge the one or redress the other. The United States are sufficiently powerful to afford every security consistent with their rights and your expectations. I tender you the invaluable blessings of civil, political, and religious liberty, and their necessary result, individual and general prosperity. That liberty which gave decision to our councils, and energy to our conduct, in a struggle for independence, and which conducted us safely and Edition: current; Page: [117] triumphantly through the stormy period of the revolution—that liberty which has raised us to an elevated rank among the nations of the world; and which afforded us a greater measure of peace and security, of wealth and improvement, than ever fell to the lot of any country.

In the name of my country, and by the authority of Government, I promise you protection to your persons, property, and rights. Remain at your homes—pursue your peaceful and customary avocations—raise not your hands against your brethren. Many of your fathers fought for the freedom and independence we now enjoy. Being children, therefore, of the same family with us, and heirs to the same heritage, the arrival of an army of friends must be hailed by you with a cordial welcome; you will be emancipated from tyranny and oppression, and restored to the dignified station of free men.

Had I any doubt of eventual success, I might ask your assistance, but I do not. I come prepared for every contingency—I have a force which will look down all opposition, and that force is but the van-guard of a much greater. If, contrary to your own interests, and the just expectation of my country, you should take part in the approaching contest, you will be considered and treated as enemies, and the horrors and calamities of war will stalk before you. If the barbarous and savage policy of Great Britain be pursued, and the savages let loose to murder our citizens and butcher our women and children, this war will be a war of extermination. The first stroke of the tomahawk, the first attempt with the scalping-knife will be the signal of one indiscriminate scene of desolation. No white man found fighting by the side of an Indian will be taken prisoner; instant destruction will be his lot. If the dictates of reason, duty, justice, and humanity, cannot prevent the employment of a force which respects no rights, and knows no wrong, it will be prevented by a severe and relentless system of retaliation. I doubt not your courage and firmness—I will not doubt your attachment to liberty. If you tender your services voluntarily, they will be accepted readily. The United States offer you peace, liberty, and security; your choice lies between these and war—slavery and destruction. Choose, then, but choose wisely; and may He who knows the justice of our cause, and who holds in His hand the fate of nations, guide you to a result the most compatible with your rights and interests, your peace and happiness.

By the General, A. P. Hull, Capt. the 13th United States’
Regiment of Infantry and Aid-de-Camp.

He, Sir, who will not believe in this, would not believe though one were to rise from the dead. This is an animating address, and, it is, at least, possible that it may prove the fore-runner of the fall of Canada, which, when once gone, will never, I believe, return to the English Crown.

The fact of war being now ascertained beyond all doubt, the next thing for us to think of is, the means by which we are to obtain peace with this new and most formidable enemy. The hired writers, unable any longer to keep from their readers the fact that war has taken place, are now affecting to treat the matter lightly; to make the people of England believe, that the Americans will be driven out of Canada; that the people of America hate the war; and that, at any rate, the Congress will be obliged to put an end to the war when the intelligence of the repeal of our Orders in Council shall arrive at the seat of the American government.

These being the assertions now most in vogue and most generally listened to, I will give your Royal Highness my reasons for disbelieving them.

First, as to the probability of the Americans being baffled in their designs upon Canada, if the contest was a contest of man to man, upon ground wholly neutral, I should say, that the advantage might be on our side; but, I am not sure that it would; for, the Americans have Edition: current; Page: [118] given repeated proofs of their courage. They are, indeed, known to be as brave as any people in the world. They are, too, volunteers, real volunteers, in the service they are now upon. The American army does not consist of a set of poor creatures, whom misery and vice have made soldiers; it does not consist of the off-casts and out-casts of the country. It consists of a band of freemen, who understand things, and who are ready to fight for what they understand; and not of a set of half-cripples; of creatures that require to be trussed up in order to prevent them from falling to pieces. It is the youth; the strong, the active, the hardy, the sound youth of America whom our army in Canada have to face; and, though I do not say, that the latter will be unable to resist them, yet I must say, that I fear they will not, when I consider, that the Americans can, with ease, pour in a force of forty or fifty thousand men, and when I hear it stated, that we have not above fourteen or fifteen thousand men in Canada, exclusive of the Militia, upon whom I do not know what degree of reliance is to be placed. After all, however, the question of success in the invasion of Canada, will, as in the cases of France and Holland, depend wholly upon the people of Canada. If they have reason to fight for their present government; if they be convinced, that a change of government would make their lot worse, they will, of course, rise and fight against the invaders, and then our commander may safely set General Hull at defiance; but, if the people of Canada should have been inveigled to believe, that a change of government would be for their benefit, I must confess that I should greatly doubt in our power of resistance. It will be quite useless for us to reproach the people of Canada with their want of zeal in defence of their country. We have reproached the Dutch, and the Italians, and the Hanoverians for the like; but, Sir, it answers no purpose. Such reproaches do not tend to drive out the invaders; nor do they tend to deter other nations from following the example of the invaded party. What a whole nation wills must, sooner or later, take place.

As to the second assertion, that the people of America hate the war, I must say, that I have seen no proof of such hatred. The Americans, being a reflecting people and a people resolutely bent upon preserving their freedom, have a general hatred of war, as being, generally speaking, hostile to that freedom. But, in the choice of evils, if war should appear the least evil, they will not fail to take it; and, indeed, they have taken it; for, in America, it is really the people who declare war; the Congress is the real representative of the people; there are no sham elections; no buyings and sellings of votes and of false oaths; but the members are the unbought, uncorrupted, unenslaved agents of the people, and, if they cease to speak the sentiments of those who elect them, they are put out of the Congress at the end of a very few months. It is, therefore, not only false, but stupid, to affect to believe that the war is unpopular, and that the government is odious in the eyes of the people. The whole of the government is of the people. All its members are chosen by them; and, if it ceased to please them, it would soon cease to exist. Nothing, therefore, can be so absurd as to suppose that a measure so important as that of war has been adopted against the will of the people.

This opinion has been attempted to be sustained upon the evidence of a riot at Baltimore, the object of which was the silencing of a newspaper, and the end of which was bloodshed on both sides. But, from this fact Edition: current; Page: [119] the exactly contrary conclusion ought to be drawn. The newspaper in question was, it appears, hostile to the war; and, therefore, a riot, in order to silence such paper, cannot be considered as a proof of unpopularity attached to the war. The truth appears to have been, that the editor of the paper was pretty notorious as being bribed to put forth what gave so much offence to the people, who were, upon this particular occasion, unable to imitate the tolerant conduct of their government. It was, however, very wrong to assail the corrupt tool by force. He should have been left to himself; for, though this species of attack upon the liberty of the press is far less injurious to that liberty than the base attacks, dictated by despotism, and masked under the vizor of forms dear to freedom; still it is an attack; it is answering statements or arguments by violence; by something other than statement and argument. Therefore, I disapprove of the attack; but I cannot consider it as a mark of the unpopularity of the war, of the precise contrary of which it is, indeed, a very bad proof.

Much having, in our hired newspapers, been said of this riot; it having been represented as a proof of bad government in America, and (which is more to my present purpose) as a sign of approaching anarchy, tending to the overthrow of that government which has declared war against us, I must trespass a little further upon this head, to beg your Royal Highness to believe nothing that the hired men say upon the subject. When the war with France began in 1793; that war which appears not to promise any end; when that war began, many riots took place in England against those who were opposed to the war; many houses were destroyed; many printing-offices demolished; many booksellers put to flight; many men were totally ruined, and that, too, by mobs marching and burning and killing under banners on which were inscribed “CHURCH AND KING.” Now, as there was not a general anarchy to follow these things in England, I beg your Royal Highness not to be persuaded to believe, that anarchy will follow the demolishing of a printing-office in the United States of America, where there are more newspapers than there are in all Europe, this country included. Once more, however, I express my disapprobation, and even my abhorrence, of that demolition; which was the less excusable, as the assailants had freedom, real freedom of the press, to answer any thing which the bribed printer might publish, and even to publish an account of his bribery. Such, however, appears to have been the popular feeling in favour of the war, that no consideration was of sufficient weight to restrain the resentment of the people against a man who was daily declaiming against that measure.

If we conclude, as I think, we must, that the people of America were in favour of the war at the time when it was declared, the next thing to be considered is, what effect the intelligence of the repeal of our Orders in Council will have in America. The question is, in short, whether that intelligence will make such a change in the sentiments of the people of America as to produce peace. I think it will not. There are some persons in England who seem to believe, that the receipt of that intelligence will, at once, put an end to the war; for, they do not appear to consider any treaty necessary to the restoration of peace with America.

Not only must there be a negotiation and a treaty, or convention, before there can be peace, or even a suspension of arms; but, I am of opinion, that no such treaty or convention will be made without more being Edition: current; Page: [120] done by us than merely the repealing of our Orders in Council, which removes but a part, and not, by any means, the greatest part, of the grievances of which the Americans complain. So long ago as the month of February last, as will be seen by my motto, I expressed to your Royal Highness my opinion, that the mere repeal of the Orders in Council would not satisfy the people of America. It was, therefore, with no small degree of surprise, that I saw (from the reports in the newspapers), that Mr. Brougham had pledged himself to support the ministers in a war against America, if she should not be satisfied with their measure of repeal. I was suprised at this, because Mr. Brougham must have seen, that she complained of the impressment of her seamen, and of divers other things, which she deemed to be injuries. Besides, did Mr. Brougham imagine, that our two years’ nearly of refusal to repeal were to go off without any thing done by us in the way of compensation? The history of the transaction is this; The American President announces in 1810, that, unless we repeal our Orders by a certain day, in the same way that France had done, a certain law shall go into force against us. We do not comply: we continue in what he calls a violation of his country’s rights for a year and a half after the time appointed for repealing; at the end of that time an inquiry takes place in Parliament, and two volumes are published, containing evidence of the ruinous consequences to us of the measure which America has adopted. Thereupon we repeal. But, Sir, Mr. Brougham can hardly want to be told, that America has made no promise to be satisfied with any repeal which should take place after her act should go into effect. Indeed, she has never made any such promise; nor was it to be supposed, that, when she saw that her measure of exclusion was ruining us, she would be content with our merely doing that which was calculated to save ourselves. This, in fact, is our language to her: we refused to repeal our Orders till we found that the not repealing of them was injurious to ourselves, and, therefore, we now repeal them, and, in consequence, call upon you to act as if we had never refused.

This, Sir, is what no nation can be supposed to listen to. We do what America deems an injury; we do what she says is sufficient to justify her in declaring war against us. And, after awhile, we desist; but notoriously because proof has been produced that perseverance is injurious to ourselves. In the meanwhile she declares war to compel us to do that which we have done before we hear of her declaration. And, under these circumstances, can we expect her to disarm, until she has obtained something like indemnification for the injuries which she alleges she has sustained? If there were in existence no ground of dispute other than that of the Orders in Council, it appears to me, that America could (especially with our parliamentary evidence before her) never think of peace without a compensation for the vessels seized illegally, as she says, under the Orders in Council. Otherwise she tells the world, that she may be always injured with impunity; because, the utmost that any nation has to apprehend from her hostility is to be compelled to cease to violate her rights. Upon this principle she may be exposed to a like attack the next day after she has made peace. Either, therefore, she complains without cause; or, the mere repeal of our Orders in Council ought not to satisfy her.

Besides, Sir, it appears to me, that even supposing that there were no other ground for the war, on her part, than the existence of our Orders in Council, she is bound, in fairness towards the Emperor Napoleon, to Edition: current; Page: [121] obtain some kind of compensation for what she has suffered from the execution of our Orders in Council after the time that he repealed his decrees. If she make peace with us, and place us upon the same footing with France, without obtaining such compensation, he will assuredly allege partiality against her, since she will have suffered us to continue to do with impunity, for a year and a half, that which she made him cease to do. It was, therefore, I repeat it, matter of great surprise with me, that Mr. Brougham should have given the pledge above-mentioned; though I hope your Royal Highness will be advised better than to pursue measures that shall put him to the test.

Compensation for the property seized under our Orders in Council will, I think, be demanded; and, if the Orders be recognized as a violation of the rights of America, I do not see upon what ground such compensation could be objected to; but, Sir, as far as relates to ourselves, I trust, that the means of making such compensation would not be demanded of the people, but would be taken from those who have received the amount of the property seized. With this, however, America has nothing to do: she can only demand compensation; but, she may extend that demand to the amount of her expenses in fitting out ships of war and in raising and sending forth an army. “Indemnity for the past and security for the future” is, Sir, a phrase not unknown amongst the statesmen who adorn, and who have adorned you and your royal Sire’s court; and, I do not know of any maxim in public law, or in diplomacy, that forbids a republic any more than a monarchy to make such a demand. If we do allow that America has just cause of complaint, we cannot well refuse her indemnity at least; if we do not allow that she has just cause of complaint, we do wrong, we act a base and cowardly part, if we desist from doing that which she complains of.

Upon what ground it is, then, that Mr. Brougham expects an immediate cessation of hostilities on the part of America I am at a loss to discover. I am at a loss to discover upon what ground it is that he has made his pledge, or, at least, the pledge which has been attributed to him. Either he must look upon the Orders in Council as the sole ground of the American declaration of war, or he must suppose there to be other grounds. If he looks upon them as the sole ground, he must, I think, suppose that America will not lay down her arms without obtaining indemnity for such heavy losses as those Orders have occasioned her; and, if he looks upon the declaration as having been partly produced by other subjects of complaint, he must necessarily suppose, that an adjustment as to those grounds of complaint must precede a cessation of hostilities.

Whatever pledges may have been given by any persons, it is for your Royal Highness to lend an ear to the voice of reason; and, I am greatly deceived if that voice will not recommend to you an expression, as speedily as possible, of your readiness to cause the officers of the fleet to cease to impress any persons out of American ships. This, as I have before had the honour to assure your Royal Highness, is the complaint which has, at last, in reality produced the war between us and our American brethren. There have been many subjects of difference; many grounds of quarrel, but this is what finds its way to the hearts of the American people. They would I verily believe, have endured all but this; this, however, I knew they would not endure, and I told your ministers and the public so long ago. If I am asked whether I think, that the ceasing to impress people on board of American ships would cause many of our sailors to desert, I answer, that I do not know: but, that I do not see why it should! Edition: current; Page: [122] I do not see why Englishmen should like the American service better than our own. And, really, I must say, Sir, that I think, that to entertain any such apprehension squares not well with the tenor of our national songs about the valour and patriotism of our “tars.” I think it exceedingly humiliating to us to suffer it to be said, or to act as if we said, that we must retain the power of impressment, or personal seizure, on board American ships out at sea, for fear the giving up of that power should cause our fleet to be deserted. Sir, I am one of those who love to believe, that English seamen do not want force to induce them to fight for their country. It is, in my eyes, a most mortifying thing to proclaim to the world, that we are likely to have war with America, and that we appear to prefer war with America, to the giving up of the means of detecting and seizing English sailors, deserters from the King’s service. This so badly comports with all our assertions respecting the freedom we enjoy, and also respecting our devotion to our King and our glorious constitution; for, it appears to me, that, if the world believe in the necessity of this power of impressment, it must think either that our boastings of our blessed state are untrue, or, that our sailors are not the most wise or the most loyal set of men. I am for wiping off this stigma, and without crying or fainting away, as Sir Vicary Gibbs is reported to have done at Horsemonger-lane, I am for showing the Yankees and the whole world, that we want no terror to keep our seamen to their duty; that we are not afraid of their skulking from our fleet to take refuge in American ships; that we entertain not the disgraceful apprehension, that those who have once had the honour to sail under the royal flag of the House of Hanover will ever prefer that of the American or any other republic.

Honour, Sir, as well as policy seem to me to dictate the giving up of this power; and, as the giving of it up might, and, as I think, would cause the restoration of peace between England and America, I will not be persuaded that such a measure does not accord with the wishes of your Royal Highness.

As to “the exhausting of the resources of America,” which now begins to be talked of by that most corrupt of newspapers, the Times, I do most earnestly beseech your Royal Highness to bear in mind how long the late Pitt promised this deluded nation that he would exhaust the resources of republican France! Sir, Mr. Madison, though a very plain-dressed, sleek-headed man; though he wears neither tails, nor bags, nor big wigs, nor robes; though he dresses in a pepper-and-salt coat, and a nice dimity waistcoat, knows a great deal more of our real situation than I believe many of your ministers know of it; and, I should not wonder if he knew almost as much of it as your Royal Highness’s self does. He is a man, Sir, who is not to be led by our hireling prints; he sees our gold at above five pounds an ounce; he has seen acts passed which, in effect, force the circulation of our Bank-notes; and, seeing this, he does not want any body to tell him what is coming; seeing this he will laugh at the idea of our exhausting the resources of America, the capital of whose whole debt does not amount to a tenth part of one half year’s interest upon our debt. This ground of hope is, Sir, more visionary than any other. Indeed, they are all equally visionary. There is no hope of any thing but loss and injury to us by a war with America.

I have now done all that I am able to prevent this calamity. If the war proceed, I shall say as little about it as circumstances will permit. Edition: current; Page: [123] I have lost no occasion of endeavouring to put aside this evil; and, when the result of the contest shall be lamented; when those who now rejoice at the idea of doing mischief to free men, shall be weeping over their folly, I trust that your Royal Highness will have the justice to remember, that this war had always a decided opponent in your faithful servant,

Wm. COBBETT.

TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

“I implore your Royal Highness to resist the advice of those, who would fain make you believe, that we ought to insist upon these impressments. I implore your Royal Highness to reflect on the manifold miseries that may arise from this cause; and to be pleased to bear in mind, that, to yield hereafter, to yield upon force or menace, will be disgrace: whereas, to yield now, would indicate a sentiment of justice.

Pol. Register, 20th June, 1812. Vol. XXI. p. 789.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
23rd September 1812
Botley

LETTER IX.

Sir,

When I closed the eighth Letter to your Royal Highness upon this subject, it was my intention to forbear any further remonstrance with you thereon, and to leave time to be the teacher. But, the intelligence, arrived from America since the date of that Letter, has made me depart from that intention, and has induced me to make one more effort to convince you, that, without further measures in the way of conciliation, peace with America is not likely to be restored.

The very day on which my last Letter was printing (Friday last), was marked by the promulgation of tidings from America, that the Congress had revoked the declaration of war, and that the American General in Canada had entered into an Armistice for 30 days; and that both these had taken place in consequence of the revocation of our Orders in Council. A few hours were sufficient to dissipate these falsehoods, fabricated, no doubt, for the purpose of deceiving the people of this “most thinking” country. The deception would last, in all human probability, for only a few days; but at the end of those days, a new falsehood would be invented, and the old one lost in that. This falsehood, however, does not appear to have lived even 48 hours; for, the very next day after its promulgation brought forth the contradiction; brought forth the complete proof of a fabrication. Surely, Sir, the people of America must despise us! They must despise, or, at least, pity, a nation who are made the sport of such vile literary impostors; base hirelings, who prostitute the press to all the purposes hostile to truth and freedom.

The authentic intelligence received from America appears to be, in substance, this: that the American Government has received intelligence of the repeal of our Orders in Council, but, that it is by no means satisfied therewith, and means to demand a redress of all its alleged grievances before it lays down its arms. In confirmation of this, the following Edition: current; Page: [124] paragraph has been quoted from a paper deemed the demi-official paper of the American Government:

“The Orders in Council of the British Government are now no longer a question with the United States. The question of peace now requires only a proper and a vigorous use of the ample means which the Government is possessed of, to render it speedy, decisive, and glorious. Peace, when it comes, must bring with it more than the confession of British outrage by the retraction of its avowed tyranny. It is not a mere cessation to do wrong that can now produce a peace; wrongs done must be redressed; and a guarantee must be given in the face of the world, for the restoration of our enslaved citizens, and the respect due to our flag, which, like the soil we inherit, must in future secure all that sails under it. The rights of neutrals must be recognized; and the British, like the first tyrants of the Swiss, must no longer expect a free people to bow down, and worship the symbols of British usurpation.”

Did I not tell you so, Sir, in my very last Letter? Did I not say, that America would now demand “indemnity for the past and security for the future?” I wish to guard your Royal Highness against deception, and I, for that purpose, entered into an argument to show, that we ought not to expect America to make peace with us upon our having barely ceased to commit what she asserted to be a violation of her rights. I told your Royal Highness, that she, for more than one reason, must demand something more than a mere cessation to do what she declared to be a wrong. In short, if I had been informed, when I wrote my last Letter, of what I now know, I could not have written otherwise than I then did.

I, therefore, have, I think, some claim to attention from your Royal Highness, especially as I have all along told you, that the repeal of our Orders would not, alone, be sufficient. When the repeal took place, upon the death of Perceval, and when Mr. Ponsonby and Mr. Brougham were reported to be making pledges to support a war against America, if that repeal did not satisfy her; at that time; at that important moment, when conciliation might have been rendered complete; even then, without a moment’s delay, I told your Royal Highness, that the repeal of the Orders would not, of itself, be enough, and, as will be seen by the passage taken for my Motto, I most earnestly besought you to put a stop, of your own accord, to the impressment of persons on board of American ships. If this had been done, Sir; if this measure, so strongly recommended by me, had been adopted then, we should now have seen our ports crowded with American ships to take away our manufactures, instead of hearing of hundreds of American privateers cruising against our commerce.

The Courier and Times newspapers, two of the most corrupt in England, make certain remarks upon the paragraph which I have quoted from the American demi-official print; and, as these remarks embrace assertions and notions that are false, it is necessary, or, at least, it may be useful, to put the matters of which they treat in a fair light.

The Courier has this paragraph:

“Here, then, is an open avowal, that nothing will satisfy the American Government but the abandonment of the right of search, and the acknowledgment of the principle, that free ships make free goods. Perish the idea of peace, if it is only to be made on such terms. Yet this the American Government calls ‘an anxious desire to accommodate all differences upon the most reasonable conditions!!!’ ”

Edition: current; Page: [125]

The Times says:

“In this philippic, redress is not only claimed for the supposed wrongs inflicted by this country, but it is declared, that the ‘American flag must in future secure all that sails under it.’ This is adopting, in its fullest extent, the language of Buonaparte, that ‘free ships make free goods.’ If that principle be maintained by the American Government, and supported by the American Legislature, we see not the slightest prospect of a speedy termination of hostilities.”

Thus, then, these good hirelings are for war, rather than give up what they call the “right of search.” They are hardly so stupid as not to know, that the Americans do not contend for our abandonment of the right of search, in the usual sense of those words; they must know, that, as far as to search ships at sea (or rather to visit them) has been sanctioned by the usage of nations, the Americans are ready to submit to it; but, Sir, this right of search is very different indeed from that of which these good hired writers are speaking.

There is a right of search, or of visit, acknowledged by all the nations of Europe. When a nation is at war, she claims the right of visiting all neutral merchant ships at sea, in order to see that they do not assist her enemy by carrying warlike stores or troops for him; and, if she find them thus taking part with her enemy; if she find them thus transgressing the general usage of nations, she seizes them, as, indeed, she has just cause for doing, seeing that they are, in fact, engaged in the war against her. And, the right of visiting them, to see whether they be thus transgressing, has been, by us, called the right of search. We have contended for, and have, for some time past, been able to maintain, an extension of this right to the goods of an enemy found in a neutral ship; though it is to be observed, that our ally, Russia, and our ally Sweden, as well as Denmark, and Holland, in all times, have contended against this right. But, what have these to do with the searching of which the Americans complain? They complain, not that we seize contraband of war on board their vessels; not that we confiscate ships or cargoes where there are enemy’s troops or enemy’s goods; but, that we stop their vessels upon the high seas, and that there we TAKE OUT OF THEM WHATEVER PERSONS WE PLEASE. This is what they complain of; and, the fact is perfectly notorious, that we have, in this way, taken many thousands of persons out of American ships, carrying on their trade quietly from one part of the world to another. It is notorious, that many of the persons thus seized were citizens and natives of America; that they have been taken on board of our ships of war; that they have been kept there for years; that they have been taken to all parts of the world; that many of them have been wounded, many have lost their limbs, and many killed, in a service which they abhorred, being compelled to fight against those with whom they had no quarrel.

There is no man of any consideration, who will attempt to say, that this is right. It must of necessity have created deep-rooted ill-will against us in America, where the sea-faring people are not a class of individuals who have neither house nor home, and whose state is desperate. A vessel, in America, is often manned by people all living in the same village; and, the impressment, the banishment, the destruction of one, must be felt by the whole, and by the whole of the neighbourhood also. Hence the heart-burnings in America against England. The confiscation of ships and cargoes, under the Orders in Council, together with Edition: current; Page: [126] the dreadful distress to the Captains and crews, produced great effect against us; but, great as it was, it fell short of the effect produced by the impressment of American seamen.

It has been said, that, if we give up the exercise of this power of impressment, our sailors will desert to the American ships. But, suppose the fact be so: What is that to America? It is not her fault. She does not force them out of her service. She does not compel them to desert. If they really do like her service better than ours, she cannot help that. We may as well complain of her for having such a country as our artizans and manufacturers prefer to their own, and upon that ground, go and search her country for our deserted artizans and manufacturers, who emigrate to her shores in defiance of our laws. Really, Sir, I can see no just cause of complaint against her because our men desert to her ships. It is for us to keep our men, if we wish them not to go into her service; and not to complain of her for receiving them.

It is a practice wholly unknown in the world before. We have never, that I have heard of, attempted to exercise such a power against any nation but America. It is true, that all our officers who may visit her ships may not conduct themselves in a manner such as she has complained of; but, it is not less true, that they are left entirely to their own discretion. They are, it is true, not authorized to take Americans out of American ships; but, then, it is left to them, and must be left wholly to them, to decide who are, and who are not, Americans. This being the case, it is clear that every American ship’s crew who meet an English ship of war at sea are at the mercy of the commander of that ship of war! No more need be said; for no man likes to be at the mercy of another. The English Captain has, in this case, the power of seizure, of imprisonment, of banishment, and, indeed, what power has he not over the American crew? They may produce proof of being natives of America, and then he is not authorized to seize them. Aye! but he, alas! is the sole and absolute judge of that proof, which he may think bad, and then it may as well not be produced.

This is the view to take of the matter, Sir. The corrupt press of London may, and will, bewilder the minds of the people by talking about our right of search, and the like; but, the plain fact is this; that in consequence of this authority given to our ships of war to take persons out of American ships at sea, the crew of every American merchant ship that went to sea, or even from one port to another in America, were at the absolute mercy of the commander of the first English ship of war that happened to meet them. Suppose the case, Sir, of an American captain sailing out of the Delaware for the East Indies with his complement of men, being twenty, all his neighbours, met by an English sloop of war; suppose him to have six of his men taken out in spite of all his assurances of their being native Americans; suppose him left to pursue his voyage with only 14 hands; suppose the six seized men to be taken off to the West Indies; suppose two or three to die of the yellow fever; another to be killed; another lose an arm; and the sixth released by the intervention of the American Consul in London. Suppose this case, Sir, and you will suppose what may have happened. It was possible for such cases to happen, and that was enough; but, it was a thing which admitted of being rendered impossible. It is sufficient to say, that, in consequence of the exercise of this power, no American could, in a merchant ship, sail the sea in safety. He never was, for one single hour, secure Edition: current; Page: [127] against captivity and banishment. To a people so situated war must be a relief. The American seaman will prefer war, because if captured in war, the laws of war protect him and feed him as a prisoner; whereas he was before liable, not only to be seized and carried from his calling and country, but, at the same time, compelled to act as a seaman on board of our ships; compelled to labour and to risk his life in our service, where it might be his lot to assist in serving others of his own countrymen as he himself had been served.

Sir, when you take a dispassionate view of this matter, I am quite sure that the justice of your mind will decide you in favour of an abandonment, a frank abandonment, of the exercise of this power, which is, I am satisfied, without a precedent in the usage of nations, and which, under the present circumstances, can do nothing towards the safety of the country.

If this point were once settled, it appears to me, that much difficulty would not remain. But, as I had before the honour to state to your Royal Highness, it is not to be supposed, that war is to cease the moment we cease to do wrong to America. I have not taken upon me to say, whether our Orders in Council were a wrong, or not; but, by the repeal, we seem to have acknowledged that they were. If, then, they were a wrong, the cessation of them cannot be considered as sufficient to induce America to put up the sword at once, and without any further ceremony. When I published what was called a Libel, in the year 1809, that is to say, when I published an expression of my feelings at what had then been described as having taken place, at the town of Ely (where the Bank has since broken), with respect to the Local Militia and the German Legion; when I had made that publication I ceased; I made only one of that sort; yet, Sir, was I, at the distance of a year after the publication, sentenced to be imprisoned for two years, and to pay a thousand pounds fine to your royal Sire, and which thousand pounds I have paid to you, in his behalf. So you see, Sir, that, after one has done a thing, or has been doing a thing, it is not always sufficient to cease to do it; the ceasing to do that which is deemed wrong, is not always regarded as sufficient to appease, or disarm, the offended party. The last part of my punishment, the payment of the fine to you, in behalf of your royal Sire, was inflicted at more than three years’ distance from the time of my writing about the Local Militia and the German Legion. There may, perhaps, in the law of nations, be an exception from the general principles in cases where a kingly government commits an offence, or alleged offence, against a republic; but, in my small reading, I have, I must confess, never met with any such exception.

Therefore, I, for my part, was not at all surprised to see the American demi-official print announce, that compensation for the past and security for the future would be required. “It is not,” says the writer, “a mere cessation to do wrong that can now produce a peace: wrong done must be redressed, and a guarantee must be given in the face of the world.” Yes, Sir, just as in my case, who, after imprisonment and fine was compelled, before I was released, to enter into bonds, to give a guarantee, as the republican writer calls it. Indeed, Sir, the history of the world is full of cases in support of this doctrine of the Americans. When your Royal Brother invaded Holland, it was not sufficient that he ceased to penetrate into the country; for, when he got back to the Helder, though he had then entirely ceased to be an invader, and appears Edition: current; Page: [128] to have very properly confined his wishes to the safe bringing-off of his army, the Republican generals, Brune (the “Printer’s boy of Limosin”) and Daendels, insisted upon his stipulating for the surrender to France and Holland of eight thousand of their seamen, who were then prisoners of war in England; this they insisted upon, “as the price of permission to the British troops, with whom the Duke of York had invaded Holland, to re-embark on board their transports without molestation.

This was a compensation for injury, not done, but attempted. If the Royal commander had said, “I have stopped; I have ceased; I am going away; what more do you want?” If he had thus addressed the republican generals, they would have thought him cracked in the brain. His Royal Highness knew a great deal better. He took the effectual way of giving his opponents satisfaction, and thus he was enabled to bring off his army without molestation.

Here, then, Sir, are two instances of the soundness of the American doctrine; that a mere cessation of an offensive act is not, as a matter of course, deemed a satisfaction to the party offended. Nay, in my case, that was single; it was committed in a moment; it at once ceased; there was no remonstrance; no expostulation; the single act was seized hold of, and my printer and publisher and one of the newsmen, though they did not attempt to defend their conduct, but confessed their crime, declared on oath that they were wholly unconscious that they were publishing a libel, and humbly sued for mercy; though they did all this, yet they were all imprisoned.

Upon what principle, then, I ask, can these corrupt writers imagine, that America is to be satisfied with the mere repeal of our Orders in Council; that is to say, with a mere cessation of the acts offensive to her? Upon what ground is it that the country, in which the proceedings against me took place, can expect this at her hands? I do not say, that we were doing her wrong; I do not take upon me to decide that question. If we were not doing her wrong, however, why did we repeal? If we were not doing her wrong, why did we yield at her menaces? If we were not doing her wrong, we should not have given way: and, if we were doing her wrong, we should have gone further; for, upon the principles on which I was punished, and on which the cans-culotte generals insisted upon your Royal Brother’s giving up of 8,000 prisoners of war then in England; upon those principles a mere cessation to do what gives offence is not considered as a sufficient atonement to the offended party.

The President of the United States has seen himself ridiculed and most grossly abused in our venal newspapers, who, amongst other qualities not more to be admired, have ascribed to him that of cowardice. Such language does not tend to harmony; and, though (thank God!) Mr. Madison cannot, by his obstinacy, or to indulge any old grudge, plunge his country into a war; yet, he certainly has the power to render the way to peace more difficult. I must, however, do him the justice to say, that I do not believe him capable of imitating, for one single moment, those detestable miscreants, whom history has but too frequently exhibited in the act of rendering millions miserable for the purpose of gratifying some stupid, some idiot-like, some hog-like, passion. But, without being under any such influence, and without supposing any very strong prejudice against England in the minds of the people of America, there are, I fear, reasons enough to induce Mr. Madison to be in no haste to listen to terms of peace.

Edition: current; Page: [129]

America has long felt the power of England; she has long been compelled to endure that which she detested; she is covered with scars of our inflicting; and she will not forget all this now that she has arms in her hands. I have before pointed to your Royal Highness of what importance it is to her that we should have nothing to do in the affairs of Spain. The war in Spain is, in fact, most fearful to America when it is most promising in appearances to us. She will never rest contented while there is a chance of our having any influence in Spanish South America. Of Napoleon she is not afraid in that quarter. He has no fleet to endanger her commerce; and, besides, her present exertions against us may, perhaps, secure her his assent to her wishes on that flank of her territories.

As to our internal situation, she is well aware of it. The army in Canada is not better known to her than the army in the “disturbed counties.” Mr. Madison is very well acquainted with the causes of our disturbances; he has read before now all the evidence taken at the bar of Parliament; he has seen it proved that the people of England are suffering greatly from the non-importation of their goods into America; he is well aware of the wants of our army in Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean; and he knows that a war with his country must soon plunge us into the greatest distress.

It is with a knowledge of all these that Mr. Madison enters on the war; and, under such circumstances, it appears to me impossible that he should listen to any terms of peace not including ample indemnity for the past. The American prints seem to insist upon a guarantee for the release of the American seamen whom we have impressed. This, I should hope, there would be no objection to; and, indeed, I hope, that your Royal Highness’s ministers will now, at the eleventh hour, do every thing in their power to procure us the restoration of honourable peace; I hope that England is not doomed to wage war against every man in the world who is in the enjoyment of real liberty. I know, Sir, that there are, in England, men who abhor the American government and people, and who would, if they had the power, exterminate them both, merely because the one guarantees and the other enjoys freedom. Such men will never be happy while they see a free man in the world; but, their malice will not be gratified; they will, though it blast their eye-sight, still see the Americans free. Such men always speak of America with disdain; they affect to consider her as nothing; they seem to think that no ceremony is necessary with her; that even when she has declared war, and has actually begun war, she is bound to leave off merely upon our ceasing to do her wrong, if wrong it be. Such men would, of course, think it a great mortification to send over to her pacific overtures, which one of them already calls suing for peace. Far from your Royal Highness be counsels like these! How much blood might they cause to flow! This was the language with regard to the republicans of France; but, the haughty Pitt was glad, at last, to be permitted to send overtures of peace to those republicans. I hope, therefore, that we shall, in this case, be wise in the out-set, which is far better than wisdom at the close.

The whole case is now before you, Sir; war or peace is in your power. That you may choose the latter is the earnest wish of your Royal Highness’s faithful servant,

Wm. COBBETT.
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TO THE PRINCE REGENT: ON THE DISPUTE WITH THE AMERICAN STATES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
29th December, 1812
Botley

LETTER X.

Sir,

During the two years that I was imprisoned in Newgate, for writing and publishing an article upon the flogging of certain English militiamen, at Ely, in England, under the superintendence of German troops, and for which writing and publishing I, besides, paid your Royal Highness a fine of a thousand pounds, in behalf of your Royal Sire; during that time I endeavoured, in various ways, to expiate my offence, but in no way more strenuously than in trying to dissuade you from yielding to advice, which, as I thought, would, if followed, produce a war with the American States. That consequence, which I so much dreaded, and which I laboured with so much earnestness to prevent, has unhappily taken place; and, though it may be of no service; though my efforts may still be unavailing; nay, though I may receive abuse instead of thanks for my pains, I cannot refrain; the love I bear my own country, and the regard I shall ever bear a great part of the people of America, will not suffer me to refrain from making one more trial to convince your Royal Highness, that the path of peace is still fairly open with that country, and that pacific measures are the only measures which ought even now to be pursued.

In one of my letters to your Royal Highness, I endeavoured to convince you, that it was to the base, the prostituted press, of England, that we were likely to owe this war; I pointed out to your Royal Highness the means resorted to by that press in order to deceive the people of England; and, I expressed my apprehensions, that those means would succeed. That press, that vile and infamous press, which is the great enemy of the liberties of Europe and America as well as of England, was incessant in its efforts to cause it to be believed, that, in no case, would the Amecan Government dare to go to war. It asserted, that America would be totally ruined by six months of war; that the people would not pay the taxes necessary to carry it on; that the President, for only barely talking of war, would be put out of his chair; that the “American Navy,” as it was called by way of ridicule, would be “swept from the ocean in a month;” and, that, in short, a war with America was a thing for Englishmen to laugh at; a subject of jest and mockery,

This was the style and tone of the hireling press in London, and, with very few exceptions, the country prints followed the stupid and insolent example. Events have already shown how false all these assertions were; and now, as its usual practice, this same corrupt press is pouring forth new falsehoods, with a view of urging on the war, and of reconciling the people to its calamities.

It was my endeavour to show your Royal Highness the real state of the case. I said, that the people of America, though wisely averse from war, as the great source of taxation and loss of liberty, would, nevertheless, submit to its inconveniences rather than submit to the terms which Edition: current; Page: [131] it was recommended, in our hireling prints, to impose upon them. I begged your Royal Highness to disbelieve those, who said that the American Government dared not go to war, and that Mr. Madison would not be re-elected. I besought you to reflect upon the consequences of rushing into a war with that country, amongst which consequences I included the forming of a great Naval force on the other side of the Atlantic, and the not less fearful measure of manning a French Fleet with American Sailors. Our hired press affects to turn into jest a proposition said to have been made by the President for the building of twenty frigates. If he has made that proposition, however, and, if the war continue only a year, your Royal Highness will find that the twenty frigates are launched upon the ocean. The ignorant and saucy writers in London, who live up to their lips in luxury, and whose gains are not at all dependent upon the prosperity of the country; these men care not how the people suffer. Their object is to prolong the war, which suits the views of all those with whom they are connected. They assert whatever presents itself as likely to promote this object, and, therefore, they take no pains to ascertain whether the building of twenty frigates is, or is not, a matter of easy execution in America. If they did, they would find that the Americans have the Timber, the Iron, the Pitch, the Hemp, all of the produce of their own country; all in abundance; all, of course, cheap; and, as to dock-yards, and other places to build ships, inquiry would teach these ignorant and insolent men, that, in many cases, the Timber grows upon the very spot where the ship is to be built, and that to cut it down and convert it into a ship is to do a great benefit to the owner of the land.

And, then, as to the pecuniary means: to hear the language of our hirelings, one would imagine, that the people of America were all beggars; that the country contained scarcely a man of property; that there were no such things as money, house goods, cattle, or manufactures. They must, indeed, confess that the country grows corn; but, somehow or other, they would have us believe, that there are, in America, no means; no resources. They cannot disguise from us the fact, that there are fine cities and towns; that there is a commercial marine not far behind our own in point of magnitude; that the exports from the country amount annually to more than half as much as our exports, and that they consist of articles of first necessity; that the country contains all the articles of useful manufactory; and that manufactures are making great progress; nay, that they have arrived at great perfection; that the country is stocked with sheep, that great source of a nation’s wealth, and that to so high a degree have these animals succeeded, that many single proprietors have already flocks of more than a thousand head. These facts the hired press cannot disguise from us; or, at least, from those amongst us, who are not wilfully blind. Upon what ground, then, Sir, would they have us believe, that America is destitute of resources? The things which I have here spoken of, are things of which national riches consist; they form the means of making national exertions; of sending forth fleets and armies. And we ought to bear in mind, that America, that this new enemy of ours, has a population of more than eight millions of souls; none of whom are paupers; none of whom are clad in rags; none of whom are without meat upon their table daily; not one soul of whom would condescend to pull off his hat to any human being. And this is the nation, a nation, too, descended from ourselves, Edition: current; Page: [132] that the hirelings of the London press represent as destitute of resources!

Perhaps, Sir, the resources of America are estimated according to the salaries which their public functionaries receive; and, measured by this standard, our new enemy must, indeed, appear wholly unable to contend against us for a single day; for the President, the Vice-President, the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, War, Navy, and all their clerks; that is to say, the whole of the Officers of the Executive Government, do not receive more than about half the amount of Lord Arden’s sinecure, as stated in the Report to the House of Commons in 1808. Nay, the Apothecary to our Army does, according to the same report, receive, in clear profits, annually, as much as twice the amount of the Salary of the President of the United States. Our Chief Justice, in salary and emoluments, as stated in the Reports laid before Parliament, receives annually a great deal more than Mr. Madison, Mr. Monroe, Mr. Gallatin, and the Secretaries of War and the Navy in America, all put together. I shall, perhaps, be told, that our public functionaries ought to receive more than those in America. That is a point which I shall leave for others to dispute. I content myself with stating the facts; but, if I am told, that we ought not to measure the salaries of our functionaries by the American standard, I must beg leave, in my turn, to protest against measuring the expenses of war in America by the standard of war expenses in England. I must insist, too, that the resources of a country are not to be measured by the standard of the salaries of its public functionaries. I should take quite a different standard for the measuring of the resources of America. We know, that, upon a population of ten millions, in Great Britain, a revenue of about eighty millions of pounds is now annually raised; and that, in these ten millions of people we include, at least, two millions of paupers. Now, then, if they raise but a tenth part as much upon the eight millions of Americans, who have no paupers amongst them, their eight millions will be four times as much as was ever yet raised in the country in any one year; and, it is, I think, not too much to suppose, that an American will bear a tenth part as much taxes as an Englishman, in the prosecution of a war declared by the vote of representatives freely chosen by the people at large. Eight millions of pounds sterling, raised for three or four successive years, would build a navy that I should, and that I do, contemplate with great uneasiness; for, as I once before had the honour to state to your Royal Highness, the Americans are as good sailors as any that the world ever saw. It is notorious that the American merchant ships sail with fewer hands, in proportion to their size, than the merchant ships of any other nation; the Americans are active in their persons; they are enterprising; they are brave; and, which is of vast consequence, they are, from education and almost from constitution, SOBER, a virtue not at all less valuable in an army or a fleet than it is in domestic life.

This, Sir, is a view of the means and resources of America very different, perhaps, from the views which some persons might be disposed to present to your Royal Highness; and, if this my view of the matter be correct, it surely becomes us to be very cautious how we force these resources into action, and set them in array against us, backed, as they will be, with the implacable hatred of the American people. If, indeed, the honour of England required the setting of these resources at defiance; if England must either confess her disgrace, must basely abandon her Edition: current; Page: [133] known rights; must knuckle down to America, or brave the consequences of what I have been speaking of; I should then say, in the words of the old Norman proverb (adopted by the French in answer to the Duke of Brunswick’s proclamation), “let honour be maintained, happen what will.

But, Sir, the question is: does the honour of England require the making of this perilous experiment? In my opinion it does not; and I now, with the most anxious hope, that, at last, they may be attended with some effect, proceed respectfully to submit to your Royal Highness the reasons upon which this opinion is founded.

The dispute with regard to the Orders in Council I look upon as being at an end; for, though all is not quite clear in that respect, an arrangement seems to be matter of little difficulty. But, as I am sure your Royal Highness will do me the honour to recollect, I took the liberty to warn the public, the very week that the Orders in Council were done away, that that measure alone would do nothing towards preventing war with America. I then said, and in the most distinct terms, and without any hesitation, that America would never be content without a complete abandonment, on our part, of the practice of seizing persons on board her ships upon the high seas. I formed this opinion upon the general tone of the American prints; upon the declaration of the Congress; and especially upon information contained in letters received from friends in America, in whose hearts, strange as it may appear to some, my imprisonment in Newgate seems to have revived former feelings towards me. These letters, written by persons (be it observed) strongly attached to England, for no others did I ever number amongst my friends; these letters assured me, that the people of America; not the Government; not “a faction,” as our hirelings have called them; that the people of America, from one end of the country to the other, cried for war in preference to longer submission to the stopping of their vessels on the high seas, and taking persons out of them, at the discretion of our officers. Upon this information, coming, in some cases, three hundred miles from the Atlantic coasts, I could safely rely; and, therefore, I did not hesitate to pronounce, that the repeal of the Orders in Council alone would not preserve peace; nor, was I a little surprised to hear Mr. Brougham declare, that if that measure did not satisfy America, he, for one, would support a war against her.

The question, then, is now reduced to this; Does the honour of England demand, that she insist upon continuing the practice of which America complains, and against which she is now making war? To answer this question, we must ascertain, whether the practice of which America complains be sanctioned by the usages of nations; whether the giving of it up would be to yield any known right of England; because, in the case of the affirmative, to yield would be to make a sacrifice of our honour, rather than which I agree that we ought to continue the war to the last extremity, it being much less disgraceful to submit to actual force, than to submit to menaces.

My opinion is, however, decidedly in the negative; and I will not disguise from your Royal Highness, that I never felt surprise more complete (to give my feelings no stronger appellation) than that which I experienced at reading the following passage in the letter of Lord Castlereagh to Mr. Russell of the 29th of August last:

“I cannot, however, refrain on one single point from expressing my surprise; namely, that, as a condition, preliminary even to a suspension of hostilities, the Edition: current; Page: [134] Government of the United States should have thought fit to demand, that the British Government should desist from its ancient and accustomed practice of impressing British seamen from the merchant ships of a Foreign State, simply on the assurance that a law shall hereafter be passed, to prohibit the employment of British seamen in the public or commercial service of that State.

The British Government now, as heretofore, is ready to receive from the Government of the United States, and amicably to discuss, any proposition which professes to have in view either to check abuse in exercise of the practice of impressment, or to accomplish, by means less liable to vexation, the object for which impressment has hitherto been found necessary, but they cannot consent to suspend the exercise of a right upon which the naval strength of the empire mainly depends, until they are fully convinced that means can be devised, and will be adopted, by which the object to be obtained by the exercise of that right can be effectually secured.”

Being no Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I shall, I trust, be excused if I am found to understand less of the “ancient and accustomed practice” of Great Britain as to this matter; but, Sir, I have never before heard, except from the London newspapers, that Great Britain did ever, until now, attempt to take persons of any description out of neutral vessels sailing upon the high seas; and very certain I am, that such a practice is not warranted, nay, that it never was thought of, by any of those authors who have written upon public law. I do not recollect a single instance in which we have exercised what is here called a right; and, if in the abandonment of the practice, we give up no known right of England, such abandonment can be no dishonour; unless, which would be a monstrous proposition, it be regarded as dishonourable to cease to do any thing, because the doing of it has been the subject of complaint, and the object of resistance.

The men who conduct the London newspapers, and whose lucubrations are a sore affliction to their native country, have long been charging the Americans with a wish to make England give up her “right of search.” Whether this falsehood has arisen from sheer ignorance, or from that impunity in deception, or, rather, encouragement to deceive, which such writers have so long experienced in England, I will not take upon me to determine; but, I know well, that it is a most audacious falsehood; I know that America has never expressed even a wish to make us give up “the right of search;” and, if her Government were to attempt to accomplish such an end by war, I am quite sure that it would soon lose the support of the people. But, “the right of search” is not, and never has been, for a moment, by any writer on public law, considered as a right to search for persons, except, indeed, military persons, and those, too, openly employed in the enemy’s service. “The right of search” is a right, possessed by a belligerent power, to search for and to seize as good prize, any articles contraband of war, such as guns, powder, and the like, which may be on board of a neutral ship going to an enemy’s port; because, by carrying the said articles, the neutral does, in fact, aid the enemy in carrying on the war. This right has been further extended to any goods, belonging to an enemy, found on board a neutral vessel; because, by becoming the carrier of his goods, the neutral does, in fact, screen his goods, as far as possible, from capture, and does thereby also aid the enemy. This is what is called “the right of search;” a right, however, which, as far as relates to goods, has been often denied by neutral powers, and which we actually gave up to the threats of Russia, Sweden, and Denmark, towards the end of the last American War.

But, of this right, of no part of this right, do the Americans now complain. Edition: current; Page: [135] They yield to the exercise of this right in all its rigour. But, they deny that we have any right at all; they deny that we have a pretence to any right to stop their vessels upon the high seas, and to take out of them any persons whatever, unless, indeed, military persons in the service of our enemy; and, I repeat it, Sir, that I know of no usage of nations; that I know of no ancient usage of our own even; that I know of no law, maxim, principle, or practice, to sanction that of which the Americans complain, and in resistance of which they are now armed and at war; and, therefore, I am of opinion, that to abandon this practice would be no dishonour to England.

Lord Castlereagh talks of our right to “impress British seamen from the merchant ships of a foreign state.” Impressment may take place in our ports and harbours; and, there, if confined to our own seamen, America does not object to it. It is upon the high seas that she objects to impressment; because there the matter must be left to the discretion of the British officer. It is there a matter of power. There is no one to appeal to; there is no umpire; there is no judge to look into proofs, and to decide. The searching officer may, under his discretion, take out as many men as he pleases; he may leave the ship destitute of the hands necessary to conduct her a league; and he may take out American citizens as well as English subjects. That this may be done is quite certain, because it has been done in countless instances. Thousands of native Americans, thus impressed, have been released by our Admiralty on the official application of the American agents; and, who can doubt that many thousands remain unreleased? General Lyman, late American Consul in London, once stated, in a report to his Government, that there were about fourteen thousand native Americans then on board our fleet, who had been impressed from on board American ships on the high seas. He might possibly exaggerate; but it is not to be doubted that the number was, and has constantly been, very considerable. And, I beg your Royal Highness to take a serious view of the great hardships experienced by Americans thus impressed. Taken from their lawful and peaceable pursuits; dragged into a service and forced under a discipline so little congenial with their habits and their prejudices; wafted away to sickly climates, exposed to all the dangers of battle, taken, perhaps for ever, from the sight and the knowledge of their homes and friends; and, if, by chance (for it can be nothing more), restored at last, restored (as has often been the case) with the loss of health or of limbs, and at the very least, with the loss of time, and that, too, in the prime of their lives; and carrying about them, for the remainder of their days, feelings towards England which I need not attempt to describe.

Your Royal Highness’s heart will tell you, I hope, much better than I can, not what is, but what must be, the effect of such a practice, carried on against a people, who are not only the children of Englishmen, but of those Englishmen who preferred freedom in a wilderness across the ocean to slavery in their native land. This it is, Sir, that has, at last, kindled the flame of war in a country where the very name of war was too hateful to be endured.

But in answer to all this, it is said, by Lord Castlereagh, that “the naval strength of the empire mainly depends” upon the continuation of this practice of impressment. That is to say, if we take the whole of the facts into view, our naval strength mainly depends upon a practice which exposes so many of the American citizens to misery and ruin. The Edition: current; Page: [136] plain meaning of our perseverance in the practice is this: that, if we do not continue it, our seamen will desert to the American ships in such numbers as to leave us without the possibility of obtaining a sufficiency of men to man and fight our fleet. Supposing this to be the fact, it really forms no justification of the practice; for, we can have no right to put America to any inconvenience whatever merely for our own benefit, or to save ourselves from loss or danger. The President, however, in order to show, that he does not wish us to receive any injury in this way, and in order, if possible, to put an end to the war, has made a voluntary offer of a law to be passed in America to prevent our seamen from being admitted into American ships, upon condition, that we will first abandon our practice of impressment, and give up, that is, restore to their liberty, those native Americans whom we have already impressed. Mr. Russell, in his letter to Lord Castlereagh, says:

“While, however, it regards this course as the only one which remained for it to pursue with a hope of preserving any portion of that kind of character, which constitutes the vital strength of every nation, yet it is still willing to give another proof of the spirit which has uniformly distinguished its proceedings, by seeking to arrest, on terms consistent with justice and honour, the calamities of war. It has therefore authorized me to stipulate with his Britannic Majesty’s Government, an armistice to commence at or before the expiration of sixty days after the signature of the instrument providing for it, on condition that the Orders in Council be repealed, and no illegal blockades to be substituted to them, and that orders be immediately given to discontinue the impressment of persons from American vessels, and to restore the citizens of the United States already impressed; it being moreover well understood that the British Government will assent to enter into definitive arrangements as soon as may be, on these and every other difference, by a Treaty to be concluded either at London or Washington, as on an impartial consideration of existing circumstances shall be deemed most expedient. As an inducement to Great Britain to discontinue the practice of impressment from American vessels, I am authorized to give assurance that a law shall be passed (to be reciprocal) to prohibit the employment of British seamen in the public or commercial service of the United States.

Really, Sir, it is not possible, it appears to me, to suggest anything more reasonable than this. I can form an idea of nothing more strongly expressive of a desire to put an end to the war. What! shall it be said that England wages a war, when she might terminate it by such means? I trust not, and that we shall not have to weep over a much longer continuation of this unfortunate contest.

I know, that there are persons who treat the idea of a law, passed by the Congress, with contempt. But, if this is to be the course pursued, the war will not soon have an end. We must treat America with respect. We must do it; and the sooner we begin the better. Some of the impudent hireling writers in London, affect to say, that no credit is to be given to any act of the American Government; that our officers ought not to believe the passports and certificates produced by the American seamen. If this is to be the tone, and if we are to act accordingly, there is no possibility of making peace with America. Peace implies treaty and confidence; but, what confidence are we to have in a nation such as our hirelings describe America to be? This arrogant, this insolent tone must be dropped, or peace is impossible.

The fact of our impressing of native Americans is affected to be denied, and Lord Castlereagh does not notice the proposition to restore those whom we have already impressed. But, Sir, if the fact were not perfectly notorious, that thousands have been released by us, the letter of CAPTAIN Edition: current; Page: [137] DACRES, of the Guerriere, removes all doubt upon the subject; for, in that letter, intended to account for his defeat by the Constitution, he says, that PART OF HIS CREW WERE NATIVE AMERICANS, and, they not choosing to fight against their country, he suffered them to be inactive spectators. Now, here we have the fact clearly acknowledged, that we had Americans unwillingly serving on board. And, what a lamentable contrast do we find in the same letter, with regard to some English seamen said to have been on board the Constitution; to which I beg leave to add, for your most serious moment, the fact (if a fact it be) that part of the crews of the victorious American ships, the Wasp and the United States, were English. Nay, it is stated in the Courier newspaper, upon what is asserted to be good authority, that two-thirds of the crews of the American ships of war are English seamen. If this be true, it is another, and a most cogent reason, for acceding to the terms of America, and putting an end to the war; for, the longer the war continues the longer will continue a connection from which such fearful consequences may ensue.

At any rate, it appears to me, that our own safety, if the war is to be continued, will dictate the discharging of all the impressed Americans whom we may have on board of our ships. Fight against their country they will not, unless they be forced, and who is to foresee and provide against the contagion of such an example? Against this evil, however, and against numerous others, which I forbear to mention, the measure proposed by the President would completely guard us; and, the respect, which it is my duty to entertain towards your Royal Highness, bids me hope that that proposition will finally be accepted.

I am, &c., &c.,
Wm. COBBETT.

AMERICAN WAR.

This war, which was spoken of by the hireling of the Times newspaper and others, with such ineffable contempt, has now assumed a very formidable mien; and those who were so eager for the war, begin to revile each other with regard to the conducting of it.

There are, at this time, three political factions in the country; the one that is in possession of the distribution of the public money; the Whig faction; and the faction of the Wellesleys and Cannings. The two latter would join if they could; but, each aims at the possession of the power of giving places and pensions, and, in short, at being the ministry.

These two, therefore, cannot agree wholly; but, they both attack, though upon different occasions and different grounds, those who are in possession of the paradise of Whitehall.

Amongst other objects of attack is that of negligence as to the American War. The Chronicle and the Times are equally bitter against the Edition: current; Page: [138] ministers upon this subject; they revile them for having plunged the country into a war with America without providing a sufficient maritime force to cope with that new enemy. A sufficient force! Why, the Times newspaper spoke of the navy of the United States as a thing not worthy of the name; it laughed at “Mr. Madison and his navy;” it predicted that a few months would add that navy to our own; it, in short, spoke of it in a tone of contempt which I should in vain attempt to describe.

And yet, it now blames the ministers for not having provided a sufficient force to cope with that contemptible navy; that navy which was an object of the most cruel ridicule.

The defeat and capture of the Guerriere, the Frolic, and the Macedonian must, of course, be matter of astonishment to those, who listened to the language of these presumptuous and foolish men; but, in what respect are the ministers to blame for it any more than they were for the evacuation of Madrid, and for all the consequences of the unexpected retreat of our army in the Peninsula? The ministers had a great abundance of ships, of all sizes, on the American station; and what were they to do more? I recollect, and so must the reader, that, at the time of the rencounter between Commodore Rodgers and Captain Bingham, the words in the mouths of all these writers were: “Let one of our FRIGATES meet with Rodgers, and we ask no more.” This wish; this challenge, was repeated a thousand times over; the public cannot have forgotten the fact; nay, the sentiment was universal. Upon what ground, then, are the ministers now to be blamed? Are they to be blamed, because, upon trial, it has been found, that our Frigates are not a match for those of America? Are they to be blamed, because they did not entertain a meaner opinion of our Frigates, compared with those of America, than any other man in England entertained, or, at least, dared to say that he entertained?

We are told, by the writers in the interest of the two OUT factions, that the Republican Frigates are bigger, longer, have heavier guns, and the like, than our Frigates have.

“The varlet’s a tall man,” said Bobadil when he had been cudgelled.

But are these new discoveries? Were the facts not all well known before to all these writers, when they so boldly challenged out the American Frigates to combat with ours? When Rodgers attacked Bingham, the size of his ship was well known and particularly described; and, yet, no one then called for heavier ships to be sent out to the American coast.

Why, then, are the ministers to be blamed for not sending out heavier ships?

Besides, they have heavier ships upon the station, and it cannot be their fault if those ships do not fall in with the American Frigates. What are they to do with our Frigates? If ours are unable to face the American Frigates, what are, I ask, the ministers to do with them? Are they not to suffer them to go on a cruise, lest they should fall in with a tall Yankee? In short, it is another of the tricks of faction to blame the ministers for these misadventures of the navy; and, the attempts made by the ministerial prints to account for our defeat upon the ground of our inferiority of force is another of the means made use of to deceive the people, and to encourage them in the continuation of the war.

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When, until now, did we think of disparity of force? When, until now, did we dream of an English ship surrendering to a ship, the superiority of the force of which it required a minute calculation to show? When, until now, did an English Captain hesitate to attack a ship of a few guns more than his own?

Instead of all the calculations that we have seen in the newspapers; instead of those swelled out accounts of the vast force of the American Frigates, we should be plainly told, that we have now an enemy to cope with equal to ourselves as far as his numbers will go.

Amongst all the calculations and computations, however, that we have heard, I have not perceived it any where taken into account, that we have experience, which the Americans have not. Where did Isaac Hull gain his naval experience; and where Mr. Decatur? There are two Decaturs, the father and son. They were my neighbours, in the country, in Pennsylvania. They were farmers more than seamen, though the elder went occasionally to sea as commander of a merchant ship. If it be the father who has taken the Macedonian, he must be upwards of three-score years of age; and, if it be the son, I am sure it is the first battle he ever was in; for, twelve years ago, he was but a mere lad. The father was a man of great probity and of excellent sense; and, I have no doubt that the son is the same; but, I’ll engage, that both have had more experience in raising Indian corn than in naval tactics.

Something, therefore, in our estimates, should be allowed for our superiority in point of experience. We have no officer of the navy, who has not passed a great part of his life on actual service; we have scarcely one who has not been in numerous battles; and, in the unfortunate cases above spoken of, one of the Captains appears to have been of long standing even in that rank.

When we are speaking of the naval preparations of Napoleon, we always dwell upon the difficulty of his forming naval officers; but here we see, in the case of America, that that is attended with no difficulty at all; we here see gallant and consummate commanders start up in a trice; and, in a moment, is dissolved the charm which bound us in ignorance as to this important species of information.

The truth is, I believe, that, amongst the first qualities of a naval commander, are sobriety, vigilance, and consideration for his crew; and these qualities are within the reach of every man. The American Government, too, has a wide range for choice; with it no intrigues, commonly called “interest,” is likely to prevail; because the possession of the powers of the state depend solely upon the will of the people, and the government, having such support, is not reduced to the necessity of seeking support from any individuals; and, of course, is not exposed to the danger of being compelled to employ as commanders, or as officers of any rank, persons not recommended by their own good qualities.

This is a very great advantage possessed by the American Government; an advantage to which, perhaps, it owes those successes, which we so sorely lament, and which seem to be very likely to form an era in the naval history of the world.

But, let what will be the final result of these transactions, I really can see no good ground for accusation against the ministers on account of the misfortunes that have befallen our Frigates. Blamed they may be for the war. There, indeed, there is matter for blame; because, if my reasoning upon the subject be correct, they might have avoided the Edition: current; Page: [140] war without any dishonour to England; but, for this they cannot be blamed by those who are seeking for their places; because some of those very persons were amongst the men who adopted and adhered to the measures which produced the war; and, the rest of them have pledged themselves to prosecute it upon its present ground.

Mr. Canning and Lord Wellesley were, in succession, Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs while the dispute was maintained against the abolition of impressment of persons on board of American ships. Indeed, the former has expressed his disapprobation of the “concessions,” as he calls them, made to America, in the repeal of our Orders in Council. Of course he cannot complain of the ministers for going to war; and Mr. Ponsonby, as the organ of the Whigs, distinctly declared, that, if America was not satisfied with that repeal, he would support the war against her.

Not, therefore, being able to find fault with the ministers for the war itself, they fall on upon them as to their manner of conducting it; and, as I think, I have shown, they do this without a shadow of justice.

We, “Jacobins,” blame all the three factions; some of them for causing the war, and others for pledging themselves to support it; nor have I the least hesitation to predict, that, day after day, will tend to convince all persons of impartiality, that we are right.

This war we owe entirely to the presumption inspired by our foolish and venal writers. The language of the late Perceval, who talked of not wishing for the “destruction” of America, and who spoke of her as of a power depending on his will for her very existence; this language, which will long be remembered, was the general language of the press. We could not believe it possible, that a government, the whole of the officers of which, President and all, did not receive from the public so much money annually as one of our sinecure placemen; we could not conceive, that a government who did not get more money for itself, would be able to get money enough to carry on a war, more than sufficient to last our sloops for a few months. We have now found our mistake; and, indeed, the premises which we had in our eye should have led to a directly different conclusion; for, would not common sense have told us, that the less of the public money was taken by the officers of Government for their own use; the less of it that was devoured by placemen, and by others for no services rendered the public, the more there must be for the Government to employ in the public service? This would have been the rational conclusion; but, to reason thus, suited not those who had, and who have, the control over ninety-nine hundredth parts of the press of this country. They, therefore, represented America as a nation destitute of warlike means; when they should have made an estimate of her resources upon the grounds stated in my last Article.

The persons in high offices in America are badly paid; but (and the fact is worth great attention) those in low rank, or, no rank at all, are well paid. The former have very small salaries; their gains are much less than those of any considerable merchant or manufacturer, lawyer, or Physician; but the common soldier and sailor are paid at a very high rate; at such a rate as not to make him regret his change from civil life.

I should not say, perhaps, that the former are badly paid; because there is something in the honour of high office, which the common man does not enjoy; and, besides, there is something due from every man to his country; and, the greater that is his stake in the country, the less is Edition: current; Page: [141] his right to draw from her purse. Mr. Madison does, I dare say, expend, as President, every shilling of the 6,000l. that, as President, he receives. And, why should he not? What claim would he have to the title of patriot, if he grudged to use his talents for his country; or, which is the same thing, if he refused to use them without being paid for their use? If such were his disposition, what claim would he have to the confidence of his fellow citizens? But, with the common soldier or sailor, or other inferior person employed by the Government, the case is wholly different. He has nothing but his labour for his inheritance; he possesses no part of the country; his time is his all; and, of course, he is paid for that time at as good rate as if he laboured for an individual.

Those who speculate upon the resources of America should not overlook these important circumstances; but, hitherto, I am sorry to say, that we have almost wholly overlooked them.

I never shall forget the obstinacy of many persons with whom I am acquainted, as to the intention of the American Government to go to war. They persisted to the very last, that it was impossible. They called the declaration of the Congress “bullying;” they said it was “all smoke;” and so, indeed, said the hired press, that vehicle of lies, that instrument of ill to England.

They have found some fire as well as smoke; they have found that the Republicans have something at their command besides words; and, when it is too late, I fear that they will find, that this is the most fatal war in which we have yet been engaged. One effect of it appears to me to be inevitable; and that is, the creation of a Navy in America.

Pray, good hired men, do not laugh at me; for I am quite serious when I say, that my fear is, that this war will lead to the creating of a formidable navy in America. The means are all in her hands, and her successful beginning will not fail to give activity to those means.

A navy, a military marine, in America, is, to me, a most formidable object. Twenty frigates only would cause an expense to us of millions a-year, unless we resolved to yield the West India Islands at once.

I would not advise our Government to look upon the rearing of an American Navy as something necessarily distant. America has swelled her population from about two to about eight millions in the space of less than 30 years. Another ten years may see her population amount to twenty millions. From not being permitted “to make a hob-nail,” she has risen to be an exporter of numerous useful manufactures. I state it as an undeniable fact, that she is now able to supply herself with all the articles necessary to man, even in polished life. And, if this be so, why should she not be able to rear a Navy, having already nearly as great a mercantile marine as our own.

Whether it will be for her happiness that she should do this is another question; but, that she will do it I think is most likely; because, in the mass composing every society of men, there is generally a sufficient number on the side of power and glory to decide the nation in favour of the love of those captivating objects.

This war, therefore, if not speedily put an end to, will, in my opinion, not fail to make America a manufacturing nation, as far as her own wants call for, and to make her also a naval nation; and will thus, at one stroke, deprive us of our best customer for goods, and give us upon the seas a rival who will be daily growing in strength as well as in experience.

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In my preface to the republication of Mr. Chancellor Livingstone’s Treatise on Merino Sheep, I showed how necessarily it would follow from the introduction of flock-keeping in America, that she would become independent of us to woollens. Nevertheless, and in spite of all the facts which have, from time to time, been published relative to the manufacturing of cloths in that country, there are still men to treat with ridicule, aye, even with ridicule, the idea of America being able to make her own coats and blankets. I remember, that, while I was in Newgate for two years, for writing about the flogging of the Local Militia, at the Town of Ely, in England, under the superintendence of German Troops, there came a gentleman, who was, I believe, a dealer in wool, to ask my opinion relative to the future commerce with America. After having spent about a quarter of an hour in a detail of facts, which, in my mind, contained proof unquestionable, that the woollen trade with America was for ever at an end, he began a sentence upon the surprising increase of the manufactures in America, which he concluded in words to this effect: “I dare say, that, in less than half a century, we shall not ship a bale of cloth to that country.” This put me in mind of the effect that the Botley Parson’s sermons used to have upon me; and I lost no time in changing the subject of conversation.

I am not one of those who shall regret this independence of America, which I do not think will prove any injury to England in the end; but I could have wished the change to have been less abrupt, and effected without war, and without the animosities and the sufferings inseparable from war. To me it appears as absurd as it is unnatural, that the American farmer should not have his coat untaxed at the Custom-house in England. I can see no sense and no reason in it. Nor do I see why the people of England, or any portion of them, should make coats or knives, or any thing else for the use of other countries, except merely in such quantities as may be necessary to exchange for wine and oil, and some few other things which really are useful to man. The use of commerce is to effect an exchange of the products of one climate for those of another; but governments have turned it into the means of taxation, and, in many cases, that appears to be its only object. An exchange of English coals for French wine, the former at 30s. a chaldron at Paris, and the latter at 6d. a bottle in London; that would, indeed, be a commerce to be contemplated with pleasure. But a commerce, carried on under a code of prohibitions and penalties, such as those now every where in existence, is not to be desired. It is an instrument of taxation, and an endless source of war, and it is nothing more.

Those, however, who are of a different opinion, may look upon the war with America as one of the surest means of destroying, or, at least, diminishing for ever, the best branch of what they admire; but, while I blame the ministers for the war, I must say, that the merchants and manufacturers (I mean the powerful ones) have no right to blame them. The ministers, in their measures towards America, have done no more than pursue that same system, of which those merchants and manufacturers have a thousand times, and in the strongest terms, expressed their approbation. At the outset of this long and destructive war, who stood forward so readily in support of it as this class of persons? The war-whoop has invariably originated with them. They indulged the selfish hope of seeing themselves in possession of all the trade and all the riches of the world. The English newspapers contain a record of their Edition: current; Page: [143] love of war, of war against any body, so long as it promised gain to them. They have, over and over again, called the war which began in an invasion of France by the Duke of Brunswick, “a just and necessary war;” but, of late, they appear to have been taught by their poor-books and the list of Bankrupts, that the war is not quite so “necessary,” however “just” they may still think it. They have, I repeat it, no right to complain against the ministers, who have not deviated from the system of Pitt and Grenville, and who, with regard to America, are only acting upon the very same principles, and pursuing the very same objects, that have been acted upon and pursued from the year 1792 to the present day; and the manufacturers are tasting, as is most meet, of the fruit of the tree of their own planting and protecting.

Wm. COBBETT.

AMERICAN STATES.

My two last Articles were devoted principally to the task of endeavouring to convince the Prince Regent and the public, that it was neither dangerous nor dishonourable to yield to the terms upon which we might have had, and may yet have, peace with America: and, to my great mortification, though, I must confess, not much to my surprise, I now see, from the contents of the last Gazette, wherein is His Royal Highness’s “Declaration,” that all my endeavours have been of no avail, and that war, long, expensive and sanguinary war, will now take place with an enemy, who, above all others, is capable of inflicting deep wounds upon this already-crippled, or, at least, exhausted nation.

From the first publication of the Letters which passed between Lord Wellesley and Mr. Pinckney, soon after the French had announced their intention to repeal the Berlin and Milan Decrees; from the very day of that publication, which took place soon after I was imprisoned in Newgate for two years (with a fine to THE KING, which I have since paid, of a thousand pounds) for having written and published upon the subject of flogging certain English militia-men, at the town of Ely, in England, who had been first reduced to submission by German Troops; from the very day of that publication I began to fear the present sad result of the dispute which had then assumed a new and more serious character than it had ever before worn. With that fear in my mind, I bent all my feeble powers towards preventing such result. I have failed: opinions and counsels the direct opposite of mine have prevailed; and time will show who was right and who wrong.

Upon former occasions the real grounds of war have, but too often, been lost sight of in the multitude and confusion of subsequent events; the Government has had the address to enlist the passions of men on its side, and the voice of reason has been stifled.

But, here, as I was from the first resolved it should be, there is a clear, Edition: current; Page: [144] a distinct, an undisguisable ground before our eyes; we know well what we are at war for: we know, and must bear in mind, that we are at war for the purpose of enforcing our practice of stopping American vessels upon the high seas, and taking out of them all such persons as our naval officers may deem to be British seamen. This is now become the clearly defined subject of the war with America.

The “Declaration,” does not contain any new matter: it is a summary of what our Ministers have before alleged and asserted in their correspondence with the American Government and its divers agents. But, there are some few passages of it which require to be particularly noticed.

The question relating to the Orders in Council has been before so amply discussed, in my several Letters and articles upon the subject, that I will not encumber my present remarks with any thing relating thereunto; but, will confine myself to what relates to the impressment of persons out of American ships on the high seas.

Upon this point the “Declaration” says:

“His Royal Highness can never admit, that in the exercise of the undoubted and hitherto undisputed right of searching neutral merchant vessels in time of war, the impressment of British seamen, when found therein, can be deemed any violation of a neutral flag. Neither can he admit, that the taking such seamen from on board such vessels, can be considered by any neutral State as a hostile measure, or a justifiable cause of war.—There is no right more clearly established, than the right which a Sovereign has to the allegiance of his subjects, more especially in time of war. Their allegiance is no optional duty, which they can decline, and resume at pleasure. It is a call which they are bound to obey: it began with their birth, and can only terminate with their existence.—If a similarity of language and manners may make the exercise of this right more liable to partial mistakes, and occasional abuse, when practised towards the vessels of the United States, the same circumstances make it also a right, with the exercise of which, in regard to such vessels it is more difficult to dispense.”

The doctrine of allegiance, as here laid down, I admit, with some exceptions; but, as to the right of impressing British seamen, on the high seas, out of neutral ships, I deny it to be founded on any principle or maxim laid down by any writer on public law. Indeed, the “Declaration” does not say that it is: it says, that the right of SEARCHING neutral vessels in time of war is “undoubted and has hitherto been undisputed.” This is not correct; for, not only has even this right been doubted, not only are there two opinions about it in the books on public law, but the writers on public law are, for the most part, against the said right as we practise it, and they contend, that we have no right to seize enemy’s goods on board of merchant ships which are neutral. Nay, the contest has given rise to military resistance on the part of our now-ally, Russia, Denmark, and Sweden; and, what is still more, Great Britain ceased, upon their threats, to exercise this, even this, right of seizing enemy’s goods on board of neutral ships of war.

But, this right; this right of SEARCHING neutral ships; what has it to do with the impressment of persons on board of such ships? That is what the Americans object to, and are at war against. They are not at war against our right of search, even in our own interpretation of that right. What they object to is, the stopping of their vessels on the high seas, and taking people out of them by force; a practice which, I repeat it, is sanctioned by no principle or maxim of any writer on public law, nor by any usage heretofore known in the world.

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The “Declaration” does not assert, as Lord Castlereagh did, in his letter to Mr. Russell, that this practice is sanctioned by any former usage; but, it declares the right from the right of search. It says, that, in exercising “the right of search,” that is to say, the right to search for articles contraband of war, and for enemy’s goods, we have a right to impress British seamen, if we find them. So that, this is the new shape of the defence of the practice: we do not now assert that we have a right to stop American vessels upon the high seas for the purpose of impressing our seamen; but, having stopped them for the purpose of exercising our old “right of search,” we have a right to avail ourselves of the opportunity to take out persons whom our own officers, at their discretion, may judge to be British seamen.

This is not even plausible, in my opinion; for, what right can we have to impress, if we have no right to stop for the purpose of impressing? I may enter another’s house to search for a stolen coat, and, if I find there my hat, I may seize it as well as my coat, having due authority for the first; but, be it observed, that to steal the hat was as criminal as to steal the coat; and, if I had known, or suspected, that the hat was there, I might have had my search-warrant for the former as well as for the latter.

The law of nations calls the high seas the common right of nations. A ship there is a parcel of the State to which she belongs, and the sovereign rights of that State travel with her. The sole exception is, as has been before stated, that belligerents have a right to search neutrals for goods of the enemy, and for warlike stores and troops, carrying for the enemy’s use; because, as far as neutrals are engaged in such a service, they are deemed to be in the service of the enemy.

In all other respects a neutral ship carries with her, on the high seas, the rights of sovereignty appertaining to the State to which she belongs.

Now, it is well known, that no nation has a right to enter the territory of another to exercise any authority whatever, much less that of seizing persons and carrying them away by force; and, indeed, is it not fresh in every one’s memory, what complaints were made against the French for entering the territory of the Elector of Baden, and seizing the Duke of Enghein?

If we have a right to enter American ships on the high seas, and take out of them, by force of arms, British seamen, what should hinder us from having the same right as to any of the sea-ports of America? Nay, why should we not go and seize our numerous manufacturers, who have been (contrary to our laws) carried to America, and who are filling America with cloths and cutlery? Their alleging, that they went thither to avoid the effect of prosecutions for libel or for some other of our state crimes, would be no bar to our claim upon them; and, in short, they could never be safe to the last moment of their lives.

It is said, that the seamen on board of American ships are deserters. Be it so. We may be sorry that they do desert; but it is no crime in the Americans that our sailors go into America. Is it not well known that numerous deserters from the Austrian and Prussian armies have at all times deserted into the neighbouring States; and is it not equally well known, that the neighbouring State has invariably possessed the undisputed right of giving them protection, and of enlisting them in its service?

Why, therefore, should we deem it a crime in America, whose abundance of lands and provisions, whose high price of labour, and whose happiness Edition: current; Page: [146] to the lower orders of mankind, hold out their arms to the whole world?

And here I cannot help introducing a remark upon the proposition, made by Lord Castlereagh to Mr. Russell, that the American Government should stipulate to deliver up all British seamen in the service of Americans. Mr. Russell is said to have expressed himself as having been shocked at this proposition, which has afforded an abundant theme of abuse of him by our hireling writers. But, I have no scruple to say, that I firmly believe, that it is a proposition that never was before made to any independent State; even to the most petty State of Germany. There was a plan, some years ago, in agitation amongst the States of Europe, for putting in force a mutual surrender of each other’s subjects, whereupon the Abbé Raynal remarks, that, if it had gone into effect, each of the several States might have taken the motto of Danté over the entrance to his infernal regions: “He who enters here leaves even hope behind.” He represents it as the utmost stretch of tyranny; a point, he says, which the world ought to perish rather than reach. And, therefore, though Lord Castlereagh’s proposition did not go this length; though it was confined to British seamen, we have no reason to abuse Mr. Russell for his expression.

It will be said, may be, that Mr. Russell was ordered to stipulate for the surrender, on our part, of all American seamen. Aye; but the difference is, that Mr. Russell proposed the surrender of those only who had been impressed by us; whereas we wanted to stipulate for the surrender of those British seamen who had gone into America of their own free will. We wanted to have surrendered to us, men who were employed in American merchant-ships; they wanted us to surrender men, whom we had seized in their ships and forced into our men-of-war.

But, is it possible, that any one can find anything to object to in a request, that, as a preliminary, we should give up the Americans, whom we had impressed into our service? What is the state of those men, now on board of our ships of war? What is their state? Has the reader reflected upon this? They must be useless on board of ship; they must not act; they must do no seaman’s duty; or, they must, according to our own doctrine, lately exemplified at Horsemonger-lane, be TRAITORS, worthy of being hanged, ripped up, and cut in quarters.

His Royal Highness’s Declaration says, that allegiance to his father and his successors begins with a man’s birth and ends but with his death. And, is it not the same with American citizens? Do they not owe similar allegiance to their country? Or is it about to be pretended, that none but kings can claim this sort of allegiance?

I do not think that any one, even of the writers in the Times and Courier, will have the impudence to set up this doctrine; but, this they must do before they can make out any good ground of charge against the Americans for having demanded, as a preliminary, the surrender of the impressed American seamen.

Captain Dacres, in accounting for the loss of his frigate, expressly states, that he had many Americans on board, whom he permitted to be spectators, from a reluctance to compel them to fight against their country. And, can the reader believe, that this was the only instance in which native Americans were unwillingly serving on board of British ships of war? What, then, again, I ask, must be the state of those Americans? And, what are we to think of those writers who Edition: current; Page: [147] abuse Mr. Russell for proposing to us their surrender as a step preliminary to any further arrangement?

The Declaration complains, that America demanded the abandonment of the practice of impressment as a preliminary to her passing a law to prevent British seamen from being received on board her ships.

The hireling writers have treated this demand as something too insolent to be for a moment listened to. The “Declaration” does not treat it in this lofty style; but it speaks of it in pretty strong terms, as thus:

“The proposal of an armistice, and of a simultaneous repeal of the restrictive measures on both sides, subsequently made by the commanding officer of his Majesty’s naval forces on the American coast, were received in the same hostile spirit by the Government of the United States. The suspension of the practice of impressment was insisted upon in the correspondence which passed on that occasion, as a necessary preliminary to a cessation of hostilities. Negotiation, it was stated, might take place without any suspension of the exercise of this right, and also without any armistice being concluded: but Great Britain was required previously to agree, without any knowledge of the adequacy of the system which could be substituted, to negotiate upon the basis of accepting the legislative regulations of a foreign State, as the sole equivalent for the exercise of a right, which she has felt to be essential to the support of her maritime power.

Well, and what then? “A right” it is called again; but, if America denied it to be a right, as she has uniformly done, what wonder was there that she made the proposition? Great Britain might “feel,” though I should have chosen the word “deem,” as smacking less of the boarding-school Miss’s style; Great Britain might “feel,” if feel she must, that the practice complained of was essential to the support of her maritime power; but did it hence follow, that America, and that impressed Americans, should like the practice the better for that? We have so long called ourselves the deliverers of the world, that we, at last, have fallen into the habit of squaring up all our ideas to that appellation: and seem surprised that there should be any nation in the world inclined to wish for the diminution of our power.

The Americans, however, clearly appear to see the thing in a different light. They, in their home-spun way, call us any thing but deliverers; and, it must be confessed, that, whatever may be our general propensity, we do not seem to have been in haste to deliver impressed American seamen.

That one nation ought not to yield a right, depending for compensation solely upon the legislative provisions of a foreign State, is very true; but, if the right be doubtful; if it be unsupported by any law, principle maxim, or custom, then the case is different; and then, indeed, the offer of a legislative provision is a proof of a sincere desire to accommodate.

If my view of the matter be right, and I verily believe it is, this is the light in which that offer ought to be viewed; and I most deeply lament that it was not thus viewed by the ministers.

These lamentations, however, are now useless. The sound of war is gone forth: statement and reasoning are exhausted; the sword is to decide whether England is, or is not, to impress, at the discretion of her naval officers, persons on board American merchant-ships on the high seas.

There is one passage more in the “Declaration,” upon which I cannot refrain from submitting a remark or two. After stating, that America Edition: current; Page: [148] has made only feeble remonstrances against the injuries she has received from France, the “Declaration,” this “memorable document,” as the Courier calls it, concludes thus:—

“This disposition of the Government of the United States—this complete subserviency to the Ruler of France—this hostile temper towards Great Britain—are evident in almost every page of the official correspondence of the American with the French Government.

Against this course of conduct, the real cause of the present war, the Prince Regent solemnly protests. Whilst contending against France, in defence not only of the liberties of Great Britain, BUT OF THE WORLD, his Royal Highness was entitled to look for a far different result. From their common origin—from their common interest—from their professed principles of freedom and independence, the United States were the last power in which Great Britain could have expected to find a willing instrument, and abettor of French tyranny.

Disappointed in this just expectation, the Prince Regent will still pursue the policy which the British Government has so long, and invariably maintained in repelling injustice, and in supporting the general rights of nations; and, under the favour of PROVIDENCE, relying on the justice of his cause, and the tried loyalty and firmness of the British nation, his Royal Highness confidently looks forward to a successful issue to the contest, in which he has thus been compelled most reluctantly to engage.”

The last paragraph is in the old style, and will hardly fail to remind Mr. Madison of the documents of this kind issued about six and thirty years ago. However, the style is none the worse for being old; though one cannot but recollect the occasion upon which it was formerly used.

I regret, however, to find, in this solemn document, a distinct charge against the American Government of “subserviency to the Ruler of France;” because, after a very attentive perusal of all the correspondence between the American and French Governments, I do not find anything, which in my opinion, justifies the charge. The truth is, that “the Ruler of France” gave way in the most material point to the remonstrances of America; and, I have never yet read a Message of Mr. Madison, at the opening of a Session of Congress, in which he did not complain of the conduct of France. The Americans abhor an alliance with France; and, if they form such an alliance, it will have been occasioned by this war with us.

This charge of subserviency to Buonaparte has a thousand times been preferred against Mr. Madison, but never, that I have seen, once proved. It is, indeed, the charge which we have been in the habit of preferring against all those powers, who have been at war with us: Spain, Holland, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, and though last not least, Russia, as will be seen by a reference to Mr. Canning’s answer to the propositions from Tilsit.

“Subserviency to the Ruler of France!” We stop the American merchantmen upon the high seas; we take out many of their own native seamen; we force them on board of our men-of war; we send them away to the East Indies, the West Indies, or the Mediterranean; we expose them to all the hardships of such a life and all the dangers of battle, in a war in which they have no concern: all this we do, for we do not deny it; and when, after MANY YEARS of remonstrances, the American Government arms and sends forth its soldiers and sailors to compel us to desist, we accuse that Government of “subserviency to the Ruler of France,” who, whatever else he may have done, has not, that I have ever heard, given the Americans reason to complain of impressments Edition: current; Page: [149] from on board their ships. Many unjust acts he appears to have committed towards the Americans; but he has wisely abstained from impressments, which, as I have all along said, was the only ground upon which the people of America could have been prevailed upon to enter heartily into a war with any power: it is a popular ground: the war is in the cause of the people: accordingly, we find the motto to the war is: “Liberty of the seas and seamen’s rights.

I therefore regret exceedingly that the “Declaration” styles America “a willing instrument and abettor of French tyranny.” It is a heavy charge; it is one that will stick close to the memory of those who support the war; it will tend to inflame, rather than allay, the angry passions; and, of course, it will tend to kill all hopes of a speedy reconciliation.

As to what the “Declaration” is pleased to say about the “common origin” of the two nations, if of any weight, it might be urged, I suppose, with full as much propriety by the Americans against our impressments, as it is now urged against their resistance. I remember that it was urged with great force in favour of American submission to be taxed by an English parliament; but, as the result showed, with as little effect as it possibly can be upon this occasion.

There is one thing in this “calling cousin,” as the saying is, that I do not much like. The calling cousin always proceeds from us. The Americans never remind us, that we are of the same origin with them. This is a bad sign on our side. It is we, and not they, who tell the world of the relationship. In short, it is well enough for a newspaper to remind them of their origin; but I would not have done it in a solemn Declaration; especially, when I was accusing them of being the willing instrument and abettor of our enemy.

Common interest.” That, indeed, was a point to dwell on; but, then, it was necessary to produce something, at least, in support of the proposition. The Americans will query the fact; and, indeed, they will flatly deny it. They will say, for they have said, that it is not for their interest, that we should have more power than we now have over the sea; and, that they have much more to dread from a great naval power, than from an overgrown power on the Continent of Europe. They are in no fear of the Emperor Napoleon, whose fleets they are now a match for; but they are in some fear of us; and, therefore, they do not wish to see us stronger.

It is in vain to tell them, that we are fighting in defence of the “liberties of the world.” They understand this matter full as well as we do, and, perhaps, a little better. I should like to see this proposition attempted to be proved. I should like to hear my Lord Castlereagh, beginning with the Declaration against the Republicans of France, continue on the history of our hostilities to the present day, taking in those of India by way of episode, and concluding with the war for the right of impressment, make it out, how we have been and are defending the liberties of the world.

I dare say that his Lordship could make it out clearly enough. I do not pretend to question the fact or his ability; but it would be at once instructive and entertaining to hear how he would do it.

“From their professed principles of freedom.” From these the “Declaration” says, that His Royal Highness expected the United States would have been the last power to become a willing instrument of French Edition: current; Page: [150] tyranny. Very true: of French tyranny: but, that did not hinder him from expecting them to be the enemy of impressing men from on board their ships; and, it should have been shown how this disposition proved them to be a willing instrument to French tyranny, or of any tyranny at all.

It is useless to revile; it is useless to fly off to other matter. We impress men on board of American ships upon the high seas; we take out (no matter whether by mistake or otherwise) American seamen as well as English; we force them to fight on board our ships; we punish them if they disobey. And, when they, after years of complaints and remonstrances, take up arms in the way of resistance, we tell them that they show themselves the willing instruments and abettors of French tyranny.

I wish sincerely that this passage had been omitted. There are other parts of the “Declaration” that I do not like; but this part appears to me likely to excite a great deal of ill-will; of lasting, of rooted, ill-will.

I do not like the word “professed,” as applied to the American principles of freedom. The meaning of that word, as here applied, cannot be equivocal, and assuredly would have been better left out, especially as we never see, in any of the American documents, any expressions of the kind applied to us and to our Government.

But, to take another view of the matter, why should His Royal Highness expect the Americans to be disinclined towards France, because they profess principles of freedom? Why should be, on this account, expect that they would lean to our side in the war?

Does the Declaration mean to say, that the Government of France is more tyrannical than was that monarchy, for the restoration of which a league was made in Europe in the years 1792 and 1793? From its tone, the Declaration may be construed to mean, that our Government is more free than that of France, and that, therefore, we might have expected the Americans, who profess principles of freedom, to be on our side in a contest against “French tyranny.

Hem! Mum!

Well, well! We will say nothing about the matter; but, it must be clear to every one, that the Americans may have their own opinion upon the subject; and, they may express it too, until we can get at them with an ex-officio. They may have their own opinion upon the matter; and their opinion may possibly differ from ours. They are, to be sure, at a great distance; but, they are a reading and an observing and a calculating people; and, I’ll engage, that there is not a farmer in the back States who is not able to give a pretty good account of the blessings of “English Liberty.

Besides, leaving this quite out of the question; supposing that the Americans should think us freemen and the French slaves, why should that circumstance prevent them from leaning to the side of France? What examples of the effect of such morality amongst nations have the Regent’s ministers to produce? How often have we seen close alliances between free and despotic States against States either free or despotic? How often have we been on the side of despots against free States? England was once in offensive alliance with France against Holland; Holland and France against England; and, it ought never to be forgotten, that England, not many years ago, favoured the invasion of Holland and the subjugation of the States-General by a Prussian army. Edition: current; Page: [151] Have we not formed alliances with Prussia, Austria, Russia, Spain, Naples, and all the petty princes of Germany, against the Republic of France? Nay, have we refused, in that war, the co-operation of Turkey and Algiers? And, as for the old Papa of Rome, “the Whore of Babylon,” as our teachers call him, his alliance has been accounted holy by us, and his person an object of our peculiar care and protection.

Why, then, are we to expect, that America is to refrain from consulting her interests, if they be favoured by a leaning towards France? Why is she to be shut out from the liberty of forming connections with a despotism, supposing a despotism now to exist in France?

The truth is, that, in this respect, as in private life, it is interest alone that guides and that must guide; and, in my mind, it is not more reasonable to expect America to lean on our side on account of the nature of the Government of our enemy, than it would be to expect a Presbyterian to sell his sugar to a Churchman, because the only man that bade him a higher price was a Catholic.

Here I should stop; but, an article, upon the same subject, in the Morning Chronicle of the 13th instant, calls for observation.

Upon the falsehoods and impudence of the Times and the Courier, that is to say, the principal prints on the side of the Wellesley party and that of the Ministers, I have remarked often enough. I was anxious to hear what the Whigs had to say, and here we have it. Mr. Ponsonby and Mr. Brougham had pledged themselves to support the war, if America was not satisfied with the repeal of the Orders in Council; and here we have the grounds of that support. On this account the article is interesting, and, of course, worthy of an attentive perusal.

“Notwithstanding the tedious length of the papers on both sides, the question between the Court of London and the Government of the United States is simply the right of impressment of seamen on board trading ships—and this is, in truth, the sole cause of the war. If we were to examine the value of this cause to the two parties, it cannot be denied but that to the Americans it is exceedingly slight, and to the British highly material. The Americans cannot regard it as an insult, because it is a right which has been at all times asserted and acquiesced in by Sovereign States respectively. Then, viewed as an injury what is it? That they shall go to war to prevent British subjects who have forfeited their allegiance, abandoned their country, and left their families probably starving, from being impressed on board their merchant-vessels—that is to say; they claim the right to afford an asylum and employ the refuse of the British navy—men without principle, for it is only the profligate that are likely to become the objects of their protection. In this view, then, the point is of little consequence to the Americans, but it is interesting to the British to assert the power inherent in every State to reclaim its subjects; and the time may come when the principle would be equally important to America herself.

But, say the American Ministers, it is not so much the right itself, as the violent and insulting mode of exercising it that we complain of; for we have upon reflection agreed in the principle of international law, that free bottoms do not make free goods, and therefore we have no objection to the search of our merchant-ships for contraband of war; but, in that case, whenever warlike stores, &c. are found on board an American vessel, she is detained and carried into a port, for adjudication by a competent Court. Whether the adjudication be always impartial or not is another affair, but in this respect nations are on an equal footing, and these Admiralty Courts, well or ill-conducted, are recognized by all maritime nations. But with respect to the impressment of seamen, the act is violent because summary, and because it is subject to no revisal—to no adjudication—and because the individual seized has no means of redress. By this sort of reasoning there is a tacit admission on the part of America, that it is not to the act itself which they object so much as to the manner of the act; and accordingly we see various suggestions made by Americans, Edition: current; Page: [152] for entering into an amicable discussion on the means of getting over the outrageous way in which the right is exercised, and of giving security to both nations against the abuse in question. On the other side, Lord Castle-reagh declares the readiness of the British Government to receive and discuss any proposition on this subject coming from the American Government; though he would not enter into a negotiation, a preliminary to which should be the concession of this right, and so far we think he was clearly right.

But is it not monstrous that two people of common origin, and of almost inseparable interests, should remain at war on a point upon which there is so little difference between them? Surely without any sacrifice of etiquette on either side, the expedients might be canvassed, by which this mighty cause of war might be removed. Let each party promulgate their thoughts on the subject, and if there be an honest disposition to peace, it must follow.

The argument on both sides is short, and may be put in a few words. The agreement ought to be so drawn as to make it most dangerous to the Captain of an American ship to employ a British seaman on board; and, on the other side, to make it equally dangerous for a British Captain to seize and carry off an American seaman, under pretext of his being a British subject. Or, in other words, it ought to be made their interest to abstain from those two causes of national offence. Various modes have been suggested for this purpose.—The most effectual undoubtedly would be to ordain by a treaty, that the subjects of each power, if found on board the merchants’ vessels of the other, should be considered in the nature of contraband of war, inasmuch as their natural Sovereign was thereby deprived of their service in war, and that that should be a cause to detain the vessel for adjudication. By this the American Captain or his owners would most seriously suffer by having British seamen on board; and, on the other hand, the British Captain would equally suffer, if he had all the risk and loss to incur of an improper detention. Against this, however, the arguments are strong. The American Captain may have been imposed upon by the similarity of language, &c.; and when brought into one of our ports, where there is a competent Court to adjudge the point, a real American seaman might find it impossible to adduce proofs of his nativity. Besides, in both events, the penalty would be inordinate.

Another suggestion has been made, that the British naval officer impressing a seaman on board an American vessel, and vice versa, should be bound to make a certificate in duplicate (or what the French call a proces verbal), to the fact, one copy of which he should deliver to the American Captain, and transmit the other to the Admiralty to be filed; and that the seaman seized should have his action for damages in the Courts of Law, the certificate to be produced by the Admiralty as proof of the trespass, if the person can prove himself to be a native of the country that he pretended to be. We confess we think that this ought to satisfy both Governments, for this would make officers cautious in exercising the right which at the same time cannot be safely surrendered.”

This is poor, paltry trash. But, it contains one assertion, which I declare to be false. It is here asserted, that “the right of impressment of seamen on board of trading ships, is a right which has, at all times been asserted, and acquiesced in by sovereign states respectively.”—I give this an unqualified denial. I say, that it is a right, which no nation has before asserted, and that no nation ever acquiesced in.

Let the Morning Chronicle name the nation that has ever done either: let him cite the instance of such a practice as we insist upon; let him name the writer, every English writer, on public law, who has made even an attempt to maintain such a doctrine; nay, let him name the writer, who has laid down any principle, or maxim, from which such a right can possibly be deduced. And, if he can do none of these, what assurance, what a desperate devotion to faction, must it be to enable a man to make such an assertion! The assertion of the “value of the cause” being slight to America, in comparison to what it is to us, has no better foundation, The value! what is of value, what is of any value at all, if the Edition: current; Page: [153] liberty and lives of the people of America are of no value? And when we know, when no man will deny, when official records of the fact exist, that hundreds of native Americans have been impressed and sent to serve on board our ships of war: when this is notorious; when it neither will nor can be denied, what is of value to America if this cause be not of value?—As to the proposition for making English seamen “contraband of war,” it is so impudent, it is so shameful, it is even so horrid, that I will do no more than just name it, that it may not escape the reader’s indignation.—Indeed, there needs no more than the reading of this one article to convince the Americans, that all the factions in England are, in effect, of one mind upon the subject of this war; and, I am afraid, that this conviction will produce consequences, which we shall have sorely to lament, though I shall, for my own part, always have the satisfaction to reflect, that every thing which it was in my power to do, has been done, to prevent those consequences.

Wm. COBBETT.

THE LUDDITES.

Message of the Prince Regent to the two Houses of Parliament.—Sealed Papers and Secret Committee.—Nature of the Ballot for a Committee.—Publications in the Times and Courier newspapers for the purpose of Feeling the Public Pulse.

  • “Englishmen, now is your time to watch the WHIGS!”

No. I.

This is the title which I intend to give to the several articles, which I shall necessarily have to write upon the subject of the measures now about to be adopted by the Government, with regard to the counties of England, which have for some time past, been in a state of disturbance.—It is well known, that the frame-breakers in Nottingham took the name of Luddites; that this name has since spread into the neighbouring counties; and that several counties have, for many months, been in a state of great trouble.

On Saturday, the 27th June, the following Message was delivered to the two Houses of Parliament, to the Lords by Viscount Sidmouth and to the Commons by Lord Castlereagh:

“GEORGE P. R.—His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, in the name and on behalf of his Majesty, has given orders that there be laid before the House of Commons, Copies of Information received by his Majesty’s Government, relative to certain violent and dangerous proceedings, in defiance of the laws, which have taken place, and which continue to take place, in certain counties of the kingdom.—His Royal Highness confidently relies on the wisdom of the House of Commons that they will adopt such measures as are necessary to secure the lives and property of the peaceable and loyal inhabitants of the disturbed districts, and to restore order and tranquility.”

The first remark that presents itself here is, that, so long as three Edition: current; Page: [154] weeks ago, Lord Castlereagh assured the House of Commons, that the accounts which were received by Government from the disturbed counties were very satisfactory, more and more so every day.

Either, therefore, he was misinformed, or the people have relapsed.

On Monday the 29th of June, both Houses voted, without a division, an Address to the Regent, promising to take the subject into their consideration, and to adopt such measures as might be necessary to ensure the end pointed out in the latter part of the Message.

Upon this VITAL subject we must be very particular as to the names of all the actors.

Lord Liverpool supported the motion in the Lords, which was made by Lord Sidmouth; and Lord Stanhope moved an amendment, the object of which was to shut out any project for suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. Lord Holland went with Lord Stanhope; but the motion was adopted.

N.B. Not a word against the motion by Lord Grenville or Lord Grey.

In the Commons the motion was made by Lord Castlereagh. Mr. Whitbread and Sir Francis Burdett expressed their hope that nothing was about to be attempted against the great constitutional laws of England.

The next thing that was done was the making of a motion in both Houses for the appointment of a SECRET Committee to examine and report upon certain papers that were laid upon the table, SEALED UP! The motion was, in the House of Commons (to which we will now confine ourselves), that the Committee should be appointed by ballot; that is to say, in fact, appointed by the Ministry.

What passed upon this subject was very interesting indeed. I will, therefore, insert it, and I beg the reader, especially if he be a young man, to make a point of bearing it in mind.

Lord Castlereagh then moved, that the Papers he had this day presented, should be referred to a Committee, that it be a Committee of Secresy, and that the number of Members be 21, which were severally ordered. His Lordship likewise moved, that the members be chosen by ballot.—Mr. Whitbread protested against this mode of proceeding, since, it would give the Noble Lord the appointment of every Member of the Committee. He wished that the Members of it should be publicly named and chosen, that the House, and not the Noble Lord, might have the formation of the Committe. (Hear!)Lord Castlereagh persisted in his motion, since he was certain that on no side of the House on such a question would party feelings be exercised; he was convinced that it would be treated by Parliament in a manner, which while it did it honour, would give satisfaction to the people.—Sir F. Burdett, looking at the precedents to which Mr. Whitbread had referred, could not help feeling great jealousy as to the conduct of Government; he hoped that the bounds of the Constitution would not anew be transgressed by them. The mode in which the Committee was formed, if the satisfaction of the people were looked to, was of the utmost importance. (Hear, hear!)—It ought to be of such a description, that the country would place reliance upon its wisdom and impartiality, and not to be merely composed of the creatures of ministerial nomination.—The question, that the Committee be chosen by ballot was then put and carried, though there were a long number of dissentient voices.—On the question that Members prepare lists, and appear to-morrow to put them into the classes appointed for their reception, Mr. Whitbread declared that he should not attend for that purpose, as experience had shown that it would be useless, since any list he might prepare would be smothered in the vast heap of names supplied by the Noble Lord and his political friends.—It was ordered that the Papers communicated by the Prince Regent should remain sealed, until the appointment of the Committee.”

From this the reader will form his opinion of the nature of a ballot. Edition: current; Page: [155] But, indeed, a ballot is no more than this. Every member present at a given time, puts a ballot into a box, or something with a list of any 21 members’ names that he may choose to write on a ballot. When the Speaker takes out the ballots, he counts the number of times that he finds the several names written. These 21 members whose names are written the greatest number of times are the Committee. From this it follows, of course, that the majority of the House select the Committee. The name of ballot does, doubtless, lead some persons to suppose, that the names of all the members are put into a box, and that, as in the case of a common jury, the first 21 names drawn out are the names of the Committee; but, after what has been said above, no one will be deceived upon this subject again.

The ministry did not, during the debate, develop their intended schemes. But, on the contrary, appeared extremely anxious to avoid making any explicit statement upon the subject. Mr. Whitbread, however, took occasion to anticipate any attempt upon the constitutional laws, as did also Sir Francis Burdett, and the former warned the ministers (by bidding them look at the example of other countries) of the consequences of resorting to measures unwarranted by the usual laws of the country. Mr. Wilberforce said something, and, as it was curious, we will have it upon record.

“He entirely participated in the hope that nothing would be found in the documents laid upon the table to call for any extraordinary measures. He would not allow himself even to express an opinion, lest it might give rise to feelings that ought to be banished from all minds, that might produce dissent instead of union, for the accomplishment of an object of the greatest magnitude, not being at all acquainted with the nature of the papers supplied, and not having been present on Saturday when the message was brought down, he was, perhaps, of all men, the least competent to offer anything to the House, but he could not avoid rising to express a wish, that the utmost calmness and moderation might be observed in the deliberation. Nearly connected as he was with a district of the country most disturbed, he felt it necessary to conjure the House, that the case of these unfortunate and misguided people might be fully and candidly weighed, that the result might be the restoration of order, unanimity, prosperity, and happiness.”

This is a very curious speech. To speak, and say less than is here said, I should think extremely difficult. We will, reader, if you please, show our respect towards this honourable member by keeping a steady eye upon him all through this affair. I remember his conduct at the times when former measures of the kind now in contemplation were proposed. I remember him at the time of the Bank stoppage, and upon various other trying occasions.

While these things were going on in Parliament, the venal press was not idle; especially the newspapers called the Times and the Courier. These prints began, at once, to pave the way for what was intended to follow; they began to feel the pulse of the people. The Message was carried down, as we have seen, on Saturday, and, on Monday morning, the former of these prints began to announce, that it wished to see the rioters “put out of the protection of the law;” alleging, as a reason, that they were become assassins and incendiaries. But, even assassins and incendiaries have hitherto had the law applied to their case. I do not know why the word assassin is now so much in use. It seems that there are people who think it more horrible in its sound than the word murderer. Be this as it may, however, we have laws for the punishment of persons guilty of murder and arson. If this is all, we want no new Edition: current; Page: [156] laws. “When,” says the vile Times, “they became assassins and incendiaries, they put themselves out of the protection of the LAW, and JUSTICE must be done upon them.” This is an excellent phrase! The law is to be laid aside, and justice is to be done! Very good, indeed! But, this is the sort of trash that delights the readers of this corrupt vehicle. In his paper of the 30th of June, this writer calls the people in the disturbed counties “abandoned revolutionary miscreants.” In short, he says every thing which malice and cruelty can suggest to him in order to prepare beforehand for a justification of any measures of severity that may be adopted. The Courier, the faithful fellow-labourer of the former print, sets about its work in a more elaborate manner. It begins, on Monday, the 29th of June, with accounts of acts of violence committed in Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Nottinghamshire. And, having inserted those accounts, the hireling next sets about his work, the recommending of a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the putting the country under martial law. These things he talks of as coolly as Lord Liverpool, some years back, talked of a march to Paris.

Reader, does not this last sentence bring you back to the outset of the French Revolution, when this nation went to war to keep down republicans and levellers? Really the contest has brought us to something at last! How far farther it will take us I do not know.

To return now to the accounts from the troubled counties, I think it necessary to insert them here; because, it will, hereafter, be very useful to be able to recur to these dawnings of a state of things, the like of which, this country has not seen for a great while, and which will, if I mistake not, make a very considerable figure in history.

The Courier begins with Nottingham, a place at the very name of which every hireling’s knees knock together. To be sure, he has nothing here to speak of but a squabble at the playhouse; but, of that he makes the most. I beg the reader to pay attention to the story.

Nottingham, 26th June.—The theatre at this place has been abruptly closed by command of the Town Magistrates, in consequence of the tumultuous proceedings that have taken place on several successive evenings, occasioned by a request made to the Orchestra to play the NATIONAL air of God save the King. On the tune being called for, it has generally been accompanied with a cry of ‘Hats off,’ which has produced the most violent opposition on the part of those who are any thing but loyal. Instead of complying with the request, the Oppositionists answer it with a cry of ‘Millions be free!’ and rising with their hats on, place themselves in the most menacing attitude of defiance. This act of INDECENCY has frequently led to blows, and individuals in the boxes have been obliged to seek their personal safety by leaping into the pit, while those in the pit have placed themselves in array against the boxes, and a general contest or tumult has been the result. In several instances tickets have been distributed, gratis, to the amount of several pounds, with a view to beat down the loyal party by main force, in consequence of which several OFFICERS have been insulted, and mal-treated, particularly on Wednesday evening last, when a number of those desperadoes surrounded Brigade-Major Humphreys, on coming out of the Theatre, hooted him along the streets to his quarters, and threw a bottle in his face which cut him severely. Brigade-Major Humphreys is a most gentlemanly character, who had never taken any part whatever in the disturbances, but that he was a military officer was quite sufficient. On another occasion, a party way-laid an officer of the 2d Somerset Militia who had been forward in displaying his zeal and loyalty to his King at the Theatre, in the Park, late in the evening, and beat him in a most inhuman manner. Several have been compelled to enter into recognizances for their good behaviour, and two or three are bound over to appear at the Quarter Sessions, for the assault committed on the officer in the Park. This evening was fixed Edition: current; Page: [157] for the benefit of Mr. Robertson, one of our highly respected Managers, who calculated upon a net receipt of at least 100l.; but by the abrupt closing of the Theatre, his benefit is necessarily postponed until after the Races, which it is supposed will be a great loss to him.”

Now, reader, if you examine this matter, you will find, that, even upon their own showing, the God-save-the-King party have been the aggressors.

What right, I should like to know, has one part of an audience at a public theatre to compel the other part, however small that other part may be, to stand up, or to pull off their hats, upon the playing of a tune or the singing of a song called for by the former? And, if this right exists in no case, it surely cannot exist when, as appears to have been the case here, the party, taking upon them to give the command is the least numerous. Well might the theatre be shut up, if the manager would suffer the few amongst his audience to hector over the many.

This writer calls the tune of God save the King “the NATIONAL air.” But, he has not cited to us any law by which we are compelled to rise and pull off our hats at the playing of it. He may like it, and so may the Officers at Nottingham, though the language is a rare specimen of stupid verbosity and tautology; though some of the sentiments, as far as they can be called sentiments, are at once malignant, abject, and impious; and though the whole, when considered with reference to the unfortunate personage whose name is the chief burthen of the song, amounts to a species of burlesque the most disgusting that can be conceived, still it may accord with the taste of the military officers quartered at Nottingham, and they may, if they choose, consider the air as national and have it played accordingly at their mess-rooms. But, if we leave them to their taste, we shall not agree to subject the people of Nottingham thereto; we shall not agree that they have a right to cram their sentiments down the throats of the people of that town, or any other town or county.

Observe, reader, that it is not the people who begin the quarrel. The others call for the tune; it is played; no interruption is given by the people. But, this is not enough. The people must not only sit and hear that which they disapprove of; but, they must, at the word of command, pull off their hats, as a mark of approbation of that which they are known to disapprove of, and that, too, at the order of a comparatively small part of the audience. Can subservience; can slavery, go lower than this? And, if the people of Nottingham were compelled to submit to this, what impudence would it be in them to affect to revile any other people as slaves!

To this last stage of servility the people of Nottingham were not, it seems, disposed to submit; but, in answer to the word of command, they rose and exclaimed, “ ‘MILLIONS BE FREE;’ placing themselves, at the same time, in a most menacing attitude of DEFIANCE.” Of defiance, mind. Not of aggression. And, what could be more proper? Yet this hireling calls it an “act of indecency!” Slave, dost thou, then, think it an act of indecency in Englishmen to answer an arbitrary and insolent command by an exclamation expressive of their love of freedom? Dost thou then, slave as thou art, think this an act of indecency; and hast thou the impudence to give utterance and publicity to thy thought?

If the people of Nottingham were to submit to this command to pull their hats off in the play-house, why not in the street? And, if to pull Edition: current; Page: [158] off their hats, why not to go down upon their knees, or to turn out their pockets? Loss of property and loss of liberty are never far asunder.

As to the assaults, committed on the bodies of the two military officers, if they were unprovoked, the parties ought to be punished; but, it will be observed, that we here have but one side of the story, and that every story has two sides. The story comes, too, from a man (if one ought to call him such), who looks upon it as an act of indecency for Englishmen, when arbitrarily and insolently commanded to pull off their hats, refuse to comply, and exclaim that they are free. This being the sort of persons from whom the story comes, we ought to distrust, and, indeed, to disbelieve every word of it that makes against the people of Nottingham.

One of these officers had, we are told, “been forward in displaying his zeal and loyality to his King at the theatre.” That is to say, he had been (according to this writer’s previous account) forward in commanding the men of Nottingham to pull off their hats. The gentleman, whoever he is (and he is not named), might have found a better way than this of displaying his zeal and loyalty. There is very little loyalty in the bawling out of a stupid song; but that would have been a good in endeavouring to conciliate the people, amongst whom he was quartered.

In short, it is clear, that these rows at the theatre at Nottingham have been provoked by the unbearable insolence of a few of those persons, who assume to themselves the exclusive merit of loyalty. Nothing can be clearer than this, even from the statement of this hireling himself; and, therefore, it appears to me, that the conduct of the manager of the theatre has been unjustifiable. It was for him to express his disapprobation of the conduct of those, who were taking upon them to give commands to the audience, and turn a place of recreation, where every man had equal rights, into a scene of political triumph of the few over the thoughts and wishes of the many; and, in not having expressed this disapprobation, he appears to me to have tacitly taken part with insolent commanders. I am not, therefore, at all sorry for his loss; and, I hope, that, unless he makes atonement by restoring freedom to his theatre, he will be left to exhibit his scenes to his exclusively “loyal” customers and to them only.

So much for the accounts from Nottingham. Let us now hear those from other places. I shall insert them one after another without any interruption.

Huddersfield (Yorkshire), June 25.—Last Monday, about midnight, a great number of armed men, with their faces disfigured by broad black marks down each cheek and over the forehead, assembled near the dwelling-house of Mr. Fisher, a shopkeeper of Briestwistle, in this neighbourhood, and after firing two guns or pistols, demanded admittance into Mr. Fisher’s house, which he refused. They then broke open the door, and two of them rushing into the house, seized Mr. Fisher, who had just got out of bed; they each presented a pistol to his breast, and threatened him with instant death if he stirred a foot. Not intimidated by this threat, Mr. Fisher rushed from them towards the door, when he was seized by other six men, who placing a sheet over his head, face, and arms, kept him in that situation while their comrades ransacked the house, and took from his pocket-book bills to the amount of 116l. besides 20l. in notes and some cash; they also took a quantity of notes and cash out of a drawer, but to what amount Mr. Fisher does not exactly know. When the depredation was completed, the leader cried out to the guard placed over Mr. Fisher, ‘Let him go; don’t hurt him; we have got what we wanted, and we will bring it back in three months,’ and immediately made off.”

Edition: current; Page: [159]

Sheffield (Yorkshire), June 27.—We are sorry to learn, from the resolutions of the meeting of Lieutenancy and Magistrates, that the nightly depredations, and other most violent breaches of the peace, in a great part of the manufacturing districts of this Riding, still continue. The most effective measures are immediately to be taken to stop the career of the lawless offenders.”

Stafford (Staffordshire), June 27.—In the beginning of the last week, a strong body of those deluded men, calling themselves Luddites, surrounded the house of a lady, the widow of an officer, residing in Edgeley, near Stockport, and, with horrid threats, demanded entrance, to search for arms. The inhabitants, under an impression of dreadful coasequences resulting from a refusal, opened the door, when a number of armed men rushed into the house, and after minutely searching all parts took away with them eight swords, leaving the affrighted inmates in a state of extreme consternation. The party consisted of from eighty to one hundred, variously armed, and they paid the strictest obedience to the commands of one who acted as the leader, and who was of a respectable appearance. We wish we could, with that degree of justice we owe to the public’s information, here close this article; but we are sorry to say, the lapse of each day discloses some new object of alarm—some new act calculated to impress upon us the most alarming sensations and apprehensions for the general peace and safety of the country. It has been told us, that assemblies nightly take place in secluded places, to the number of some hundreds, that the oath continues to be administered, and that the names of those who are parties to the abominable and seditious compact, are called over at the several places of rendezvous with all the regularity and appearance of system and discipline.”

The acts here spoken of, if really committed, are such as call for the exertion of the lawful authorities to put a stop to them. They are unlawful, and that is enough; but, then, have we not laws? Have we not Justices and other magistrates; have we not Constables and other peace officers; have we not Sheriffs, who have power to call out all the people in their several counties to their assistance?

To lament the existence of such disturbances is unavoidable; but, I cannot help thinking, that, if I were a Lord Lieutenant, or even a Sheriff, I would render, as far as my county went, an application for military force unnecessary.

I cannot help observing here, that a great deal of mischief has, in all probability, been done by those who have the impudence to assume to themselves exclusively the appellation of “loyal men.” These men, who, for the most part, live, in one way or another, upon the taxes, have, in the indulgence of their senseless rage against the Emperor Napoleon, been, in fact, openly inculcating the right, and even the duty, of a people to rise in arms against their government. I have in my eye two remarkable instances of this: one in the Courier, who applauded the conduct (or reported conduct) of the people in Holland in flying to arms, and even in pulling the Dutch Judges from the Bench and dragging them along the streets. The other instance was in the Times newspaper, which said, not long ago, that it hoped to have to record accounts of insurrections in France. I, as the public will do me the justice to remember, remonstrated with these good hirelings at the time. I told that there was danger in the promulgating of sentiments of this sort; because, though they themselves were, doubtless, able to discriminate between an insurrection in England and an insurrection in France, some of their readers might not. I, therefore, advised them to let France alone in this respect, stating my opinion, that they would have to repent having meddled with her.

As to the remedy for the disturbances, the way to ascertain that, is, first to ascertain the cause; but, of that I must speak in my remarks upon Edition: current; Page: [160] the article of the Courier of the 29th instant, which, as I before observed, was published for the purpose of feeling the public pulse, and which, before I proceed to my remarks, I shall, agreeably to my usual practice, insert. I shall insert the whole of it, because it will hereafter be to be referred to. We are now, I am convinced, at the dawn of a set of memorable measures and events. It is, therefore, of great consequence to note down, and to fix clearly in our minds, all the preliminary steps. History often becomes wholly useless for want of a knowledge of the little springs which first set the machine in motion.

With this preface I hope the reader will enter upon the article, which is not long, with a disposition to attend to its contents.

“The Message of the Prince Regent to both Houses on Saturday, related to the violent proceedings which have taken place in several counties of England. Copies of the information which has been received by Government, relative to them will be laid before Parliament to-day. The intention of Government is to move an address this afternoon to the Regent, thanking him for his communication, and to refer the information to a Secret Committee of Inquiry. Of course we do not presume to state what their report will be; but it is rumoured that a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act will be proposed. We have, from the country papers received this morning, extracted accounts of the situation of several districts, where, we regret to state, the practice of stealing arms, administering treasonable oaths, and assembling in large numbers nightly, is carried on with increasing violence. More vigorous measures have therefore become necessary. That the Government have hitherto endeavoured to put down these outrages without demanding more extensive powers; that they hoped the laws as they stood would be sufficient; that they trusted the trials and punishment of some prominent offenders would operate as a salutary example and warning, is now adduced against them as a crime; and falsely imputing these outrages to the Orders in Council, the Opposition ask whether ‘it is not alarming that measures of such extent should be brought into discussion at this season of the year;’ when it is added, ‘almost all the independent Representatives of the people are on their return to the country?’ What! are measures necessary to the public peace and safety not to be discussed because independent Representatives do not choose to attend their duty in Parliament? If they prefer their own business or pleasure to the public business, are Ministers to blame? The evil which it is wished to remedy has grown to an alarming height only within a short time, how then was it possible to bring it into discussion earlier? And with respect to the Orders in Council, is there the least shadow of proof that the outrages were occasioned by them? Nay, is there not abundant evidence to show that they had nothing to do with them? Did the Orders in Council produce the destruction of the stocking-frames in Nottinghamshire? Did they lead to the burning of the mills in Yorkshire? Did they cause the horrible assassinations in Lancashire? Have they produced the Luddite Associations and the oaths of treason which have been the consequence of them? Are arms seized and large numbers of persons drilled and disciplined nightly because of the Orders in Council? It is absurd, if not worse, to endeavour so to mislead the public mind. But the Orders in Council have been repealed! It is known in every part of the disturbed counties that they have been repealed, and yet these outrages, so far from having abated in violence, are on the increase. TREASON is the object of these associations, and their weapons have hitherto been burnings and assassination. Are these crimes to be palliated or excused, and are we to characterize the perpetrators of them merely as poor deluded mistaken men? They are neither deluded nor mistaken; their hatred is against the whole form of our Government, and their object is to destroy it. The SUSPENSION OF THE HABEAS CORPUS, and the PROCLAMATION OF MARTIAL LAW may be and are measures to be deplored, but the question is, whether a lesser evil shall be incurred to avoid a greater; whether disaffection shall be put down and punished, or suffered to pursue its march with impunity.

The object of this article clearly is to prepare a justification of a suspension of the Habeas Corpus, or PERSONAL LIBERTY ACT, and also of the subjecting of the people of England to MARTIAL LAW.

Edition: current; Page: [161]

Reader, English Reader! Reader, of whatever country you may be, do think a little of the nature of the measures here unequivocally pointed out for adoption. As to the first, it would expose us, it would expose any of us, it would expose every man in England, TO BE PUT IN PRISON, INTO ANY PRISON, AND KEPT THERE, DURING THE PLEASURE OF THE MINISTRY, WITHOUT ANY SPECIFIC CHARGE AGAINST US, AND WITHOUT EVER BEING BROUGHT TO TRIAL. This would be the effect of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which, by all our great lawyers, is described as the safeguard of our liberties and our lives.

The other measure, the proclaiming of martial law, would SUBJECT US ALL TO BE TRIED BY COURTS-MARTIAL, AND TO BE IMPRISONED, FLOGGED, HANGED, OR SHOT, AS SUCH COURTS-MARTIAL MIGHT ADJUDGE.

I do not say, mind, that Lord Castlereagh has these measures in his budget for us. No, no; I do not say that; but it is very clear, that the vile Editor of the Courier newspaper is prepared to justify the proposing and the adopting of these measures, which he calls “a lesser evil” than that of suffering “disaffection to go unpunished;” and this he says, too, while he is calling upon us to fight for our liberties.

However, having seen his measures, let us now see what are the grounds upon which he would justify them. He says, that “treason is the object of the rioters; that they are neither deluded nor mistaken: but that their hatred is against the whole form of our government, and that their object is to destroy it.” This must be news indeed to the Emperor of France, who will, doubtless, be anxious to hear to how many counties of England this hatred extends itself. He will, I dare say, be amused with the reflection that a twenty years’ war to keep down republicans and levellers has brought us to this; and, really, we cannot be much offended even if he should laugh at us, when he recollects that our newspapers have been expressing so anxious a desire to have to record the events of disturbances and insurrections in France.—But, where is the proof of the truth of this assertion of the Courier? Upon the strength of what evidence is it, that he sends forth these tidings so pleasing to the Emperor of France and to all the enemies of England? Where are his proofs of that treason and of that hatred of the whole form of the government, of which he talks? If he has the proofs, why does he not give them? And, if he has them not, how dares he make such an assertion? How dares he thus blacken the character of the people of the most populous and most valuable part of the kingdom?—He denies, that the Orders in Council have had any thing to do in the producing of the disturbances, though the evidence of a crowd of most respectable witnesses, given before both Houses of Parliament, prove that the Orders in Council have been one cause, at least, of the distresses which exist in the troubled counties; and also prove, that the distresses have been, or, at least, originally were, the cause of the disturbances. Yet does this unfeeling man endeavour to make the world believe, that distress has had nothing at all to do with the matter.—It has been proved, in the clearest possible manner, that, in the troubled counties, the people have suffered and are suffering, in a most cruel manner; that the food of many of them is of the worst sort, and not half sufficient in quantity; that hundreds and thousands of poor mothers and their children are wholly destitute of bread, and that even potatoes are too dear for them to get at; that the Edition: current; Page: [162] food of these unfortunate creatures is oatmeal and water, and that they have not a sufficiency of that. It has been proved, that many have died, actually expired for want of food. And, it has been proved, that this want has, in part, at least, arisen from the existence of the Orders in Council.—Yet, with this proof all before him, does this unfeeling writer, this inexorable man, deny that any part of the disturbances has arisen from distress, and that a treasonable intention, “a hatred to the whole form of the government, and a desire to destroy it,” are the sole causes.

This pampered hireling does not know what hunger is. It is charity to suppose that he is incapable of forming an idea of the sufferings of a human being under the craving of an appetite which there are not the means to satisfy. Let him read a passage in the history of Trenck, who, having travelled for two or three days without eating, and being in a house where he saw some victuals without having money to purchase any, says, he rushed out of the door lest he should commit murder in order to obtain the food, which he felt himself violently tempted to do. Let the hard-hearted hireling read this passage; let him put himself, for a moment, in the place of a father who sees a starving family around him; and, then, I should hope, that he, even he, will feel and express some compassion for the suffering manufacturers.—Far be it from me to attempt to justify people in the commission of unlawful acts. I do not wish to justify the woman who, according to the newspapers, committed highway robbery in taking some potatoes out of a cart at Manchester, and who, according to the newspapers, was HANGED FOR IT. I do not pretend to justify her conduct. But there is, I hope, no harm in my expressing my compassion for her; and, I further hope, that my readers would think me a most inhuman brute, if I were to endeavour to deprive her and her unhappy fellow-sufferers of the compassion of the public; by asserting that she was actuated by a treasonable motive, and that she hated the whole form of our government, and wished to destroy it. No, reader, I will not lend my aid to this. I allow her to have been guilty of highway robbery in forcibly taking some potatoes out of a cart at Manchester; I allow this; and I allow that the law has made highway robbery a crime punishable with death, if the judges think proper; but I cannot and I will not allow, that her forcibly taking of some potatoes out of a cart at Manchester, was any proof of a treasonable design and of hatred against the whole form of our government.—Upon some future occasion I will give a picture of the mode of living of a poor man and his family in England, and will show how far his wages will go with the quartern loaf at 20 pence. At present I shall add only one remark to what has been said above, and that is, that though this hired writer could see nothing but treason to arm the Government against, Lord Sidmouth could. He could see, not only an insurrection of the head to provide against, but also an insurrection of the belly; for, in the speech by which he introduced his motion for thanks to the Regent for his Message, he is reported to have said:—“They (the government) ought to be prepared for the worst. If their hopes should prove to be unfounded; if it should please Providence to afflict the country with another BAD HARVEST; how heavy would be the responsibility of the Government; how heavy that of their Lordships, if they neglected to take such precautionary measures as the occasion required?”—Very true, my lord! Really, very true! And, doubtless, as you are so Edition: current; Page: [163] sensible of the heavy responsibility that will fall upon you both as a minister and a lord, if precautionary measures are not taken to meet the affliction of another bad harvest; this being the case you, doubtless, have in view some means either of augmenting the wages or income of the poor, or, of lowering the price of their food. There appears to me to be only these two sets of means; and, as your lordship seems to be so fully sensible of the responsibility, there can be no doubt that one or the other will be employed. The former object might be accomplished, to a great extent, at least, by certain savings which I will hereafter take the liberty to point out to your lordship; and the latter, by adding to the quantity of corn by importation. But, I have not now room to do anything more than merely open this most interesting of all subjects.

We must now, before we take our leave of this subject for the present, return to the House of Commons, where, on Tuesday, the 30th June, we find the ballot producing the following members for the Secret Committee:

G. Canning Lord G. L. Gower W. Wilberforce Lord Milton Lord Castlereagh C. Long H. Lascelles H. Goulburn W. Lambe J. S. Wortley Samuel Whitbread Lord Newark The Master of the Rolls —— Paget D. Davenport G. Tierney J. Blackburne H. Leicester W. W. Bootle T. Babbington. C. Yorke

Upon the names being read over Mr. Whitbread said, “this List contained the identical names that he had seen handed about this morning. The present was therefore neither more nor less than the Treasury List, as all Committees ballotted for in this manner were uniformly found to be.”

The reader will ask, perhaps, how it comes, then, that Mr. Whitbread’s own name was put on it: but, reader, of what use is his name, if there be a majority on the side of the minister?

Such, then, is this SECRET Committee. And, what is this Committee to do? Why, it is to examine the SEALED UP papers; and, then it is to make a report to the House of the result of its inquiries, and of the measures which it thinks proper to recommend in consequence. And then the House is to decide without seeing the papers! Or, I suppose, at least, that this is the course, it having been so in other cases of Secret Committees.

Having now given this subject an opening, and having brought the history of the Luddite measures down to the appointment of the Committee of Secrecy; I shall, for the present, take my leave of it, with once more requesting my readers to WATCH THE WHIGS, and mark what their conduct will be through the whole of this transaction.

In neither House have they yet opened their lips upon the subject.

Wm. COBBETT.
Edition: current; Page: [164]

THE LUDDITES; OR, HISTORY OF THE SEALED BAG.

No. II.

In my last, under this head, I inserted and commented on, an article, published by the hireling press, about a row at the Theatre at Nottingham. The following letter, published in the Nottingham Review of the 3rd of July, will show how false and how base were the charges contained in that article:

LIBELS AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF NOTTINGHAM.

To the Editor of the Nottingham Review
Sir:

It seems that a dark scheme has been laid by several character-assassins, for the purpose of exciting the particular resentment of Government against the inhabitants of this town, as several of the London papers of this week have teemed with abuse against them, equally false and malignant. We are told that a man has been shot at, who had been active in bringing the “evil-disposed people to justice;” that “parties of these deluded people are in the habit of assembling in different parts of the town, to carry their revengeful designs into execution; that it is dangerous for the military to walk the streets in the evening; that on the 24th ult. Brigade-Major Humphreys, who is on the Staff here, was laid wait for on his return from the Theatre (which seems to be a favourite resort of these lawless ruffians) by a large party, and without the slightest provocation on his part, was knocked down by a shower of stones, two of which took effect, and one, which struck him on the forehead, nearly terminated his existence; and that an Officer of the Somerset Militia, who was quietly walking along the streets, was assaulted by a considerable party of these desperadoes, and narrowly escaped with his life,” &c. Now, Sir, the truth or falsehood of these grave charges will show what credit is due to the testimony of these calumniators, who seem to ape the conduct of those worthy gentry, that some time ago corresponded with the celebrated and honest John Bowles.—It is true that a man was shot at eight miles hence on the 20th ultimo; but the writers in question might with as much propriety have charged the Lord Chancellor of England with having been accessary to the assassination of Mr. Perceval, as to implicate the people of Nottingham with an attempt on the life of a man eight miles hence, for his Lordship was very likely much nearer the House of Commons when Bellingham drew the fatal trigger.—As to the other charges, brought by these scribbling gentlemen, they are still of a more infamous complexion; but a short statement of facts will set the business to rights.—The Theatre is described as having been the rallying point for a set of ruffians; and, perhaps, this may prove correct; for it can be proved by many respectable witnesses, that few evenings passed over during the late season of performance at that should-be place of social amusement, without a row being kicked up by certain military characters, and a few stripling ruffians who had honourably enlisted under their warlike banners.—The practice generally was for these worthies to make their sober appearance at half-price, and as soon as the curtain fell, to vociferate “God save the King;” and those who did not immediately obey their second imperious mandate, which was “Hats off,” were instantly assailed with oaths, sticks, swords, &c. Party in politics made no distinction here; for many persons of great respectability, who are known to be staunch friends to what is called “the high party,” met with much abuse, Edition: current; Page: [165] because they chose to act as men; nay, many of the fair sex felt the effects of the gentlemanly conduct of some of these defenders of our country, and their worthy coadjutors. One of them, a conspicuous officer of the 45th, for abusing a man in the pit, was brought before the Magistrates; and had not the prosecutor have taken the hush-money, he would have appeared in his true colours in a court of justice; a gentleman of high character both for property and personal respectability, was a volunteer evidence on the occasion, but who has had the tables turned upon him for his services; for this same gallant Officer has since caused him to be bound over to the Sessions, on a charge of having excited an assault upon the latter, though I do not understand that he exhibited any honourable wounds obtained in either his offensive or defensive operations. A jury will, however, set this business to rights.—As to the charge about the Somerset Officer, I will beg leave to inform you, that his valour had often been displayed against the hats of the audience in the Theatre, and that he one evening received a severe chastisement by the aid, as I understand, of a horse-whip, for which he has caused a man to be bound over to the Sessions.—As to the wound received by Brigade-Major Humphreys, I have no doubt, but every person in the town laments the unfortunate circumstance; because, since his residence here, he has invariably conducted himself as a gentleman. The truth is, however, that as he was departing from the Theatre, in company with some other officers, he was struck on the forehead by a stone, or some other hard substance; but, happy I am to say, so far from his life being endangered by the blow, that a gentleman of my acquaintance met him the next morning going about his business.—The principal sufferer in consequence of these outrages, is Mr. Robertson, one of the Managers of the Theatre; who, as a good husband, a good father, and in other respects, a good member of society, it grieves me to say, was deprived of his benefit, the Mayor ordering the Theatre to be shut; but who, I hope, will be remunerated when he makes his appearance here at the Races.—The writer of the inflammatory article in one of the London papers, whose character and station in life, I believe, I am acquainted with, concludes by saying, “It is a lamentable circumstance, that with the powers granted by the Watch and Ward Bill, such acts of atrocity should not be prevented.” To this I will reply, that, with the exception of the disturbances occasioned as above described, so peaceable is the state of the town, that the Magistrates have not seen it necessary to saddle the inhabitants with the expense and trouble of Watching and Warding since the 5th of June. So much for the veracity of these correspondents to the London papers!

A Friend to Truth.

THE LUDDITES; OR, HISTORY OF THE SEALED BAG.

“That the subjects which are Protestants, may have arms for their defence, suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.”

Declaration of Rights.

No. III.

I have brought down this curious history to the appointment of the Committee of the House of Commons, to examine and report upon the contents of the SEALED BAG. I am now about to put upon record what has been the result of that examination; and, when I have so done, I shall offer such remarks upon the subject as appear to me likely to assist in causing the thing to be seen in its true light, and also to be remembered Edition: current; Page: [166] for what it has been. The people of this country have been led on by degrees to their present state. No people were ever so much changed all at once. If, twenty years ago, the people of England, who were then shouting for war, had been told what their state would be in twenty years from that time, they would have been ready, like Richard, to stab the prophet in the midst of his prophecy. If they had been told, that, before that war should end, they would be compelled to pay an income-tax of ten per centum; that they would be subjected to laws of taxation such as those now in existence; that they would see German Troops brought into the heart of the country; that they would see the arms of a Local Militia put under the guard of regular soldiers; that they would see barracks erected in, or on the side of every considerable town; that they would see districts of England put under the command of German Officers; that they would see the Judges sitting at the assizes under the protection of regular soldiers; that they would see soldiers attending to protect the Sheriff and his officers at the execution of criminals; that they would see soldiers called in at an election for members to serve in Parliament; and, finally, that they would see a law passed for DISARMING THE PEOPLE, or any considerable part of the people: if they had been told this, what would they have said? Would they not have regarded the man, telling them so, as either a madman or one disposed to excite hatred against the Government? Would not such a man have been prosecuted as a seditious libeller? Nay; how many Gentlemen, how many real friends of England and of English liberty, were prosecuted, and some of them utterly destroyed, for endeavouring to prevent the war, and to produce that reform, without which, as they then stated, it was impossible for England to avoid ruin? But, even their forebodings; even their notions of ruin fell far short of what we now have in the reality before our eyes.

Let the reader, therefore, prepare his mind for much more than he has yet seen. What is to be the end of the progress, in which we now are, no man can say, and I shall not pretend to conjecture; but, I beseech the reader to be prepared; and with this caution to him, I enter upon the continuation of the history of the sealed bag.

We before saw how the Secret Committee was appointed; and we have now to see its report. This report was laid before the House of Commons on the 8th instant, and, in substance, it is given as stating,

“That alarming disturbances, destructive to property, prevailed in the counties of Lancaster, York, &c., and had continued from the month of March down to the latest accounts on the 23rd of June. That the rioters assembled in the night-time, with their faces blackened, armed with the implements of their trades, and other offensive instruments, with which they destroyed the property of those who were obnoxious to them. That they had in many instances written threatening letters, had proceeded the length of setting fire to the houses of individuals, and even that an atrocious murder had been committed on a person of the name of Horsefall, by four persons, who there was every reason to believe were accomplices in these disturbances. That great dread and alarm was occasioned in consequence of these proceedings; and that, in some instances, sums of money were demanded and extorted. The Committee, without entering into details, thought it necessary to state, that the first object of these rioters seemed to be the breaking of machinery; but they had in many instances resorted to measures infinitely more alarming, namely, the demanding of arms; and had even carried them off, in many instances where they allowed every other species of property to remain untouched. These seemed not to be the effect of any sudden impulse, but of an organized system of lawless violence. Sometimes the rioters were under the control of leaders; and were distinguished, Edition: current; Page: [167] not by names, but by numbers; were known to each other by signs and countersigns; and carried on all with the utmost caution. They also took an oath, that while they existed under the canopy of Heaven they would not reveal any thing connected with the present disturbances, under the penalty of being put out of existence by the first brother whom they should meet, &c. It did not appear to the Committee that any sums of money were distributed among the rioters. It was extremely difficult to discover them. It was held out to them that they might expect to be joined by other discontented persons from London, and that there were persons in the higher ranks who would also lend them support; but of these insinuations the Committee were able to find no evidence. Whatever was their object, however, and whoever were the secret movers of these disturbances, yet the secrecy with which they were carried on, the attempts at assassination that had been made, the oaths that had been administered, and the system of terror that prevailed, had not failed to impress the Committee deeply.

Deeply, enough, no doubt; but there was, it seems, no evidence to prove a setting on; no evidence to prove a plot. And, this is the circumstance that will most puzzle the ministry. They can find no agitators. It is a movement of the people’s own, as far as it goes; and, if the ministry say, that it does not arise from the dearness of provisions and from other causes of distress; if it does not arise from that source, it follows, that it must arise from some dislike of what the Government itself is doing or has done; it follows, that the people are displeased with something in their rulers; and this is what is called disaffection.

There is a sad dilemma here for the eulogists of the system. For, either it is a good system, or it is not: either it is calculated to make the people happy, or it is not: if the latter, the system ought to be changed; if the former, the people are hostile to the Government for hostility’s sake; they, in this case, must hate the system under which they live.

I shall not undertake to say which is the case. It is not necessary. But, one or the other is the case; that I will say, and, in the assertion, I am warranted by irrefutable argument. The conclusion, either way, is mortifying enough to the pride of those, who began the war for the purpose of keeping democratical principles out of England, and who, at a later period, exulted with Arthur Young, that nothing short of an iron despotism would be sufficient to keep order in France; and that, thus, the people of England would be terrified from all thoughts of reform. This malignant, this diabolical idea is clearly and unreservedly expressed by Arthur Young, in his “Warning.” Yes; after having seen all France; after having witnessed, described, and inveighed against the oppressions and miseries under the old Government of France, he exults at the prospect of seeing the people of France punished with an iron and everlasting despotism; and why? Because they had put down for ever that old Government, under which he had before said they were so grievously oppressed.

But, what have these sentiments of the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture to do with the subject before us? A great deal to do with it. For, we now see, that though the people of France were so far foiled by the English Government and its allies as not to be able to establish freedom in France; though they have been, after all, compelled, for the sake of tranquillity and safety, to submit to what they call monarchy, and what our hired writers call a military despotism; though the wish, the abominable, the fiend-like wish of Arthur Young and the Anti-Jacobins has been thus far, according to their own account, accomplished; though they assert that France labours under the most terrible of despotisms; Edition: current; Page: [168] still are they now compelled to confess, that there are a part, at least, of the people of England who have not taken the “Warning.” These people have seen all that has passed in France. They have seen it all, and yet they are, it seems, not afraid of change! Mr. Young must be greatly surprised at this. He must be greatly mortified to see his most charitable wish disappointed!

Returning now more immediately to the subject; upon the above-mentioned report has been grounded a Bill, which is now before Parliament. Of this Bill, which is intended as a remedy for the evils stated in the report, the chief feature is a power given to the Justices (who are all appointed by the Crown) to DISARM THE PEOPLE at their discretion, or, at least, so nearly at discretion, as to leave no room for a clearly defined exception.

There are other provisions in the Bill, which would be calculated to attract attention, if unaccompanied with that which I have just stated: but this is such a thumper, that it leaves no room for surprise or any other feeling at the rest. DISARM THE PEOPLE! Disarm the people of England! And FOR WHAT? No matter what. The fact is quite enough. The simple sentence stating this one fact will save foreign statesmen the trouble of making any inquiries relative to the internal state of England. It speaks whole volumes. A law is passing for taking the arms away from a part of the people of England! What can be added to this, in order to give Napoleon an adequate idea of our situation? Why, this: that LORD CASTLEREAGH is the man to propose the measure.

The whole of the act will be inserted by me hereafter, in order that it may be read in every country in the world; and, in the meanwhile, I shall content myself with a few remarks upon the debates, which took place, in the House of Commons, during the progress of the Bill; but, these I must postpone to my next, for subjects now present themselves, which, in point of time, demand a preference. None can equal it in point of intrinsic importance; because the disarming of the people is decisive of the character, not only of our present, but of our future situation; but, in point of time, there are subjects which are still more pressing.

TO THE THINKING PEOPLE OF ENGLAND, ON THE AFFAIRS OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
28th January, 1813
Botley

LETTER I.

Thinking People,

Amongst all the numerous subjects upon which you have discovered your acuteness of perception and profundity of thought, I know of none (except that of Pitt’s sinking fund) which has drawn forth so brilliant a display of these qualities as the subjects connected with India; and, when I reflect on your wise notions about the riches derived to the nation from our “Empire in the East,” I cannot wonder at the alarm that many Edition: current; Page: [169] of you now feel lest the curbing of the power of the East India Company, through the means of the now-proposed measure, should bring ruin upon England. In plain language, you have so long been deceived; you have so long listened, and loved to listen, to falsehoods; you have so long been the almost willing dupes of designing knaves; that there is scarcely a passage left by which truth can find its way to your minds. Nevertheless, I shall endeavour to disentangle the question, which is now so much agitating your wise and plodding noddles; I shall endeavour to strip this grand humbug of its covering; and, when I have so done, I shall leave you to the tricks of the several classes of mountebanks, who are striving for the upper hand in deceiving you.

Those, whose object is to deceive; who have falsehoods to make pass for truths; those persons generally endeavour to confuse and confound facts and circumstances as much as possible; and, in the present case, the real points at issue seem to have been kept wholly out of sight. Nay more, I would bet my life, that, if you were all examined one by one, not one out of 5,000 of you know what the words East India Company mean; that you have no more knowledge of the nature and effect of that Corporation than you have of what is passing in the moon; and that, when you read about the wars in India, it is with about as much knowledge and advantage as you read, in Milton, about the Devils firing off cannons in heaven.

This being my firm persuasion, I shall endeavour to make the subject clearly understood; and, when I have so done, I shall willingly leave, to be cheated still, every one who is fool enough to join in the clamours now raised and raising against the proposed measure of opening the trade to India.

This measure, it is said, by the partisans of the Company, will ruin the Company; that it will break up their power; that it will cause the loss of India as a Colony. I will not stop to dispute about this. I will take these propositions as granted; and, still I shall contend, that the measure ought to be adopted. It is useless, therefore, to enter into any details to show what the measure will do against the Company; for I am ready to assert, and to prove, and I trust that I shall prove, that the breaking up of the Company would be a great blessing to England; that Company being, and having long been, one of our greatest scourges, one of the chief causes of corruption and oppression.

The outline of the proposed measure is this: that, whereas the trade to India is now exclusively in the hands of the Company, the Ministers mean to make such a change as shall open the trade to other merchants. At present, in consequence of an agreement, made with the Government 20 years ago (which agreement is called a Charter), no merchant of this kingdom, except the Company, can trade with the East Indies; no ships but the East India Company’s ships can go thither; but, the Ministers mean to introduce a measure (now that the Company’s Charter is upon the point of expiring), which shall enable any merchant of this kingdom to trade to India. Of this proposed measure it is that the Company is complaining, and in opposition to it they are exciting the most violent clamours, representing it as an act of injustice as well as of impolicy.

Faction is endeavouring to make the question a party one, and the City of London, actuated by narrow self-interest, is abetting, in some degree, the opposition, and joining in the clamours. But, the people, if they have not been quite bereft of their reason by conflicting falsehoods, Edition: current; Page: [170] ought to consider the question as one in which they are opposed to this domineering Company. It is with the nation that that Company has made a bargain; it is from the nation that they hold their Charter; and, it is for the nation to consider, whether that Charter shall be renewed; whether it shall again grant a monopoly of trade to a select body of men, to the exclusion of all the rest of the King’s subjects.

It is not a little impudent in the Company to pretend that the nation is guilty of injustice in withholding this renewal. What would be thought of a tenant, who should set up a clamour against his landlord, because the latter refused to renew his lease? He would be called, at least, a very presumptuous man, and, if he endeavoured to show, that his landlord would lose by not renewing his lease, would not that landlord laugh in his face? The very endeavour to persuade the nation, that it will lose by not renewing the Charter, is enough to make any rational man distrust the views of those who make it.

In order to decide, whether a new Charter should be granted to the Company, we ought first to inquire how they have acted towards the nation in consequence of their last Charter. But, before we enter upon this inquiry, I will, in nearly the same words that I used seven years ago, give a brief description of that strange thing called the East India Company.

You hear of great fortunes being made in the East; you hear of plunder enormous, and you see the plunderers come and elbow you from your homes; but, you never appear to perceive, that any part of this plunder is, either first or last, drawn from your own estates or their labour. You seem to think, that there are great quantities of goods, and of gold and precious stones in India; and, the only feeling which the acquirers of these excite, seems to be that of envy, and, in some instances, of emulation. But, that this proceeds from a gross error would, in the two millions lately paid to the East India Company out of the taxes of the nation,* have been clearly demonstrated, had not our system of finance been such as to keep in darkness, upon this point, men otherwise well informed. Now, however, the demands upon the taxes must, for the purposes of India, be such as will, I should imagine, open men’s eyes, especially if the ministry make and promulgate an authentic statement of the nation’s affairs. Thirteen years ago a Charter, by the influence of Mr. Pitt and his colleague Dundas, was granted to the East India Company, whereby were secured to the said company of merchants certain rights of sovereignty in, and, with some exceptions, an exclusive trade with, those countries in Asia, which we, taking them all together, call the East Indies. As the foundation of their firm, or partnership, of trade, this Company were allowed by the Charter, to create a quantity of stock; that is to say, to make loans, in the same way that the ministry do, and to pay annually, or quarterly, in dividends, interest upon the amount of these loans. The Company became, in fact, a sort of under government, having its loans, its scrip, its debt, or, more properly speaking, its funds, or, still more properly, its engagements to pay interest to a number of individuals. The paper, of whatever form it may be, which entitles the holder to demand this interest, or these dividends, is called East India Stock, the principal of which has now been augmented to the sum of 12 millions sterling; Edition: current; Page: [171] and, the holders of the stock are called East India Proprietors. The sources, whence the means of regularly discharging the interest upon the stock were to be derived, were, of course, the profits of the trade which the Company should carry, but, aided by the revenue which they were authorized to raise from their territory, the defence and government of which were, however, placed, in some sort, under the control of the mother government at Westminster. Thus set out in the world this company of sovereigns, furnished, at once, with dominions, subjects, taxes, and a funded debt. But, supposing the measure (which I do only by way of illustration) to have been, in other respects, just and politic, it certainly would have been neither, not to have bound these sovereigns to pay the nation something, or, more properly speaking, to contribute something towards the taxes, by way of consideration for the immense advantages to be derived from the exclusive trade of a country, while the nation might be called upon, as it has been, to defend in a naval war, and which must, at any rate, be defended on the land-board by troops drawn, in part at least, from the population of the kingdom. It was therefore, provided, that the Company, during the continuance of its Charter, which was to be for twenty years (thirteen of which have now nearly expired),* should pay into the Exchequer the sum of 500,000l. sterling a year, and that, upon all the money not so paid, an interest would arise and accumulate at the rate of fifteen per centum.—Such were the principal engagements on both sides, under which this Company started. The nation has fulfilled its engagements, and that, too, at an enormous expenditure both of men and of money; and, while the Company has been enjoying all the advantages of an exclusive trade, and all the receipts of a territorial revenue; while hundreds and thousands of persons concerned in that trade have amassed fortunes so great as to overshadow and bear down, not only the clergy and the country gentlemen, but even the ancient nobility of the kingdom, not one penny (since the first year) has the Company ever paid into the Exchequer of the stipulated half-million a year; and, what is still more glaringly unjust, and more galling to the burthened people, two millions of our taxes have already been granted to this Company, wherewith to pay the dividends upon their stock; and, such has been the management, and such is now the state, of the Company’s affairs, that we need not be at all suprised if another million be called for from us, during this present session of Parliament! For the causes of this state of the Company’s concerns; for the reasons why they have not been held to their engagements; why the Act of Parliament has thus been treated as if it had been passed merely as a job; why we have been called upon to pay to, instead of to receive from, this company of trading sovereigns; let the eulogists of Mr. Pitt’s memory; let Mr. Canning and Old Rose; let Lord Melville, with his 2,000l. a year pension from the Company (who are so poor as to come to us for money); let the Directors, those managers of the Company’s affairs, and those staunch advocates of the Minister that suffered the Act to lie unenforced against them; let Lord Wellesley, who has so long been the Governor-General of India; why the Act has not been enforced, why the law has thus been set at nought, let these persons tell.

It seems incredible, that these things should have been; but, not only Edition: current; Page: [172] were they so up to the year 1806, they are so up to this hour, except, that four millions more of money have, since that time, been advanced by the nation to the Company, instead of the nation having received, as it ought to have done, nine millions and a half of principal money from the Company, with accumulated interest at fifteen per centum. The nation engaged to do certain things, and to grant certain privileges to the Company: these things have been done, and these privileges granted; but, of the money, which we were to receive in return, only one half-million out of twenty half-millions has ever been received by us. The Company entered into certain engagements with the nation: amongst these engagements was that of paying, on the part of the Company, under certain provisions and penalties, the sum of £500,000 a year into the King’s Exchequer, as an equivalent, in part, for the exclusive advantages granted and secured to the Company by the nation. In case of failure to fulfil this important provision of the Act of Charter (being the 33 Geo. III. Chap. 52), the Lords of the Treasury, of whom Mr. Pitt, afterwards Mr. Addington, and then Mr. Pitt again, then Lord Grenville, then Perceval, and now Lord Liverpool, have been at the head, were to take certain steps, and to make certain reports thereon to the Parliament. It is now nearly 20 years since the Act of Charter was passed, of these 20 years the first year only has seen a payment made by the Company into the Exchequer, the Company, owing, therefore, to the nation, 6 millions sterling, with, as the Act provides, accumulated interest at 15 per centum a year; yet, in the whole of this series of years, during this long scene of defalcation and of forfeiture, have the Lords of the Treasury, though so positively thereunto enjoined by the Act, never taken any steps whatever, and never made any report to Parliament relating to the subject. It is possible, and, indeed, likely, that the present Lords of the Treasury will make a report agreeably to the law; but, that report cannot remove, or shake, any of the facts that I have stated. I have fairly stated the nature of the agreement between the nation and the Company; and it will, I imagine, require no very long time for any unbiassed man to decide, whether the nation ought again to trust this Company with the advantages that it before enjoyed. I am not only for throwing open the trade, but for taking the sovereign authority wholly out of the hands of the Company. I am for not listening to them for a single moment, until they have paid up their arrears with interest agreeably to the law.

But, you will ask, “What do they say for themselves: what defence do they set up: what excuse do they make for not paying the stipulated sums to the nation?” The excuse they make is this: that they have been engaged in expensive, unavoidable wars; and, they say, that the Act of Charter provides, that, in such a case, they shall be excused. Yes; but, only for a time; the sums are still to be due to the nation; and interest is to run on against the Company. In fact, the law allows of a postponement only, and not that, except upon a report and recommendation of the Lords of the Treasury made to the Parliament; and, no such report has ever been made. In short, there is no legal defence; no legal defence can be made; the Company owes the nation the nine and a half millions sterling, and, in this situation it has the assurance to come forward and reproach the ministry with a design not to trust it again to the same extent as it was trusted before. What would any man think of a tenant, who, during a term of twenty years, should pay but one year’s Edition: current; Page: [173] rent, and who should then becall his landlord for refusing a renewal of his lease? What you would think of such a man, you will readily think of this Company; but, you will not easily find terms to express your contempt of the landlord who should be fool enough to assent to such renewal.

Let us, for argument’s sake, take the word of these trading sovereigns; let us, however common sense forbids it, believe them for once. Let us suppose, that they, while they have been dividing their gains so largely, have spent the nine and a half millions in wars. With whom have they been at war? With those who were attacking England? Oh, no! With the natives of a country at nine months’ sail from our shores; with a people whom Mr. Robert Grant, in his late speech in favour of the Company, described as “the most pusillanimous, unresisting, and weak in the world.” This is the people, in wars against whom, they say they have spent so much as to be thereby rendered incapable of paying the sums due to the nation as a compensation for advantages given up to their exclusive possession. Could such wars be necessary? Could such wars be just? Could such wars be unavoidable? But, monstrous as is the supposition, let us grant it even for argument’s sake; and, then, I ask what better reason can there be for not renewing their Charter; what better reason for not again putting any of the power of government in their hands; what better reason for wholly breaking up their corporation? If from their Charter such scenes of blood and devastation have arisen, shall we consent to a renewal of that Charter? The very excuse for their defalcation furnishes the best possible reason for the adoption of some measure that shall for ever put an end to their power.

I beg, most thinking people, once more to draw your attention to the nature of the argument contained in the Act of Charter, before referred to. The nation grants to the Company, the power of raising a revenue upon the millions of people in India; and, it further grants it a trade to India, while it stipulates to exclude from that trade, supposed to be very advantageous, all the rest of the King’s subjects; and, while it agrees to send out forces, by land and water, for the protection of the trade and the territory against foreign enemies. In return for all this the nation is to receive, in money paid into the Exchequer, 500,000l. a year, during the twenty years that the Charter is to last. This sum was, of course, to go in aid of the taxes; and 10,000,000 of pounds would have been something worth having. But, only half a million of this has been paid: the rest, we are told, has been spent in wars; in “just and necessary wars;” and, we have advanced them five millions besides. A very pretty way this of executing the terms of the Charter! A decent way of fulfilling a bargain!

What the nation now demands is, that another such a bargain shall not be made; and, the ministry propose, that the trade shall be open; that other English merchants shall trade to India; that a country, the possession of which is, like Jamaica or any other Colony, held by the means of the national taxes, shall be open to all the King’s subjects. And, what can be more just; what more reasonable; what more moderate than this proposition? Why should not all the people of the kingdom be free to profit from a territory, of which they all assist in maintaining the possession. Whether India ought to be held as a colony at all, is another question, to be hereafter considered; but, while it be so held, or whether it be so held or not, can any man devise a good reason Edition: current; Page: [174] for continuing the trade a monopoly in the hands of a Company, who, as experience proves, will pay the nation nothing for such monopoly?

The opposition, which the City of London is making to the measure, proposed to be adopted, arises from a motive of the same sort as that which actuates the East India Company: namely, a preference of their own interests to those of their fellow-subjects at large. But, before I enter upon this subject more minutely, let me notice certain passages, in the speeches of Mr. Favell and Mr. Alderman Birch, during the debate of the 25th instant.

Mr. Favell said, there was “great danger of transferring the government of India from the Company to the British Ministry. Now, Lord Buckinghamshire expressly threatened the Company with a new Administration of India; and therefore his worthy Friend, when he saw Government on the point of laying hold of the Indian army, would certainly be disposed to stand forward and resist in time, what, if adopted, would effectually put an end to every thing like resistance to the measures of the Executive of this country.” Mr. Birch said, ‘He had no doubt that this was the first of a series of measures by which the whole of the revenue of India would be taken by Government. They would thus obtain by stratagem, what, in the beginning, they durst not ask.”

This is a sort of doctrine that I cannot comprehend; and, I wonder how Mr. Favell and Mr. Birch have arrived at the discovery, that there is danger in putting the government, and Mr. Birch in putting the revenue, of India into the hands of those who have in their hands the government and revenue of England. If they mean to say, that the present ministry are unfit to be entrusted with the government and revenue of England; or, that any ministry that can be chosen in the present state of the representation in Parliament are unfit to be entrusted with the government and revenue of England, that gives rise to a new question; but, to say, that the same men, who are fit to be entrusted with the ruling and the taxing of us at home, are unfit to be entrusted with the ruling and taxing of Hindostan, or, at least, more unfit than a company of merchants living and holding their court in London, is, to me, a proposition that requires very good arguments indeed to maintain it. For my part, my taste is the opposite of those of these Gentlemen. I would much rather trust the ministers with an army and a revenue in India than in England; and I would a million to one rather trust them with an army and a revenue in England, than I would trust the same in the hands of the East India Company, who are a body of men, of the individuals forming which body no one knows any thing. It is a nondescript sort of sovereign, from whose sway every man of common sense must wish to be preserved. The taste of Mr. Birch must be very curious. He has always been on the side of every ministry. There has been no act of their’s, that I have ever observed, which he has not supported. He has no objection to trust them with the distribution of the 70 or 80 millions a year, which they raise upon the people of this kingdom; but he is in terrible alarm at their getting possession of the “whole revenue of India.

I would ask these two gentlemen, whether they seriously believe, that the ministry, that any ministry, that the present or any other, would, or could, make a worse use of power, than has been made of power by the East India Company? What could they do more than spend the revenues of India in wars? Has war ever ceased since the Company’s Charter was Edition: current; Page: [175] granted? And, what could any ministry do worse than this? The excuse for not paying the nation the nine and a half millions of money is, that it has been expended in necessary wars. Is it not time to take the government of thirty millions of people out of such hands? Whether it is likely to fall into better hands I do not pretend to know; but, here I come to close quarters with Mr. Birch; for, I say, that those whom he thinks good enough to govern England, I think quite good enough to govern India.

Mr. Birch even asserted, that the adoption of the proposed measure would be a violation of the Company’s Charter: “He considered the proposed innovation as a violation of the East India Company’s Charter, and a daring confiscation of property. Their Charter had been renewed from time to time; their property had been embarked in numerous establishments on the faith of it; and now, when these had attained maturity, the Company were to be turned out, that others might enjoy the fruits of their labours. Unless the safety of the State were concerned, Charters ought never to be infringed.” I do not know, for my part, where men find confidence sufficient to make assertions like these. The measure cannot be a violation of the Charter. The term of the Charter will have expired. The nation has fulfilled its part of the agreement. It was a grant for 20 years, and, when the 20 years shall have been completed, the nation has, surely, a right to resume its possession. What an impudent man should we think a tenant, who, at the expiration of his lease, should accuse his landlord of a violation of it, because he refused to renew it? “A daring confiscation of property!” What language applied to such a case! Mr. Birch could see no confiscation of property in the selling of a part of an Englishman’s estate under what is called the redemption of the land-tax; but, the refusing to grant a new Charter to the East India Company, he calls a daring confiscation of property! The Company have embarked, he says, in numerous establishments, on the faith of the Charter. What faith? The faith of its lasting 20 years. No other faith did the nation pledge; and that faith, notwithstanding all the defalcations of the Company, the nation has kept. What reason, then; what reason, in the name of common sense, have the Company to complain?

“Now,” says Mr. Birch, “the Company are to be turned out, that others may enjoy the fruits of their labour.” How are others to enjoy the fruits of the Company’s labour? The Company have pocketed those fruits themselves. They have had their lease out, though they have paid but one year’s rent out of twenty; and how, then, are others to get at the fruits of their labour. Besides, who are these “others” that Mr. Birch talks of so slightingly? They are nothing less than all the people of the kingdom, able to embark in the India trade. It is the nation, in short, who, at the expiration of a lease, re-enters its demised estate; and this is what Mr. Birch terms “others;” and this act of re-entry he calls a violation of the Charter, and a daring confiscation of property. The worthy Alderman has only to apply his doctrine to the affairs of private life, and he will go a great deal farther than even the abused sans-culottes of France ever dreamt of going.

Sir William Curtis, during this debate, expressed his fears, that a free trade to India might cause the introduction of political freedom. If a free trade to India were once allowed, among other exports, they would probably soon have a variety of politicians, who would use their Edition: current; Page: [176] best endeavours to give the Hindoos a conception of the Rights of Man.

A most alarming thought, to be sure! Sir William Curtis is, then, for no rights of man. He is for keeping the poor slaves, slaves still. His wishes, however, will not be accomplished, I believe; and, he may yet live long enough to see men claiming and asserting their rights all over the world. But what a sentiment is this from an Englishman! His objection to an unrestricted intercourse with another part of the world, is, that it may lead to the teaching of enslaved men their rights! This is the objection which one of the Aldermen, who is also a member of Parliament, for the great City, has to the opening of the trade to India. Commerce has, by many writers, been applauded for having produced an extension of knowledge and of freedom; but, this man objects to it on that account; he fears that the opening of trade may tend to the enlarging of the mind of man; he is afraid that a free intercourse would break the chains of a people! Let us hope, that there are very few assemblages of men in the world where such a sentiment would not have been received with an unanimous exclamation of horror. And yet, I dare say, that Sir William Curtis is one of those who talks well about the despotism of Buonaparte’s government, and who is loud in his prayers for the deliverance of Europe. I dare say he is one of those who is for the deliverance of every body but those whom we may deliver at any hour that we please. Now, I am for beginning the work of deliverance that is within our own power; and, having closed that, then call upon Buonaparte to follow our example.

The arguments urged in favour of the opposition by the City of London I shall notice in my next, as well as the statements and reasoning in some of the speeches at the India House.

Wm. COBBETT.

TO THE THINKING PEOPLE OF ENGLAND, ON THE AFFAIRS OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
3rd February, 1813
Botley

LETTER II.

Thinking People,

Before we come to consider the arguments in support of that opposition, which the City of London, in its corporate capacity, is making to the intended measure of opening the trade to the East Indies, I think it right to offer you some further remarks upon what has been said relative to the new power and influence, which such a measure must throw into the hands of the ministry at home.

I noticed, in my last, an idea of Mr. Birch and of Mr. Favell, that Edition: current; Page: [177] the measure, by taking the Government, and, of course, the army and revenue of India, out of the hands of the East India Company, the ministry would become possessed of so much power, that. . . . that. . . . that God knows what they might do! I will now cite a passage from the Morning Chronicle.

“We this day lay before our readers the correspondence that has taken place between the Court of Directors and the President of the Board of Control. There never came before the public eye a correspondence pregnant with results so important and alarming; for the letter of Lord Buckinghamshire, in the most summary and cavalier style, gives the India Company only the alternative of the surrender of a material part of their rights, or the unconditional transfer of the whole management and power of India to Ministers. He will submit to no previous discussions. He bids them hunt for information among the Memorials and Petitions from the Out-ports; but demands the concurrence of the Company to the opening of the trade, before he will enter into an explanation of the rules by which it shall be regulated. The question of a partial opening of the India trade, or of the strict maintenance of the Charter, is of such magnitude as to demand the most grave and deliberate attention. He must have a very comprehensive mind indeed, that can, at a first view, decide on the national policy of the measure. We certainly do not feel ourselves competent to form such a judgment. But on the alternative, namely, that if the Company do not implicitly acquiesce in the principle of the measure without inquiry or explanation, the result may be the TRANSFER OF THE WHOLE TO GOVERNMENT, there can be but one opinion, viz.:—that it would be CONSTITUTIONAL RUIN. The dissolution of the India Company could not take place without bringing with it a national bankruptcy, and that must be followed by military despotism. A correspondence, therefore, of more dreadful import was never laid before the public, and we earnestly request our readers to give it the attention which it deserves.”

At the first blush there appears to be something so wild in this; there appears to be something so mad in the notion, that the constitution of England is to be destroyed; that a national bankruptcy is to be produced; that a military despotism is to be established, by the dissolution of a company of merchants; there seems to be something so crazy, or, more politely speaking, so delirious; it seems to proceed from something so much like one of those “exacerbations,” vulgarly called fits; the thing seems to be so much of this character, that I should not have thought it worthy of notice, had it not issued through the chief organ of the Whig faction. What an opinion, however; what a contemptuous opinion must the writer have of the intellects of his readers, to put forth such extravagant notions! We are, indeed, in a pretty state, if what he says be true. A charter is granted to a company of merchants to trade to one of our colonies; the term of the charter is about to expire; and, we are told, that, if we do not renew the charter, we shall be placed under a military despotism! Verily a man must have screwed up his nerves into a very tight state, before he could hazard such an assertion.

In what way, I should be glad to know, is the dissolution of the East India Company to produce this terrible effect? To point out this, was the duty of the Morning Chronicle; and not having done it, his assertion might be dismissed, without further notice, it being incumbent on no one to produce proof, or argument, in refutation of that, which has not been attempted to be proved. Nevertheless, as the matter is of great importance, I will put here a few questions to this writer. And in the first place, I ask him, whether it be likely, that a national bankruptcy will arise from the dissolution of a Company, the affairs of which Company are in such a state as to require the aid of the Government to keep the Company itself Edition: current; Page: [178] from becoming bankrupt? I ask whether this be likely? For some years past, the East India Company has been borrowing money, or rather bank-notes, from the national Government; it has come to the Government, and has got from it accommodations; the Government has it lent bank-notes to the amount of millions. I will not encumber my argument with the items in detail; but I state distinctly, that this East India Company has had bank-notes to the amount of millions of pounds, lent to it by the Government, in order to enable it to pay its dividends; for, Thinking People, this Company has its National Debt, and its dividends, in the same manner that the Government at Westminster has! Now, if the Company cannot pay its way without the assistance of the nation; if it be compelled to borrow money of the nation in order to pay its dividends; if this be the case (and the Morning Chronicle does not deny the fact), how is the dissolution of this Company to make the nation itself a bankrupt? I shall be told, perhaps, that if the Company’s Charter be not renewed, it will not be able to pay its debts, or the interest on its debts; and, that, the East India Stock-holders being thus ruined, an alarm will be spread amongst the Stock-holders of the nation; that the funds will fall to a very low price, and that thus a national bankruptcy will be produced. But, how is this to happen? The Government would only have to guarantee the payment of the interest upon the India stock, in order to prevent any such alarm; and that, in fact, it now does, by the advances which it makes to the Company, in order to enable it to pay its dividends. The truth is, that, in case of a dissolution of the Company, the Government must guarantee the payment of the interest upon its debts, or else, the whole of the funding fabric would be instantly blown into the air; but, no injury could arise from this; because, as I have before shown, the Government is, at this time, and long has been, surety for the payment of the interest on the Company’s debts.

Another question that I should wish to put to this gentleman is, where he has made the discovery, that, what he calls a national bankruptcy “must be followed by a military despotism!” But, perhaps, it will be best, first to ask him what it is that he means by a military despotism? Does he mean that state of things, where there is nothing existing in the name of law; where there are no tribunals, with people sitting in them, called judges; where there are none of those persons called peace-officers, police-officers, commissioners of taxes, surveyors of taxes, supervisors of taxes, assessors of taxes, collectors of taxes, excisemen, custom-house-officers, tide-waiters, &c. Does he mean a state of things, wherein all these are unknown, and where the taxes are collected and offenders against the Government are punished through the instrumentality of soldiers only? If he does, then I tell him that he means to describe a state of things which never existed in any nation in the world. If he means a state of things where the Government has the absolute command of so large a military force, as completely to preclude, or to render desperate, any attempt at resistance on the part of the people, let the acts of the Government be what they may; if he means this state of things, then I call upon him to show how the dissolution of the East India Company; I call upon him to show, how a national bankruptcy can possibly be big with the danger which he affects to anticipate.

By national bankruptcy, he means, doubtless, as others have meant, a ceasing to pay at the Bank the interest of the national debt. But, is he not deceived as to the course which things will naturally take in this Edition: current; Page: [179] respect? The Bank continues to pay the dividends on the debt, as promptly as it paid them before the stoppage in 1797. It pays, indeed, in paper, instead of hard money, and so it will continue to do, as long as the paper will pass current at all. There may come a time when the paper will be worth very little; or, in other words, when it will require a great deal of it to purchase the same quantity of goods that may be purchased with a silver shilling; but still, the Bank will keep on paying the interest of the national debt, and as long as it does that, who can, with propriety, say, that a national bankruptcy has taken place?

However, suppose that there should come a time, when even the paper-money cannot be made fast enough for the due discharge of the dividends. The supposition is quite beyond the compass of probability; but, let us, for argument’s sake, adopt it. What then? Why, then there is a national bankruptcy. But why should this be followed by a military despotism? In order to get rid of all dispute about the meaning of the words military despotism, we will take it for granted that the writer means a state of things, in which the Government would possess a more complete and absolute control over the purses and persons of the people than it now possesses. We will not stop to inquire what sort of control that must be; but we will take it for granted, for the sake of the argument, that the thing is possible, and then it remains for this writer to show us, how such a state of things is likely to be produced by the total discredit of bank-paper.

It is, I believe, universally acknowledged, that, without the aid of bank-paper, the Government, on its present system, could not have been carried on unto this day. It has been a hundred times asserted in the Houses of Parliament, that it is the bank-paper which has enabled the Government to engage in, and to prosecute, these long and destructive wars. In short, it is pure waste of time to attempt to show, that the Government, on its present system of great power, has derived its chief support from bank-paper, and that the system depends for its existence upon the bank-paper. How, then, is it possible, that the annihilation of that paper should give to the Government a more complete and absolute control over the purses and persons of the people than it now possesses? How is it possible, that additional strength should be produced by the total destruction of that, which, up to this moment, has been the principal source of strength?

I might stop here; for, until this question be answered, nothing more can be necessary in the way of refutation of the assertion before us. But, I will anticipate, that this writer means, that the destruction of the paper-money must be followed by the destruction not only of the present system of sway, but also of the whole form of the Government; and that, hence would necessarily ensue that state of things, whatever it may be, which he denominates a military despotism; and by which we must suppose that he means a Government possessing a more complete and absolute control over the purses and persons of the people than the Government, on its present system, possesses.

Now, upon what grounds does he presume, that the destruction of the paper-money must be followed by the destruction of the whole form of our Government? When men are advancing assertions of such import, they ought to back them with proof, or, at least, with an attempt at proof, if they expect them to have any weight with men of sense. When a man was asserting, in terms so unqualified, that the King, Lords, Edition: current; Page: [180] Commons, courts of justice, laws, customs, and usages of the country; when he was asserting that the existence of all these hung upon the credit and durability of a paper-money, which he himself has a hundred times asserted to be in a state of rapid depreciation; that is to say, rapidly tending towards destruction; when he was making this assertion, he should not have contented himself; he should not have thought that he had done his duty until he had produced something, at least, in its support.

For my part, I think better of the Government of England. In spite of all that has been done for the last thirty years, I am persuaded that there is still good stuff enough in this form of government to prevent its resting for support solely upon a paper-money; and I love to indulge this opinion, because I see the paper-money tending to total annihilation. If we consult experience, we find, that the fall of a paper-system is not necessarily followed by the destruction of a constitution of government. This writer has in his eye the example of France; but why lose sight, at the same time, of the example of America? The latter presented itself with full as much prominence as the former, and, I should have thought it much more applicable to our case. The destruction of a paper-money, by which a certain system of rule has long been supported, will naturally and inevitably produce a great change in that system. It will, in most cases, cause power, in some degree, to change hands; but, it does not necessarily produce a destruction of the form of government, as we see in the experience of America, and more recently in the experience of Austria. And in no case, that I have ever heard of, has it tended to produce a military despotism, or to put into the hands of any government more power than it had before. It is not in the nature of things that the destruction of the paper-money in England should prove injurious to the real constitution of England. That constitution existed, kings reigned, freely chosen parliaments taxed the people, and justice was administered in mercy long before a paper-money was heard or thought of; and, I am yet to hear reasoning, before I shall believe, that these cannot be hereafter without the existence of a paper-money.

The assertion is again made by this writer, too, that the transfer of the whole government of India from the hands of the Company to the hands of the Ministers, would be ruinous to the constitution. It is very difficult to determine, or even to guess at, what the Morning Chronicle means by the constitution; but one may ask him, what new power it would give to the Ministers that could be injurious to us? Could it give them greater power of taxing us? After all, that is the principal point. Could it, I say, place our purses more completely at their command? If it could, then, indeed, I should say, that there was danger to us in the proposed measure; but, as long as I do not perceive, and cannot perceive, that that would be the case, I shall feel no alarm at the army and revenue of India being taken out of the hands of the Company.

But, what idle talk is this, about the danger to be apprehended from this new source of ministerial influence? What influence can a minister want more than that which he now possesses? He has now the distribution of nearly one hundred millions sterling, annually; he has an army of two hundred thousand men, including foreign troops; he has a thousand ships of war; and the tax-gatherers receive as their pay for collecting the taxes several millions sterling every year. There is not a parish where he has not several persons in his pay as tax-gatherers, under one Edition: current; Page: [181] denomination or another; and, besides, is not the East India Company itself a body as much under his influence, and as powerful an instrument in his hands, as India itself could become in consequence of the proposed transfer? Can the Editor of the Morning Chronicle cite me an instance, when the East India Company, or when any individual East India Director, has appeared in opposition to the ministry of the day? I can recollect no such instance. On the contrary, I have always observed, that, let who would be minister, he was sure of the support of that body. Therefore, I am not to be made to believe, that the political liberties of the country can possibly be endangered by the minister’s possessing, with some degree of responsibility attached to it, all that influence, which he before possessed without even the show of responsibility.

We now come to a consideration of the arguments, if such they may be called, in support of that opposition which the city of London, in its corporate capacity, is making to the intended measure of the opening the trade to India. And here, it is to be observed, that this opposition stands upon a different ground from that on which the opposition of the Company rests. The latter dreads the loss of its monopoly; the former the loss of the advantages, as they are thought, from the importation of India goods being confined, as it now is, to the port of London. The latter would care but little about the extension of the importation to the out-ports; and the former would not care a pin for the opening of the trade to individual merchants, provided all the goods were still to be brought into the port of London, and, provided all the establishments arising out of the commerce of India, were still to remain in London.

Mr. Alderman Birch, in the debate before referred to, is reported to have said that,

“Millions had been expended by the Company on warehouses and other important concerns, and the seat of their Government was in the City of London. To borrow a figure from the East, the Company are to the City like the great Banyan tree, whose branches descended and took fresh roots, and which flourished again till it formed of itself a species of forest, full of bloom, and verdure, and fruit, under which thousands took shelter and sustenance. Now, it was proposed to lay the axe almost to the root, or to plant new shoots that would wither as soon as they came up from the earth. (Hear.) Extend the trade, and they would weaken it. In practice it was prosperity: in theory, it would he ruin. Experience was against experiment. Look at our proud river, with its immense forests of masts floating on its bosom, its innumerable vessels fraught with the merchandise of the globe: go down to the extent of the City’s jurisdiction, and hear the gladdening echoes of cheerful labour resounding from shore to shore; and then ask the question, how much of this prosperity is owing,—how many of these labourers earn their bread from the East India Company? (Hear, hear.) Was that proud river to be stripped of the ancient ensigns of her dignity? Were they ready, step by step, to make it flow at Wapping, as clearly, and unencumbered, as it did at Westminster? Let them stop in limine all attempts against the prosperity of London. (Hear.) Charters were most important; and every attempt to disturb them should be viewed with jealousy. The renewals of the East India Charter only strengthened the arguments on which they stood. All the Indian commerce centred in London, and it was its interest and duty to keep it there.”

Mr. Birch seems to be a stout stickler for charters; but what does he say to Magna Charta? I think I could point out instances, wherein that gentleman has been one of the loudest advocates of measures by which that charter was violated. I have never known any resolution proposed in the Court of Common Council complaining of a violation of the people’s rights, which was not opposed by Mr. Alderman Birch, who Edition: current; Page: [182] is now so zealous an advocate for the rights of the East India Company. It is astonishing to me that a man of sense, as Mr. Birch is, and a man of good manners too, should be able to muster up resolution enough to speak of the proposed measure as a violation of a charter; and, though I have before dwelt upon the point, I cannot help again observing on the perversion of words resorted to upon this occasion. What is this Charter? It is a bargain, made between the nation and the Company, and the terms of the bargain are to be found in an Act of Parliament passed in the 33rd year of the present King’s reign. According to that bargain, the Company were, upon certain conditions, to have a monopoly of the India trade, and to have the sovereignty of the colony, for twenty years. As I have shown before, the Company has not fulfilled its part of the bargain, it has paid only a twentieth part of what it was bound to pay as the price of the monopoly, and of the advantages of the sovereignty. But, if it had punctually fulfilled its covenants, the term of the bargain is expired, or about to expire. The twenty years are at an end; and shall the nation, because it refuses to renew the bargain, because it refuses to grant the monopoly, and to yield the sovereignty of its colony again; shall it for this cause be accused of violating a charter? I am surprised that a man of sense should thus resort to a sounding word, for the sake of supplying the place of fact and argument.

But, we are told by Mr. Birch, in fine figurative language, that the Company is to the City like the great Banyan-tree. Mr. Birch was not aware, perhaps, that figures of rhetoric should be cautiously used. The Banyan-tree may, for aught I know, be possessed of the qualities that he describes. Its branches, like those of the laurel and thousands of other shrubs and trees, may descend to the earth, take fresh root, and send up fresh trunks towards the skies. But, with the leave of Mr. Alderman Birch, he is labouring to prevent this species of propagation; for he is endeavouring to confine the tree of which he is speaking to the port of London; whereas the ministers are for extending its branches to the out-ports, and, of course, for enlarging its capacity for affording shelter and sustenance. After his figure of the Banyan-tree, the gentleman was extremely unfortunate in asserting that the trade would be weakened by its extension!

After all, however, after all the talk about the Banyan-tree, and the proud river Thames, and the gladdening echoes of cheerful labour; after all this talk, the opposition is, in plain English, founded upon this, that the measure proposed by the ministers will take part of the trade from the port of London and distribute it amongst the out-ports; that it will lessen the quantity of money expended in London; that it will diminish its population; and that, of course, it will draw something away from the gains of the owners of land and houses in London, and generally from persons keeping shops, public-houses, and otherwise engaged in trade.

That all this is true, I allow; but, so far am I from regarding this as an evil, I have no hesitation in saying, that I look upon it as an unqualified good. I should have no wish to lessen the value of real property and of trade in the city of London, were it not from the consideration, that what ever is in this way taken from that City, must go to other ports of the kingdom. But, with respect to a lessening of the population of London, that is a positive good. There is no man, I am persuaded, who has reflected upon the matter, who does not lament the enormous increase of that metropolis, which has already drawn to itself so large a part of the Edition: current; Page: [183] means of the whole kingdom. The “gladdening echoes of cheerful labour,” if such there be in the filthy stews of Wapping, are not more gladdening than they would be at Liverpool, at Glasgow, or at Dublin. Poets have written more beautifully than Mr. Birch can speak about the river Thames; but, in the eye of a statesman, such descriptions are of no consequence. In his eye, the Thames has no more pretensions to pride than any other river or stream in the kingdom, while he must be well convinced, that to make all the trade of the country centre in one port, is to prevent emulation, and, in fact, to contract the sphere of national exertion.

Mr. Birch speaks of the persons who earn their bread from the East India Company, as if they would be thrown out of employ and starved, if the monopoly were put an end to, and especially if the trade were divided amongst the out-ports. But, is it possible that Mr. Birch does not perceive, that the trade would still be carried on by other persons than the Company, and that it would still give employment to as many persons as it now employs? If not employed in London, these persons would be employed elsewhere; and if Mr. Birch will point me out a spot in the whole globe, where they could be employed with less chances of health and more chances of vice, than on the banks of the Thames, below London-bridge, I will at once, waving all other considerations, give up the argument.

There is, it seems, a body of persons called the shipping interest in the port of London, who join in this opposition. And I should be glad to know from these gentlemen, upon what it is, that they found their claim to a monopoly of the advantages of the trade to and from India. Do not the whole kingdom pay the taxes which are expended in the maintenance of the colonies in the East. Why should the counties of Lancaster, Somerset, or any other, be shut out any more than the county of Middlesex? In short, the grounds of this opposition appear to me to be so flagrantly unjust, that I will not believe anything further to be necessary to expose them to public indignation.

Before I conclude, however, there is one reason, and that of great weight, which I shall state for my approbation of the proposed measure, or of any measure, the tendency of which is, to diminish the influence of the East India Company, and, indeed, to break up that body. And this reason is, that such a measure will have a powerful tendency to destroy political corruption in the city of London and in the county of Middlesex. That Company has long been a powerful phalanx in opposition to the voice of public liberty. At all elections, whether for the city or the county, that Company, with its numerous dependants at its heels, have had a monstrous influence, and that influence has always been exerted to the utmost against the rights of the people. If we look back to the causes of this war, we shall find the East India Company acting a prominent part. The East India House and the Bank have been amongst the forwardest in support of all those measures which led to the enormous taxes now weighing us to the earth; and, who can have failed to be filled with disgust at seeing it stated, in the documents and speeches of the opponents of the present measure, that its adoption would tend to introduce light and liberty into the enslaved countries under their sway?

I am not certain, nor do I flatter myself, that it is intended to change the interior system of government of India; but, of this I am very sure, that it cannot be intended to establish there any system of government more hateful to me than that which now exists there under the Company. Edition: current; Page: [184] What do they mean when they express their alarm, lest an additional number of Europeans should find their way to India? What sort of government must that be, which feels uneasiness at the prospect of seeing its acts subjected to the observation of well-informed men? What sort of government must that be, which dreads the approach of men accustomed to ideas of law and liberty? And I put it as a question to all those who have any pretensions to thinking, whether they think that the treasure and the blood of Englishmen ought to be expended in maintaining the possession of a colony, the mode of governing which will not bear the inspection of freemen, and trembles at the thought of a free communication with the natives of England? Whether this government will be put an end to, I know not; but that it may be, is the sincere wish of

Wm. COBBETT.

TO JAMES PAUL, Of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania; ON MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF WALES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
24th Feb. 1813
London
James Paul
Paul, James

LETTER I.

My dear Friend,

The excellent effect which attended my letter to you, has made me resolve to discuss the present subject in the form of letters to you; a form, which, for various reasons, I have a great liking to, and which has always this strong recommendation, that it affords me an opportunity of proving to you that your friendship and that of your brother and children is always alive in my recollection. At this time, however, another motive has had some weight with me. I understand, that our Government has issued orders for causing all letters for your country to pass through its hands, or, which is the same thing, the hands of its agents; and, as I am resolved, that they shall never have the fingering of a letter of mine to America, I will put what I have to say into print, and then it can no more be impeded in its progress than can the clouds, or the rays of the sun.

In the case above alluded to, my letter did, I understand, settle all men’s minds at once, as far as it went; and, as it was re-published in America, it gives me great satisfaction to reflect on the extent of its influence. Nor was it without its uses here, where the people, at a distance from London, must, of course, know almost as little about the local circumstances of the case as the people in Pennsylvania themselves. Indeed Edition: current; Page: [185] the publication of that letter soon convinced me, that one ought not to take it for granted, that the mass of the people know much about particulars as to any sort of public matter; and that to suppose one’s readers to be on the other side of the Atlantic is no bad way of making any case that one discusses quite clear to the people of England; nay, even to nine-tenths of those who walk, in decent clothes, about the streets of London itself.

It is, therefore, in the full conviction that I shall communicate information to a great portion of the people here as well as to the eight millions of people who inhabit the United States, that I now renew my correspondence with you, leaving my promised communication, about the mode of keeping large quantities of sheep upon your farm, till the return of peace, lest, by fulfilling that promise at this time, I should subject myself to the charge of conveying comfort and giving assistance to the enemies of my Sovereign, than which, assuredly, nothing can be further from my heart.

The subject, upon which I now address you, is one of very great interest and of very great importance. It is interesting, as involving the reputation of persons of high rank; and it is important, as being capable of raising questions as to rights of most fearful magnitude.

You will have seen, in your own newspapers, copious extracts from our English daily papers upon the subject of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales; but, these extracts you will find so confused, so dark, so contradictory, so unintelligible upon the whole, so topless and tail-less, that you will from them be able to draw no rational conclusion. You will see Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales abused by these journalists; you will see all sorts of charges by them preferred against her; you will hear one insinuation following another, till, at last, the ear sickens with the sound; but, you will find nowhere any clear statement of her case. Even her own Letter, which I shall, though for a second time, insert below for your perusal, does not go far enough back to produce that view of her case which ought to be exhibited, in order to a defence of her against the base insinuations which have, for a long while, been in circulation. In short, all that will reach your country, through the channel of these corrupt London Journalists, can only serve to mislead you as to the real merits of the case; and, even I, with a most earnest desire to lay before the world the means of forming a correct judgment, should fail of my object, were I not to revert to the earliest period of that connexion between the Princess and the Prince, which has, unhappily, been, for some years, interrupted.

It is generally well known, but not improper to state here, that the Princess of Wales is the daughter of the late Duke of Brunswick, and that her mother is a sister of our present King. Of course she is a first cousin of the Prince her husband. They were married on the 8th of April, 1795, the Prince being then 32 years of age, and the Princess being 26 years of age; the former will be 51 the 12th day of next August, and the latter will be 45 on the 17th of next May. On the 7th of January, 1796, that is to say, precisely nine months from the day of their marriage, was born the Princess Charlotte of Wales, who, being their only child, is the heiress to the Throne, and who, of course, has now completed her 17th year.

Here you have an account of who the parties most concerned are, and of the how and the when of their connexion. But, there were some circumstances, Edition: current; Page: [186] connected with the marriage of the Prince and Princess, to which it will be necessary to go back, in order to have a fair view of the matter.

The Prince, at the time when he was about to be married, in 1795, was greatly in debt. He had an annual allowance from the nation, besides the amount of certain revenues in the county of Cornwall belonging to him as Duke of that county. But, these proving insufficient to meet his expenses, he was found, in 1795, to have contracted debts to the amount of 639,890l. 4s. 4d.; for we are very particular, in this country, in stating the fractions of sums in our public accounts. You will, perhaps, stare at this sum; but you may depend upon my correctness in stating it, as I copy it from the documents laid before Parliament.

When the Prince was married, a proposition was made to Parliament for the payment of this sum of debt, which, indeed, seems to have been stipulated for before the marriage; for, in the report of the debate upon the subject of the debts, the Duke of Clarence is stated to have said, “that when the marriage of the Prince of Wales was agreed upon, there was a stipulation that he should be exonerated from his debts.” Much and long opposition was, however, made to the proposed payment by the country, and those who made this opposition contended, that, after having paid his debts, to a great amount, in 1787, upon a clear understanding, that no more debts should be contracted on his account, the nation ought not to be called on again, and that the King ought to pay the debts out of his annual allowance, which we here call the Civil List, and which amounts to nearly half as much as your whole American revenue, though there are eight millions of you on whom to raise that revenue. See how rich a nation we must be!

The proposition was, however, at last agreed to; but, it ought to be borne in mind, that, through the whole of the discussions, the ground upon which this new call upon the public purse rested, was the Prince’s marriage. The debts were not paid off in a ready sum; but, were to be liquidated by certain yearly deductions to come out of an additional yearly allowance to be made to the Prince; and, in case of the death of the King or of the Prince before the debts were all paid, the payment of the remainder was to fall upon the public revenues. So that it amounted to exactly the same thing in effect as if a simple vote had been given for the payment of the debts, at once, out of the year’s taxes.

The King, in his message to the Houses, in about twenty days after the marriage took place, asked for an establishment to be settled upon the Prince “and his august spouse,” and, at the same time, told them, that the benefit of any such settlement could not be effectually secured to the Prince, “till he was relieved from his present encumbrances to a large amount.” Upon this ground the Prince’s annual amount from the nation was augmented. It was raised at once, from 60,000l. a year to 125,000l. a year; and, of this sum, 25,000l. a year were set apart for the discharge of his debts. To this was added a sum of 27,000l. for preparations for the marriage; 28,000l., for jewels and plate; and 26,000l. for finishing Carlton House, the residence of the Prince.

It was necessary to enter into this statement, in order to show you what were the circumstances under which the Prince and Princess came together, and to make you acquainted with the fact, that her Royal Highness did really bring to her Royal Spouse one of the greatest blessings on earth; namely, a relief from heavy pecuniary encumbrances, which encumbrances Edition: current; Page: [187] would, it is manifest, have continued to weigh upon his Royal Highness had his marriage not taken place.

But, Her Royal Highness also brought with her other claims to love and gratitude. She was represented at the time, and with truth, I believe, as a person of great beauty, but not greater than her sweetness of manners, her acquired accomplishments, and her strength and greatness of mind. She was received in England with transports of joy; addresses of admiration and gratitude poured in upon her from all quarters, and her husband was congratulated as the happiest of men. A similar torrent of addresses came in upon the birth of the Princess Charlotte of Wales. In short, no events seem ever to have caused such unmixed joy in this country as the marriage of this illustrious Lady and the birth of her child.

What a contrast, alas! is presented in the occurrences of the present day! What short-sighted mortals we are! Who, though the most far-seeing of men, could, in 1796, while addresses of congratulation were succeeding each other to the Prince and Princess upon the birth of their child; who, at that day, could have anticipated, that the time was to come, when the mother would have to complain, aye, and to make public her complaints, of being debarred a free communication with that child!

This leads us to a consideration of the Princess’s Letter; but, I ought, in the first place, to remind you, that it was not, as was stated at the time in print, many months after the Princess Charlotte was born before her Royal Mother had a place of residence separate from that of the Prince. Now, this might happen without ground of blame on either side. There are so many ways in which misunderstandings in families are created; there are so many causes from which the society of man and wife become disagreeable; and these causes may be founded in so many incidents having nothing of crime or blame belonging to them, that, when separations of this sort take place, it is a harsh judgment that will insist upon affixing blame to one party or the other. Therefore, I, for my part, have always been willing to content myself with expressing merely regret upon this subject, in which respect, I am satisfied, that I did no more than follow the example of the great mass of the community. Had things continued in this state; had the parties, though living at a distance from each other, suffered the world to hear nothing from them in the way of complaint against each other, all would yet have been well. Unhappily this has not been the case; accusations of a very serious nature are, in the public prints, now stated to have taken place in private, and, at last, the consequence has been the writing and the publication of that Letter of the Princess, which I am now about to make a subject of most respectful consideration and remark.

This, however, I shall defer till my next Number, for reasons, which, when that Number shall appear, will, I imagine, be obvious to all my readers.

Wm. COBBETT.
Caroline Louisa
Louisa, Caroline
14th of Jan. 1813

Copy of a Letter from Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent:

Sir,

It is with great reluctance that I presume to obtrude myself upon your Royal Highness, and to solicit your attention to matters which may, at first, Edition: current; Page: [188] appear rather of a personal than a public nature. If I could think them so—if they related merely to myself—I should abstain from a proceeding which might give uneasiness, or interrupt the more weighty occupations of your Royal Highness’s time. I should continue, in silence and retirement, to lead the life which has been prescribed to me, and console myself for the loss of that society and those domestic comforts to which I have so long been a stranger, by the reflection that it has been deemed proper I should be afflicted without any fault of my own—and that your Royal Highness knows it.

“But, Sir, there are considerations of a higher nature than any regard to my own happiness, which render this address a duty both to myself and my Daughter. May I venture to say—a duty also to my husband, and the people committed to his care? There is a point beyond which a guiltless woman cannot with safety carry her forbearance. If her honour is invaded, the defence of her reputation is no longer a matter of choice; and it signifies not whether the attack be made openly, manfully, and directly—or by secret insinuation, and by holding such conduct towards her as countenances all the suspicions that malice can suggest. If these ought to be the feelings of every woman in England who is conscious that she deserves no reproach, your Royal Highness has too sound a judgment, and too nice a sense of honour, not to perceive, how much more justly they belong to the Mother of your Daughter—the Mother of her who is destined, I trust, at a very distant period, to reign over the British Empire.

It may be known to your Royal Highness, that during the continuance of the restrictions upon your Royal authority. I purposely refrained from making any representations which might then augment the painful difficulties of your exalted station. At the expiration of the restrictions I still was inclined to delay taking this step, in the hope that I might owe the redress I sought to your gracious and unsolicited condescension. I have waited in the fond indulgence of this expectation, until, to my inexpressible mortification, I find that my unwillingness to complain, has only produced fresh grounds of complaint; and I am at length compelled, either to abandon all regard for the two dearest objects which I possess on earth,—mine own honour, and my beloved child; or to throw myself at the feet of your Royal Highness, the natural protector of both.

I presume, Sir, to represent to your Royal Highness, that the separation, which every succeeding month is making wider, of the Mother and the Daughter, is equally injurious to my character, and to her education. I say nothing of the deep wounds which so cruel an arrangement inflicts upon my feelings, although I would fain hope that few persons will be found of a disposition to think lightly of these. To see myself cut off from one of the very few domestic enjoyments left me—certainly the only one upon which I set any value—the society of my child—involves me in such misery, as I well know your Royal Highness could never inflict upon me, if you were aware of its bitterness. Our intercourse has been gradually diminished. A single interview weekly seemed sufficiently hard allowance for a Mother’s affections. That, however, was reduced to our meeting once a fortnight; and I now learn, that even this most rigorous interdiction is to be still more rigidly enforced.

But while I do not venture to intrude my feelings as a Mother upon your Royal Highness’s notice, I must be allowed to say, that in the eyes of an observing and jealous world, this separation of a Daughter from her Mother will only admit of one construction, a construction fatal to the Mother’s reputation. Your Royal Highness will also pardon me for adding, that there is no less inconsistency than injustice in this treatment. He who dares advise your Royal Highness to overlook the evidence of my innocence, and disregard the sentence of complete acquittal which it produced—or is wicked and false enough still to whisper suspicions in your ear,—betrays his duty to you, Sir, to your Daughter, and to your People, if he counsels you to permit a day to pass without a further investigation of my conduct. I know that no such calumniator will venture to recommend a measure which must speedily end in his utter confusion. Then let me implore you to reflect on the situation in which I am placed; without the shadow of a charge against me—without even an accuser—after an inquiry that led to my ample vindication—yet treated as if I were still more culpable than the perjuries of my suborned traducers represented me, and held up to the world as a Mother who may not enjoy the society of her only child.

The feelings, Sir, which are natural to my unexampled situation, might justify me in the gracious judgment of your Royal Highness, had I no other motives for addressing you but such as relate to myself; but I will not disguise from your Edition: current; Page: [189] Royal Highness what I cannot for a moment conceal from myself,—that the serious, and it soon may be, the irreparable injury which my Daughter sustains from the plan at present pursued, has done more in overcoming my reluctance to intrude upon your Royal Highness, than any sufferings of my own could accomplish: and if, for her sake, I presume to call away your Royal Highness’s attention from the other cares of your exalted station, I feel confident I am not claiming it for a matter of inferior importance either to yourself or your people.

The powers with which the constitution of these realms vests your Royal Highness in the regulation of the Royal Family, I know, because I am so advised, are ample and unquestionable. My appeal, Sir, is made to your excellent sense and liberality of mind in the exercise of those powers; and I willingly hope, that your own parental feelings will lead you to excuse the anxiety of mine, for impelling me to represent the unhappy consequences which the present system must entail upon our beloved Child.

Is it possible, Sir, that any one can have attempted to persuade your Royal Highness, that her character will not be injured by the perpetual violence offered to her strongest affections—the studied care taken to estrange her from my society, and even to interrupt all communication between us? That her love for me, with whom, by His Majesty’s wise and gracious arrangements, she passed the years of her infancy and childhood, never can be extinguished, I well know; and the knowledge of it forms the greatest blessing of my existence. But let me implore your Royal Highness to reflect, how inevitably all attempts to abate this attachment, by forcibly separating us, if they succeed, must injure my Child’s principles—if they fail, must destroy her happiness.

The plan of excluding my daughter from all intercourse with the world, appears to my humble judgment peculiarly unfortunate. She who is destined to be the Sovereign of this great country, enjoys none of those advantages of society which are deemed necessary for imparting a knowledge of mankind to persons who have infinitely less occasion to learn that important lesson; and it may so happen, by a chance which I trust is very remote, that she should be called upon to exercise the powers of the Crown, with an experience of the world more confined than that of the most private individual. To the extraordinary talents with which she is blessed, and which accompany a disposition as singularly amiable, frank, and decided, I willingly trust much: but beyond a certain point the greatest natural endowments cannot struggle against the disadvantages of circumstances and situation. It is my earnest prayer, for her own sake, as well as her country’s, that your Royal Highness may be induced to pause before this point be reached.

Those who have advised you, Sir, to delay so long the period of my daughter’s commencing her intercourse with the world, and for that purpose to make Windsor her residence, appear not to have regarded the interruptions to her education which this arrangement occasions; both by the impossibility of obtaining the attendance of proper teachers, and the time unavoidably consumed in the frequent journeys to town which she must make, unless she is to be secluded from all intercourse, even with your Royal Highness and the rest of the Royal Family. To the same unfortunate counsels I ascribe a circumstance in every way so distressing both to my parental and religious feelings, that my Daughter has never yet enjoyed the benefit of Confirmation, although above a year older than the age at which all the other branches of the Royal Family have partaken of that solemnity. May I earnestly conjure you, Sir, to hear my entreaties upon this serious matter, even if you should listen to other advisers on things of less near concernment to the welfare of our Child?

The pain with which I have at length formed the resolution of addressing myself to your Royal Highness is such as I should in vain attempt to express. If I could adequately describe it, you might be enabled, Sir, to estimate the strength of the motives which have made me submit to it: they are the most powerful feelings of affection, and the deepest impressions of duty towards your Royal Highness, my beloved Child, and the country, which I devoutly hope she may be preserved to govern, and to show, by a new example, the liberal affection of a free and generous people to a virtuous and Constitutional Monarch.

I am, Sir, with profound respect, and an attachment which nothing can alter, your Royal Highness’s most devoted and most affectionate Consort, Cousin, and Subject,

(Signed) CAROLINE LOUISA.
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TO JAMES PAUL, Of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania; ON MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF WALES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
3d March, 1813
Botley
James Paul
Paul, James

LETTER II.

My dear Friend,

Since the date of my last letter I have returned home, where I found my children delighted to hear, that I had resumed my correspondence with “Grand-daddy Paul;” but very much surprised, that I did not write to you about sheep, and turnips, and carrots, in preference to the subject which I had chosen. To say the truth, I should prefer the former topics; but, I have a duty to perform with regard to the latter. It is certainly one of the most important public matters that ever has been discussed in England. It is a matter that must make a great figure in the history of a country which fills a high rank in the community of nations; and, viewing it in this light, I cannot help being anxious, that those, who, some years hence, may refer to the Register for information relating to it, should not have to blame me for their disappointment.

It is impossible for any one to enter on a discussion with more perfect impartiality than I have entered upon this. I know nothing personally of either of the Royal parties most concerned; I have never received either good or evil from the hands of either; I have never been under any indirect influence flowing from either. I reside at a great distance from the scene of all cabals and intrigues; I hold no correspondence which the people at our Post-office may not, if they like it, amuse themselves with reading; I never deal in secrets, and never desire to hear any thing that may not be uttered by the mouth of the crier in the open streets. I can have no motive to make my court either to the Prince or the Princess, seeing, that I am bound by the most solemn pledge never to touch, in any shape, a farthing of the public money as long as I live, and never to suffer any son of mine to do it, if I have it in my power to prevent him, and I do flatter myself that neither of them will ever entertain such a design. Thus standing before the public, having nothing to complain of with regard to either party; having nothing to fear, and nothing to hope for, from either, I shall, I trust, be listened to without prejudice, and that the facts, or the reasonings, which I shall bring forward, will, at the least, have a fair chance of producing their wished-for effect; a just decision in the minds of all persons of sense and integrity.

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My last letter concluded with a remark as to the separation of dwelling-places of the Prince and Princess. The time, however, was not exactly named; and, as I wish to leave nothing less perfect than circumstances compel me, I have now to remind you, that this separation of dwellings took place in April, 1796, twelve months after the marriage, and three months after the birth of the Princess Charlotte of Wales. It is said, that, as to the cause of this unhappy event, and as to the manner of its taking place, there is a Letter in existence, in the hands of her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales; and, as this Letter was, as it is stated, written by the Prince himself, it will, doubtless, be found to be, at once, satisfactory in its reasons and delicate in its sentiments and diction. This being the case, we shall, I hope, see this Letter in print; because it will answer one great purpose; it will clear up every thing to the day of separation, and will, I have no doubt, show the world, that any infamous tales, which the tongues of base parasites may have been engaged in circulating, are wholly without foundation.

Before I come to that consideration, which I have promised, of the several parts of the Princess’s Letter, let me request you to bear in mind, that, in 1806, when Lord Grenville, Lord Erskine, Lord Grey, and Mr. Fox were in the ministry, there was, in our newspapers, many articles published, relative to an inquiry, which was then going on, respecting the conduct of the Princess of Wales. This was called, at that time, the “Delicate Investigation,” by which name it has ever since gone. The Princess was observed, at that time, and for sometime afterwards, not to go to Court, as she had done before, which circumstance had the effect of producing an opinion to her disadvantage. Some months after this, however, she re-appeared at Court; but, in the meanwhile, the ministry had changed, and the late Perceval and his set had become ministers. It was understood, also, that an account of the Delicate Investigation had been formed into A BOOK, had been printed, had been upon the eve of publication, had, all at once, just when the change of ministry took place, been stopped; and that, certain copies, which had escaped by chance, had been bought up by the supposed authors at an enormous price. What I state here as matter of mere report, will, probably, hereafter appear in a more authoritative shape; but, in the meanwhile, there having been such reports current is fact sufficient for our purpose; namely, to explain certain parts of the Princess’s Letter, which, without such explanation, must appear unintelligible to you.

Bearing in mind what has been said, you will now have the goodness to follow me to the period of the establishment of the Regency in the person of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Hitherto the Princess had lived chiefly at a small mansion at Blackheath, upon, apparently, a very limited pecuniary allowance, which, by almost all the public prints, we were told she participated with the poor and distressed persons of her neighbourhood. I do not know that this was the case. I cannot know it, and, therefore, I vouch not for the fact; but I do know well that the fact was asserted in print, and that the assertion so often met the public eye, accompanied with a detail of the instances of her benevolence, that it was next to impossible that it should not have obtained general belief.

When, therefore, the Regency came to be settled, and the Prince came to the possession and disposal of a kingly income, it was natural for the Edition: current; Page: [192] nation to expect to see the Princess placed upon a corresponding footing; and this became the more a subject of observation, because, just at the same time, large sums of money were granted by the Parliament for the purpose of enabling the Prince’s maiden sisters to keep their state in separate mansions, and to maintain separate establishments. In this state of things, the nation seemed, with one voice, to ask, why no change was to be made in the pecuniary circumstances and the exterior appearance of the Princess of Wales, the wife of the Regent and the mother of the sole heiress to the throne. The question was actually asked in Parliament; it was put to the then minister. Perceval, what was the cause of this marked slight to Her Royal Highness; and finally, it was put distinctly to him, who had been intimately acquainted with all the facts, whether there existed any ground of charge against the Princess: to which he as distinctly answered, that there existed none.

Now, my friend, you will observe, that this declaration was made by a man, who had been a minister at the time when the Princess was restored to court, and who, of course, had advised that measure. He, as a Privy Councillor, was sworn to give the King the best advice in his power. Besides, he, at the time of his making the Declaration, was the prime minister, chosen by the Prince himself to fill that office. He was the man who directed the councils of the Prince, now become Regent with kingly powers. Therefore, his Declaration of the innocence of the Princess had deservedly very great weight with the public, who then, more than before, seemed astonished, that, while the Prince was raised in splendour as well as power, to the state of a king, the Princess, his wife, should experience no change whatever in her circumstances, but appeared to be doomed to pass the whole of her life in obscurity. The public did not seem to wish to pry into any family secrets. They generously wished not to revive past disputes. They were willing and anxious to forget all the reports which had been circulated. They wished to have no cause to suspect anything improper in either husband or wife; and, therefore, anxiously wished to see the Princess placed in a situation suited to the rank of her royal spouse, by which means all doubts, the effect of all malicious insinuations and rumours, would, at once, have been removed.

In the articles, which I wrote at the time, recommending a suitable establishment for Her Royal Highness, I was, I sincerely believe, no more than the echo of ninety-nine hundredths of the people of England. No such establishment did, however, take place; and Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, the wife of the Regent; she who, if the King die before the Regent, will be crowned Queen with her husband; she who is the mother of our future sovereign, was left in her former comparative obscurity, even at a time when establishments were granted to the sisters of the Prince; and this happened too, you will bear in mind, while the prime minister, the Prince’s chief adviser, explicitly declared in open Parliament, that there was no ground of charge existing aginst Her Royal Highness.

It will be said, perhaps, and it has been said, that, in not granting an establishment of a higher order to the Princess; in not enabling her to hold a court of her own, and giving her the necessary accompaniments of splendour; it has been said, that, in not doing this no law was violated. Very true; but, if this were a sufficient answer to us, to what a state might she not be reduced before the proper season of complaint would arrive? We are not talking about law: the question before us is a question Edition: current; Page: [193] of feeling; a question of moral propriety. For my part, I appear not as an accuser of any one in authority: my object is simply this: to inquire whether the foul, the base, the malignant publications against the Princess of Wales do, or do not, admit of a shadow of justification. Justification, indeed, they cannot admit of; but, whether they admit of the shadow of an apology; and the answer to this question will naturally grow out of a consideration of the several parts of Her Royal Highness’s Letter.

In entering upon this consideration, we must bear in mind, that the Letter treats of two subjects; namely, the treatment of the Princess herself, and the education of her daughter. These we must keep separate in our mind, or else we shall fall into a confusion which will prevent a clear view of the case.

The Princess complains, as to herself, that she is debarred from that intercourse with her child which it is natural for a mother to expect, and which mothers do usually enjoy. And, here, before I proceed further, you ought to be informed, that, when the Princess went to live at Blackheath, in 1796, she took her daughter with her; that her daughter remained with her till she attained the age of eight years; that she was then placed under the care of proper persons to superintend her education, and that her place of residence was chiefly at Windsor, the place of residence of the Queen, her mother going frequently to see her, and she going frequently to see her mother. It now appears, from the Princess’s Letter, that (at what time is not mentioned), the Royal Mother’s visits to her daughter, or rather, the interviews between them, were limited, at first, to ONCE A WEEK; that they were afterwards reduced to interviews of ONCE A FORTNIGHT; and that she now learns that, “even this most rigorous interdiction is to be STILL MORE RIGIDLY ENFORCED.”

This, her Royal Highness says, has compelled her reluctantly to break a silence which has long been most painful to her. Her complaint is this:—That, at the time of settling the Regency, she was unwilling to obtrude herself upon the Prince with her private complaints; that she waited patiently, expecting redress from the Prince’s own gracious condescension; but, that, having waited so long without receiving that redress, and now perceiving that the measures with regard to her interviews with her daughter, are calculated to admit of but one construction, and that construction fatal to her own reputation, she has now resolved to give utterance to her feelings.

Whether the reasoning of the Princess be correct; whether the separation of her from her daughter; whether the limiting of their interviews to once a week, and then further limiting them to once a fortnight; whether, in short, the prohibition against a mother (any mother), seeing and speaking to her daughter at her pleasure; whether such a prohibition can admit of any construction not fatal to the mother’s reputation, I will, my sensible and honest friend, leave you to judge. And, with regard to the Princess’s maternal feelings, you will, I am sure, want nothing to guide you in your judgment further than the supposition, for a moment, of a similar prohibition laid upon yourself.

Upon this part of the subject I would not add a single word, did I not think it my duty to expose some of the unfeeling ruffians of the London press, who have, upon this occasion, assailed the Princess of Wales. In answer to her complaint of not being permitted to have a free intercourse Edition: current; Page: [194] with her daughter, the Courier newspaper, of the 18th of February, makes the following remarks:—

“The charge of separating a child from its mother, naturally engages the affections of every parent; and her Royal Highness knowing this, does not forget to make a strong appeal to the passions of Englishwomen. But to what extent is this charge founded? A visit once a week is changed to a visit once a fortnight. And how many mothers are there who do not see their daughters of seventeen so often as once a fortnight? They must be callous-hearted jades who trust their girls to a boarding-school; they must be unfeeling monsters who allow their daughters, when of an age fit for marriage, to make visits to their friends and relations with the view of forming connexions; and if this daughter were to live under the protection of her grandmother, her uncles, and aunts, nay, of her very father, the conduct must be barbarous indeed! But how inhuman must it be to allow girls of seventeen or eighteen to marry, thus placing it in the power of a hard-hearted husband to take a daughter to his own home, at a distance, perhaps, where the mother may not see her for months together, a privation, which, if any thing desirable is to be had through the daughter’s influence, is certain of raising loud lamentations.

I am afraid, my friend, that the reading of this paragraph will give you a very bad opinion of the people of England; for, you will naturally ask, “What a people must that be, amongst whom any writer would dare to give vent to such miserable trash as this, and to call it an answer to the Princess’s complaint?” It is not of an unavoidable separation that the Princess complains; it is of a separation easily avoided; a separation, not arising from distance, or any other insurmountable obstacle, but simply from the prohibition of a third party. It is not, as in the cases here cited, a separation growing out of a calculation of advantages and disadvantages, but a separation without any compensation to the party complaining. To her a sheer, unmixed evil, and that, too, of a most grievous kind. It is not a separation, as in the case of school, or marriage, of a temporary nature; but is of that sort, which, if rightly represented in the Letter, promises no termination. It is, in one word, the forcible separation of an only child from her mother. No powers of description can heighten the fact, the bare naming of which is sufficient for any one who has the common feelings of humanity about him.

Yet, my friend, I do not say that there may not be causes, even in common life, to justify such a separation. We may suppose a case of a mother so profligate, as to render it prudent in the father to prevent her from having access to her daughter. It is a horrible case to suppose. One can hardly entertain the idea without being ashamed of one’s human character. Still the case is possible; but then the guilt, the profligacy, of the mother, must be so certainly established, so far removed from all doubt, as to leave no possibility of dispute on the question. I do not take upon me to determine in what degree the maxims, as to this matter, may be different, when the parties belong to royal families; but we have, in the Letter of the Princess, a most clear and positive assertion of her innocence, as to all the charges that base insinuation had ever preferred against her.

This, my good friend, is by far the most material part of her Letter, and it will, unless I am greatly deceived, be considered as more than a sufficient answer to the calumnies, which the panders of all the low, filthy passions have hatched and circulated against her. In the former part of her Letter, she says, that she has been afflicted without any fault of her own, and that His Royal Highness knows it; but, she afterwards comes to this distinct and unequivocal assertion:

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“He who dares advise your Royal Highness to overlook the evidence of my innocence, and disregard the sentence of complete acquittal which it produced,—or is wicked and false enough still to whisper suspicions in your ear,—betrays his duty to you, Sir, to your Daughter, and to your People, if he counsels you to permit a day to pass, without a further investigation of my conduct. I know that no such calumniator will venture to recommend a measure, which must speedily end in his utter confusion. Then let me implore you to reflect on the situation in which I am placed; without the shadow of a charge against me, without even an accuser—after an Inquiry that led to my ample vindication—yet treated as if I were still more culpable than the perjuries of my suborned traducers represented me, and held up to the world as a Mother who may not enjoy the society of her only Child.”

There is no such thing as misconception here. This passage of the Letter will not be misunderstood. It asserts the perfect innocence of the writer; it challenges fresh inquiry even after acquittal; and it pronounces beforehand the confusion of those, who shall excite a doubt of her innocence; besides asserting, that her traducers were suborned and perjured. It is not in the power of words to express anything in a manner more clear and decided. The Princess says, that there is evidence of her innocence. In my opinion, there needs little more evidence, than this passage of her admirable letter. If we admit that it is yet possible, that she may be guilty, we must admit, that a stronger proof of innocence was never exhibited to the world. In the first place, the writing of the Letter is her own act. She might hope, by an application to the Prince, to obtain leave to see her daughter more frequently; but, if she had thought it possible that any proofs of her guilt existed, I ask you, my friend, whether it is likely that she would have ventured to make any application at all to him, and especially an application founded entirely on an assertion of her perfect innocence, and accompanied, moreover, with the charge of perjury and subornation against those who had traduced her; against those who had laid the crimes to her charge? If, then, it be to set at defiance the suggestions of reason and of nature to suppose that such an application could proceed from a mind conscious of guilt, what an outrage is it to offer to the common sense of mankind to suppose, that the writer, if conscious of guilt, would have made the application public to the whole world; and thus proclaim, not only her own innocence, but the guilt, the black, the foul, the nefarious guilt of her enemies!

I can conceive it possible, that a person, accused of a crime and conscious of guilt, may put on a bold front, may affect to laugh at his accusers and their accusation. Indeed, this we see daily done by criminals of every degree. But, mark the distinction in the cases. This is the conduct of persons accused of crimes; and not of persons coming forward with demands for redress. If the Princess had been accused afresh at this time; if some proceeding had been going on against her; then, indeed, I should have allowed, that little weight ought to have been given to these bold assertions of innocence. But, her case was precisely the opposite of this. No one was moving accusations against her; her conduct was not a subject of discussion anywhere; she was the beginner of a new agitation of the matter; she must have known that her former accusers were still alive, and, without doubt, still as much her enemies as ever; and, she could not possibly see, in any of the political changes that had taken place, any thing to operate in her favour, but, on the contrary, many things to operate against her, in a revision of the investigation.

Had the Princess been possessed of greater power, or influence, now than she was in 1806 and 1807. Had she had a powerful party now on Edition: current; Page: [196] her side, then one might have supposed it possible for her to have a reliance different from that which innocence inspires. But, it is notorious, that she has no power and no influence; that she has no party at her back, nor any political support from any quarter; and yet, she voluntarily comes forward and challenges fresh inquiry, accompanied with accusations of the most serious kind against her former accusers.

Unless, therefore, we can suppose it possible for a man in his senses, who has committed a murder, and who has luckily obtained an acquittal, to come voluntarily forward and petition the court for a new trial, all the evidences of his guilt being still at hand; unless we can suppose this possible, it appears to me, that we must pronounce it impossible that the Princess of Wales should have been guilty of any of the acts of either guilt or shame which have been laid to her charge, or insinuated against her.

So far, however, are the ruffians of the London press, who have attacked her Royal Highness upon this occasion, from reasoning in this way, that they hold it forth as proof of her guilt that she lives in a state of separation from her husband; or, at least, they tell her, that whether innocent, or not, she, if not living with her husband, must expect to meet with nearly all the consequences of guilt.

“Rash, mistaken, unfortunate woman!” (say they in the Courier of the 18th of February). “In this country no wife can command the respectful attentions of society, due to her station, if she lives separately from her husband, still less if she publicly accuses and traduces him.—She may excite sympathy and compassion; she may gratify revenge; she may be injured and innocent in the highest degree; but still the countenance of her husband is the unalterable channel through which the attentions of the world can permanently flow upon her. She may have friends to console and caress her, every one may acknowledge the injustice of the treatment she meets, and pity her condition; but so severe are the rules of society, and for the best purposes, that she is coldly received, and as conveniently avoided as may be, until at last she becomes disgusted with public company, and finds her only comfort in retirement. Impeachment by the husband entails three-fourths of the external consequences of guilt in this world, though no internal disapprobation may follow.

This article in the Courier, as well as the one cited before, was signed K. B.: who the real author was I know not; but, sure I am, that his heart is the seat of the most odious tyranny; a tyranny so base and cowardly that it is impossible to express one’s detestation of it in terms sufficiently strong. He confines his maxims to this country, which, if he spoke truth as to the maxims themselves, would be some comfort to the rest of the world; for, certainly, any thing so dishonourable to the understandings and hearts of a people was never before promulgated. Somebody, I forget who, has called England a heaven for women and a hell for horses; but, if what this calumniator of Her Royal Highness asserts were true, the saying might be reversed, or, at least, we may safely say, that the lot of our four-legged fellow-creatures would be by far the best of the two. But, his assertions are as false as the intention of them is foul. In this country, as in all others, except, perhaps, in the states of Africa, an innocent woman, injured by her husband, is always amongst those who are acquainted with the facts, not only an object of compassion but of the attentions of the world; and what is more, we are just enough, in general, to ascribe to the husband his full share of any indiscretions, into which the temptations, almost inseparable from the nature of her situation, may lead her. So far from acting upon the doctrine of this writer, Edition: current; Page: [197] from whom, I dare say, all the properties of manhood have long ago departed; so far from acting upon what he calls our “severe rules of society,” we make large allowances for the conduct of wives notoriously ill-treated by their husbands, and do not expect that a woman is to shut herself up in a hermitage for life, because, “though innocent in the highest degree,” an effete or capricious brute of a husband, having, perhaps, first pocketed her fortune, may have driven her from his house.

This may serve as a justification of our manners and rules against the doctrine of K. B., in its general application; and, in applying it to the particular case before us, let me ask this gentleman (for, I dare say, he calls himself one) where we are to look for “impeachment by the husband.” I do not mean, nor does he mean impeachment in the technical sense of the word; but, I mean, accusation; and, where, I say, are we to look for any accusation preferred by the Prince against the Princess? I have never seen any such accusation, and I do not believe that any such accusation exists even to this day. The Princess asserts, in her Letter, that there is no accuser of her. I implicitly believe what she says. It is not possible to believe, that she would, in so solemn a manner, have made this assertion, if it had not been true. And, if what she here asserts be true, what does the man deserve, what punishment does not that man merit, who has thrown out these insinuations!

But, though the Prince has never impeached, or accused, the Princess, this Mr. K. B. has done it. It is done in a very low way, to be sure; but it is done, and a very curious accusation it is. Having spoken of the refusal of the mother to see her daughter, he proceeds thus:—“This may be hard; but the same policy which takes the child from the mother, gave to the husband the wife. These things are not regulated by common rules, and should not be judged by common feelings. If the mother is to be pitied for seeing her daughter but once in the fortnight, how much more should the father be pitied who was FORCED to marry a Lady whom he never had seen, and of whose TEMPER he had no opportunity to judge.” This last insinuation is quite worthy of the source whence it proceeds; quite worthy of the source whence came the doctrine, that the reputation of the wife is to be blasted merely by the fact of her having been driven from the husband’s house.

It is not easy to discover why the “same policy” that leads to state marriages should produce a prohibition against the mother seeing the daughter more than once in fourteen days. But, laying this aside, as unworthy of further notice, we are here, for the first time, introduced to the hardship, imposed upon the Prince, in forcing him to marry; and, we are told, that, so hard was his case, that he is more to be pitied on account of it than is the mother on account of her being deprived of the sight of her daughter.—This language is somewhat different from that which was contained in the Addresses of 1795, on the occasion of the marriage, and in the Answers to those Addresses, wherein the Prince expressed his happiness at the event. It is rather hard, seeing all that passed then, for the Princess to be told, in the London prints, that the Prince was forced to marry her, and that he ought to be pitied on that account.—But, besides the baseness, besides the cowardly insolence of the statement, it is false. If true, it makes nothing against the Princess, for, it is clear, that if there was force on the one side, there was force on the other. But, as far as relates to the Prince, it is not true; it is a direct falsehood, and the use of it can only tend to show what miserable shifts the Edition: current; Page: [198] calumniators of the Princess are compelled to resort to. The Prince was not, because he could not be, forced to marry the Princess. The King has the power of refusing his consent to any of the members of the Royal Family to marry; he has a negative upon their choice in this respect; but, he has no power, nor have the Parliament and the King together any power, to force any member of the Royal Family to marry, under any circumstances whatever they may be. It is, therefore, false; flatly false, and it is an impudent falsehood, to say, that the Prince was forced to marry her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

This writer, when, for the basest purposes, he was hatching this tale about force put upon the Prince as to his marriage, forgot, perhaps, what an imputation he was, indirectly, casting upon the King; “our good old King,” whose example, as to education, though not as to other things, he is so eager to cite. If the Prince was forced to marry, it was his father forced him, for, as to the laws of the land they know nothing of any such power. If anybody forced the Prince to marry, it was his father, who made the treaty of marriage, and who never consulted the Parliament about the matter, till he had so done. This was all in the usual way; the father’s consent was necessary, and it was given. It is likely, too, that the match was advised by him; it is likely that it was very much desired by him; but, I again say, that he did not, because he could not, force the Prince to marry. If he married a person whom he had never seen, he knew what he was about. He was no chicken. He was 32 years of age. He had cut his wisdom teeth long before the day of his marriage. He did what he did with his eyes open. I do not say that the Princess was, or that she could be, the object of his choice as to personal affection, because he had never seen her; but, this I assert, that it was his choice, that it was his own free choice to marry her. He, doubtless, had higher views than those of vulgar gratification. He viewed the matter as a Prince, and not as a man. He had in idea heirs to the throne; the perpetuating of the line of his ancestors. Say that these were his views, but do not say that he was forced to marry, and do not tell us that he is to be pitied on account of his marriage; for we know, that, if he had chosen it, he might have remained single all his life-time.

But, if the Prince is to be pitied, what shall we say of the Princess? If he is to be pitied because the nature of his situation in life led to his marriage with a person whom he had never seen, and with whose “TEMPER” (dirty insinuation!) he could have had no opportunity of becoming acquainted; if he is to be pitied on this account; if this plea is to be put forward in his favour (for as a plea this writer means it); if, I say, the Prince is to become an object of our compassion on this score; if he is to be held forth to the people in this light, what shall we not say for the Princess upon the same score? Did not she marry a man whom she had never seen? Did not she marry a man of whose “TEMPER” she could have no knowledge from experience or observation? Were they not upon an equal footing in this respect? Yes; and, besides, though he was not, and could not be, forced to marry her, I do not know that it was not in the power of her father to force her to marry him. I do not know that it was in his power; nor do I know that he would have exerted such power if he had had it. But, it is possible that it might have been so; and, I know, that, in the case of the Prince, the thing is impossible. I know, that there existed no power to force him, and that to marry was an act of his own free will. His motives I am not presumptuous enough Edition: current; Page: [199] to attempt to point out; but, I insist, that the act itself was the effect of his own choice. The act of the Princess might, for aught I know, have been the same; but, what I say is this: that if he be an object of pity because he married a lady whom he had never seen, she must, upon the same ground, be an object of pity, and an object of greater pity, on that score, because the marriage removed her into a foreign country and cut her off from all the connexions of her youth, from all her friendships, and from the greater part of those things that make life delightful.

Therefore, in whatever degree, the circumstance of marrying an unknown person is calculated to weigh in favour of the Prince, it must weigh, in the same degree, at least, in favour of the Princess. But, to say the truth, it can have no weight, if duly considered, in favour of either, upon the supposition, that the marriage was as much an act of her choice as it was of his. They both knew what they were about. They were willing to make the sacrifice (if they did make any) in order to secure great benefit to themselves and their families; and, in talking about the pity due to the Prince’s situation, the objects he had in view ought not to be overlooked. If we were to reason in the way that this writer does, who would be entitled to so much of our pity as miners and well-diggers, a tenth-part of whom get their brains knocked out, or are buried alive? The truth is, however, they are no more objects of pity than labourers above ground. They calculate gains and dangers; and they freely choose to take the latter for the sake of the former. No man can force another to be a well-digger; nor was the Prince of Wales forced to be a husband.

It is easy to see with what view this topic has been brought forward. The writer looks back to the time of the unhappy separation. He is, perhaps, of opinion, that the world will look back to that epoch too, as being the proper point whence to start in an inquiry into the conduct of the parties most concerned; and, conscious, apparently, that up to that moment, no one had dared to utter even an insinuation against the conduct of the Princess, he thinks it necessary to lay the ground of a cause of disagreement and separation. Hence his real motive for this pity of the Prince on account of his forced marriage; hence his insinuation against the “TEMPER” of the Princess, than which, surely, nothing ever was more insolent or more base; for, the sentence contains a charge against Her Royal Highness as to her temper. It is a new charge; for, until now, the Princess has always been spoken of as a person of the best temper, which, indeed, is pretty well proved to be the case by the attachment of her daughter to her, and by the silence, upon this head, of her bitterest enemies.

In another of his articles this same writer has the following passage, which merits particular attention, and ought to go forth to the world as a specimen of the brutality by which the Princess has been assailed in the London newspapers.

“In her Letter, her Royal Highness complains, that the limitation of visits to her daughter is an impeachment of her honour, a revival of the charges made some years ago. But since these charges were made and investigated, the intercourse between the mother and daughter has been allowed to continue. The assertion therefore that it is on such grounds the intercourse is refused is obviously a mere pretence. There may be other grounds on which a father may deem it proper to limit a daughter’s visits to the mother. Supposing the mother of a violent temper, of coarse manners and habits; capricious, boisterous, restless, ambitious, and vain; less inclined to the society of her own than of the other sex, and with them familiar beyond the ideas of English Edition: current; Page: [200] decorum, though perfectly chaste in person and even in thought; supposing such a mother associating herself with her husband’s enemies, making of them her confidants, and entering into the schemes of the factious for the purpose of thwarting, exasperating and traducing him; supposing this mother to live separately from the husband, and on the worst terms with him; let all this be supposed, and ample reasons will be found for the Father’s refusal of allowing the child to be educated under such an example without ascribing that refusal to an opinion of the Mother’s want of chastity. A woman may be chaste in person, yet of manners and habits leading to unchastity in others, or of a temper and inclination likely to make an undutiful child.”

Having thus, under the guise of supposing a case, given what he evidently wishes to go forth as a description of the character of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, he next, in the usual manner of such calumniators, says, that he does not wish it to be so understood.

“It is not intended to assert or insinuate that this is a picture of the character of the Princess of Wales. Her friends, personally acquainted with her, represent her as mild and amiable in all respects. The picture is not drawn that it may be taken as a likeness of the Princess, but to show that there are other bad qualities besides unchasteness which may justify a father in refusing his child’s education to a mother; and still more should that child be the heir presumptive to the throne, a personage for whom the British Constitution has specially provided.” This is adding cowardice to calumny. He drew the picture with a manifest intention of its being applied to her Royal Highness, and this latter part of the paragraph is merely for the sake of avoiding a prosecution for libel, for which purpose, however, it is not sufficient, seeing that the real meaning of the writer can be mistaken by no man.

Now, then, my friend, what a picture is here given! And, observe, that this picture is intended to be applied to that same lady, who, in 1795, was received in England as an Angel bringing with her blessings, not only for the present generation, but for generations yet to come! Her husband was described as the happiest of mortals in possessing such a treasure; and, in short, there were no expressions of praise that our language affords, which were not employed in the description of her person, her manners, and her mental endowments. For my part, I can know nothing of the Princess’s manners; but, with the two pictures before me, and with a pretty good view of the circumstances under which both were drawn, I can have no hesitation in believing the picture now given to be a most foul and base attempt to disseminate falsehood. I believe the character of the Princess to be strongly marked with frankness and unreserve, but this, so far from a fault, is an amiable characteristic. More mischief is done by hypocrisy, in a day, than by the want of caution in a life-time.

However, the cowardly writer (for cowardice is the great characteristic of all the Princess’s enemies) does not here venture to give countenance to the serious charges said to have been preferred against Her Royal Highness. He charges her with caballing with her husband’s enemies. Who are they? The persons who espoused her cause in the first instance are now her husband’s ministers, chosen by himself. He chose them for his ministers after they had espoused her cause; after they had advised the King to restore her to Court; and would he have chosen them, if he himself had not been convinced that she really was innocent of the things laid to her charge?

She is charged here with entering into the schemes of the factious, for Edition: current; Page: [201] the purpose of thwarting, exasperating, and traducing her husband. And, where is the proof of this? This charge, like all the others, is false. She complains to him in private, that she is not permitted to see her only child; she boldly asserts that there is no just cause for this severe affliction on her; and, her complaint not being attended to, she makes her letter public, in order that the world may not suppose, that the prohibition is founded on any misconduct of her’s. Is this entering into the schemes of the factious? Is there here any attempt to thwart, exasperate, or traduce her husband? If she has caused her complaint to be made public, from what has that arisen but from the refusal to listen to that complaint? Had her complaint been listened to, had she received redress, had she been permitted to see her child only once a week, we should never have seen the letter, because it is evident, that the letter never would have been written. With what justice, then, can she be charged with entering into the schemes of the factious for the purpose of thwarting, exasperating, and traducing her husband?

The truth is, that being conscious of innocence, her forbearance is something wonderful; and, it is not less true, that any longer forbearance must have made against her in the opinion of the world. That the Prince, now invested with kingly powers, has a right to direct his daughter’s education, we know very well; but, this does not mean that the mother is to be shut out from free access to the child. Her seeing her child could not have interrupted the course of her studies. I never yet heard, that a part of good bringing up consisted in excluding the mother from a sight of the child to be brought up. It is in vain to attempt to twist the prohibition into a part of a system of education; for the sole interpretation that it will admit of is that which the Princess has put upon it: namely, that she is unfit to be trusted in the presence of her daughter; and this being so manifestly the case, I put to any man of a just mind, what must have been the conclusion if the Princess had any longer forborne to complain? I put it to any man, what he would have thought of her, if she had remained silent under such circumstances? Yet is she, by these base panders of the press, charged with caballing and intriguing with her husband’s enemies; she is charged with obtruding herself upon the public. They seem really to think her something less than a worm. Something that either has no feeling, or that ought to suppress every feeling the discovering of which is inconvenient to her husband. This is a state to which no human being ought to be reduced; and, it is a state to which no man, worthy of the name, would wish to reduce anything bearing the name of woman.

But, if it be part of a system of education to exclude the mother from the child, how comes it, that the Queen was never shut out from her children? And how comes it, that she is not now shut out from her grandchild? Why is the grandmother more fit to have the care of the child than the mother herself? The writer before quoted, whose malignity can be traced to only one source, expresses his fears of the Princess Charlotte being initiated into German manners.

“What education,” says he, “does the young Princess require? Is it lessons in German morality? Are we not sufficiently Germanized? Must we Germanize our females in manners as our fops are Germanized in dress? What should we do; set the example before the young Princess of a dutiful wife, or of one who could go repeatedly to the Opera, where she was applauded in reproach of her husband, and he was hissed in her praise: of one who can endanger the raising of the public indignation against him, on grounds so shallow as those of Edition: current; Page: [202] the letter in question? Unfortunately the Prince and Princess live separately, on the worst terms. This state of things can only have arisen from what the Prince thinks sufficient cause, and to give up the government of his child to a person whose conduct he himself impeaches, would be to confess himself conscious of being wrong, of being highly criminal in living separately from the mother.”

Now, if there be any danger in German manners, why are so many Germans introduced into our army, and why have they, in England, the command even of English troops? But, why was not this perceived when the marriage took place? Did not the Prince and the King know, that the Princess was a German woman? Nay, is not the Queen, the King’s wife and the Prince’s mother, a German woman? And yet, behold, this man can discover no danger in her manners or precepts. Is the Queen less a German, is she less a foreigner than the Princess? To what miserable shifts are these assailants of her Royal Highness driven! Nothing more clearly shows the weakness, the miserable weakness, of their cause.

But the Princess is here called an undutiful wife. And why, because she was, it is here said, applauded at the Opera in reproach of her husband. How was she to blame for that, or for the hisses, which he is here said to have received in her praise? She had not the power to restrain either the applauses or the hisses; and, as to going to the Opera, was she to refrain from doing that because she was separated from her husband, and thus, by shunning the eye of the public, tacitly acknowledge herself in fault? The Prince, behold, is, by this writer, justified in excluding the mother from the daughter, lest by allowing the intercourse, he should seem to confess himself conscious of being wrong in living in a state of separation from his wife. But, the mother, oh! she is to hold her tongue, she is even to shun the light, she is to look no one in the face, she is to do nothing to convince the world, that she is not in the wrong; she, though innocent, is to act the part of an acknowledged criminal; and, because she does not do so, she is to be called an undutiful wife! She has now, it seems, “endangered the raising of the public indignation against her husband.” And how? Only by publishing her appeal to himself. That is all she has done. She has complained to him of her treatment; and, if the publishing of this complaint exposes him to the danger here spoken of, she is not to blame; or, if she be, so is every man who makes known to the public any grievance under which he labours. If her complaint, as contained in her letter, be well founded, it will and it ought to produce an effect in the public mind; if it be ill-founded, let it be answered; let it be shown to be ill-founded. She makes certain assertions. She says, that perjured and SUBORNED accusers have been brought against her; she says, that she has been fully acquitted of all the charges preferred by them; she says, that, if any one is still wicked enough to whisper suspicions against her, she wishes for a fresh inquiry. And, what answer has been given to this? Base insinuations only, by anonymous writers. This answer will not satisfy the world; this is not the way to answer a serious complaint, signed with the complainant’s name.

Much has been said about the Princess having acted under bad advice; and it has been frequently stated that she would have cause to repent of what has been called her rashness. The newspapers have been filled with accounts of great councils of state held upon the subject of her letter, and of depositions and examinations taken before magistrates. But, still, Edition: current; Page: [203] we see no answer to the bold and distinct assertions of her innocence; and, I say again, that those assertions are not to be answered by hints and insinuations of anonymous writers of paragraphs. In my conception of it there never was a plainer case. The limitation of the Princess’s visits to her daughter must rest for defence upon some ground of complaint against herself. This all the world will allow. Indeed, this is allowed on all hands. Well, then, she positively asserts that there is no ground of complaint against herself, and, if any one suspects that there is, she challenges fresh inquiry into her conduct. This challenge remains hitherto unanswered; and, until some sort of authentic answer be given to it, she may safely rest her case where it is.

Before I conclude, I cannot refrain from expressing my hope, that the Princess will not resort to lawyers as advisers. Her case is too plain to require, or admit of, the use of subtlety. I am far from supposing that the gentlemen of the bar are, in the smallest degree, less honest, and they must necessarily be more acute and discriminating, than the mass of men. But with full as much honesty as other men, and with greater faculties of judging rightly than fall to the lot of men in general, they are by no means to be preferred where politics or political power, may intermix themselves with the matters in question. Other men are exposed to but the one old vulgar species of temptation, the yielding to which becomes visible at once to all eyes; but, the Devil has in this country, at least, such a choice of baits when fishing for a lawyer; he has them of so many sizes, adapted to such a variety of swallows and of tastes, and has, in every case, such ready means of neatly hiding his hook, that, when he chooses to set in earnest about it, I am much afraid, that very few of these gentlemen escape him.

In my next I shall enter into other parts of the subject, and in the meanwhile, I remain

Your faithful friend,
Wm. COBBETT.

TO JAMES PAUL, Of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania; ON MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS, THE PRINCESS OF WALES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
9th March, 1813
Botley
James Paul
Paul, James

LETTER III.

My Dear Friend,

It is now seventeen years since I first took pen in hand, with an intention of sending the production of it to the press; and, certainly, I never did, from that day to this, experience more satisfaction in sitting down to Edition: current; Page: [204] write, than I do at this moment, in the full assurance, that the present Number of my Register will convey to you and to the world a thorough conviction of the innocence of the injured Princess of Wales, and of the baseness, the unparalleled black-heartedness of her calumniators.

At the out-set of my last letter, having occasion to revert to the period of the separation of the Princess and the Prince, I observed to you, that it was said, that there was a Letter in existence upon the subject; and I ventured to predict, that when that letter should be published, the world would see the falsehood of all the infamous tales, which, up to that period, the tongues of base parasites had been engaged in circulating. The letter, or, a Letter, dated about the time referred to, and upon the subject referred to, has, since my last, been published in the London newspapers; and also a letter of the Princess in answer thereunto. I will say nothing myself as to the authenticity of these documents; but, as they have obtained general circulation, through the means of the press; and, as their authenticity has not been called in question, in print, at least, I take them for authentic, and, viewing them in this light, I shall insert them here.

George P
George P
April 30, 1796

Letter from the Prince to the Princess of Wales.

Madam,

As Lord Cholmondeley informs me that you wish I would define, in writing, the terms upon which we are to live, I shall endeavour to explain myself upon that head with as much clearness, and with as much propriety, as the nature of the subject will admit. Our inclinations are not in our power; nor should either of us be held answerable to the other, because nature has not made us suitable to each other. Tranquil and comfortable society is, however, in our power; let our intercourse, therefore, be restricted to that, and I will distinctly subscribe to the condition which you required through Lady Cholmondeley, that, even in the event of any accident happening to my daughter—which I trust Providence in its mercy will avert—I shall not infringe the terms of the restriction, by proposing, at any period, a connexion of a more particular nature. I shall now finally close this disagreeable correspondence, trusting that, as we have completely explained ourselves to each other, the rest of our lives will be passed in uninterrupted tranquillity.

—I am, Madam, with great truth,
Very sincerely yours,
(Signed) GEORGE P.
Caroline Louisa
Louisa, Caroline
6th May, 1796

Answer.

The avowal of your conversation with Lord Cholmondeley, neither surprises nor offends me. It merely confirmed what you tacitly insinuated for this twelve-month. But after this, it would be a want of delicacy, or rather, an unworthy meanness in me, were I to complain of those conditions which you impose upon yourself.

I should have returned no answer to your letter, if it had not been conceived in terms to make it doubtful whether this arrangement proceeds from you or from me; and you are aware that the credit of it belongs to you alone.

The letter which you announce to me as the last, obliges me to communicate to the King, as to my Sovereign, and my Father, both your avowal and my answer. You will find enclosed the copy of my letter to the King. I apprize you of it, that I may not incur the slightest reproach of duplicity from you. As I have at this moment no protector but His Majesty, I refer myself solely to him on this subject; and if my conduct meets his approbation, I shall be, in some degree, at least, consoled. I retain every sentiment of gratitude for the situation in which I find myself, as Princess of Wales, enabled by your means to indulge in the free exercise of a virtue dear to my heart—I mean charity.

It will be my duty likewise to act upon another motive,—that of giving an example of patience and resignation under every trial.

Do me the justice to believe, that I shall never cease to pray for your happiness, and to be

Your much devoted,
CAROLINE.
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Upon these Letters I shall first observe, that we have here a fresh proof, and a most striking one it is, of the sound sense, the moderation, and delicacy of sentiment, of the Princess of Wales; and, for my part, I cannot help regarding it as most fortunate for this country, that its future sovereign had her early education under, and is said to entertain a most ardent affection for, such a mother. Another remark upon these Letters will, perhaps, be unnecessary; namely, that their date shows them to have been written within thirteen months after the marriage took place, and, which is singular enough, the Prince’s Letter is dated on the very day twelvemonth that the Parliament were engaged in discussing His Majesty’s gracious Message, relative to the provision to be made for the “august spouse” of his son, including the discharge of his debts, as necessary to his future comfortable establishment. In the midst of these melancholy reflections we must not, however, overlook the substantive fact, that, according to these Letters, it is manifest, that the proposition for a separation originated with His Royal Highness. This is very material. This, together with the cause of separation, as stated in his Letter, clears all up to that interesting period, which is of very great consequence; for there is no just man, who, in viewing the circumstances of the sequel, can possibly overlook the cause from which all has proceeded. You will have observed, too, that the base calumniators of the Princess have said, that the bare fact of her living in a state of separation from her husband amounts to a presumptive proof of her guilt. How material is it, then, to be informed rightly as to the real cause of that separation! If the separation had been caused by any fault, or even any alleged fault, of the Princess, her case, at this day, would have been very different indeed from what it is. But, the Prince’s Letter leaves no room for doubt upon this important point. It clears all up. If she had been the proposer of the separation, her case would have been very materially affected by it; for, though her innocence must still have been acknowledged, the world might have said, that it was the separation which led to the charges, and that, therefore, she must thank herself for them. As the case now stands, she is quite free from even this imputation; and, instead of agreeing with her enemies, that she has discovered rashness, our only wonder is, that she has, with so good a cause, been able so long to remain silent, especially when we reflect on the endless insinuations that have been thrown out against her.

I must now crave your attention to the interesting proceedings which have taken place since my last letter to you went from under my hand. In the postscript to that letter, I noticed, and, indeed, I inserted, the Princess’s Letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is stated, in print, that a similar Letter was sent to the Lord Chancellor, who is the Speaker, or chairman, of the House of Lords; but, it seems, that, for reasons which I attempt not to dive into, the Lord Chancellor did not communicate that Letter to the House. That Letter, as you will have seen, was occasioned by a Report, made to the Prince by certain members of what is called the Privy Council. And here I should give you some account of this Council. It consists of whomsoever the King pleases to name, and he generally makes all his Ministers Privy Councillors. Some of the Bishops, too, and of the Judges generally belong to it. So that, especially if there occur frequent changes of Ministers, the Privy Council is rather a numerous body, consisting of persons of all parties, seeing that when once a man becomes a Privy Councillor, he Edition: current; Page: [206] always remains a Privy Councillor, except his name be expunged from the list on account of some flagrant and scandalous offence.

But, when the Privy Council assembles, it is not to be understood that all the members are present, or that they come promiscuously. In fact, they do not come, unless they be summoned to come; and, of course, the King, or the Regent, causes to be summoned those members, and those only, whom his Ministers advise him to cause to be summoned. I have entered into these particulars, in order to explain to you the nature of the body, whence the Report, which I am here about to insert, proceeded. You will see, that the Report itself states, that the persons who made it were specially summoned for the purpose of taking the Princess’s Letter into their consideration, and of making a report to the Regent thereon.

Report, &c. to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.

The following Members of His Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council, viz.—His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury,—The Right Hon. the Lord High Chancellor,—His Grace the Archbishop of York,—His Grace the Lord Primate of Ireland,—The Lord President of the Council,—The Lord Privy Seal,—The Earl of Buckinghamshire,—The Earl Bathurst,—The Earl of Liverpool,—The Earl of Mulgrave,—The Viscount Melville,—The Viscount Sidmouth,—The Viscount Castlereagh,—The Right Hon. the Lord Bishop of London,—The Right Hon. Lord Ellenborough, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench,—The Right Hon. the Speaker of the House of Commons,—The Right Hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer,—The Right Hon. the Chancellor of the Duchy,—His Honour the Master of the Rolls,—The Right Hon. the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas,*—The Right Hon. the Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer,—The Right Hon. the Judge of the High Court of Admiralty,—The Right Hon. the Dean of the Arches—Having been summoned by command of your Royal Highness, on the 19th of February, to meet at the office of Viscount Sidmouth, Secretary of State for the Home Department, a communication was made by his Lordship to the Lords then present, in the following terms:—

My Lords,—I have it in command from His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, to acquaint your Lordships, that a copy of a Letter from the Princess of Wales to the Prince Regent having appeared in a public paper, which Letter refers to the proceedings that took place in an inquiry instituted by command of His Majesty, in the year 1806, and contains, among other matters, certain animadversions upon the manner in which the Prince Regent has exercised his undoubted right of regulating the conduct and education of his daughter the Princess Charlotte; and His Royal Highness having taken into his consideration the said Letter so published, and adverting to the directions heretofore given by His Majesty, that the documents relating to the said Inquiry should be sealed up, and deposited in the office of his Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State; in order that His Majesty’s Government should possess the means of resorting to them if necessary; His Royal Highness has been pleased to direct, that the said Letter of the Princess of Wales, and the whole of the said documents, together with the copies of other letters and papers, of which a schedule is annexed, should be referred to your Lordships, being Members of His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, for your consideration; and that you should report to His Royal Highness your opinion, whether, under all the circumstances of the case, it be fit and proper that the intercourse between the Princess of Wales and her daughter, the Princess Charlotte, should continue to be subject to regulations and restrictions:—

Their Lordships adjourned their Meetings to Tuesday the 23rd of February; and the intermediate days having been employed in perusing the documents referred to them, by command of your Royal Highness, they proceeded on that and the following day to the further consideration of the said documents, and have agreed to report to your Royal Highness as follows:—

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In obedience to the commands of your Royal Highness, we have taken into our most serious consideration the Letter from Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales to your Royal Highness, which has appeared in the public papers, and has been referred to us by your Royal Highness, in which Letter the Princess of Wales, amongst other matters, complains that the intercourse between Her Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, has been subjected to certain restrictions.

We have also taken into our most serious consideration, together with the other papers referred to us by your Royal Highness, all the documents relative to the Inquiry instituted in 1806, by command of His Majesty, into the truth of certain representations, respecting the conduct of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, which appear to have been pressed upon the attention of your Royal Highness, in consequence of the advice of Lord Thurlow, and upon grounds of public duty, by whom they were transmitted to His Majesty’s consideration. And your Royal Highness having been graciously pleased to command us to report our opinions to your Royal Highness, whether, under all the circumstances of the case, it be fit and proper, that the intercourse between the Princess of Wales and her daughter, the Princess Charlotte, should continue to be subject to regulation and restraint.

We beg leave humbly to report to your Royal Highness, that after a full examination of all the documents before us, we are of opinion, that under all the circumstances of the case, it is highly fit and proper, with a view to the welfare of Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, in which are equally involved the happiness of your Royal Highness in your parental and royal character, and the most important interests of the State, that the intercourse between Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales and Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, should continue to be subject to regulation and restraint.

We humbly trust that we may be permitted, without being thought to exceed the limits of the duty imposed on us, respectfully to express the just sense we entertain of the motives by which your Royal Highness has been actuated in the postponement of the confirmation of her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, as it appears, by a statement under the hand of Her Majesty the Queen, that your Royal Highness has conformed in this respect to the declared will of His Majesty, who had been pleased to direct, that such ceremony should not take place till her Royal Highness should have completed her 18th year.

We also humbly trust that we may be further permitted to notice some expressions in the Letter of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, which may possibly be construed as implying a charge of too serious a nature to be passed over without observation. We refer to the words—“suborned traducers.” As this expression, from the manner in which it is introduced, may, perhaps, be liable to misconstruction (however impossible it may be to suppose that it can have been so intended), to have reference to some part of the conduct of your Royal Highness, we feel it our bounden duty not to omit this opportunity of declaring that the documents laid before us afford the most ample proof, that there is not the slightest foundation for such an aspersion.

(Signed) C. Cantuar, Sidmouth, Eldon, J. London, E. Ebor, Ellenborough, W. Armagh, Chas. Abbott, Harrowby, P. C. N. Vansittart, Westmoreland, C. P. S. C. Bathurst, Buckinghamshire, W. Grant, Bathurst, A. Macdonald, Liverpool, W. Scott, Mulgrave, J. Nicholl, Melville.
(A true copy) Sidmouth.

Such was the Report, made to the Prince Regent upon this occasion. The Princess, in her Letter, inserted in the postscript to my last, states that a copy of this Report had been transmitted to her by Lord Sidmouth. Now, we must, I think, take it for granted, that this Report was intended Edition: current; Page: [208] to be an answer to the Princess’s Letter of complaint respecting her exclusion from her daughter; for, if it were not intended to be such, why was a copy of it sent to her? If it had been intended solely for the purpose of satisfying the Prince, that he had acted rightly in insisting upon such exclusion; then, it would have been sufficient to lay the Report before him; and if the intention had been to settle any doubt in his mind as to the propriety of the exclusion; in that case, also, the Report would naturally have been confined to the perusal of the Prince and of his advisers and friends. If intended as an answer to the Letter of the Princess, it would, of course, be communicated to her; and, if it failed to convince her that she was wrong, or to silence her complaints, there it was ready for the justification of the Prince in the eyes of the nation and of the world.

Assuming, therefore, as we safely may, that this Report ought to be considered as the best answer that could be given to the complaint of her Royal Highness, let us now, my friend, inquire a little how far it ought to be considered as a satisfactory answer.

Her Royal Highness says, that she was, for awhile, permitted to see her daughter only once a week; that she is at present (that is to say, at the time of writing her Letter) permitted to see her only once in two weeks, and that she has reason to apprehend that even that degree of intercourse is about to be further contracted. She then proceeds to remark that, though forbearance had hitherto marked her conduct, though she had thus far consoled herself in her retirement with the consciousness of her innocence, she could now, no longer remain silent; that her love for her child and for her own honour called upon her to complain. Her reasoning was this: if it becomes notorious to the whole world, as it very soon must, that I am not permitted to see my daughter; that the Queen and my husband’s sisters are not only permitted to be with her as often as they please, but that, she even lives amongst them, and is brought up under their eye; if this fact become notorious to the whole world, what must that world think of me? Her conclusion is, that, if she continued to endure this without complaint, the world must think that the motive for her silence could be nothing less than the fear of an inquiry into her conduct and an exposure of some sort of guilt of which she was conscious. This was her reasoning upon the subject, and you will not, I am sure, hesitate to say, that her reasoning was undeniably just. Therefore, said she, I claim permission to see my child, as other mothers see their children, seeing that I have done no act that ought to deprive me of that right of nature; and, she adds, if there be any doubt upon this point, after the full and clear acquittal which was pronounced in my favour against the calumnies which my perjured and suborned traducers had raised against me; if there remain any doubt as to this point, let there be a fresh inquiry or let me not be treated as a guilty woman, as a mother unworthy of being permitted to have an intercourse with her daughter.

Such was the complaint of the Princess of Wales, and what sort of an answer does the Report give to this complaint? Does it deny the allegations with regard to the prohibition of an intercourse with her daughter? Does it deny, that the natural conclusion to be drawn from that prohibition is injurious to the mother’s reputation? Does it deny, the clear and complete acquittal of the Princess with regard to the charges that had been brought against her? Does it deny that she was traduced by Edition: current; Page: [209] persons perjured and suborned? No: it denys none of these; it evades all these points; it touches upon no one of them, except, indeed, that of the perjured and suborned traducers, and, as to that, it only says that the Prince himself was not the suborner, and that he had no knowledge of a subornation having been resorted to; an assertion, by the bye, which the Princess’s Letter does not appear to have called for, seeing that it does not charge the Prince with that base and detestable act.

To me it appears, therefore, that this Report contains no answer at all to the Letter of the Princess. It says, indeed, that the Prince has laid the Documents relating to the inquiry of 1806, and also other documents and evidence before the Privy Council; but it does not say what other documents or what other evidence these were; and it does not intimate to her that her challenge to a fresh inquiry has been, or is to be accepted. It informs her, that, after examining all these documents and this evidence, the intercourse between the Princess and her daughter ought to continue to be subject to regulation and restraint; but it does not say what sort of regulation; it does not mark out what degree of restraint; it does not say whether it ought to be a week, or a fortnight, or any greater or less period, that ought to form the interval of the visits between the mother and her child.

Again, therefore, I say, that, as to the main point, and, indeed, as to all the main points, in the letter of her Royal Highness, this Report contains no answer at all. Yet, without containing an answer to the letter, without clearly denying any of its allegations, and without attempting to controvert any part of its reasoning, the Report does seem, as her Royal Highness says, to cast an aspersion upon her. For, it gives, as the grounds of the opinion that the intercourse between her and her daughter ought to be subject to restraint; it gives, as the grounds of this opinion, a conclusion drawn from a perusal of the documents and evidence produced to the Privy Council, relating to the conduct of the mother; the inevitable inference to be drawn from which is, that the conduct of the mother, according to those documents and the evidence, appeared to be not what it ought to have been, and such as justified, if not called for that regulation and restraint which was recommended.

This is so clear, that I will not suppose it possible for any man to entertain a doubt upon the subject. If the Report, without saying anything about documents or evidence, had said that it was right, that the mother should be restricted in her visits to her daughter; if it had said this without giving any reason for it, without assigning any cause, the Princess might still have had reason to complain of the hardship; but she would have had no ground whereon to found a new complaint of an aspersion upon her character. The Report, on the contrary, by bringing forward the documents of 1806, and also other documents and evidence as the cause of the restraint, certainly called for that reply which the Princess gave in her letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons. She there calls for the interference of Parliament; she says that she has not been permitted to know who have been her accusers; that she has not been allowed to be heard in her defence; and that, while she is told in this Report that certain documents and evidence have formed the ground of an opinion that her intercourse with her child ought to be subject to regulation and restraint, she is not suffered to know what those documents and that evidence are. Therefore, she throws herself on the wisdom and justice of Parliament; she earnestly desires a full investigation of her conduct during Edition: current; Page: [210] the whole period of her residence in this country; she says she fears no scrutiny however strict, provided it be conducted by impartial judges, and in a fair and open manner, according to law; and she concludes with expressing a wish, which every just man in the world will say ought to be complied with; namely, that she may be TREATED AS INNOCENT, or PROVED TO BE GUILTY.

When this letter was read to the House of Commons the ministers were asked whether they meant to propose the adoption of any proceeding upon it, or to enter into any explanations. This they declined, upon the ground, that as a motion was speedily to be proposed by Mr. Cochrane Johnstone, relative to the Princess, it would be best to defer all discussion upon the subject till that motion should be made. The motion was made in two days afterwards, and a very long debate took place; but, the moment Mr. Cochrane Johnstone rose to make his motion, another motion was made for putting out all persons in the gallery and shutting the doors. This measure might be very proper; but I wish you to observe, that Mr. Cochrane Johnstone expressed his disapprobation of it. He, at any rate, did not wish to keep secret anything that might transpire; anything that might be said by anybody. Indeed, as will be seen from his resolutions, a copy of which I am about to insert, he, like the Princess herself, wished to produce fresh inquiry. The resolutions were as follows:

Mr. C. Johnstone’s Resolutions.

I. Resolved,—That, from the disputes touching the succession to the throne, bitter public animosities, tumultuous contentions, long and bloody civil wars, have, at various periods of the history of this kingdom, arisen, causing great misery to the good people thereof, grief and affliction to the Royal Family, and in some cases, exclusion of the rightful Heir.

That, therefore, loyalty and affection towards the Sovereign, and a just regard to the happiness of the people, call upon every subject of this realm, and upon this House more especially, to neglect nothing within their power to prevent the recurrence of similar calamities from a similar cause.

That it has been stated to this House by a Member thereof, who has offered to prove the same by witnesses, at the bar of this House, that, in the year 1806, a Commission was issued under His Majesty’s Royal Sign-Manual, authorizing and directing the then Lord Chancellor, Erskine, Earl Spencer, the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord Grenville, the then First Lord of the Treasury, and the then and present Lord Chief Justice, Ellenborough, to inquire into the truth of certain written declarations, communicated to His Majesty by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, touching the conduct of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

That the said Commissioners, in pursuance of the said authority and direction, did enter into an examination of several witnesses, and that they delivered to His Majesty a report of such examination, and also of their judgment of the several parts alleged against her Royal Highness, which Report, signed by the four Commissioners aforesaid, and dated on the 14th of July, 1806, was accompanied with copies of the declarations, examinations, depositions, and other documents on which it was founded.

That it has been stated to this House, in manner aforesaid, that the said written accusations against Her Royal Highness expressly asserted, “That her Royal Highness had been pregnant in the year 1802, in consequence of an illicit intercourse, and that she had in the same year been secretly delivered of a male child, which child had ever since that period been brought up by her Royal Highness in her own house, and under her immediate inspection.”

That the Report further stated, that the Commissioners “first examined on oath the principal informants, Sir John Douglas and Charlotte his wife, who both positively swore, the former to his having observed the fact of the pregnancy of Her Royal Highness, and the other to all the important particulars contained in Edition: current; Page: [211] her former declaration, and before referred to,” and that the Report added, “that the examinations are annexed to the Report, and are circumstantial and positive.”

That the Commissioners, after the above statements, proceeded in their said Report to state to His Majesty, that they thought it their duty to examine other witnesses as to the facts in question, and that they stated, as the result of such farther examination, “their perfect conviction that there is no foundation whatever for believing that the child now with the Princess is the child of Her Royal Highness, or that she was delivered of any child in 1802, or that she was pregnant in that year,” and that the Commissioners added. “That this was their clear and unanimous judgment, formed upon full deliberation, and pronounced without besitation, on the result of the whole inquiry.”

That the Noble Lords composing the Commission aforesaid had not, and could not, in that capacity, have any legal power to pronounce a judgment or decision in the case; that the matter of charge submitted to them as a subject of inquiry amounted to a charge of high treason, a crime known to the laws, and, therefore, triable only in a known Court of Justice; that if, as Justices of the Peace (a character belonging to them as Privy Councillors), they were competent to receive informations and take examinations regarding the conduct of Her Royal Highness, they had no legal power in that capacity, nor in any other capacity that could be given to them, to pronounce an acquittal or a condemnation upon the charge referred to them; for that, to admit them to have been competent to acquit, is to admit them competent to have found guilty, and this would be to admit their competence to have sent Her Royal Highness to an ignominious death, in virtue of a decision founded on selected ex parte evidence, taken before a secret tribunal.

That the whole Report, as far as it relates to the judgment of the Commissioners (if the making of it be not an unlawful act), is, at least, of no legal validity, and, in the eye of the law, leaves the question of the guilt or innocence of Her Royal Highness where the Commissioners first found it; that the depositions and examinations upon oath (supposing the Commissioners to have taken them in their capacity of Justices of the Peace) possess a legal character; but that no legal decision has yet been made upon any of the important facts stated in these depositions and examinations, and that it has not yet been legally decided that the fact positively sworn to, of Her Royal Highness having been delivered of a male child in the year 1802, is not true.

That in any claim to the succession to the Throne, which, by possibility, at least, may hereafter be set up, by any aspiring personage possessed of great power, the circumstantial and positive evidence of Sir John Douglas and of Charlotte his wife, if again called for, would still retain all its legal character and weight, while it might happen, that the evidence on the other side might, from death or other causes, be found deficient; and that there can be no doubt that if it should hereafter be made to appear, that the facts sworn to by Lady Douglas are true, and if the identity of the male child so born should be proved, he would be the legal heir to the throne, notwithstanding any assertions, or any proofs, relating to the alleged illicit intercourse of her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

That, therefore, the honour of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, the sacred right of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, the safety of the throne, and the tranquillity of the country, do all unite in a most imperious call on this House, to institute now, while the witnesses on both sides are still living, and while all the charges are capable of being clearly established, or clearly disproved, an ample and impartial investigation of all the allegations, facts, and circumstances appertaining to this most important subject of inquiry.

II. Resolved,—That an humble address be presented to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, requesting that His Royal Highness will be graciously pleased to order, that a copy of a Report made to His Majesty on the 14th day of July, 1806, by the then Lord Chancellor, Erskine, Earl Spencer, Lord Grenville, and Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, touching the conduct of her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, be laid before the House, together with the copies of the following written documents annexed to the Report, namely,

The Narrative of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, dated the 27th of December, 1805.

Two written Declarations, or examinations, of Sarah Lampert; one dated Cheltenham, 8th of January, 1806, and the other the 29th of March, 1806.

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  • One of Mr. Lampert, baker, Cheltenham, same date with the last.
  • Four of William Cole, dated 11th January, 14th January, 30th January, and 23d February, 1806.
  • One of Robert Bidgood, dated Temple, 4th April, 1806.
  • One of Sarah Bidgood, dated Temple, 23d April, 1806.
  • One of Frances Lloyd, dated Temple, 12th May, 1806.
  • The King’s Warrant for holding the Commission, dated the 29th May, 1806.
  • Deposition of Lady Douglas, dated the 1st of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Sir John Douglas, dated the 1st of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Robert Bidgood, dated the 6th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of William Cole, dated the 6th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Frances Lloyd, dated the 7th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Mary Wilson, dated the 7th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Samuel Roberts, dated the 7th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Thomas Hikeman, dated the 7th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of J. Picard, dated the 7th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Sophia Austin, dated the 7th of June, 1806.
  • Letter from Lord Spencer to Lord Gwydir, 20th of June, 1806.
  • Letter from Lord Gwydir to Lord Spencer, 20th of June, 1806.
  • Letter from Lady Willoughby to Lord Spencer, 21st of June, 1806.
  • Extracts from the Register of Brownlow-street Hospital, dated 23d of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Elizabeth Gosden, dated 23d of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Betty Townley, dated 25th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Thomas Edmeades, dated 25th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Samuel G. Mills, dated 25th of June, 1806.
  • Deposition of Hamit Fitzgerald, dated 27th of June, 1806.
  • Letter from Lord Spencer to Lord Gwydir, dated 1st of July, 1806.
  • Letter from Lord Gwydir to Lord Spencer, dated 3d July, 1806.
  • Query to Lady Willoughby, and Answer, dated 3d July, 1806.
  • Farther Depositions of Robert Bidgood, dated 3d of July, 1806.
  • Deposition of Sir Francis Milman, dated 3d of July, 1806.
  • Deposition of Mr. Lisle, dated 3d July, 1806.
  • Letter from Sir Francis Milman to the Lord Chancellor, dated 4th July, 1806.
  • Deposition of Lord Cholmondeley, dated 6th July, 1806.

The debate upon these resolutions appears to have been of great length; but as the galleries were shut, a mere sketch of it has gone forth to the world. That sketch, however (which I have inserted below), will show, that, in whatever degree the different speakers might vary in their opinions as to other points, they were all perfectly of accord, that there existed no grounds of charge against the mother who was restricted in her visits to her only child. The Honourable Mover of the resolutions said there may exist doubts, as to the innocence of the Princess; if not at this time, there may hereafter exist doubts with regard to that innocence; and, therefore, while all the witnesses are alive, while all the testimony is forthcoming, while all the means of proof are at hand, let us inquire, and for ever put an end to these doubts, and to the possibility of doubt. No, no, no, said the ministers, the innocence of the Princess is so clearly established; all the charges against her so manifestly void of foundation, that inquiry is not only not necessary, but that to inquire would be doing injustice to the Princess, by seeming to allow that there are persons in the world who still entertain a doubt of her innocence.

Mr. Cochrane Johnstone might well say that the day on which he made his motion was a proud day for him. It was so, but it was a still prouder day for the Princess of Wales, who, at the end of seven years of calumny, of base parasitical slander, heard herself pronounced innocent and her traducers pronounced perjured, and that, too, by the chosen ministers, by the confidential Servants, by the advisers of the Prince her husband.

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This discussion in the House of Commons has, in the minds of all men of common sense, settled the question. There are still some persons to throw out insinuations against Her Royal Highness; but these are so notoriously the panders of mean hatred, cowardly malice, despicable impotence, and of every thing that is vile in man, aye, in the meanest of mankind, that no one pays the smallest attention to what they say.

Whether the Parliament may think it meet to adopt any proceeding upon the subject; whether they may think it right, in the way of address or otherwise, to interfere in behalf of the Princess, I cannot pretend to say, and they are a body far too wise for me to presume to offer them any thing in the way of advice; but, I have no scruple to say, that I think it a fit occasion for the people, assembled in a constitutional manner, to prove, by some solemn declaration of their sentiments, that they still retain that love of justice and that hatred of false accusation, which were formerly prominent features in the character of Englishmen. As to the precise way in which they ought to do this, it is not for me to point out; but, the way will not be difficult to discover by men of proper feeling and of just minds. It is now seven years since these calumnies were first circulated against the Princess of Wales; and now, that they are all shown to have been false, now, that we are fully able to estimate all her sufferings and her long forbearance, it would be a shame indeed, if there were none to be found amongst us to show that we feel for her as we ought. The people have not, indeed, the power to punish her traducers; they have not the power to replace her in Carlton-House; they have not the power to give her admission to her daughter; but they have the power to show to all the world, and to that daughter in particular, that they are lovers of justice, and that they hold in abhorrence false accusers, cowardly and malicious calumniators.

In the case of the Princess of Wales there is every thing to excite a feeling in her favour. In the first place, we see that it was owing to no fault of hers that her husband’s palace was no longer her place of abode. In the next place we see false and infamous accusations trumped up against her, and the tongue of calumny let loose, while she was destitute of all the means of defence, having by her counsellors, been prevented from making public the refutation of charges, the substance of which charges, unaccompanied with any answer, had gone forth to the world. Lastly, we see her denied the sight of her daughter, except once in a fortnight, while even the advisers of the Prince declare her to be innocent and her traducers to be perjured. Such is briefly the state of her case, and I say, for the whole nation to remain silent, for no part of the people to give utterance to any feeling for her would justify the opinion, that Englishmen have less sensibility than the half frozen inhabitants of the coast of Labrador. Talk of LIBELS, indeed! What libels has she not had to endure? A month has not passed over our heads since the writers in the Courier and Times newspapers poured forth libels against her, which no private person would have suffered to pass without prosecution. They called her rash, foolish, and with an insolent affectation of compassion, pointed her out as seduced and unfortunate. In short, they spoke of her in terms the most contemptuous, they affected to pity her for having been so weak as to call for fresh inquiry into her conduct, which conduct they had the impudence unequivocally to describe as indecent to the last degree. Seven years of these calumnies she has had to endure, and, to her immortal honour be it spoken, she has relied upon her innocence for the Edition: current; Page: [214] support of her character, and has, in no instance, resorted to the assistance of the law. She has wisely relied upon the never-failing power of truth; she has relied also (and I hope for the sake of the character of the country, she will not here be deceived) upon the good sense and love of justice of the people of England.

Besides the justice due to the Princess, we ought to consider the light in which we as a nation, shall appear, in this instance, in the eyes of the world. It will not be forgotten with what addresses, what speeches, what exhibitions, what acclamations of joy this lady was received upon her arrival in England. The world will not forget the praises we then bestowed upon her, and even the gratitude we expressed at her having condescended to become instrumental in the happiness of ourselves and our posterity: and, the world will not fail to remark, that the commencement of the calumnies against her, that the perjuries by which she was traduced took place in a very few months after her father was killed, and his successors bereft of their dominions! I will not impute even to perjured wretches the baseness of choosing such a time for the making of their attack; but the fact, as to the time, is as I have stated it; and most assuredly the change produced by the events here spoken of, in the circumstances of her family, must have great weight in the mind of every considerate person. The more destitute she is of the means of protection from any other quarter, the stronger is her claim on the people of England; and I cannot help repeating my opinion, that if the occasion be suffered to pass without some testimony of public feeling in her favour, it will be a great and lasting reproach to this nation.

This interference on the part of the people is the more necessary, and at the same time more likely to be proper, as both the great political factions have left her Royal Highness to her fate, or, rather, have each in its turn been her enemies. Nay, they have not only by turns disclaimed her cause; but they have both of them accused her of having resorted to the support of the “enemies of social order and regular government;” that is to say, men who meddle with politics without pocketing, or wishing to pocket, the public money. These are, in our country, called Jacobins and friends of Buonaparté; and to these men the factions, who fight for the public money, have accused the Princess of resorting for advice and support. If this accusation be true (and I have no inclination to deny it), it appears that she has not made a bad choice at last. She has not been betrayed this time, at any rate. Until now her conduct has been an object of calumny with her enemies and of suspicion with many good people; but, by following the advice of the Jacobins, she has silenced the former and removed the doubts of the latter. If her husband were to take a little advice from the same source, it would, I am persuaded, be full as well for him. The Princess has, in fact, made her appeal to the people. She has published her complaint. She has called upon the people for their opinion upon the merits of her case; and, though that opinion has been pronounced without hesitation in private, it wants, in order to give it its full effect, to be expressed in a public, solemn, and authentic manner.

In a future Letter it will give me great pleasure to tell you that this has been done; and, in the meanwhile, I remain your faithful friend,

Wm. COBBETT.
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TO JAMES PAUL, Of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania; ON MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF WALES.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
19th March, 1813
London
James Paul
Paul, James

LETTER IV.

My dear Friend,

You must remember, that, while I was in Newgate for writing about the flogging of the English Local militiamen at the town of Ely, and the employment of German troops upon the occasion; you must remember, that, while I was in that jail, and not many months before the expiration of my two years, and the payment of a fine of a thousand pounds which the Prince Regent received in behalf of his Royal Father, who, during my imprisonment, was become incapable of governing in person: you must remember, that, at the time here referred to, I confidently predicted, and, indeed, positively asserted, that the BOOK would come out in spite of all that could be done to prevent its publication. It was notorious, that many thousands of pounds had been expended in order to prevent the appearance of this Book; it was notorious that the most extraordinary means had been resorted to in order to secure that object; and I was in possession of some facts relative to the endeavours that were still making for the same purpose; but, still I said, that the Book would come out. I assured my readers, in the most unqualified terms, that they would, at no very distant day, see the whole of the famous BOOK.

Since the date of my last letter to you, the BOOK, the real, the genuine Book, has made its appearance in print, in a complete form, in an octavo volume, and being page for page and word for word with the original work. Thus, then, my prophecy is fulfilled; and though prophets are said not to be honoured in their own countries, I ought, I think, to expect my due share of credit in yours.

With such a mass of matter before us; overlaid, as we now are, with materials for comment, it is no easy thing to determine where to begin. After a little reflection, however, it appears to me to be the best way, to set out by giving you a short history of this Book, and before we come to an examination of its contents, as they affect the Princess of Wales, to show you what were the uses which political and party intrigue, has made of those contents.

The history of the Book is this: When the Princess of Wales, in consequence Edition: current; Page: [216] of the Letter of the Prince, which you have already seen, quitted Carlton House, she went to reside in a house called Montague House, at Blackheath, near Greenwich, which is about five or six miles distant from London. There, in the year 1801, she became accidentally acquainted with a Lady Douglas, the wife of Sir John Douglas, who, as an officer of marines, greatly distinguished himself at the Siege of St. Jean d’Acre, when that place was so bravely defended by Sir Sidney Smith against Buonaparte. Lady Douglas and her husband soon became extremely intimate with the Princess, who, according to the statement of Lady Douglas, seems to have been very fond of her indeed. This intimacy continued until 1804, when the Princess, after some previous bickerings, dismissed Lady Douglas from her society.

Lady Douglas and her husband, after this, that is to say, in 1805, and in the month of December in that year, gave in, as she states, in consequence of commands to that purpose from the Prince of Wales, a written statement of facts, relative to the language and behaviour of his wife, and particularly relative to the birth of a child, which she asserted the Princess to have brought into the world in 1802. The Statement of Facts is now published; but, as it is the same, in respect to all the material points as the deposition of this Lady, which deposition you will find in another part of the present double number of my Register, I shall not insert it this week. It does nowhere, that I can discover, appear, how the Prince came by the knowledge of Lady Douglas being in possession of such dreadful secrets. Lady Douglas says, that she makes the statement in obedience to the commands of the Prince; but, who gave the information, which induced his Royal Highness to give such commands, we are nowhere, that I can perceive, informed. Yet, this is a circumstance of considerable importance; and, we must not fail to bear it in mind. Lady Douglas was the depository of the awful secret; and she says, that she divulged it by command; but, before the command was issued, the person issuing it must have known that she possessed a secret of some sort about his wife. This circumstance must be borne in mind.

But, be this as it may, the STATEMENT of FACTS was made, and was laid before the Prince, verified by the DUKE of SUSSEX. The Statement of Facts, which was to serve, or, at least, which did serve, as the ground-work of all the further proceedings, has, in the printed Book, now published, the name of “AUGUSTUS FREDERICK” signed to it, in order, I suppose, to verify the authenticity of it; in order to verify, that it was signed by Lady and Sir John Douglas. So that the Prince, when it was laid before him, could have no doubt of its being authentic.

Thus in possession of an assertion of his wife’s criminality, the Prince, it seems, lost but little time in laying the Statement before his father, who, on the 20th of May, 1806, issued a warrant to the four Lords, Erskine, Spencer, Grenville, and Ellenborough, to examine into the matter. A copy of this warrant, being the 2d of the subjoined documents, will explain its own nature, if you refer to it, as, indeed, you ought to refer to all the documents as you proceed.

The four Lords, having thus got their authority for acting, assembled and called such persons as they chose in order to examine them on oath, touching the matters alleged against the Princess by Lady and Sir John Douglas. It is not my intention to stop here, in order to inquire into Edition: current; Page: [217] the legality or propriety of this mode of proceeding, my business, at present, being simply to tell you what was done; to trace along the proceedings to the present time; and to show you the uses which politicians and parties have made of these family concerns, and thereby to enable you to judge of the way in which our national affairs are managed, and to settle in your own impartial mind, whether we, who call for a reform of the House of Commons, are the enemies of the throne and of the Royal Family.

When the Four Lords had gone through the examinations, beginning with those of Lady and Sir John Douglas, they made, agreeably to the warrant under which they acted, a REPORT thereof to the King, a copy of which Report is the first of the documents hereunto subjoined. When you have read that Report, you will see, that the Four Lords declared the Princess to be quite clear of the charge of having been pregnant in 1802; but that they left her stigmatized with charges of minor import. The Princess, upon receiving a copy of this Report, together with copies of all the Statements and Depositions that had been received against as well as for her, wrote several letters to the King, and these letters contain her defence against those minor charges with which the Four Lords left her tarnished. The whole of these Letters I have not, this week, had room to insert: but I have inserted all the DEPOSITIONS against the Princess; because, these naturally come before the Defence of the accused party.

We now come to the making of THE BOOK; to its origin, its possible object, and its effects, which are now of much more importance to the people here, and to the world in general, than the truth or falsehood of the several allegations themselves. As to these we will hereafter inquire; but, at present, the uses that have been made of the Book is the subject of our inquiry.

The Princess, when the Report of the Four Lords was laid before her, resorted, as it was natural she should, to legal advisers, that is to say, to men eminent in the profession of the law. She chose, as her chief adviser, Perceval, who was shot last year by John Bellingham. It is now said, that two others, the late Attorney-General, Gibbs, who is now a Judge, and the present Attorney-General, Sir Thomas Plomer, were also consulted; but it is perfectly notorious, that Perceval was the chief adviser.

You must now go back with me a little and take a view of the state of parties. In 1805, when the information was given to the Prince by Lady Douglas, Pitt was minister, and Perceval was his Attorney-General. But, even at that time, Pitt was ill at Bath; and, in January, 1806, soon after the information was in the hands of the Prince, Pitt died. His death was followed by the ousting of his set, and Lord Eldon, who was Lord Chancellor, Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Canning, Lord Camden, and others, went out of place, and, in the usual way, formed the Opposition to Mr. Fox, Lord Grenville, Lord Grey, Lord Erskine, and others, who came into power, and who, from a trick of party, were called the Whig Administration.

This change, you will observe, took place in 1806, and in the month of February, and it brought into the possession of long-sought power, those persons who had always been regarded, and, indeed, called the Prince’s Friends; and, you will observe, from the words of the King’s warrant, that Lord Erskine, who was now become Lord Chancellor, and Edition: current; Page: [218] who had been the Chancellor of the Prince, laid before the King the abstract of those declarations against the Princess, upon which the King founded his warrant for the inquiry. I do not mention these circumstances for the purpose of raising in your mind a suspicion, that the Prince would not have made the appeal had his friends not been in power, because I believe he would; but, I mention them for the purpose of showing you the true state of all the parties with regard to each other, and also for the purpose of preparing your mind for the clear comprehension of certain matters that have arisen since the Regency was established in the person of the Prince.

Amongst those who were ousted by the death of Pitt was his Attorney-General, Perceval, who, at the change, became, of course, a member of the Opposition to the Whigs, who, as I observed before, were also denominated the Prince’s friends. It was, therefore, not unnatural for the Princess, when the Four Lords had made their Report respecting her, to look to Mr. Perceval as an adviser. She did so, and, as you will soon see, he was a man who knew how to manage such a concern to the greatest advantage.

Having got possession of all the documents relating to so important an affair, the first thing that was done, was, through the means of a correspondence between the Princess and the Lord Chancellor Erskine, to obtain a verification of the Report, the Warrant, the Statement of Facts of Lady Douglas, and the several Depositions, Examinations, and Letters, which you will find subjoined to this Letter. This being done, the little lawyer had materials to work upon; and, under his advice, the Princess then addressed two Letters to the King, which Letters I shall hereafter publish, and in which Letters she defended herself, made observations on the conduct of her accusers and of the other parties concerned, and called upon the King to restore her to his presence at Court, from which, since the making of the complaint against her, she had been kept.

The addressing of these Letters to the King took place, as you will see by the dates, during the summer and autumn of 1806. The Report of the Four Lords was made to the King on the 14th of July in that year; the Princess did not receive a copy of it, as you will see, for some time; from the time she did receive that copy, she continued writing to the King to the date of her Letter of the 2nd October, 1806, concluding with her prayer to be restored to his presence at Court, and thus to be cleared in the eyes of the world. Thus were materials for THE BOOK every day, up to this time, increasing in the hands of Perceval, who seems to have been duly impressed with a sense of their value.

The King, having the defence of the Princess before him, and also her demands of justice at his hands, referred her Letters to his Cabinet Ministers, and required their opinion and advice as to what he ought to do in the case. The Princess, as you will see, had called for her justification in the eyes of the world by means of an admission to Court. That she insisted upon as absolutely necessary to the vindication of her honour. And certainly her request was most reasonable; for, it was gone forth to the world, that she had been accused of having had a child in consequence of an illicit amour. It had, indeed, been also stated, that she had been cleared of this, but that other imputations remained. Therefore, said she, let me appear at Court, and then the nation will be convinced, that I am cleared of every thing of which I Edition: current; Page: [219] have been accused; or, said she, if you refuse me this request; if you refuse me this open testimony of your conviction of my innocence, let me be proved to be guilty in a fair and open manner. Let me be proved to be guilty, or let me be treated as innocent.

Nothing could be more reasonable, nothing more fair, nothing more just than this; but, the King, who seems, through the whole of the transactions, to have acted the part of an impartial judge as well as of a considerate and kind parent, was hampered by the previous decision of the Four Lords, which left a stain upon the Princess’s character. In this emergency he did what a King of England ought to do. He referred the Letters of the Princess to his constitutional advisers, the ministers; and bade them, after perusing and considering all that the Princess had to say, give him their opinion and advice as to the course he ought to pursue.

The ministers (the Whigs you will observe) appear to have been greatly puzzled upon this occasion. They were involved in a dilemma out of which it was impossible for them to get. They were compelled either to advise the King to suffer the Princess to come to Court, or not to suffer her to come to Court. If the latter, they ran the risk of all the dangers of an open exposure of all that has now been exposed. They ran the risk of the publication of Lady Douglas’s Statement and Deposition; and Mr. Edmeades’s deposition; and of all the other depositions, proving so clearly what had been going on against the Princess. But, on the other hand, if they advised the King to receive the Princess at Court, what would that advice have amounted to with regard to the judgment of the Four Lords, who had made the Report of 14th July, 1806, and who were, four out of the eleven, members of the Cabinet, not forgetting that Earl Moira was a fifth?

In this dilemma the ministers, in Cabinet Council assembled, took a course which generally, if not always, proves fatal to those who pursue it; that is to say, a middle course; and, on the 25th of January, 1807, after long and repeated deliberations, laid before the King the result, in the following Minute, which you will read with great attention, seeing that it has, as you will see, been productive of very important consequences, not only to this country but to all those countries which have been affected by the measures of our cabinet.

“MINUTE OF CABINET, DOWNING-STREET, JANUARY 25, 1807.

PRESENT, The Lord Chancellor, Lord Viscount Howick, Lord President, Lord Grenville, Lord Privy Seal, Lord Ellenborough, Earl Spencer, Mr. Secretary Windham, Earl of Moira, Mr. Grenville. Lord Henry Petty,

“Your Majesty’s confidential servants have given the most diligent and attentive consideration to the matters on which your Majesty has been pleased to require their opinion and advice. They trust your Majesty will not think that any apology is necessary on their part for the delay which has attended their deliberations, on a subject of such extreme importance, and which they have found to be of the greatest difficulty and embarrassment.

They are fully convinced that it never can have been your Majesty’s intention Edition: current; Page: [220] to require from them, that they should lay before your Majesty a detailed and circumstantial examination and discussion of the various arguments and allegations contained in the letter submitted to your Majesty, by the Law Advisers of the Princess of Wales. And they beg leave, with all humility, to represent to your Majesty that the laws and constitution of their country have not placed them in a situation in which they can conclusively pronounce on any question of guilt or innocence affecting any of your Majesty’s subjects, much less one of your Majesty’s Royal Family. They have indeed no power or authority whatever to enter on such a course of inquiry as could alone lead to any final results of such a nature. The main question on which they had conceived themselves called upon by their duty to submit their advice to your Majesty was this,—Whether the circumstances which had, by your Majesty’s commands, been brought before them, were of a nature to induce your Majesty to order any further steps to be taken upon them by your Majesty’s Government? And on this point they humbly submit to your Majesty that the advice which they offered was clear and unequivocal. Your Majesty has since been pleased further to require that they should submit to your Majesty their opinions as to the answer to be given by your Majesty to the request contained in the Princess’s letter, and as to the manner in which that answer should be communicated to Her Royal Highness. They have, therefore, in dutiful obedience to your Majesty’s commands, proceeded to re-consider the whole of the subject, in this new view of it; and after much deliberation, they have agreed humbly to recommend to your Majesty the draft of a Message, which, if approved by your Majesty, they would humbly suggest your Majesty might send to Her Royal Highness through the Lord Chancellor. Having before humbly submitted to your Majesty their opinion, that the facts of the case did not warrant their advising that any further steps should be taken upon it by your Majesty’s Government, they have not thought it necessary to advise your Majesty any longer to decline receiving the Princess into your Royal presence. But the result of the whole case does, in their judgment, render it indispensable that your Majesty should, by a serious admonition, convey to Her Royal Highness your Majesty’s expectation that Her Royal Highness should be more circumspect in her future conduct; and they trust that in the terms in which they have advised, that such admonition should be conveyed, your Majesty will not be of opinion, on a full consideration of the evidence and answer, that they can be considered as having at all exceeded the necessity of the case, as arising out of the last reference which your Majesty has been pleased to make to them.”

In this Minute of the Cabinet there are evident marks of timidity. At every period you see the hesitation of the parties from whom it came. It was not till nearly four months, you will perceive, after the date of the Princess’s letter of defence, that they made this Minute; and, you will perceive, too, that, in the meanwhile, the Princess had written, on the 8th of December, 1806, another letter to the King, urging a speedy decision on her case. She had manifestly the strong ground, and the cabinet were puzzled beyond all description.

The King, agreeably to the advice of his cabinet, sent a message to the Princess, through the Lord Chancellor, Erskine, containing the admonition, recommended in the Minute of Cabinet above inserted. This message was sent on the 28th of January, 1807. Dates must now be strictly attended to. The Princess, upon receiving this message, immediately wrote to the King, intimating to him, that she would wait upon him at Windsor, on the Monday following. The King, the moment he received her letter, wrote back, that he preferred receiving her in London, “upon a day subsequent to the ensuing week.” To this letter the Princess returned no answer, and waited, of course, to hear from the King, respecting the time for her reception, when he should come to London. All these letters, you will bear in mind, make part of THE BOOK, and will appear in my next Number.

Thus, then, every thing appeared to be settled at last. The Princess Edition: current; Page: [221] had obtained her great object: that is to say, her re-admission to Court; and here, perhaps, the whole affair would have ended, and the world never have been much the wiser for what had passed. But, now, just when the Princess was about to be received at Court, all the charges against her having been shown to be false; just as the King was about to receive her back into his presence and thus to proclaim her innocence to the world, just as her sufferings of almost a year were about to be put an end to, and she was anxiously expecting, every hour, a message from the King appointing the time for her waiting upon him; just then, all was put a stop to, and the King acquainted her, that he had been requested to suspend any further steps in the business! And by whom, think you, was this request made? Why, BY THE PRINCE OF WALES HIMSELF! The Prince had, as the King informed the Princess on the 10th of February, 1807, made a formal request to him, to suspend all further steps; that is to say, to put off receiving the Princess, till . . . . . . till when, think you? Why, till he (the Prince) should be enabled to submit to the King a statement which he proposed to make to him upon the papers relating to the Princess’s defence, after consulting with his own lawyers!

It was now that the serious work began. It was now that the advisers of the Princess began to change the tone of her letters, and, from the plaintive to burst forth into the indignant. Her Royal Highness answered the King’s letter on the 12th of February, 1807, intimating her design to represent to him in another letter the various grounds on which she felt the hardship of her case, which was done in a letter dated the 16th of February, 1807, in a most able manner. This is the document, which, above all the rest, is worthy of your attention. Perceval was, I dare say, the sole author of it, and it does infinite honour to him as a man of talents. Whether for reasoning, language, or force, I never read any thing to surpass this letter. The reasoning is clear as the brook and strong as the torrent; the language is dignified while the feelings it expresses are indignant; and, in short, it makes out such a case, it presents such a picture, that I no longer am surprised at the pains which were afterwards taken to conciliate its author and to keep it from the eye of the world. Who could have been the Prince’s advisers upon this occasion; who could have been the cause of drawing forth this terrible letter I presume not to say; but, certainly there never existed in the world a man exposed to the advice of more indiscreet or more faithless friends.

At the close of this letter (and now, as the plot thickens, you must pay close attention to dates); at the close of this letter, which, you will bear in mind, was dated on the 16th of February, the Princess, for the first time, THREATENS AN APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC, unless she be speedily received at Court, and also allowed some suitable establishment in some one of the Royal Palaces, if not in Carlton House. To this letter, however, she received no answer; and, on the 5th of March, which was on a Thursday, she wrote to the King to say, that, unless her requests were granted, the publication would not be withheld beyond the next Monday, which would have been on the 9th of March, 1807. The publication did not appear, but Mr. Perceval was Chancellor of the Exchequer in less than fifteen days from that time!

We all remember how sudden, how surprising, how unaccountable, that change was. The cause was stated to be the Catholic Bill; but, at the time, all men expressed their wonder that that cause should have been Edition: current; Page: [222] attended with such an effect. The Bill had been, by the Whig ministry, introduced into Parliament with the understood approbation of the King; and the Whigs, clinging to place, had withdrawn the Bill, upon some objection being started on the part of the King. But this would not do; the King insisted upon their signing a promise that they would never mention such a Bill to him again. This they could not do without ensuring their destruction as ministers. Upon this ground, therefore, they were turned out, as all the world thought; and away went this “most thinking nation” to a new election, bawling out bigotry on one side, and no popery on the other!

But, you see, my friend, that there really appears to have been no choice left to the King. He, very likely, bad sincere scruples as to the Catholic Bill, and had, in some sort, had it forced upon him; and, that being the case, he had a right to make the Bill the ground of the dismission of his ministers; but, that the case of the Princess of Wales would have produced the same effect, if the Bill had not existed, there can, I think, not be the smallest doubt. In short, there appears to have been no other way of getting rid of a thing, which must have operated most injuriously in the opinions of the world to one, at least, of the parties concerned; and, I think, you will agree with me, that His Majesty, in this case, acted the part of a prudent man, and of a kind and considerate father. He had read all the documents, and especially the famous letter of the Princess on the 16th of February; and he saw the consequence of a publication of those documents; therefore, he took, as you will see, the effectual means of preventing that publication. If as much good sense had lately prevailed, we should not now have these documents to make our remarks on.

The Whig ministry being removed, the four Lords and Lord Moira, and all those who were called the Prince’s friends, being out of the Cabinet and out of place, there remained no longer any obstacle to the receiving of the Princess at Court; and, accordingly, on the 21st of April, 1807, the following Minutes of Council were laid before the King, as a prelude to that step:

“MINUTE OF THE COUNCIL, APRIL 21, 1807.

PRESENT, The Lord Chancellor (Eldon) The Earl of Bathurst The Lord President (Camden) Viscount Castlereagh The Lord Privy Seal (Westmoreland) Lord Mulgrave The Duke of Portland Mr. Secretary Canning The Earl of Chatham Lord Hawkesbury.

“Your Majesty’s confidential servants have, in obedience to your Majesty’s commands, most attentively considered the original Charges and Report, the Minutes of Evidence, and all the other papers submitted to the consideration of your Majesty, on the subject of those charges against Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

In the stage in which this business is brought under their consideration, they do not feel themselves called upon to give any opinion as to the proceeding itself, or to the mode of investigation in which it has been thought proper to conduct it. But adverting to the advice, which is stated by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to have directed his conduct, your Majesty’s confidential servants are anxious to impress upon your Majesty their conviction that His Royal Highness could not, under such advice, consistently with his Edition: current; Page: [223] public duty, have done otherwise than lay before your Majesty the Statement and Examinations which were submitted to him upon this subject.

After the most deliberate consideration, however, of the evidence which has been brought before the Commissioners, and of the previous examinations, as well as of the answer and observations which have been submitted to your Majesty upon them, they feel it necessary to declare their decided concurrence in the clear and unanimous opinion of the Commissioners, confirmed by that of all your Majesty’s late confidential servants, that the two main charges alleged against Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, of pregnancy and delivery, are completely disproved; and they further submit to your Majesty, their unanimous opinion, that all the other particulars of conduct brought in accusation against Her Royal Highness, to which the character of criminality can be ascribed, are either satisfactorily contradicted, or rest upon evidence of such a nature, and which was given under such circumstances, as render it, in the judgment of your Majesty’s confidential servants, undeserving of credit.

Your Majesty’s confidential servants, therefore, concurring in that part of the opinion of your late servants, as stated in their Minute of the 25th of January, that there is no longer any necessity for your Majesty being advised to decline receiving the Princess into your Royal presence, humbly submit to your Majesty, that it is essentially necessary, in justice to Her Royal Highness, and for the honour and interests of your Majesty’s Illustrious Family, that Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, should be admitted with as little delay as possible, into your Majesty’s Royal Presence, and that she should be received in a manner due to her rank and station, in your Majesty’s Court and Family.

Your Majesty’s confidential servants also beg leave to submit to your Majesty, that considering that it may be necessary that your Majesty’s Government should possess the means of referring to the state of this transaction, it is of the utmost importance that these documents, demonstrating the ground on which your Majesty has proceeded, should be preserved in safe custody; and that for that purpose the originals, or authentic copies of all these papers, should be sealed up and deposited in the office of your Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State.”

“CABINET MINUTE, APRIL, 21, 1807.

PRESENT, The Lord Chancellor The Earl of Bathurst The Lord President Viscount Castlereagh The Lord Privy Seal Lord Mulgrave The Duke of Portland Mr. Secretary Canning The Earl of Chatham Lord Hawkesbury.

“Your Majesty’s Confidential Servants think it necessary to notice, in a separate Minute, the request of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, that for her more convenient attendance at your Majesty’s Court, some apartment should be allotted to her in one of the royal palaces; although it appears to your Majesty’s Confidential Servants that some arrangement in this respect may be supposed naturally to arise out of the present state of this transaction, yet they humbly conceive that this is a subject so purely of a private and domestic nature, that your Majesty would not expect from them any particular advice respecting it.”

Thus ended the matter at that time. The Princess was, soon afterwards, received at Court with great splendour, and she had apartments allotted to her in Kensington Palace, which is situated at but about two miles from St. James’s.

Up to this moment the conduct of Perceval seems to have been perfectly honourable. He might possibly have ambitious views from the beginning. He might possibly think that one way to power was through the gratitude of the Princess, at some distant day; but, in the outset of the business, he could hardly have entertained an idea of things taking the sudden turn that they took in the month of March, 1807: indeed Edition: current; Page: [224] it was impossible; for how was he, who had written the Princess’s defence, and so clearly seen her innocence, to foresee, or to suppose it possible, that any obstacles would be opposed to her reception, even after an admonition had been given her? Up to this period, therefore, the conduct of Perceval appears to have been truly honourable; he had proved himself to be a wise adviser, and a most able and zealous advocate. He found the Princess banished from the Court and the royal palaces, and loaded with numerous imputations. He cleared her of them all, and restored her to that situation which was the object of her prayer.

We are now to view his subsequent conduct towards her, and herein it is that he was, as appears to me, wanting in his duty both to the Prince and Princess. He and others, had contrived, by one means and another, to suppress THE BOOK, which was ready for publication when he was made minister. But, the Princess had been received at Court, she was inhabiting a palace, and the affair was at rest. There was no blame, therefore, in the suppression; but when the REGENCY came to be established in the person of the Prince; when the husband came to be exalted to the rank, the power, and splendour of a King, how could Perceval reconcile it with the letter of 16th February, 1807, and with the Minute of the 21st of April in that year, to leave the Princess of Wales, the wife of the Regent, in her former comparatively obscure and penurious state? How came he to do this; and that, too, at a time when he was so amply providing for the splendour and power of the Queen, and was granting the public money for the making of new establishments for the maiden sisters of the Regent?

Alas! We are now to look back to that wonderful event, the choosing of Perceval for minister by the Regent, the choosing of the author of the letter of 16th February, 1806, to the exclusion of those who had always been called the Prince’s Friends. The Prince was certainly advised by prudent men, when he took this step; for he avoided a certain evil at the expense of no certain, and, indeed, of no probable, good that a change of ministry would have effected. But, I blame Perceval for keeping his place without stipulating for, or without doing, something in behalf of the Princess; and, it was his failing to do this, which has, step by step, finally led to the present disclosure. He had, indeed, done much for the Princess; he had cleared her of every imputation; he had restored her to the Court; he had replaced her in a palace; but, her husband being now exalted, her non-exaltation operated with regard to her character in nearly the same way as her exclusion from Court had formerly operated. Therefore she had a new ground of complaint; the imputation against her honour was revived, not in words, but in the want of acts, more especially as her defender was now placed on the highest pinnacle of power.

In this light the Princess herself, from her last letter to the Prince, seems to have viewed the matter; for, she there says, that she has waited with patience, since the establishment of the Regency, to see what would be done. I, for my part, strongly urged, at the time, the propriety of giving her an establishment suitable to the new rank of her husband, and especially the means of enabling her to hold a Court. This was not listened to. The ministers seem to have thought it best to leave her in comparative obscurity; but, her own spirit and her consciousness of innocence, have defeated their views. Still, however, all might have remained undisturbed, if a free intercourse had been permitted between Edition: current; Page: [225] her and her daughter; and, I am sincerely of opinion, from a full view of her character and disposition, as exhibited in the whole of these documents, that provided no restraint had been laid upon the indulgence of her maternal affections, she would, without much repining, have persevered in her magnanimous silence. But, when she saw herself deprived of that indulgence; when she saw her intercourse with her only child was more and more restrained; when she saw the likelihood of an approaching total exclusion from that child, and took into her view the effect which the notoriety of that exclusion must have upon her reputation, she found it impossible longer to withhold the statement of her grievances.

Even now, even after the writing of her last letter to the Prince; aye, and after the publishing of that letter, all might have been quietly set at rest, if the Prince had found advisers to recommend the acceding to her reasonable request. Such advisers he did not find; and we have the consequences before us.

Upon the Report of the Privy Council to the Prince dated on the 19th of February, 1813, I will not make any comment; and, will only request you, my honest friend, first to read the Minute of the Cabinet of 21st of April, 1807, and see who it is signed by; then to read the defence of the Princess together with her letter of the 16th of February, 1807, as you will find them in my next Number; then to read carefully the Report of the Privy Council of 19th February, 1813, and see who that is signed by; and then to pass your judgment upon the conduct of the parties concerned.

This Report of the Privy Council brought forth the Princess’s Letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons. That Letter would probably have produced the effect that has since been produced; but, the motion of Mr. Cochrane Johnstone did it more speedily. That motion drew from the ministers a full and complete acknowledgment of the innocence of the Princess; and that acknowledgment has drawn forth, through the channel of a paper, the property of a Reverend Divine, who has recently been made a Baronet, a publication of the Depositions AGAINST the Princess; but, with shame for my country, with shame for the English press; and with indignation inexpressible against its conductors, I say it, while the documents against her have all been poured forth in hasty succession, her defence; her able, her satisfactory, her convincing, her incontrovertible answer to all, and every one of the charges against her, and her exposure of the injustice and malice and baseness of her enemies, have been carefully, by these same prints; the prints attached to both the political factions, been kept from the public eye!

Anything so completely base as this I do not recollect to have before witnessed, even in the conduct of the London press; but, my friend, this nefarious attempt to support injustice will not succeed. In the present Double Number of my Register I have inserted all the Evidence against the Princess; in another Number, next week, of the same description, I shall insert the whole of her defence; and, thus you will have before you the whole of what has been called THE BOOK. You will then be at no loss to decide upon every point relating to this important affair, and upon the conduct of all the parties, who, by these documents, will be brought under your view.

In the meanwhile I must beg leave to point out the necessity of reading all the subjoined documents with great care. Every word will be found Edition: current; Page: [226] to be of importance, when you come to the perusal of the Princess’s defence. I shall have great pleasure in publishing and in circulating it through the world; and when that is done, let her base enemies “go to supper with what appetite they may.”

I am your faithful friend,
Wm. COBBETT.

TO JAMES PAUL, Of Bursledon, in Lower Dublin Township, in Philadelphia County, in the State of Pennsylvania; ON MATTERS RELATING TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF WALES.

  • “Heav’n has no curse like love to hatred turn’d,
  • Nor hell a fury like a woman scorn’d.”
  • Congreve.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
26th March, 1813
Botley
James Paul
Paul, James

LETTER V.

My dear Friend,

In my last Letter I gave you a brief history of THE BOOK, and showed you, as clearly as I was able, what effects it had produced as to political changes in the government. I, at the same time, laid before you all the depositions against Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, together with the beginning of her defence. The remaining part of that defence I continue to this Letter; and, when you have read it, together with Her Royal Highness’s Letter to the King of the 16th of February, 1807, you will have the whole of the case before you.*

So satisfactory to my mind is that defence; so completely does it do away every charge against her honour; so quickly does it dissipate, in my view of it, every doubt that could have been raised in the mind of any rational man, that I am utterly at a loss to find words to express my astonishment, that His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, should have found advisers, weak enough (for I will forbear to apply to them any harsh epithet) to recommend the raising of any obstacle to the giving of the injured Princess those external marks of complete acquittal, which she so justly demanded, and with which, it appears, her moderation would have been contented. Indeed, when you take an impartial view of the case up to the close of her Letter of the 16th of February, 1807, you will be at a loss to say which feeling is strongest in your bosom: that of admiration of her moderation and magnanimity; or, of indignation against the wretches who had manifestly conspired, with the most deliberate malice, against her reputation and even against her life.

Exalted as the parties concerned are in rank, important as every thing must be which is so closely connected with their character and honour; Edition: current; Page: [227] yet, such is the ability with which this defence was conducted, that, merely as a specimen of excellence in this sort of productions it will, I am persuaded, live and be admired, long after the cause of it shall have become of no interest to the world. I hated Perceval when living; I hate his memory now that he is dead; because I regard him as having been a bitter enemy of the liberties of my country. But, I should tacitly belie my conviction, I should commit an act of violence on my own mind, were I to abstain from expressing my admiration of this defence, as doing equal honour to the heart and to the talents of its author; who, from the first page to the last, shines, not only as a wise counsellor, an able and zealous advocate, but as an ardent, a steady and disinterested friend; and, really, I look upon it as a fortunate circumstance for the character of the country, that, while England had produced wretches so vile as to conspire against the life of an innocent and friendless woman, England also furnished the man able and willing to be her protector.

This defence being, in all its parts, so complete, I should not trouble you with any observations of my own on any part of the evidence or proceedings, and should merely give you my reasons for believing, that the conduct of the Princess, up to this very hour, has been such as to merit full approbation; but, as endeavours are still making, in some of the detestable newspapers in London, to give the air of truth to the refuted calumnies of the Douglases and others, I think it right to point out for your special notice some few of the circumstances of the case.

There is an observation, made by some persons, in these words: “There, surely, must be something in all this. How could such a story as that of Lady Douglas have been all invented?” This is a very absurd way of reasoning; for, if one part of a story be hatched, why not the whole? It is not the practice either of courts of justice or of individuals to give credit to any part of a story, upon the principal facts of which the narrator has been fully proved to have spoken wilfully false. If any man were to tell you, that I had defrauded him of a ten-pound-note, and that, upon the same occasion, I had been guilty of blasphemy, would you, when you had seen the former clearly disproved, attach any credit to the latter? Would the man, who could invent the former charge, scruple to invent the latter also? Would that malice, which proved the mother of the one, be insufficient for the producing of the other? The consistency of the different parts of a story, all coming from the same person, or from a set of conspirators, argues little in support of its credibility; for, if one sits down to invent, especially when there is an abundance of time, it is entirely one’s own fault if the several parts of the story do not agree. You do not read Romances and Plays; but, if you did, you would not set any part of them down for realities, because all the parts correspond with each other. They are fabulous, they are the work of invention, from the beginning to the end; and so, it appears to me, were all the minor circumstances, related by the Douglases and others, tending to corroborate the main facts, and to render complete and successful the great plot of this disgraceful drama. The main allegations having been proved to be false, and none of the rest having been proved to be true, we must necessarily, in common justice to the accused, regard the whole as a mass of falsehoods.

Indeed, it is impossible for any man, when he has read the whole of the documents, to entertain the smallest doubt of the innocence of the Princess as to everything which has been alleged against her; but it appears Edition: current; Page: [228] to me to be very essential for us to inquire, how these infamous charges came to be made. And, here I think, we shall find all the marks of a deliberate and settled conspiracy against her, originating to all outward appearance, with the Douglases.

We see, that, from 1801 to 1804, there was an intercourse of friendship existing between Sir John and Lady Douglas and the Princess; and, it is not till after the former are discarded by the latter that the accusations appear to have been hatched; or, at least, to have assumed any thing of a systematic form. Soon after this, we find Sir John Douglas receiving, as his wife says, anonymous letters, containing lewd drawings, exhibiting Lady Douglas as committing adultery with Sir Sidney Smyth; and of these she says, the Princess of Wales was the author. This fact of the authorship is clearly disproved by the most satisfactory of evidence, positive as well as circumstantial. And, now, mark; this fact being proved to be false, what other conclusion can we draw from its having been advanced, than that the Douglases wrote the letters themselves to themselves with a design of imputing them to her Royal Highness, and thus to furnish themselves with some excuse for the treachery, to say the very least of it, of Lady Douglas? For, you will observe, that, upon the supposition of all the allegations of Lady Douglas, being true, nothing could clear her of the charge of perfidiousness to the person, who, in the warmth of her friendship and the plenitude of her confidence, had committed to her breast secrets affecting her life.

Having thus prepared the way; having provided themselves with an excuse, though a very unsatisfactory one, for the divulging of secrets, which they could not in any case, and under any degree of provocation, divulge without subjecting themselves to the charge of perfidy, they appear to have set themselves to work to get a way opened for their information to the Prince of Wales; and, at last, in December, 1805, they draw up and sign their STATEMENT in order to its being laid before him.

If this statement was believed, as it appears to have been, by His Royal Highness’s advisers; for, my respect for the person, whom I obey as my sovereign, will permit me to speak, in this case, only of his advisers. If this statement was believed by them, there can be no doubt of the propriety, and, indeed, of the absolute necessity, of submitting the matter to the consideration of the King. Different men see the same thing in a different light; and, for my part, I am convinced, that if my own sister had laid such a statement before me, relative to the conduct of even a suspected wife, I should, at once, have treated it as a tissue of abominable falsehoods; the reasons for which I will now give you.

The statement of Lady Douglas, as well as her deposition, clearly show, that her making of it originated in revenge. There are those, who, roused in the way of suspicion, by a view of the whole affair, are inclined to ascribe the accusation to another origin, and to suppose, that the Douglases went to live at Blackheath for the express purpose of carrying on a conspiracy against the Princess. But, an impartial examination of the several parts of the proceeding rejects this opinion; and, it is manifest that the charges had their origin in the revenge of this woman. Therefore, if her statement had been laid before me, as an adviser of the Prince, I should, without going into the utter improbability of the story itself, have said, that a woman, in whose bosom the Edition: current; Page: [229] passion of revenge was so strong as to goad her on to take away the life of another woman, after months and years for cooling and reflecting; I should have said, that a woman, in whose bosom the passion of revenge was so strong as this, was a person not to be believed in anything that she might say with regard to the object of that revenge.

Then, I should have observed, that she sets out with a self-evident falsehood; for she asserts, that it was a sense of duty; the fear of seeing spurious issue on the throne, her loyalty, her gratitude towards her Sovereign and the Royal family; she asserts, that it is this sense of duty, which has wrung the awful secret from her, and induced her to be guilty of a most atrocious breach of confidence. But, with this sense of duty in her mind; with all this loyalty and gratitude in her heart; and with this patriotic fear of seeing spurious issue on the throne, she keeps the secret locked up in her breast from 1802 to 1805. Was that to be believed? If she really were under the influence of the motives, which she pretends to have been under when she made the statement; how came that influence to have had no weight at an earlier period?—If such had really been her motives in making the communication, the year 1802 was the time for making it, when she first was told of the pregnancy, or, at any rate, when she saw the child, especially as that child was a male, and, of course, the heir to the throne; and when she reflected, moreover, that she might die, and that, from the death of herself or other persons, the impossibility of preventing the danger she feared might soon arrive. Therefore, it is manifest, that, in making the communication to the Prince, she could not be actuated by motives of duty and of loyalty; and, seeing her declaration thus bottomed in falsehood; seeing it thus ushered in by a flagrant though hypocritical lie; I should, if I had been an adviser of the Prince, said, that nothing flowing from such a source is to be believed, or paid the smallest attention to.

Then, as to what she says about the licentious behaviour of the Princess, and her disrespectful language towards the King, the Queen, and the Royal Family, I should have observed, that, though the informant pretends to have been shocked at the indecencies and immoralities of all this, and though people were obliged to send their daughters out of the room to prevent them from hearing the language of the Princess, the informant continued to be intimate with her, and even to court her acquaintance, for years after she was the eye and ear witness of these indecencies; and what is singular enough, one ground of her pretended complaints against the Princess, is, her children were not admitted, upon a particular occasion, to that, as she paints it, scene of open indecency and debauchery, Montague House! Upon a view of all these circumstances, could I have believed, that she had seen anything to shock her in the behaviour of the Princess? Could I have believed a word of her story; and could I have refrained from advising the Prince, not to believe a word of that story?

Upon her own showing, I should have seen in Lady Douglas a traitor to her friend from motives of revenge; I should have seen in her a hypocritical pretender to loyalty and patriotism; and should have seen part of her revenge arising from her children not being admitted where she herself had been shocked at the constant indecencies of the scene, and where other persons had sent away their children from a fear of their being corrupted. But, besides all this, I must have believed Her Royal Highness to have been wholly bereft of her senses before I could believe, Edition: current; Page: [230] or give the smallest degree of credit to, the story of her accuser. For, could I believe, that any woman in her senses, though the most profligate of her sex, would have imparted the facts of pregnancy and delivery to another, without any possible motive, and afterwards behave to that other in a way the best calculated in the world to provoke that other to a disclosure of those facts? I can suppose it possible, and barely possible, that there may be found in the world a married woman in common life, so very shameless, being in a state of separation from her husband in consequence of no fault of her own; I can suppose it barely possible, that such a woman, so situated, might, out of a mere inclination to communicate a secret, or to show that she was not without a paramour, tell a confidant that she was with child, and, I will even go so far as to suppose it possible, that there may be found one in the whole world, in such a place as St. Giles’s or Billingsgate, to go up to a man, and proclaim her crime in words, while she put her hand to the depository of the half-matured fruit of that crime. It is not without begging pardon of every thing bearing the name and form of woman, that I venture upon this supposition. What then must have been my conclusion upon hearing conduct like this attributed to a Princess of Wales, whose crime, in this case, went to take away her life, and who, according to the showing of Lady Douglas herself, could have no possible motive in making known to her the fact of that crime?

Away, I should have said, if I had been an adviser of the Prince, with this mass of atrocious falsehoods; these overflowings of blackhearted revenge; these self-evident proofs of a foul and detestable conspiracy against life and honour. I should have said, that knowing the Princess to be in her senses, it was impossible for me to believe, that she would first make known her pregnancy and delivery to Lady Douglas without any motive; that she would so contrive her delivery as to have it take place in her own house, surrounded as she was by the servants of the Prince; and that, having brought the child into the world, she would even attempt to suckle it herself, and actually do it for some time; I should have said that it was impossible for me, or for any man in his senses, to believe this for one single moment. And, therefore, I should have advised his Royal Highness not to give by any acts of his, the smallest countenance to so incredible, so malicious, so detestable a charge, made against an unprotected woman, not to say, that, though separated from his bed, that woman was still his wife.

While you observe, however, that the advice given to His Royal Highness, upon this occasion, was precisely the opposite of that, which, as I have said. I should have given, you will not, in fairness to those who gave that advice, fail to suppose that they might possibly be actuated by a desire to rescue the character of the Princess from any future danger, which, from the death of witnesses, or from other causes, might arise out of the charges preferred by Lady Douglas. Willing as I am to go along with you in this supposition, I must, nevertheless say, that the means they adopted were not the best calculated in the world to arrive at so amiable and desirable an end.

These advisers did not, it appears, recommend to His Royal Highness to lay the statement of the Douglases before the King at once, and unaccompanied with any corroboratory evidence. That statement, as appears from its date, was made on the 3rd of December, 1805; and it appears, that it, or rather an abstract of it, was not laid before the King till Edition: current; Page: [231] the 29th of May, 1806. In the meanwhile, the advisers of the Prince of Wales appear to have recommended, the obtaining of other statements, from different persons, relating to the conduct of her Royal Highness; and, as you will have seen, there were obtained the written declarations of Sarah Lampert, William Lampert, William Cole, Robert Bidgood, Sarah Bidgood, and Frances Lloyd, which were also laid before the King together with the statement of the Douglases. And, it is with great pain that I perceive these papers to have been said, in their title, to be “For the purpose of confirming the statement made by Lady Douglas.” I perceive this with pain, because it admits of the interpretation, that the advisers of the Prince wished to see that horrible statement confirmed, while, you will agree with me, that they ought to have been anxiously desirous to see it wholly refuted. If the object of the advisers of the Prince was to rescue the character of the Princess from all future danger, to which, from the death of witnesses, or other causes, this statement might be thought to expose it, they took, as I said before, means not well adapted to their end. This error (not to call it by any other name) it was, which produced all the disagreeable consequences that followed.

We must now take a look at the source of these confirmatory declarations, and of the time and manner of their being communicated to the King, and upon which communication his warrant was founded.

The two Lamperts were, it appears, old servants of Sir John Douglas, and, it also appears, that Sir John himself was the person, who went from London to Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire to take down their declarations. These two declarations do not, however, appear to have been of any importance, seeing that the persons, who made them, were not afterwards examined upon oath by the Commissioners. Bidgood, Cole and Lloyd were old servants of the Prince, and, it appears that Cole has been at Carlton House, in performance of his service, ever since the time to which his information refers. Bidgood appears to have been still with the Princess, when the inquiry was going on; but, you will remark, that there is an affidavit, produced by the Princess, showing, that, while the inquiry was going on, Bidgood was, upon one occasion, at least, in conversation with Lady Douglas; and, that, too, at a time when he must have well known what that lady had been doing with regard to his Royal mistress, because he himself had been previously examined for the purpose of confirming her statement.

When you have read the defence of the Princess, you will want nothing to convince you, that the evidence of Bidgood and Cole is of no unequivocal description. Indeed, it is quite impossible for you to entertain the smallest doubt as to its character. With respect to Fanny Lloyd’s declaration there are some remarks to be made of very great interest and importance.

You will bear in mind, that all the declarations, of which we are speaking, were taken as their title imported, “for the purpose of confirming the statement made by Lady Douglas.” Cole voluntarily underwent four separate examinations; Bidgood one, and Fanny Lloyd one, all which you will have read in the foregoing Number. At what place Cole was examined and signed his declarations is not stated in their dates; but, those of Bidgood and Fanny Lloyd are dated at the Temple, a place in London where lawyers and attorneys reside; and it is pretty fairly presumed by the Princess in her defence, that they were drawn up and signed at Mr. Lowten’s, who is an Attorney, living in the Temple, and who, as appears from one of Cole’s declarations, was at Cheltenham with Sir John Douglas to take the Declaration of the two Lamperts.

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These are very material circumstances for you to bear in mind, and it would be useful to have it clearly ascertained, who it was that actually employed Mr. Lowten. At any rate, we see him at Cheltenham employed in taking declarations with Sir John Douglas, “for the purpose of confirming the statement of Lady Douglas;” and it is at the Temple where we find that the declarations of Bidgood and Fanny Lloyd were made. Observe another thing, too, with respect to the declarations of Cole, Bidgood and Fanny Lloyd. They do not come forth with attested, or witnessed, signatures, as in the case of the statement of Sir John and Lady Douglas. The signature of that famous statement is, as you will see, verified by the Duke of Sussex, who signs his name as having seen the paper signed; a very necessary precaution in so momentous a case, but not less necessary with regard to the confirmatory declarations than with regard to the statement itself. It is a pity that this requisite is wanting to these documents; because, if they had been regularly witnessed, we should have seen who were the persons engaged in taking them down, a circumstance of no trifling import, when we are endeavouring to unravel the thread of these memorable proceedings.

Carrying all these circumstances along in your mind, you will now accompany me in some remarks touching the declaration of Fanny Lloyd. This part of the subject has very much interested the public here, and will not, I dare say, be uninteresting to you, a lover of truth and justice as you always were, and who always felt a deep interest in everything connected with the peace, happiness and honour of the country of your forefathers. Fanny Lloyd says, in her declaration, taken at the Temple, and she afterwards swears nearly to the same amount before the four Lords; but, it is with her declaration that we now have to do, She says, in her declaration, that a Mr. Mills, a surgeon and apothecary, at Greenwich (a place near Blackheath), being in attendance upon her for a cold, asked her if the Prince visited at the Princess’s house; and Fanny Lloyd having answered, that he did not to her knowledge, said that THE PRINCESS WAS CERTAINLY WITH CHILD. Now, mind, this declaration is taken down at the Temple, on the 12th of May, 1806 (keep the dates constantly in your eye); it is signed at the Temple on that day, but in the presence of whom we are not informed.

Luckily for the character of the Princess a new witness was here introduced. Mr. Mills was named; and he was to be examined, of course. He was examined, not at the Temple, indeed, but at the house of the Earl of Moira, and by that nobleman himself, but, in the presence of Mr. Lowten, who is a person of some consideration, being, besides an attorney, an officer in the Court of King’s Bench.

Fanny Lloyd’s declaration confirmatory of Lady Douglas’s Statement, was of great importance, as it went directly to establish the fact of the alleged pregnancy; but, unfortunately for Miss Lloyd’s veracity, Mr. Mills declared to Lord Moira and Mr. Lowten, that her declaration, as far as related to him, was “an infamous falsehood.” Now mind, this was on the 14th of May, 1806, two days only after Miss Lloyd had made her declaration. Upon hearing this from Mr. Mills, Lord Moira said (as Mr. Mills states in his affidavit) that he supposed there must be some mistake, and that Fanny Lloyd must have meant Mr. Edmeades, who was the partner of Mr. Mills, and who, having at the request of Lord Moira, waited on his Lordship, at his house, on the 20th of May, 1806 (mind the dates), declared (as you will see by his affidavit) to his Edition: current; Page: [233] Lordship, in the presence of a Mr. Conant, a Police Magistrate, that the declaration of Fanny Lloyd, if he was the person meant by her, was wholly false; for, that he, at no time, had said that the Princess was pregnant, and that such a thought had never, for a single moment, entered his mind.

Here, then, we see Fanny Lloyd’s confirmatory declaration, or, at least, the only important part of it, blown, at once into the dark regions of malicious invention. The whole of the affidavits of Messrs. Mills and Edmeades, the facts stated by those gentlemen, the place, time, and manner of their being examined, are worthy of your most careful attention; but, at present, let us pursue the destination of the declaration of Fanny Lloyd; and, as you are about to see, our pursuit will soon be at an end. That declaration was taken, you will observe, on the 12th of May, 1806, at the Temple; on the 14th it was flatly falsified by Mr. Mills; on the 20th it was as flatly falsified by Mr. Edmeades; on the 29th, as appears from the Report, Fanny Lloyd’s declaration was laid before the King; but, it does NOT appear any where, THAT THAT DECLARATION WAS ACCOMPANIED BY THE FALSIFICATION FIXED ON IT BY MR. MILLS AND MR. EDMEADES.

As Her Royal Highness, in her defence, avows, that she dares not trust herself with any inferences from this proceeding, I cannot be expected to draw any; but, I cannot, at any rate refrain from expressing my deep regret, that this omission should have taken place; because, if the falsification of Fanny Lloyd’s declaration had accompanied the declaration itself, the King might, probably, have not issued the commission for that inquiry, which has led to all this serious mischief. The Princess, in her defence, seems very reluctant to fix the blame of this omission upon any one. She says, “I know not whether it was Lord Moira, or Mr. Lowten, who should have communicated this circumstance to His Royal Highness (who is stated to have laid the declarations before the King): but, she adds, in all fairness, it ought, unquestionably to have been communicated by some one.” And so it certainly should; for Fanny Lloyd’s was one of those important declarations, upon which confessedly the inquiry was founded.

It is my business to fix your attention upon great points, it being impossible for me, in my limited space, to go over the whole of the case with you, and it being also quite unnecessary, seeing that the documents themselves are so full and satisfactory.

One of these great points is, the credibility, which the Four Lords gave to the evidence of Cole and Fanny Lloyd, and the effect of that credibility. You will perceive, that the facts of pregnancy and delivery were so completely disproved, that their Lordships, in their REPORT to the King, declare, in the most explicit and the most forcible terms, that the charge was wholly false; that it was utterly destitute of foundation. But, they leave a sting in the tail of this Report. They say, that other particulars, respecting the conduct of Her Royal Highness, must “necessarily give occasion to VERY UNFAVOURABLE INTERPRETATIONS;” and these particulars, they say, rest especially upon the evidence of Bidgood and Cole, Fanny Lloyd and Mrs. Lisle; “who,” say the Lords, “cannot, in our judgment, be suspected of an unfavourable bias, and whose VERACITY, in this respect, we have seen no ground to question.

As to Bidgood, you will see by the defence and by his own declarations Edition: current; Page: [234] and depositions, whether he was likely to be under any unfavourable bias. Mrs. Lisle’s evidence amounts to little, and of that little I shall leave you to judge with only this remark: that, if every married woman in the world were to be liable to be admonished upon grounds similar to those to be found in that evidence, there would not be one, even amongst you Quakers, that would escape an admonition. If it be faulty in a married woman to prefer talking to a man rather than to her attendants; if it be a fault in a married woman to smile or laugh in conversation with any other man than her husband; if it be a fault in her to endeavour to appear witty or agreeable in the eyes of any man except those of her husband; if this be the case, point me out, if you can, a single brother Broad-brim, who has not a right to complain.

Fanny Lloyd and Cole are two of the persons, whose veracity, in this respect, it appears, the Four Lords saw no ground to question. With regard to Fanny Lloyd, you will bear in mind, that she had positively sworn to the most important fact about the pregnancy; and that Messrs. Mills and Edmeades had sworn before these same Lords, that that fact was false. She swore on the 7th of June, 1806, that Mr. Mills told her the Princess was with child, or looked as if she was with child. The two gentlemen (there appearing to be a mistake as to which of the two it was) both swear, on the 25th of the same month, that they never did and never could say any such thing to her; for that such a thought never came into their heads. And, yet, as you will perceive, the Four Lords, in their Report to the King, say, that Fanny Lloyd is a witness, whose veracity, in this respect, they see no ground to question. To be sure, they are here reporting upon the improprieties of conduct, and not upon the pregnancy, and they qualify their opinion of the veracity of the witness, by the words, “in this respect;” but, as her evidence relative to the pregnancy as well as to the improprieties was all contained in the same deposition, it was not very easy to regard her as a person of veracity in respect to the latter, and not as a person of veracity in respect to the former. Therefore, it appears to me, that their Lordships must have given more credit to her oath than to the oath of Mr. Mills, or Mr. Edmeades, and, in that case, they would, of course, see no ground to question her veracity. Be their view upon this point, however, what it might, you, having all the documents before you, will form your own opinion as to Fanny Lloyd’s veracity, and you will always bear in mind, that she was one of the four persons, whose evidence, the Four Lords say, “must necessarily give occasion to very unfavourable interpretations.

Mr. Cole was another of the four witnesses, whose evidence is said, by the Four Lords, to give occasion to these interpretations. Now, observe, then, as to Cole, that he, in his declaration of the 11th of January, 1806, positively says, that Fanny Lloyd told him, that one day, “when Mary Wilson supposed the Princess to be gone to the Library, she went into the bed-room, where she found a man at breakfast with the Princess; that there was a great to do about it; and that Mary Wilson was sworn to secrecy, and threatened to be turned away if she divulged what she had seen.” This, you will observe, was a most important fact; and these are the very words in which Cole stated it in his declaration, which declaration was one of the papers on which the Inquiry was founded. Now, then, what says Fanny Lloyd to this fact? Why, as you will see, at the close of her deposition, she swears, THAT Edition: current; Page: [235] SHE NEVER DID TELL COLE ANY SUCH THING. Which of these two witnesses spoke falsely, it is impossible for me to say, but that one of the two did speak falsely there can be no doubt; indeed, the fact is certain, for the two witnesses flatly contradict each other. And yet, they are both, yes, both, mentioned as persons, whose veracity the Four Lords see no grounds to question. You will please to observe, that the qualification by the words, “in this respect,” does not apply here, as in the former case; for, the fact here mentioned does not relate to the pregnancy, or the delivery, but merely to the improprieties of conduct; so that the flat contradiction given by Fanny Lloyd to the declarati