Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works, vol. 1 [1835]

Cobbett 1627 01 tp
Title Page
Cobbett 1627 01 toc
Original Table of Contents or First Page

Edition used:

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. 1.

Available in the following formats:
Facsimile PDF 31.9 MB This is a facsimile or image-based PDF made from scans of the original book.
ePub 823 KB ePub standard file for your iPad or any e-reader compatible with that format
HTML 2.31 MB This version has been converted from the original text. Every effort has been taken to translate the unique features of the printed book into the HTML medium.
Simplified HTML 2.31 MB This is a simplifed HTML format, intended for screen readers and other limited-function browsers.

About this Title:

Volume 1 of a six volume collection. Vol. 1 contains his American writings 1794-1800 and his English writings beginning in 1801.

Copyright information:

The text is in the public domain.

Fair use statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [a]
being a complete abridgment of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “forcupine” and the “weekly political register.” WITH NOTES, HISTORICAL AND EXPLANATORY.
PUBLISHED BY AND COBBETT, 10, RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET, w. tait, edinburgh; and w. willis, manchester.
Edition: current; Page: [b]

London: Printed by Mills and Son,

Gough Square, Fleet Street.

Edition: current; Page: [i]


  • AMERICAN WRITINGS (From 1794 to 1800).
    • Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page iii
    • Priestley’s Emigration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
    • A Bone to Gnaw for the Democrats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
    • A Little Plain English . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
    • A New Year’s Gift to the Democrats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
    • Remarks on the Blunderbus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
    • On the Pamphlets published against Porcupine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
    • Selections from Porcupine’s Gazette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 to 163
    • The Rush-Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
    • Letter to Judge Shippen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201
    • Porcupine’s Revenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
    • Priestley’s Sermon for Poor Emigrants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
  • ENGLISH WRITINGS (Beginning in 1801).
    • Letters to Addington on the Peace of Amiens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 212
    • French Morals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257
    • Bull-Baiting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258
    • Multitude of Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 260
    • Pitt System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 260
    • English Press and Buonaparte . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262
    • The Invincible Standard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 270
    • Manufactures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286
    • Prospects of War. (To Lord Hawkesbury.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 288
    • War or Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 290
    • Mechanical Ministry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291
    • Stock-Jobbing Nation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 292
    • Finance and Trade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 296
    • Emigration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297
    • Finance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300
    • Important Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302
    • Bank Restriction Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312 to 317 Edition: current; Page: [ii]
    • The Political Register . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321
    • “Capital, Credit, and Confidence” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323, 334
    • Anglo-Gallic Creditors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323, 328, 331
    • Trade and Revenue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 336, 349
    • State of Parties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353, 359, 365, 366
    • Review of Two Pamphlets on Parties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372 to 440
    • Paper Aristocracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 440
    • Letter I. To the Right Hon. Wm. Pitt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 449
    • Letter II. To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 457
    • Letter III. To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 469
    • Letter IV. To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 479
    • Letter V. To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 485
    • Letter VI. To the same . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501
    • Corn Laws—Price of Bread—Enclosures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516 to 530
    • The Budget of 1805. Consolidated Fund—Taxes—Debt—Loans, Rents, and Leases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 530


Preface, p. vii, line 12, for “decoy the French Republic,” read “decry the French Republic.”

In “Priestley’s Emigration,” p. 16, Note, for “Belsham’s History of Geo. IV.,” read “Geo. III.”

Page 25, second Note, line 5, for “if a member,” read “if a number,” &c.

Page 297, Note, for “Number CVI.” read “Number CVIII.”

Edition: current; Page: [iii]


The political writings of our late father are contained in exactly one hundred octavo volumes, namely, of “Porcupine’s Works” twelve, and of the “Weekly Political Register” eighty-eight; the former being a selection of pamphlets and articles written in a monthly publication, and articles written in a daily paper, at Philadelphia, from the year 1794 to the year 1800; and the latter being a weekly publication on politics, begun in the year 1802, and ended with its author’s life, in June 1835.

Having undertaken to abridge these two works, it is but right that we should fully and frankly state why we do it at all; what we propose to give in the abridged shape, at what times we shall publish, and to what extent the work will go; and, in order to do this fully, we will first explain what tempted us to the undertaking. On looking at the formidable row of volumes, we could not help asking ourselves “What is the use of the works in their present shape?” For, the fame of an author must depend upon the notoriety and usefulness of his works, and, as these hundred volumes cannot be had, and therefore cannot be useful in their present shape, we resolved upon making the attempt to bring into a very much smaller compass the essence of what they contain. For this purpose we mean to take the best papers on the most interesting topics, from the earliest of our author’s writing to the last; and to bring them together in such a way, as shall make it an easy task to trace his whole literary career, and the political history of the time in which he has taken a part in politics. We at first thought of an arrangement of matters, but found it impossible to make it. The chronological order of the writings will therefore be preserved, and his first essay in print will be the first of our abridgment; and, as the work will not extend to a greater length than six volumes, a perfect index will render it almost as easy to refer to particular papers and topics, as if the arrangement had been the one that we first intended.

That the publication will be useful we have no doubt. The matters treated of in the “Register,” not only have been of interest and great Edition: current; Page: [iv] importance, but they are so still, and they are becoming more and more so every day that we live.

“But why rake up the works of Porcupine? Porcupine was a Tory,” will, perhaps, be said to us by some of our friends. In the first place, Porcupine’s works will live, whether we like it or not; they have already become, if not absolutely scarce, more valuable by two fold than they were six months since; we cannot smother them, and if we could, we would not; and, as to the toryism, the publishing of selections from these works will give us the best means, and perhaps the fairest excuse, for clearing away much misapprehension on this score. The selections from Porcupine will show how greatly his objects and conduct have been misrepresented. We publish them in order to show how far his conduct was different from what the world has been taught to believe; and incidentally they will form a sort of history of American politics during an interesting period, and they will show his own progress in style and manner of writing.

It is very true that Mr. Cobbett at the age of 32, quitting France as the revolution broke out, and having lived eight years in the barracks of New Brunswick, in the condition of private soldier and then sergeant-major, did, in the United States, very warmly espouse the cause of England, of her King, Constitution, and people: it is true that when he looked on the bloody details of the revolution in France, and saw the people of America praising, imitating in their fashions and manners, and even praying for, the leaders and fraternities engaged in them; and that when he saw American writers attempting to change their old calendar for that of France, with its fructidor and ventose; and saw also the French Ambassador gravely propose to them to adopt a new French scheme of weights and measures in the place of the old English one; and a silly Scotchman attempt to persuade them to blot out all English recollections by changing the written language of their fathers, he burned with more than ordinary indignation; and it is also true, that when he saw a powerful faction, not merely in the country, but in the United States Government itself, anxious to injure his own country by procuring commercial connexions between France and America, for the avowed purpose; it is true that when he saw this, and saw an evident anxiety in the same faction, to accede to the declared wishes of France, by engaging America in war with England, he broke silence, and did his utmost to avert what must have been calamitous to her. This is all true; and it is also true, that in doing this, he did not stay to draw distinctions between English reformers and French revolutionists: all that looked with complacency on the National Convention, all that called themselves “Citizen,” were, to him, blood-thirsty operatives of the guillotine, or the abettors of those who were so. But it is not true that he Edition: current; Page: [v] ever was in his principles a tory, in the vulgar and modern sense of that word. “Tory” now means a man who would govern by corrupt means, a cruel, iron despot, a proud and greedy oppressor. These are the qualities that any ordinary man now attributes to the “Tory,” and the Tories have acquired the character by their practices. But to say that “Porcupine” is chargeable with such, is the grossest misapprehension of character that can be imagined; and we think that every sensible reader of his works will be convinced, that the great aim of them is to unite the interests of the Kingly Government of England and of the Federal Government of America. There was nothing wrong in this; it was not only commendable, but it was the duty, of an Englishman, having the power, and being in the situation to give his power effect, to do his utmost to preserve to England the friendship of her lost colonies, and to prevent their throwing their weight into the scale of France.

It is a very common notion, that he wrote against the American Government; that he did nothing in America but abuse the statesmen and the people of that country. Nothing can be more false. He earnestly advocated the administrations of Washington and Adams, in opposing the French party in America, and it is not too much to say, that he gave them very efficient support. To understand this, the reader ought to be acquainted with American politics from the close of the old American war (the war of Independence) to the death of Washington; but, as it is not every reader that has the information, we cannot enter upon our task without giving a very short narrative of facts to prepare him for what we are about to place before him.

Mr. Cobbett arrived in America in the last week of October 1792, and fell immediately into the company of the numerous emigrants who had fled from France and St. Domingo to avoid the perils of revolution. He remained till August 1794, imbibing every day’s news of the tragedies that were acting under the new French Republic, and learning the politics of the one in which he was living. His mind was quickly made up upon the iniquity of the scenes in France, and it was but another step, to hold in abhorrence all who applauded the revolution. On American politics, he learned, that the constitution at first established in that country after the war of Independence, had been found inefficient soon after it was tried, and that in 1787 it was reformed; and, moreover, that this reformation had divided the leading men of America into two formidable and fierce parties; one party desiring a close imitation of the English form of Government, and the other desiring a more popular and mere republic; the distinctive marks being, that one desired to have a President and Senate elected for life, and the other a President and Senate elected for terms of years. Add to this, that the party who were the admirers of the English form, wished to conciliate the friendship and alliance of Edition: current; Page: [vi] England, and that the other party wished for the friendship and alliance of France, and then we have the key to his motives for joining the English party, and pouring out his wrath upon that which favoured France. The event that provoked him to write his first essay, was something said against the English Government by Dr. Priestley, who arrived an emigrant from England in June 1794. Whatever was said by the infuriated party of America against her he could stand; but condemnation from an Englishman he could not; and, therefore, he attacked the Doctor in an anonymous pamphlet which was published at Philadelphia, which had a considerable sale, brought the writer at once into the field of strife, and made him, not long after, forsake his peaceful occupation for that boisterous one in which he passed the remainder of his days. At the age of 33, then, he published this pamphlet, on which we shall only remark here that the reader will see in it many of the excellences of his after writings; the same clearness, the same humorous bitterness, and a good deal of invective, though rather less grammatical accuracy. But of this he will be his own judge. The next publication was a pamphlet under the title of “A Bone to gnaw for the Democrats;” and the title suggests to us to explain further, that the American parties above alluded to, were known as Democrats and Aristocrats, or Federalists and Anti-federalists, or Whigs and Tories. These distinctions will be clearly understood if we take the Anti-federalist and the Federalist; for these were the real American distinctions, the others being borrowed either from France or England. At the close of the war of independence, in 1783, the thirteen States of America united under an Act of Confederation, but each State kept itself so completely sovereign in everything that concerned it, that, in matters of war and peace, and foreign commerce, there was no general government of sufficient power to give effect to the Confederation. This caused the reformation of 1787 before alluded to, which gave larger power to the Congress, and instituted an executive in the person of the President.

Federalist, Aristocrat, and Tory, mean the same; and Anti-federalist, Democrat, and Whig, mean the same. The principal federalists were, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jay, and Pinkney; and the principal anti-federalists were, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Rush, and Randolph. We take such names only as will be found most noticed in the writings that we are about to republish. In all the political strife of the eight years (from 1792 to 1800) in which Mr. Cobbett moved in America, the prominent question was, “Which country shall we seek to be allied with—England or France?” The anti-federalists were for France, and the federalists were for England. The mode of warfare, therefore, was to blacken the former as democratic traitors, ready to hand their country over to France for bribes received from that country; and with the other Edition: current; Page: [vii] party, to blacken the federalists as aristocrats, who wished to bring America again under the monarchical yoke of England. He is innocent of political warfare who will not give the parties credit for doing the amplest injustice to each other! For, although there might have been reason to suspect the subordinate men on both sides, it is impossible to believe that there was any design in the minds of such men as Jefferson or Washington to sell or give up their country to either France or England. Both, however, were hunted through their official career as suspicious, and both seem to have been pursued to the last by the exaggerations of their furious party opponents. They have paid the price of greatness as all great men do. This pamphlet, then, was an attack upon the French, or anti-federal, party; and the object of the author was, to decoy the French Republic, and hold up England to favour in the eyes of the American people. It is obvious enough, that it was not his intention to pull down the Government of General Washington, but to counteract those unfavourable impressions that were industriously made against England, to bring the Americans into a friendly feeling towards her; and, no English reader ought to consider this as an attack on his own opinions, however popular they may be. The pamphlet was very successful, had an immense sale, and was, as all Mr. Cobbett’s anonymous writings have been, attributed to different men of learning and importance. The anti-federalists felt the shafts which he flung at them, and unwisely compared him to the porcupine, a name which he instantly adopted, as he many years afterwards adopted that of Lord Castlereagh’s “two-penny trash.”

His business, from the very first week of his landing in America, was that of teacher of English to the French emigrants, who abounded in Philadelphia and its neighbourhood, and at this he earned between four and five hundred pounds a-year. His first pamphlet brought him no money, although it had a large sale; he wrote others, and sold the manuscript and copyright; but, at so low a price, that, whatever the bookseller may have done, the author earned only one hundred pounds in two years. The proof of their having been valuable, is, that he wanted to buy them back, years after they had been published, and though he offered as much for them as he had originally taken, the bookseller refused his offer. He became an important writer, and, as he very proudly expresses it, “stood alone,” to bear the abuse and falsehoods of a teeming press. In the spring of 1796, he took a shop in Philadelphia for the purpose of selling his own writings, before which he had written some of the best of his pamphlets. The two principal ones are, “A Little Plain English,” and “A New Year’s Gift to the Democrats;” the first being a refutation of arguments put forth against the treaty of amity and commerce with England, entered into by the President Edition: current; Page: [viii] Washington in 1794-5, through the mediation of Mr. Jay, and which treaty, being the first fruits of the reform of the constitution, threw the French party into violences bordering on treason. It is impossible to read it without admiring the ability with which the subject is handled; and it is impossible that an Englishman, even now, should not admire the boldness and energy of the man who could make so strong a defence for his country single-handed. In the progress of the ferment about the British treaty, a most awkward exposure of the Secretary of State, Randolph, was made, and in a manner as curious as the whole affair was awkward. England being then at war with France, a French vessel from America, carrying dispatches from the French Minister at Philadelphia, was taken in the Channel; the French captain threw the dispatches overboard, and they fell into the hands of the English Government. Being found to contain an account of the American Secretary of State’s treachery towards his own country, in concert with the French Minister, the English Government sent them to the President of America; and this affair furnished the friends of England with a weapon against the friends of France that “Porcupine” used effectively in the “New Year’s Gift to the Democrats,” the second of the two pamphlets above alluded to. The affair caused the immediate ratification of the British Treaty, which had been held in suspense by the Secretary’s intrigues, and it ended in his disgrace.

In 1796, Mr. Cobbett, having quarrelled with his bookseller, opened a shop, and, in a manner truly characteristic of him, bade defiance to his opponents. His friends feared for his personal safety, for the people were infected with the love of France. “I saw,” he says, “that I must at once set all danger at defiance, or live in everlasting subjection to the prejudices and caprice of the democratical mob. I resolved on the former; and as my shop was to open on a Monday morning, I employed myself all day on Sunday in preparing an exhibition, that I thought would put the courage and the power of my enemies to the test. I put up in my windows, which were very large, all the portraits that I had in my possession of kings, queens, princes and nobles. I had all the English Ministry, several of the bishops and judges, the most famous admirals, and in short every picture that I thought likely to excite rage in the enemies of Great Britain. Early on the Monday morning, I took down my shutters. Such a sight had not been seen in Philadelphia for twenty years!” The daring of this act produced excessive rage; the newspapers contained direct instigations to outrage, and threats were conveyed to him in the openest manner; but there were many amongst his political opponents, and even the people, who admired the “Englishman”; and, that the Government itself felt as it ought to do, will be seen in the course of our Selections.

Edition: current; Page: [ix]

He had already begun a monthly periodical work, one number of which had been published before he became his own publisher, called the “Prospect from the Congress Gallery;” which contained State papers, the substance of speeches made in the House of Representatives (the gallery of which he attended), and his own remarks upon them. He changed the title to that of “The Political Censor,” and carried it on with great success till March 1797, when he thought that he must have something that would put him more on a level with his opponents, a daily newspaper. Then it was that he began the “Porcupine’s Gazette,” which immediately acquired a large number of readers, and in which he carried on his warfare upon more equal terms as to time, and enraged his enemies beyond all common bounds. In argument he was far beyond them, and his cruel satire raised a storm of abuse that is yet living in tradition throughout the United States: they accused him of being a flogged deserter from the army, who had subsequently earned his living by picking pockets in the streets of London; and, so slight was their respect for sex, that they made an attack which caused the following refutation in the Censor: “Since the sentimental dastard, who has thus aimed a stab at the reputation of a woman, published his ‘Pill,’ I have shown my marriage certificate to Mr. Abercrombie, the minister of the church opposite me.” The selections from this Gazette will be but few, for they consist principally of personalities on such opponents, who were not of sufficient importance to create any interest now. Many are extremely good in themselves; and, though they were called abusive, allowance should be made where the provocation was so great. They are witty, rather than abusive, for wit sanctifies harsh terms, whatever puny critics may say. That which would be merely vulgar in a vapid writing, becomes wit when genius puts the point to it. Pope, Dryden, and Swift, have used hard words, and in their day were called abusive, too, but their very epithets are admired in ours. Wit can take liberties that dulness must not.

To say that there was no error in the writings of a man beginning his career at 33 years of age, having been born under a roof where knowledge was not to be gained, educated in a barrack, and always without a guide, would be impertinence; but he who says that a man thus qualified, and with a mind made by nature of the most vehement kind, is to answer rigidly for every error in giving his thoughts to the public once during every week for the space of nearly 40 years, demands that perfection of mind, that abundance of knowledge, and that foresight into events, which no man has hitherto shown. In “Porcupine’s” writings then, he always assumes that the English Government, both in its form and in its practices, is the most perfect of governments; but he did it while living at three thousand miles from that Government, and in Edition: current; Page: [x] a country where casual travellers now find it extremely difficult to preserve the republican notions with which they start from home. In the early stages of his political life, he was both scholar and teacher, and therefore, to forbid any change of opinion, would have been to forbid him to make progress. He always owns his changes of opinion, and gives the reason, following the rule laid down by Lord Chatham, who was himself accused of inconsistency:—“The extent and complication of political questions is such, that no man can justly be ashamed of having been sometimes mistaken in his determinations; and the propensity of the human mind to confidence and friendship is so great, that every man, however cautious, however sagacious, or however experienced, is exposed sometimes to the artifices of interest, and the delusions of hypocrisy; but it is the duty, and ought to be the honour, of every man to own his mistake, whenever he discovers it, and to warn others against those frauds which have been too successfully practised upon himself.” [Life, &c., vol. 1., p. 42.] And if the politicians of our day were to be tried upon this point, what havoc might be made! Indeed one has but to read the debates of the Parliament for examples.

A man who changes his opinion because he now knows more than he did, is not only not to blame for the change, but is dishonest if he does not avow it. Indeed, it can scarcely be called a change of the mind; it is becoming possessed of more information. The mind is not active, shifting of itself; it is passive, and receives impressions. It is the conduct which changes; and unless it can be shown that change of conduct arises from corrupt or other unworthy motives, a change of it is no crime. Something may, indeed, be said of the temerity of the man who speaks with great confidence on any topic before his knowledge and experience warrant it; but who is to decide when a man is to begin? Lord Grey, in abandoning his own famous Petition of 1793, said that a difference had arisen between his “present sentiments and his former impressions,” and he excused it by saying that “he, indeed, must have either been prematurely wise, or must have learned little by experience, who, after a lapse of twenty years, can look upon a subject of this nature” (Reform) “in all respects in precisely the same light” (Speech on the State of the Nation, 1810). Mr. Hobhouse accused Lord Grey of “apostacy” in thus abandoning short Parliaments, and “electors as numerous as possible.” [Defence of the People, pp. 62, 183], but even he has since joined Lord Grey’s Government, which not only refused to give us that radical reform for which both had so ably contended, but denied even the pittance of triennial Parliaments! Now these changes of conduct take place in men who have the least possible excuse for any change at all. Edition: current; Page: [xi] They are bred, for the most part, under the roofs of statesmen; they are carefully educated for statesmen; they have every chance which association with clever and experienced men can give them; they have all the means afforded to them of gaining the best information; and God knows they have due leisure to imbibe precepts, digest their reading, and to reflect on what they hear and read; and yet we find them change! Lord John Russell, in 1823, wrote a solemn book upon the Constitution, and, of course, weighed every principle, and almost every word that it contains, before he put it forth. His Lordship, in that book, admits the venality and mischiefs of rotten boroughs, but concludes that it would be unwise to make a change; questions whether the remedy would not be worse than the disease; and yet, in seven years after, he applied the famous “Russell purge,” which cleared the body-politic of the baneful obstruction. In another part of the same book, Lord John emphatically inveighs against the unconstitutional practices of the Tory Government, in proportioning our standing army to those of foreign powers; and yet, in 1833, he sat quietly by, while Sir John Hobhouse, the Secretary at War, brought in his Army Estimates, and told the House of Commons, that “when gentlemen were called upon to vote how many troops we should keep up, it was most necessary and proper that they should be put in possession of the exact amount of the forces maintained by other powers;” and he made no remark even, much less did he give any opposition, when Sir John Hobhouse had finished reading his Tables of the relative numbers kept up in each of the continental states, as compared with our own.

Do we mean to apply this, then, and say, “because these statesmen have done these things, another has a right to do so?” Not at all. It would be mere recrimination, which is a bad defence; but the fact is, that more is made of it in one case than in the other, which is unjust. The able writing of Mr. Cobbett caused this, no doubt. He produced effect, and that caused hostility. Unable to answer him, his opponents always tried to lessen his effect, by showing that he once thought with them. Indeed, before he had had time to change his opinions at all, they made use of his name, to push into notice their own absurdities, and published as his what he had never written. He complains of this in Porcupine (vol. 4, p. 19). And when his views and conduct had changed, then they had nothing so formidable for him as his former self. The same might be done by every other man who has lived long, and written or spoken much, provided always he have been of sufficient importance to make it worth the trouble. In short, great changes of views and conduct must always happen in times of change; and he who would hold, as an unqualified proposition, that a man’s views are never to change, is not above contending that a doctor shall not change his medicines to suit the changed Edition: current; Page: [xii] condition of his patient. There are men whose pride and boast it is, that they have never changed in their lives; that they have always adhered to one notion. A finger-post can say as much; for, with equal merit and more modesty, it always stands in the same place where it was first planted, and “most consistently” says the same thing; but, not unfrequently, in these improving times, when roads are turned and shortened, we see its awkward arm flying off in the wrong direction, promulgating a mischievous delusion, though still and for ever the very type of “consistency” in gesture and in language.

Porcupine’s forcible writings were soon known to the Government in England. He received invitations from some of its ablest writers and partizans to return home, and he left America for England in 1800. But, here we must remark, that even the English agents of the Government in America found him too self-willed and independent, to venture to give him decided and open approbation. He mentions (Porcupine, vol. 4, p. 63) that, being in a shop, unknown or unobserved, he heard himself characterized by the English consul as “a wild fellow;” and upon this he remarks, in the same page (published in 1796), “I shall only observe, that when the King bestows on me about five hundred pounds sterling a year, perhaps I may become a tame fellow, and hear my master, my friends, and my parents, belied and execrated, without saying a single word in their defence.”* It was the same when he came home. Though the Government had discernment enough to see in him a man of great power, and a strong acquisition to any government that could have him for an advocate, it never had him in fact, and never thought it had. He came home at the time above stated, full of that confidence which the success of his writings had naturally given him; he was immediately sought for by the late Mr. Windham, was by him introduced to Mr. Pitt, at a dinner-party, invited to Mr. Windham’s house, was offered a share in the “True Briton” newspaper, with printing-machines and type ready furnished; but refusing this offer, he set up a newspaper called Edition: current; Page: [xiii] “Porcupine’s Gazette,” which, as it did not suit his fancy, he gave up shortly, and opened a bookseller’s shop in Pall-mall, in partnership with his friend, Mr. John Morgan, an Englishman, with whom he was acquainted in Philadelphia. In this shop he might have made what fortune he pleased; for never was man more favourably circumstanced. He had the choicest connexion that a tradesman could wish for, and as much of it as would have sated the appetite of the most thrifty man; but then, he had no sooner entered upon this promising career, than he (1801) disputed the policy of the Peace of Amiens, then about to be made; and, as he would speak out, he quarrelled with the Government, and in a series of letters to Lord Hawkesbury and Mr. Addington, exposed their folly as manifested in the treaty; broke off from the friendships that had been lavished upon him, and again almost “stood alone” against the English Government, as he had done against its foes while in America. In this stand, however, he concurred in opinion with Mr. Windham, whose integrity and thoroughly English heart he always respected highly. In January 1802, he began the Political Register (calling it the Annual Register), which ultimately became what he never intended, a weekly Essay on Politics. It soon acquired a great sale and reputation; contributors to it were numerous and excellent; and, though its conductor wrote with his usual force, there is a moderation in the papers written by him at this time, which makes them somewhat tame in comparison with those which he wrote in America, and those which he has written since, when personal hostility mixed itself in the controversy. They are more dignified, but less personal; and are for that reason the best specimens of his force in argument. His maxim (professed to be borrowed from Swift) was, “If a flea or a louse bite me, I’ll kill it if I can;” and though this maxim made him too fond of killing fleas—too fond of striking at mean objects; yet the spirit of his writings would not have been half what it was, but for the sallies of humour that it brought into play. He was not long left to this species of repose; for the Government began to feel his powerful detections, and to fear the effects of a publication becoming so popular and wide of circulation. Its own scribes were, of course, let loose upon him; and others, prompted by a wish to show their value, or by envy of a man who was gaining so much both of fame and wealth, were nowise behind: accordingly, he was soon engaged in personal strife again. Paragraphs incessant, and pamphlets of all dimensions, appeared against him; but the favourite mode of attack was that of publishing in his name, and in close imitation of the Register, slanders on himself; and so far was this carried, that its readers were actually served through the post with the fabrication instead of the Register! He was “fool,” “vulgar,” “incendiary,” “knave,” “libeller,” “coward;” when rich, lucre was his object; when poor, they smote Edition: current; Page: [xiv] him for his poverty: in short, a war with the whole legion of the press of England he waged, with scarcely a truce, from 1804 till the day, when death having put an end to the conflict, they came forward simultaneously, some to confess his power, some to express the pride of countrymen, some to deplore the loss of one so useful; and one, the chief organ of the party to which he had been most opposed, to bestow on him the title of “last of the Saxons.”

We have fulfilled our promise to state fully our reasons for publishing these selections; but full as this Preface is, we have been tempted, more than once, to make it a vehicle for answering some current misrepresentations of the day. We have abstained with difficulty; and shall conclude, by stating, as a summary, that the work will be published in weekly numbers, which, at the end of four weeks, may be had in parts, and, at the end of three months, in volumes; that, according to our present calculations, the volumes will be altogether six in number; and that a full index will conclude the publication.

John M. Cobbett,
James P. Cobbett.
Edition: current; Page: [xv]

[To come in next to the last page of Preface, Vol. I.]


Letter from the Queen to the King.—See this at page 32, Vol. VI. Since the publication of our Selections, there has appeared, in the Edinburgh Review, No. 135, for April, 1838, an article of eighty pages, entitled “George the Fourth and Queen Caroline—Abuses of the Press,” and purporting to be a review of a Diary written by some lady of title, of which Diary Mr. Colburn was the publisher.—This article contains a great deal of deserved censure upon the character of the English Press; and the names “anonymous slanderers” and “skulking assassins” are among the mildest applied by the reviewer to our gentlemen of “the fourth estate.” When the review appeared, it was commonly supposed to be written by Lord Brougham. That, however, is improbable, from the high compliments it pays to the Noble and Learned Lord himself.—The review, in speaking of the Queen’s trial, says:—

“After the case of the Queen was over, and while her enemies turned the current of their spite, exasperated by vengeance after their discomfiture, into the foul channels of periodical defamation, it was understood that her Majesty’s advisers were prevented from proceeding against her defamers, by the difficulties which the state of the law interposed. She suffered with the rest of the community from the abuses of the press; but from one of its consequences she was altogether exempt. Upon her firm soul the menaces of the professional defamer fell powerless; the daily and hourly attempt of those abandoned ruffians, who, knowing that the press armed them with the boundless power of publication, threaten weak minds with that universal exposure, were, in the Queen’s case, wholly fruitless; not one farthing of her money was ever expended in averting a menace or silencing a defamer, any more than in bribing a witness, or gaining an adversary; and the only sum she is ever known to have given in any connexion whatever with the press, is said to have relieved a celebrated writer from a verdict obtained against him in a court of justice, upon a matter which had no connexion whatever either with the Queen or her supporters.

P. 57.

The “celebrated writer” here alluded to we take to be Mr. Cobbett. First, because, although Mr. Cobbett did more for the Queen’s cause than all the rest of her friends, Press, “Advisers,” and all included, the anonymous person who penned the above never once names Mr. Cobbett. Secondly, because there was money expended in “averting menaces” and in “silencing defamers,” though not in bribing witnesses nor in gaining adversaries. Thirdly, because Mr. Cobbett, as one of Her Majesty’s efficient, and unsuspected “advisers,” had to do with the incurring of the charges for which the money was paid. And fourthly, that there was a verdict obtained against Mr. Cobbett during the time that he was engaged in the Queen’s cause. The Register of 1820 will be found preserving most of the important facts connected with this matter. One piece of evidence, however, we may quote here, as showing what influence Mr. Cobbett exercised in the struggle for the Queen. It comes, too, from a strong enemy, Mr. Coleridge, the poet, in a letter dated Oct. 11, 1820, referring to one of the Registers then just published:—

“The Cobbett [as the Register was called] is assuredly a strong and battering production throughout, and in the best bad style of this political rhinoceros, with his coat armour of dry and wet mud, and his one horn of brutal strength on the nose of scorn and hate; not to forget the flaying rasp of his tongue! There is one article of his invective, however, from which I cannot withhold my vote of consent: that, I mean, which respects Mr. Brougham’s hollow complimentary phrases to the ministry and the House of Lords. On expressing my regret that his poor hoaxed and hunted client had been lured or terrified into the nets of the revolutionists, and had taken the topmost perch, as the flaring, screaming maccaw in the clamorous aviary of faction, Sheriff Williams, who dined with us, premising that his wishes accorded with mine, declared himself, however, fully and deeply convinced, that, without this Edition: current; Page: [xvi] alliance, the Queen must have been overwhelmed, not wholly or even chiefly from the strength of the party itself, but because, without the activity, enthusiasm and combination, peculiar to the reformists, her case, in all its detail and with all its appendages, would never have had that notoriety so beyond example universal which (to translate Sheriff Williams into Poet Coleridge), with kettle-drum reveillée, had echoed through the mine and the coal-pit, which had lifted the latch of every cottage, and thundered with no run away-knock at Carlton-Palace.”

Allsop’s Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of T. S. Coleridge, Vol. I., p. 115. Moxon: 1836.

Nobody can doubt of whom, in particular, Mr. Coleridge and Sheriff Williams thought, when they acknowledged the “lifting of the latch of every cottage” and the “no run-away knock.” Mr. Cobbett’s private communications with Brandenburgh House (to frustrate the designs of the Queen’s false “friends”) are recorded in his History of George IV., vol ii. The Queen’s money was used; used for the printing and publishing of tens of thousands of handbills and placards, the effect of which, in cutting down the crests of the conspirators, both enemy and false friend, will be fully remembered by those now alive who were men and women at the time. The Queen’s Letter was called “treason;” the then unknown author, denounced as a “traitor;” the handbills and placards, so much worse “treason.” This printing and publishing was all paid for out of the Queen’s money; or, at least, the money was furnished by the late Mr. Alderman (since Sir Matthew) Wood. The business was managed principally by Mr. John Cobbett, as Sir Matthew knew. Sir Matthew was in frequent communication with Mr. Cobbett during the period: so that he, and Mr. Cobbett’s family, happened (at the date of the review above quoted) to be fully able to show that there was money expended; but to show, also, for what purpose expended. This occurred at the time when, as Mr. Cobbett says, he had been so far reduced in fortune as to have “but 3s. 6d. to begin the world anew.” The Queen did express her gratitude to him, and no doubt sincerely. She commanded Mr. (Sir Matthew) Wood to obtain from him a set of the Register. “You know,” said Mr. Cobbett, “the Queen wants to pay me a compliment: but it will not do for me to take any of her money in any way.” It was insisted, however, that the book should be paid for. Mr. Cobbett then fixed 30l. as the price. The Queen sent a cheque for the sum of 50l.—As for the “verdict,” which this reviewer of Edinburgh has so long kept treasured up under his kilt; the verdict was one obtained against Mr. Cobbett by a man named John Wright, in an action for libel. The defendant was poor when called upon to pay for it. But he had friends; and it was one of those, a most valued friend and excellent man, Mr. George Rogers, of Southampton, who paid the damages and costs in Wright’s action. So much for this pirce of “anonymous slander,” which may perhaps merit some of the harder words applied by the reviewer to persons of his own description. We need only add, that what is here said was published in the Champion newspaper, for May 21, 1838, and that copies of that publication were at that time sent to the Editor of the Edinburgh Review, to Sir Matthew Wood (since deceased), and to the Noble and Learned Lord to whom the public attributed the authorship of the review above quoted.—Ed.

Errata.—In Vol. V., page 41, eighth line from the bottom, the following words are omitted—“be permitted? These questions I put to your Lordship with great—.” In Vol. VI., page 781, “Political Register, December, 1834,” date should be March 22, 1834.

Edition: current; Page: [15]

Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works


Note by the Editors.—Mr. Cobbett went to France in March 1792; remained at the little village of Tilq, near St. Omers, till the 9th of August in that year, when he set out on his way to Paris, meaning to remain there during the winter. He had reached Abbeville on the 11th, and there heard of the dethronement of the King and the massacre of his guards, and could not but foresee such troubles as a man would not like to encounter, especially in company with a newly-married wife. He changed his route towards Havre-de-Grace, in order to get on ship-board to go to America, and reached it on the 15th. He travelled in a calèche, and, as the people were at every town looking out for “aristocrats” they stopped him so frequently, and the police examined all things so scrupulously, making him read all his papers in French to them, that he did not reach Havre till the 16th. He remained there a fortnight, which brings him to the 1st September, the day on which the general massacre began, of which he had heard some account from the captain of a vessel which quitted Havre later than the one in which he was, but which came up with, and spoke her on the passage. He landed in Philadelphia in the end of Oct. 1792, and went to Wilmington on the Delaware, where he found a number of French emigrants, who were greatly in want of a teacher of English, and as he was well able, he was soon in great request and had as many scholars as he could attend to. Partly from his own experience, and partly from the information derived from them, he formed his opinions on the revolution and the actors in it; but he did not put them into print till the arrival of Dr. Priestley, who, in his answers to addresses that were presented to him from political and other societies, put forth some observations against the English form of government. Then he published the following pamphlet.

When the arrival of Doctor Priestley in the United States was first announced*, I looked upon his emigration (like the proposed retreat of Cowley to his imaginary Paradise, the Summer Islands) as no more than the effect of that weakness, that delusive caprice, which too often accompanies the decline of life, and which is apt, by a change of place, to flatter age with a renovation of faculties, and a return of departed genius. Viewing him as a man that sought repose, my heart welcomed him to the shores of peace, and wished him what he certainly ought to have wished himself, a quiet obscurity. But his answers to the addresses of the Democratic and other Societies at New York, place him in quite a different light, and subject him to the animadversions of a public, among whom they have been industriously propagated.

No man has a right to pry into his neighbour’s private concerns; and the opinions of every man are his private concerns, while he keeps them Edition: current; Page: [16] so; that is to say, while they are confined to himself, his family, and particular friends; but when he makes those opinions public, when he once attempts to make converts, whether it be in religion, politics, or any thing else; when he once comes forward as a candidate for public admiration, esteem, or compassion, his opinions, his principles, his motives, every action of his life, public or private, become the fair subject of public discussion. On this principle, which the Doctor ought to be the last among mankind to controvert, it is easy to perceive that these observations need no apology.

His answers to the addresses of the New York Societies are evidently calculated to mislead and deceive the people of the United States. He there endeavours to impose himself on them for a sufferer in the cause of liberty; and makes a canting profession of moderation, in direct contradiction to the conduct of his whole life.

He says he hopes to find here “that protection from violence which laws and government promise in all countries, but which he has not found in his own.” He certainly must suppose that no European intelligence ever reaches this side of the Atlantic, or that the inhabitants of these countries are too dull to comprehend the sublime events that mark his life and character. Perhaps I shall show him that it is not the people of England alone who know how to estimate the merit of Doctor Priestley.

Let us examine his claims to our compassion; let us see whether his charge against the laws and government of his country be just or not.

On the 14th of July 1791, an unruly mob assembled in the town of Birmingham, set fire to his house and burnt it, together with all it contained. This is the subject of his complaint, and the pretended cause of his emigration. The fact is not denied; but in the relation of facts, circumstances must not be forgotten. To judge of the Doctor’s charge against his country, we must take a retrospective view of his conduct, and of the circumstances that led to the destruction of his property.

It is about twelve years since he began to be distinguished among the dissenters from the established church of England. He preached up a kind of deism* which nobody understood, and which it was thought the Doctor understood full as well as his neighbours. This doctrine afterwards assumed the name of Unitarianism, and the religieux of the order were called, or rather they called themselves, Unitarians. The sect never rose into consequence; and the founder had the mortification of seeing his darling Unitarianism growing quite out of date with himself, when the French revolution came, and gave them both a short respite from eternal oblivion.

Those who know any thing of the English Dissenters, know that they always introduce their political claims and projects under the mask of religion. The Doctor was one of those who entertained hopes of bringing about a revolution in England upon the French plan; and for this purpose he found it would be very convenient for him to be at the head Edition: current; Page: [17] of a religious sect. Unitarianism was now revived, and the society held regular meetings at Birmingham. In the inflammatory discourses called sermons, delivered at these meetings, the English constitution was first openly attacked. Here it was that the Doctor beat his “drum ecclesiastic,” to raise recruits in the cause of rebellion. The press soon swarmed with publications expressive of his principles. The revolutionists began to form societies all over the kingdom, between which a mode of communication was established, in perfect conformity to that of the Jacobin clubs in France.

Nothing was neglected by this branch of the Parisian propagande to excite the people to a general insurrection. Inflammatory hand-bills, advertisements, federation dinners, toasts, sermons, prayers; in short, every trick that religious or political duplicity could suggest, was played off to destroy a constitution which has borne the test and attracted the admiration of ages; and to establish in its place a new system, fabricated by themselves.

The 14th of July, 1791,* was of too much note in the annals of modern regeneration to be neglected by these regenerated politicians. A club of them, of which Doctor Priestley was a member, gave public notice of a feast, to be held at Birmingham, in which they intended to celebrate the French revolution. Their endeavours had hitherto excited no other sentiments in what may be called the people of England, than those of contempt. The people of Birmingham, however, felt, on this occasion, a convulsive movement. They were scandalized at this public notice for holding in their town a festival, to celebrate events which were in reality a subject of the deepest horror; and seeing in it at the same time an open and audacious attempt to destroy the constitution of their country, and with it their happiness, they thought their understandings and loyalty insulted, and prepared to avenge themselves by the chastisement of the English revolutionists, in the midst of their scandalous orgies. The feast nevertheless took place; but the Doctor, knowing himself to be the grand projector, and consequently the particular object of his townsmen’s vengeance, prudently kept away. The cry of Church and King was the signal for the people to assemble, which they did to a considerable number, opposite the hotel where the convives were met. The club dispersed, and the mob proceeded to breaking the windows, and other acts of violence, incident to such scenes; but let it be remembered, that no personal violence was offered. Perhaps it would have been well, if they had vented their anger on the persons of the revolutionists, provided they had contented themselves with the ceremony of the horse-pond or blanket. Certain it is, that it would have been very fortunate if the riot had ended this way; but when that many-headed monster, a mob, is once roused and put in motion, who can stop its destructive steps?

From the hotel of the federation the mob proceeded to Doctor Priestley’s meeting-house, which they very nearly destroyed in a little time. Had they stopped here, all would yet have been well. The destruction of this temple of sedition and infidelity would have been of no Edition: current; Page: [18] great consequence; but, unhappily for them and the town of Birmingham, they could not be separated before they had destroyed the houses and property of many members of the club. Some of these houses, among which was Doctor Priestley’s, were situated at the distance of some miles from town: the mob were in force to defy all the efforts of the civil power, and, unluckily, none of the military could be brought to the place till some days after the 14th of July. In the mean time many spacious and elegant houses were burnt, and much valuable property destroyed; but it is certainly worthy remark, that during the whole of these unlawful proceedings, not a single person was killed or wounded, either wilfully or by accident, except some of the rioters themselves. At the end of four or five days, this riot, which seemed to threaten more serious consequences, was happily terminated by the arrival of a detachment of dragoons; and tranquillity was restored to the distressed town of Birmingham.

The magistrates used every exertion in their power to quell this riot in its very earliest stage, and continued to do so to the last. The Earl of Plymouth condescended to attend, and act as a justice of the peace; several clergymen of the Church of England also attended in the same capacity, and all were indefatigable in their endeavours to put a stop to the depredations, and to re-establish order.

Every one knows that in such cases it is difficult to discriminate, and that it is neither necessary nor just, if it be possible, to imprison, try, and execute the whole of a mob. Eleven of these rioters were, however, indicted; seven of them were acquitted, four found guilty, and of these four two* suffered death. These unfortunate men were, according to the law, prosecuted on the part of the King; and it has been allowed by the Doctor’s own partisans, that the prosecution was carried on with every possible enforcement, and even rigour, by the judges and counsellors. The pretended lenity was laid to the charge of the jury! What a contradiction! They accuse the Government of screening the rioters from the penalty due to their crimes, and at the same time they accuse the jury of their acquittal! It is the misfortune of Doctor Priestley and all his adherents ever to be inconsistent with themselves.

After this general review of the riots, in which the Doctor was unlawfully despoiled of his property, let us return to the merits of his particular case and his complaint: and here let it be recollected, that it is not of the rioters alone that he complains, but of the laws and Government of his country also. Upon an examination of particulars we shall find, that so far from his having just cause of complaint, the laws have rendered him strict justice, if not something more; and that if any party has reason to complain of their execution, it is the town of Birmingham, and not Doctor Priestley.

Some time after the riots, the Doctor and the other revolutionists who had had property destroyed, brought their actions for damages against the town of Birmingham, or rather against the hundred of which that town makes a part. The Doctor laid his damages at 4122l. 11s. 9d. sterling, of which sum 420l. 15s. was for works in manuscript, which, he said, had been consumed in the flames. The trial of this cause took up nine hours: the jury gave a verdict in his favour, but curtailed the damages to 2502l. 18s. It was rightly considered that the imaginary value of the manuscript works ought not to have been included in the damages; because Edition: current; Page: [19] the Doctor being the author of them, he in fact possessed them still, and the loss could be little more than a few sheets of dirty paper. Besides, if they were to be estimated by those he had published for some years before, their destruction was a benefit instead of a loss, both to himself and his country. The sum, then, of 420l. 15s. being deducted, the damages stood at 3701l. 16s. 9d.; and it should not be forgotten, that even a great part of this sum was charged for an apparatus of philosophical instruments, which, in spite of the most unpardonable gasconade of the philosopher, can be looked upon as a thing of imaginary value only, and ought not to be estimated at its cost, any more than a collection of shells or insects, or any other of the frivola of a virtuoso.

Now it is most notorious, that actions for damages are always brought for much higher sums than are ever expected to be recovered. Sometimes they are brought for three times the amount of the real damage sustained; sometimes for double, and sometimes for only a third more than the real damage. If we view, then, the Doctor’s estimate in the most favourable light, if we suppose that he made but the addition of one third to his real damages, the sum he ought to have received would be no more than 2467l. 17s. 10d., whereas he actually received 2502l. 18s., which was 35l. 0s. 2d. more than he had a right to expect. And yet he complains that he has not found protection from the laws and government of his country! If he had been the very best subject in England, in place of one of the very worst, what could the laws have done more for him? Nothing certainly can be a stronger proof of the independence of the courts of justice, and of the impartial execution of the laws of England, than the circumstances and result of this cause. A man who had for many years been the avowed and open enemy of the Government and constitution, had his property destroyed by a mob who declared themselves the friends of both, and who rose up against him because he was not. This mob were pursued by the Government, whose cause they thought they were defending; some of them suffered death, and the inhabitants of the place where they assembled were obliged to indemnify the man whose property they had destroyed. It would be curious to know what sort of protection this reverend Doctor, this “friend of humanity,” wanted. Would nothing satisfy him but the blood of the whole mob? Did he wish to see the town of Birmingham, like that of Lyons, razed, and all its industrious and loyal inhabitants butchered, because some of them had been carried to commit unlawful excesses, from their detestation of his wicked projects? Birmingham has combated against Priestley. Birmingham is no more. This, I suppose, would have satisfied the charitable modern philosopher, who pretended, and who the Democratic Society say, did “return to his enemies blessings for curses.” Woe to the wretch that is exposed to the benedictions of a modern philosopher! His “dextre vengresse” is ten thousand times more to be feared than the bloody poniard of the assassin: the latter is drawn on individuals only, the other is pointed at the human race. Happily for the people of Birmingham, these blessings had no effect; there was no National Convention, Revolutionary Tribunal, or guillotine,* in England.

Edition: current; Page: [20]

As I have already observed, if the Doctor had been the best and most peaceable subject in the kingdom, the Government and laws could not have yielded him more perfect protection; his complaint would, therefore, be groundless, if he had given no provocation to the people, if he had in no wise contributed to the riots. If, then, he has received ample justice, considered as an innocent man and a good subject, what shall we think of his complaint, when we find that he was himself the principal cause of these riots; and that the rioters did nothing that was not perfectly consonant to the principles he had for many years been labouring to infuse into their minds?

That he and his club were the cause of the riots will not be disputed; for, had they not given an insulting notice of their intention to celebrate the horrors of the 14th of July, accompanied with an inflammatory hand-bill, intended to excite an insurrection against the Government, no riot would ever have taken place, and consequently its disastrous effects would have been avoided. But it has been said, that there was nothing offensive in this inflammatory hand-bill; because, forsooth, “the matter of it (however indecent and untrue) was not more virulent than Paine’s Rights of Man, Mackintosh’s Answer to Burke, Remarks on the Constitution of England, &c. &c., which had been lately published without incurring the censure of Government.” So, an inflammatory performance, acknowledged to be indecent and untrue, is not offensive, because it is not more virulent than some other performances which have escaped the censure of Government! If this is not a new manner of arguing, it is at least an odd one. But this hand-bill had something more malicious in it, if not more virulent, than even the inflammatory works above mentioned. They were more difficult to come at; to have them, they must be bought. They contained something like reasoning, the fallacy of which the Government was very sure would be detected by the good sense of those who took the pains to read them. A hand-bill was a more commodious instrument of sedition: it was calculated to have immediate effect. Besides, if there had been nothing offensive in it, why did the club think proper to disown it in so ceremonious a manner? They disowned it with the most solemn asseverations, offered a reward for apprehending the author, and afterwards justified it as an inoffensive thing. Here is a palpable inconsistency. The fact is, they perceived that this precious morsel of eloquence, in place of raising a mob for them, was like to raise one against them: they saw the storm gathering, and, in the moment of fear, disowned the writing. After the danger was over, seeing they could not exculpate themselves from the charge of having published it, they defended it as an inoffensive performance.

The Doctor, in his justificatory letter to the people of Birmingham, says, that the company were assembled on this occasion “to celebrate the emancipation of a neighbouring nation from tyranny, without intimating Edition: current; Page: [21] a desire of any thing more than an improvement of their own constitution.” Excessive modesty! Nothing but an improvement! A la françoise, of course? However, with respect to the church, as it was a point of conscience, the club do not seem to have been altogether so moderate in their designs. “Believe me,” says the Doctor, in the same letter, “the Church of England, which you think you are supporting, has received a greater blow by this conduct of yours, than I and all my friends have ever aimed at it.” They had then, it seems, aimed a blow at the established church, and were forming a plan for improving the constitution; and yet the Doctor, in the same letter, twice expresses his astonishment at their being treated as the enemies of church and state. In a letter to the students of the College of Hackney, he says, “A hierarchy, equally the bane of Christianity and rational liberty, now confesses its weakness; and be assured, that you will see its complete reformation or its fall.” And yet he has the assurance to tell the people of Birmingham that their superiors have deceived them in representing him and his sect as the enemies of church and state.

But, say they, we certainly exercised the right of freemen in assembling together; and even if our meeting had been unlawful, cognizance should have been taken of it by the magistracy: there can be no liberty where a ferocious mob is suffered to supersede the law. Very true. This is what the Doctor has been told a thousand times, but he never would believe it. He still continued to bawl out, “The sunshine of reason will assuredly chase away and dissipate the mists of darkness and error; and when the majesty of the people is insulted, or they feel themselves oppressed by any set of men, they have the power to redress the grievance.” So the people of Birmingham, feeling their majesty insulted by a set of men (and a very impudent set of men too), who audaciously attempted to persuade them that they were “all slaves and idolaters,” and to seduce them from their duty to God and their country, rose “to redress the grievance.” And yet he complains? Ah! says he, but, my good townsmen,

  • “——— you mistake the matter:
  • For, in all scruples of this nature,
  • No man includes himself, nor turns
  • The point upon his own concerns.”

And therefore he says to the people of Birmingham, “You have been misled.” But had they suffered themselves to be misled by himself into an insurrection against the Government; had they burnt the churches, cut the throats of the clergy, and hung the magistrates, military officers, and nobility, to the lamp-posts, would he not have said that they exercised a sacred right? Nay, was not the very festival, which was the immediate cause of the riots, held expressly to celebrate scenes like these? to celebrate the inglorious triumphs of a mob? The 14th of July was a day marked with the blood of the innocent, and eventually the destruction of an empire. The events of that day must strike horror to every heart except that of a deistical philosopher, and would brand with eternal infamy any other nation but France: which, thanks to the benign influence of the Rights of Man, has made such a progress in ferociousness, murder, sacrilege, and every species of infamy, that the horrors of the 14th of July are already forgotten.

What we celebrate, we must approve; and does not the man who approved of the events of the 14th of July, blush to complain of the Birmingham riots? “Happily,” says he to the people of Birmingham, Edition: current; Page: [22] “happily the minds of Englishmen have a horror for murder, and therefore you did not, I hope, think of that; though, by your clamorous demanding me at the hotel, it is probable that, at that time, some of you intended me some personal injury.” Yes, sir, happily the minds of Englishmen have a horror for murder; but who will say that the minds of English men or English women either, would have a horror for murder, if you had succeeded in overturning their religion and constitution, and introducing your Frenchified system of liberty? The French were acknowledged to be the most polite and amiable people in all Europe: what are they now? Let La Fayette, Brissot, Anacharsis Cloots, or Thomas Payne himself, answer this question.

Let us see, a little, how mobs have acted under the famous Government that the Doctor so much admires.

I shall not attempt a detail of the horrors committed by the cut-throat Jourdan and his associates in Provence, Avignon, Languedoc, and Rousillon—towns and villages sacked, gentlemen’s seats and castles burnt, and their inhabitants massacred; magistrates insulted, beat, and imprisoned, sometimes killed; prisoners set at liberty, to cut the throats of those they had already robbed. The exploits of this band of patriots would fill whole volumes. They reduced a great part of the inhabitants of the finest and most fertile country in the whole world, to a degree of misery and ruin that would never have been forgotten, had it not been so far eclipsed since, by the operation of what is, in “that devoted country,” called the law. The amount of the damages sustained in property, was perhaps a hundred thousand times as great as that sustained by the revolutionists at Birmingham. When repeated accounts of these murderous scenes were laid before the National Assembly, what was the consequence? what the redress? “We had our fears,” says Monsieur Gentil, “for the prisoners of Avignon, and for the lives and property of the inhabitants of that unhappy country; but these fears are now changed into a certainty: the prisoners are released; the country seats are burnt, and”—Monsieur Gentil was called to order, and not suffered to proceed; after which these precious “Guardians of the Rights of Man” passed a censure on him, for having slandered the patriots. It is notorious, that the chief of these cut-throats, Jourdan, has since produced his butcheries in Avignon, as a proof of his civism, and that he is now a distinguished character among the real friends of the revolution.

Does the Doctor remember having heard any thing about the glorious achievements of the 10th of August 1792?* Has he ever made an estimate Edition: current; Page: [23] of the property destroyed in Paris on that and the following days? Let him compare the destruction that followed the steps of that mob, with the loss of his boasted apparatus; and when he has done this, let him tell us, if he can, where he would now be, if the Government of England had treated him and his friends as the National Assembly did the sufferers in the riots of the 10th of August. But, perhaps, he looks upon the events of that day as a glorious victory, a new emancipation, and of course will say, that I degrade the heroes in calling them a mob. I am not for disputing with him about a name; he may call them the heroes of the 10th of August, if he will: “The heroes of the 14th of July,” has always been understood to mean, a gang of blood-thirsty cannibals, and I would by no means wish to withhold the title from those of the 10th of August.

Will the Doctor allow, that it was a mob that murdered the state prisoners from Orleans? Or does he insist upon calling that massacre an act of civism, and the actors in it the heroes of the 12th of September? But whether it was an act of civism, a massacre, or a victory, or whatever it was, I cannot help giving it a place here, as I find it recorded by his countryman, Doctor Moore.

“The mangled bodies,” says he, “were lying in the street, on the left hand, as you go to the Chateau, from Paris. Some of the lower sort of the inhabitants of Versailles were looking on; the rest, struck with terror, were shut up in their shops and houses. The body of the Duke of Brissac was pointed out, the head and one of the hands was cut off: a man stood near smoking tobacco, with his sword drawn, and a human hand stuck on the point: another fellow walked carelessly among the bodies with an entire arm of another of the prisoners fixed to the point of his sword. A wagon afterwards arrived, into which were thrown as many of the slaughtered bodies as the horses could draw: a boy of about fifteen years of age was in the wagon, assisting to receive the bodies as they were put in, and packing them in the most convenient manner, with an air of as much indifference as if they had been so many parcels of goods. One of the wretches who threw in the bodies, and who probably had assisted in the massacre, said to the spectators in praise of the boy’s activity, ‘See that little fellow there; how bold he is!

“The assassins of the prisoners were a party who came from Paris the preceding evening, most of them in post-chaises for that purpose, and who attacked those unhappy men while they remained in the street, waiting till the gate of the prison, which was prepared for their reception, should be opened. The detachment which had guarded the prisoners from Orleans, stood shameful and passive spectators of the massacre. The miserable prisoners being all unarmed, and some of them fettered, could do nothing in their own defence; they were most of them stabbed; and a few, who attempted resistance, were cut down with sabres.

There never was a more barbarous and dastardly action performed in the face of the sun. Gracious Heaven! were those barbarities, which would disgrace savages, committed by Frenchmen! by that lively and ingenious people, whose writings were so much admired, whose society has been so much courted, and whose manners have been so much imitated by all the neighbouring nations? This atrocious deed executed in the street of Versailles, and the horrors committed in the prisons of Paris, will fix indelible stains on the character of the French nation. It is said, those barbarities revolted the hearts of many of the citizens of Paris and Versailles, as much as they could those of the inhabitants of London or Windsor. It is also said, that those massacres were not committed by the inhabitants of Paris or Versailles, but by a set of hired assassins. But who hired those assassins? Who remained in shameful stupor and dastardly inactivity, while their laws were insulted, their prisons violated, and their fellow-citizens butchered in the open streets? I do not believe, that from the wickedest gang of highwaymen, housebreakers, and pickpockets, that infest London and the neighbourhood, men could be selected who could be bribed to Edition: current; Page: [24] murder, in cold blood, such a number of their countrymen. And if they could, I am convinced that no degree of popular delusion they are capable of, no pretext, no motive whatever, could make the inhabitants of London or Windsor, or any town of Great Britain, suffer such dreadful executions to be performed within their walls.”

No; I hope not: yet I do not know what might have been effected by an introduction of the same system of anarchy, that has changed the airy French into a set of the most ferocious inhuman bloodhounds that ever disgraced the human shape.

From scenes like these, the mind turns for relief and consolation to the riot at Birmingham. That riot, considered comparatively with what Dr. Priestley and his friends wished and attempted to stir up, was peace, harmony and gentleness. Has this man any reason to complain? He will perhaps say, he did not approve of the French riots and massacres; to which I shall answer, that he did approve of them. His public celebration of them was a convincing proof of this; and if it were not, his sending his son to Paris in the midst of them, to request the honour of becoming a French citizen, is a proof that certainly will not be disputed.* If, then, we take a view of the riots of which the Doctor is an admirer, and of those of which he expresses his detestation, we must fear that he is very far from being that “friend of human happiness,” that the Democratic Society pretend to believe him. In short, in whatever light we view the Birmingham riots, we can see no object that excites our compassion, except the inhabitants of the hundred, and the unfortunate rioters themselves.

It was the form of the English Government, and those artificial distinctions; that is to say, of King, Prince, Bishop, &c. that he wanted to destroy, in order to produce that “other system of liberty,” which he had been so long dreaming about. In his answer to the address of “the republican natives of Great Britain and Ireland resident at New York,” he says, “the wisdom and happiness of republican Governments, and the evils resulting from hereditary monarchical ones, cannot appear in a stronger light to you, than they do to me;” and yet this same man pretended an inviolable attachment to the hereditary monarchical Government of Great Britain! Says he, by way of vindicating the principles of his club to the people of Birmingham, “the first toast that was drunk was, ‘The King and Constitution.’ ” What! does he make a merit in England of having toasted that which he abominates in America? Alas! philosophers are but mere men.

It is clear that a parliamentary reform was not the object; an aftergame was intended, which the vigilance of Government, and the natural good sense of the people, happily prevented; and the Doctor, disappointed and chagrined, is come here to discharge his heart of the venom it has been long collecting against his country. He tells the Democratic Society that he cannot promise to be a better subject of this Government, than he has been of that of Great Britain. Let us hope that he intends us an agreeable Edition: current; Page: [25] disappointment; if not, the sooner he emigrates back again, the better.

System-mongers are an unreasonable species of mortals: time, place, climate, nature itself, must give way.* They must have the same government in every quarter of the globe; when perhaps there are not two countries which can possibly admit of the same form of government at the same time. A thousand hidden causes, a thousand circumstances and unforeseen events, conspire to the forming of a government. It is always done by little and little. When completed, it presents nothing like a system; nothing like a thing composed, and written in a book. It is curious to hear people cite the American Government as the summit of human perfection, while they decry the English; when it is absolutely nothing more than the Government which the Kings of England established here, with such little modifications as were necessary on account of the state of society and local circumstances. If, then, the Doctor is come here for a change of government and laws, he is the most disappointed of mortals. He will have the mortification to find in his “asylum” the same laws as those from which he has fled, the same upright manner of administering them, the same punishment of the oppressor, and the same protection of the oppressed. In the Courts of Justice he will every day see precedents quoted from the English lawbooks; and (which to him may appear wonderful) we may venture to predict, that it will be very long before they will be supplanted by the bloody records of the revolutionary tribunal.

Happiness being the end of all good government, that which produces the most is consequently the best; and comparison being the only method of determining the relative value of things, it is easy to see which is preferable, the tyranny which the French formerly enjoyed, or the liberty and equality they at present labour under. If the Doctor had come about a year sooner, he might have had the satisfaction of being not only an ear, but an eye witness also, of some of the blessed effects of this celebrated revolution. He might then have been regaled with that sight, so delectable to a modern philosopher; opulence reduced to misery.

The stale pretence, that the league against the French has been the cause of their inhuman conduct to each other, cannot, by the most perverse sophistry, be applied to the island of St. Domingo. That fine rich colony was ruined, its superb capital and villas reduced to ashes, Edition: current; Page: [26] one half of its inhabitants massacred, and the other half reduced to beggary, before an enemy ever appeared on the coast. No: it is that system of anarchy and blood that was celebrated at Birmingham, on the 14th of July 1791, that has been the cause of all this murder and devastation.

Nor let the Doctor pretend that this could not be foreseen. It was foreseen, and foretold too, from the very moment a part of the deputies to the States General were permitted to call themselves a National Assembly. In proof of this, I could mention a dozen publications that came out under his own eye; but I shall content myself with giving a short extract from a speech in the British Parliament, which is the more proper on this occasion, as it was delivered but a few weeks before the period of the riots.

“The Americans,” said Mr. Burke, “have what was essentially necessary for freedom: they have the phlegm of the good-tempered Englishmen—they were fitted for republicans by a republican education. Their revolution was not brought about by base and degenerate crimes; nor did they overturn a government for the purposes of anarchy; but they raised a republic, as nearly representing the British Government as it was possible. They did not run into the absurdity of France, and by seizing on the rights of man, declare that the nation was to govern the nation, and Prince Prettyman to govern Prince Prettyman. There are in Canada many of the ancient inhabitants; will it be proper to give them the French Constitution? In my opinion, there is not a single circumstance that recommends the adoption of any part of it, for the whole is abominably bad, the production of folly, not wisdom—of vice, not virtue; it contains nothing but extremes, as distant from each other as the poles—the parts are in eternal opposition to each other—it is founded on what is called the rights of man; but, to my conviction, it is founded on the wrongs of man; and I now hold in my hand, an example of its effects on the French colonies. Domingo, Guadaloupe, and the other French islands, were rich, happy, and growing in strength and consequence, in spite of the three last distressing wars, before they heard of the new doctrine of the rights of man; but these rights were no sooner arrived at the islands than any spectator would have imagined that Pandora’s box had been opened, and that hell had yawned out discord, murder, and every mischief; for anarchy, confusion, and bloodshed, raged every where; it was a general summons for

  • Black spirits and white,
  • Blue spirits and gray,
  • Mingle, mingle, mingle,
  • You that mingle may.”

“When the Assembly heard of these disorders, they ordered troops to quell them; but it proves that the troops have joined the insurgents, and murdered their commander. I look on the revolution with horror and detestation; it is a revolution of consummate folly, formed and maintained by every vice.”

But perhaps the Doctor’s intense studies, “his continual labours for the good of mankind,” might not leave him time to peruse the debates of Parliament; however, we may fairly presume, that he read the letters addressed to himself; and if so, he has read the following passage: “You think that a neighbouring nation is emancipated from tyranny, and that a company of Englishmen may laudably express their joy on the occasion. Were your premises true, I would allow your conclusion. But let us wait the event. Philosophers should not be too credulous, or form their determinations too rashly. It is very possible that all the magnificent schemes of your august diet in France may be succeeded by a ridiculous, a villanous, or a bloody catastrophe.”

Either he foresaw the consequences of the French revolution, or he did not foresee them: if he did not, he must confess that his penetration was far inferior to that of his antagonists, and even to that of the Edition: current; Page: [27] multitude of his countrymen; for they all foresaw them. If he did foresee them, he ought to blush at being called the “friend of human happiness;” for, to foresee such dreadful calamities, and to form a deliberate plan for bringing them upon his country, he must have a disposition truly diabolical. If he did not foresee them, he must have an understanding little superior to that of an idiot; if he did, he must have the heart of a Marat. Let him choose.

But it is pretty clear that he foresaw the consequences, or, at least, that he approves of them; for, as I have observed above, he sent his son into France, in the very midst of the massacres, to request the honour of becoming a French Citizen; and in his answers to the addressers at New York, he takes good care to express his disapprobation of the war pursued by his country (which he calls an infatuation), because its manifest tendency is to destroy that hydra, that system of anarchy which is the primary cause. Besides, is not his emigration itself a convincing proof that his opinion still remains the same? If he found himself mistaken, he would confess his error; at least tacitly, by a change of conduct. Has he done this? No: the French revolution is his system, and sooner than not see it established; I much question if he would not with pleasure see the massacre of all the human race.

Even suppose his intended plan of improvement had been the best in the world, instead of the worst, the people of England had certainly a right to reject it. He claims as an indubitable right, the right of thinking for others, and yet he will not permit the people of England to think for themselves. Paine says, “What a whole nation wills, it has a right to do.” Consequently, what a whole nation does not will, it has a right not to do. Rousseau says, “The majority of a people has a right to force the rest to be free:” but even the “insane Socrates of the National Assembly” has never, in all his absurd reveries, had the folly to pretend that a club of dissenting malcontents has a right to force a whole nation to be free. If the English choose to remain slaves, bigots, and idolaters, as the Doctor calls them, that was no business of his: he had nothing to do with them. He should have let them alone; and perhaps in due time, the abuses of their Government would have come to that “natural termination,” which he trusts, “will guard against future abuses.” But no said the Doctor, I will reform you—I will enlighten you—I will make you free. You shall not, say the people. But I will! says the Doctor. By——, say the people, you shall not! “And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and got him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

I now beg the reader’s company, in a slight review of the addresses delivered to the Doctor by the several patriotic societies at New York.*

It is no more than justice to say of these addresses, in the lump, that they are distinguished for a certain barrenness of thought and vulgarity of style, which, were we not in possession of the Doctor’s answer, might be thought inimitable. If the parties were less known, one might be tempted to think that the addressers were dull by concert; and that, by Edition: current; Page: [28] way of retaliation, the Doctor was resolved to be as dull as they. At least, if this was their design, nobody will deny but they have succeeded to admiration.

“The Governments of the old world,” say the Democratic Society, “are most of them now basely combined to prevent the establishment of liberty in France, and to effect the total destruction of the rights of man.”

What! The rights of man yet? I thought that liberty and equality, the rights of man, and all that kind of political cant, had long been proved to be the grossest imposition. Are there people in this country, and people who pretend to possess a superior degree of sagacity too, who are dolts enough to talk about French liberty, after what passes under their eyes every day? Is not every Frenchman in the United States obliged to go to a justice of the peace every two or three months, to have a certificate of residence? And must he not have this certificate sworn to, and signed by four inhabitants besides the magistrate? And must he not pay for this too? And if he fails in any part of this slavish ceremony, or goes into Canada or Florida, is he not marked out for the guillotine? An Englishman may come when he will, stay as long as he pleases, go where he will, and return when he will to his own country, without finding any law of proscription or confiscation issued against him or his property. Which has the most liberty?

I thought no one would dun our ears with French liberty, after the decree which obliges every merchant, under the pain of the guillotine, to make a declaration of all his property in foreign countries, and to give up his right and title of such property to the Convention; and not only to make a declaration of his own, but of his neighbours’ property also, under the same penalty! It has long been customary to express a detestation of the tyranny and cruelty of the Inquisition: but the Inquisition, in the height of its severity, was never half so tyrannical as this decree. This is the boasted “Gallic liberty.” Let us hear their own definition of this liberty. “Liberty,” says Barrere, in his report to the National Convention, on the 3rd of January 1794, “Liberty, my dear fellow citizens, is a privileged and general creditor: not only has she a right to our property and persons, but to our talents and courage, and even to our thoughts!” Oh, liberty! what a metamorphosis hast thou undergone in the hands of these political jugglers!

If this be liberty, may God in his mercy continue me the most abject slave! If this be liberty, who will say that the English did not do well in rejecting the Doctor’s plan for making them free? The democrats of New York accuse the allies of being combined to prevent the establishment of liberty in France, and to destroy the rights of man; when it is notorious that the French themselves have banished the very idea of the thing from amongst them; that is to say, if they ever had an idea of it. Nay, the author of the Rights of Man,* and the authoress of the Rights of Women, are at this moment starving in a dirty dungeon, not a hundred paces from the sanctum sanctorum of liberty and equality; and the poor unfortunate goddess herself is guillotined! So much for liberty and the rights of man.

Edition: current; Page: [29]

The Tammany Society comes forward in boasting of their “venerable ancestors,” and, says the Doctor in his answer, “Happy would our venerable ancestors have been to have found, &c.” What! were they the Doctor’s ancestors too? I suppose he means in a figurative sense. But certainly, gentlemen, you made a faux pas in talking about your ancestors at all. It is always a tender subject, and ought to be particularly avoided by a body of men “who disdain the shackles of tradition.”

You say that in the United States “there exists a sentiment of free and candid inquiry, which disdains the shackles of tradition, preparing a rich harvest of improvement, and the glorious triumph of truth.” Knowing the religious, or rather irreligious principles of the person to whom this sentence was addressed, it is easy to divine its meaning. But, without flattery, your zeal surpasses that of the Doctor himself: he disdains revelation only; the authority of Moses, David, and a parcel of folks that nobody knows; but you disdain what your fathers have told you: which is the more surprising, as, at the same time, you boast of your “venerable ancestors.” People should always endeavour to be consistent, at least when interest does not interfere. However, suppose the shackles of revelation and tradition both completely shaken off, and the infidel Unitarian system established in their stead, what good would the country derive from it? This is certainly worth inquiry, because a thing that will do no good, can be good for nothing. The people of these States are, in general, industrious, sober, honest, humane, charitable, and sincere; dutiful children, and tender parents. This is the character of the people, and who will pretend to say that the Gospel, the belief of which has chiefly contributed to their acquiring of this amiable character, ought to be exchanged for the atheistical or deistical doctrines of a Monvel* or a Priestley? For my part, I can see nothing to induce us to try the experiment; no, not even “the rich harvest of improvement, and the glorious triumph of truth,” that you say it promises. We know the truth already; we want no improvement in religious knowledge; all Edition: current; Page: [30] we want is, to practise better what we know; and it is not likely that our practice would be improved by disdaining the theory.

You allow that a public and sincere spirit of toleration exists among us. What more is wanted? If you were to effect a general disdain of the shackles of tradition, perhaps the “rich harvest” would be a corruption of manners, discord, persecution, and blood. The same causes generally produce the same effects: to see and be terrified at those effects, we have only to turn our eyes to that distracted country, where it must be allowed, even by yourselves, the shackles of tradition are sufficiently disdained.

Doctor Priestley professes to wish for nothing but toleration, liberty of conscience. But let us contrast these moderate and disinterested professions with what he has advanced in some of his latest publications. I have already taken notice of the assertion in his letters to the students of Hackney, “that the established church must fall.” In his address to the Jews (whom, by-the by, he seems to wish to form a coalition with), he says, “all the persecutions of the Jews have arisen from Trinitarian, that is to say, idolatrous Christians.” Idolatrous Christians! It is the first time, I believe, these two words were ever joined together. Is this the language of a man who wanted only toleration, in a country where the established church, and the most part of the Dissenters also, are professedly Trinitarians? He will undoubtedly say, that the people of this country are idolaters too, for there is not one out of a hundred at most, who does not firmly believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Such a man complains of persecution with a very ill grace. But suppose he had been persecuted for a mere matter of opinion; it would be only receiving the measure he has meted to others. Has he not approved of the unmerciful persecution of the unfortunate and worthy part of the French clergy? men as far surpassing him in piety and utility as in suffering. They did not want to coin a new religion; they wanted only to be permitted to enjoy, without interruption, the one they had been educated in, and that they had sworn, in the most solemn manner, to continue in to the end of their lives. The Doctor says, in his address to the Methodists, “You will judge whether I have not reason and Scripture on my side. You will at least be convinced, that I have so persuaded myself: and you cannot but respect a real lover of truth, and a desire to bring others into it, even in the man who is unfortunately in an error.” Does not this man blush at approving of the base, cowardly, and bloody persecutions that have been carried on against a set of men, who erred, if they did err at all, from an excess of conscientiousness? He talks of persecution, and puts on the mockery of woe: theirs has been persecution indeed. Robbed, dragged from their homes, or obliged to hide from the sight of man, in continual expectation of the assassin’s stab; some transported like common felons, for ever; and a much greater number butchered by those to whose happiness their lives had been devoted, and in that country that they loved too well to disgrace by their apostacy! How gladly would one of these unfortunate conscientious men have escaped to America, leaving fortune, friends, and all behind him! and how different has been the fate of Dr. Priestley! Ah, gentlemen! do not let us be deceived by false pretenders; the manner of his emigration is of itself a sufficient proof that the step was not necessary to the enjoyment of “protection from violence.”

You say he has “long disinterestedly laboured for his country.” ’Tis true he says so, but we must not believe him more disinterested than Edition: current; Page: [31] other reformers. If toleration had been all he wanted; if he had contented himself with the permission of spreading his doctrines, he would have found this in England, or in almost any other country, as well as here. The man that wants only to avoid persecution, does not make a noisy and fastidious display of his principles, or attack with unbridled indecency the religion of the country in which he lives. He who avoids persecution, is seldom persecuted.

  • “The lifted axe, the agonizing wheel,
  • Luke’s iron crown and Damien’s bed of steel,
  • To men remote from pow’r but rarely known,
  • Leave reason, faith, and conscience all our own.”

But the Doctor did not want to be remote from power or profit either; for in his sermon on the test laws, he proposes “to set apart one church for the Dissenters in every considerable town, and a certain allotment of tithes for their minister, proportioned to the number of Dissenters in the district.” A very modest and disinterested request truly! Was this man seeking peace and toleration only? He thinks these facts are unknown in America. After all his clamour against tithes, and his rejoicing on account of their abolition in France, he had no objection to their continuing in England, provided he came in for a share. Astonishing disinterestedness!

In this country there is nothing to fear from the Doctor’s disinterestedness, because there being no public revenue annexed to any worship whatever, there is nothing to wrangle for; but from the disseminating of his deistical doctrine, there is much to fear. A celebrated deist in England says, that there can be no such thing as an atheist; that it is impossible: for, says he, “every one must necessarily believe that some cause or other produced the universe; he may call that cause what he pleases; God, nature, or even chance; still he believes in the efficacy of that cause, and therefore is no atheist.” And, indeed, we shall find that deism is but another name for atheism, whether we consider it in theory or in practice. That we should not be bettered by the introduction of deism or atheism, I think is a clear case. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” While this fear existed in France, there was some kind of manners, some kind of justice left; but ever since the deluded people have been taught that Jesus Christ was an infamous impostor, and the worship of him has been forbidden as “idolatrous,” the whole infernal legion seems to be let loose amongst them, and the nation appears marked out for a dreadful example to mankind: indeed some such example was necessary to cure the world of the infidel philosophy of Voltaire, Rousseau, Gibbon, Priestley, and the rest of that enlightened tribe.

We are continually exclaiming against prejudice, without attending to its effect on ourselves. I am afraid prejudice in favour of the French revolution has led Americans to approve many things which, a few years ago, they would have viewed with the utmost abhorrence, and that they would even now view with abhorrence in any other nation: and here I cannot help taking notice of an article that appeared, not many days ago, in one of our public papers. The writer is giving a list of eminent persons who have “arisen on the democratic floor,” which he concludes with Marat, St. Paul, and Jesus Christ. Is it not a most horrid blasphemy to put the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, on a footing with the bloody author of the massacres at Paris and Versailles? I hope and Edition: current; Page: [32] believe, that such blasphemers are rare in the United States; and the only way to keep them so is, for the people to reject unanimously every attempt to debase Christianity, in whatever shape, and under whatever disguise it may appear.

In the address of “the republican natives of Great Britain and Ireland, resident at New York,” we find a very extraordinary passage indeed:—“Participating in the many blessings which the Government is calculated to ensure, we are happy in giving it this proof of our respectful attachment. We are only grieved that a system of such beauty and excellence should be at all tarnished by the existence of slavery in any form! but, as friends to the equal rights of man, we must be permitted to say, that we wish these rights extended to every human being, be his complexion what it may: we, however, look forward with pleasing anticipation to a yet more perfect state of society; and from that love of liberty which forms so distinguished a trait in the American character, are taught to hope that this last, this worst disgrace to a free government, will finally and for ever be done away.” So! these gentlemen are hardly landed in the United States, before they begin to cavil against the Government, and to pant after a more perfect state of society! If they have already discovered that the system is tarnished by the very last and worst disgrace of a free government, what may we not reasonably expect from their future researches? If they, with their virtuous President, had been landed in the southern States, they might have lent a hand to finish the great work so happily begun by Citizens Santhonax and Polverel: they have caught the itch of addressing, petitioning, and remonstrating in their own country; let them scratch themselves into a cure; but let them not attempt spreading their disorder: they ought to remember, that they are come here “to seek freedom and protection” for themselves, and not for others. When the people of these States are ready for a total abolition of negro slavery, they will make a shift to see the propriety of adopting the measure without the assistance of these northern lights. In the mean time, as the Convention cannot here enter on the legislative functions, they may amuse themselves with a fable written for their particular use:—


In a pot-shop, well stocked with ware of all sorts, a discontented ill-formed pitcher unluckily bore the sway. One day, after the mortifying neglect of several customers, “Gentlemen,” said he, addressing himself to his brown brethren in general, “Gentlemen, with your permission, we are a set of tame fools, without ambition, without courage; condemned to the vilest uses, we suffer all without murmuring; let us dare to declare ourselves, and we shall soon see the difference. That superb ewer, which, like us, is but earth; those gilded jars, vases, china, and, in short, all those elegant nonsenses, whose colours and beauty have neither weight nor solidity, must yield to our strength, and give place to our superior merit.”

This civic harangue was received with peals of applause, and the pitcher (chosen president) became the organ of the assembly. Some, however, more moderate than the rest, attempted to calm the minds of the multitude; but all those which are called jordens, or chamber-pots, were become intractable; eager to vie with the bowls and cups, they were impatient, almost to madness, to quit their obscure abodes, to shine upon the table, kiss the lip, and ornament the cupboard.

Edition: current; Page: [33]

In vain did a wise water-jug (some say it was a platter) make them a long and serious discourse upon the peacefulness of their vocation: “Those,” says he, “who are destined to great employments are rarely the most happy. We are all of the same clay, ’tis true; but he who made us, formed us for different functions; one is for ornament, another for use. The posts the least important are often the most necessary. Our employments are extremely different, and so are our talents.”

This had a wonderful effect; the most stupid began to open their ears: perhaps it would have succeeded, if a grease-pot had not cried out with a decisive tone, “You reason like an ass; to the devil with you and your silly lessons.”

Now the scale was turned again: all the horde of jordens, pans, and pitchers, applauded the superior eloquence and reasoning of the grease-pot: in short, they determined on the enterprise; but a dispute arose who should be chief: all would command, but none obey. It was then you might have heard a clutter: pots, pans and pitchers, mugs, jugs and jordens, all put themselves in motion at once; and so wisely, and with so much vigour, were their operations conducted, that the whole was soon changed—not into china, but rubbish.

Let us leave the application of this fable to those for whom it is intended, and come to the address of “The Associated Teachers in the city of New York.”

From the profession of these gentlemen one would have wished not to find them among the Doctor’s addressers; and it will be for those who employ the “Associated Teachers” to judge, how far their approbation and praise of the writings of such a man is a proof of their being calculated for “the arduous and important task of cultivating the human mind.” They very civilly invite the Doctor to assist them to “form the man;” and, in his answer, he seems to hint that he may possibly accept the invitation. All I can say on this matter is, if he should embrace this profession, I hope he will be exactly as successful in forming the man as he has been in reforming him.

In the answer to the “Associated Teachers,” the Doctor observes, that, classes of men, “as well as individuals, are apt to form too high ideas of their own importance.” Never was a juster observation than this, and never was this observation more fully verified than in the parties themselves. The Doctor’s self-importance is sufficiently depicted in the quotation that I have given from his letter to the people of Birmingham; and as for the “Associated Teachers,” how familiarly soever they may talk of “the intriguing politics and vitiating refinements of the European world,” I must say, I think they know but little of what passes in that world, or they never would have larded with such extravagant eulogiums productions which, in general, have been long exploded.

As to his talents as a writer, we have only to open our eyes to be convinced that they are far below mediocrity. His style is uncouth and superlatively diffuse. Always involved in minutiæ, every sentence is a string of parentheses, in finding the end of which the reader is lucky if he does not lose the proposition they were meant to illustrate. In short, the whole of his phraseology is extremely disgusting; to which may be added, that even in point of grammar he is very often incorrect.

As a proof of what I have here asserted, I could give a thousand Edition: current; Page: [34] sentences from his writings; but I choose one or two from his answers to the addressers, as these pieces are in every body’s hands; and, not to criticise unfairly, I shall take the first sentence I come at—it runs thus:

“Viewing with the deepest concern, as you do, the prospect that is now exhibited in Europe, those troubles which are the natural offspring of their forms of government, originating indeed in the spirit of liberty, but gradually degenerating into tyrannies equally degrading to the rulers and the ruled, I rejoice in finding an asylum from persecution in a country in which those abuses have come to a natural termination, and produced another system of liberty, founded on such wise principles as, I trust, will guard against all future abuses; those artificial distinctions in society, from which they sprung, being completely eradicated, that protection from violence, which laws and government promise in all countries, but which I have not found in my own, I doubt not I shall find with you, though I cannot promise to be a better subject of this Government, than my whole conduct will evince that I have been to that of Great Britain.”

This is neither the style periodique, nor the style coupé; it is, I presume, the style entortillé; for one would certainly think that the author had racked his imagination to render what he had to say unintelligible. This sentence of monstrous length is cut asunder in the middle by a semicolon, which, except that it serves the weary reader by way of halfway house, might be placed in any other part of the sentence, to, at least, equal advantage: in fact, this is not a sentence; it is a rigmarole ramble, that has neither beginning nor ending, and conveys to us no idea of any thing but the author’s incapacity.

“Viewing with the deepest concern, as you do, the prospect that is now exhibited in Europe, those troubles which are the natural offspring of their forms of government.” What in the name of goodness does this mean? Troubles is the only antecedent that can be found to their; and the necessary conclusion is, troubles have their forms of government.

The Doctor says, in his answer to the Tammany Society, “Happy would our venerable ancestors,” as you justly call them, “have been, to have found America such a retreat to them.” It may, perhaps, be useful to the learned Doctor to know, that he ought to have said, “Happy would our venerable ancestors, as you justly call them, have been, to find America, &c.”

I grant that there is great reason to believe, that the Doctor was resolved to be as dull as his addressers; but I assert, that it is impossible for a person accustomed to commit his thoughts to paper, with the smallest degree of taste or correctness, to fall into such gross solecism, or to tack phrases together in such an awkward homespun manner: in short, he cannot be fit for even the post of castigator; and therefore it is to be hoped that the “Associated Teachers” will not lessen their “importance” by admitting him amongst them, that is to say, except it be as a pupil.

There are many things that astonish us in the addresses, among which the compassion that the addressers express for that “infatuated” and “devoted country,” Great Britain, certainly is not the least.

The Democratic Society, with a hatred against tyranny that would have become the worthy nephew of Damien,* or the great Marat himself, say, “The multiplied oppressions which characterize that Government, excite in us the most painful sensations, and exhibit a spectacle as disgusting in itself as dishonourable to the British name.”

And what a tender affectionate concern do the sons of Tammany express for the poor distressed unfortunate country of their “venerable ancestors!”—“A Edition: current; Page: [35] country,” say they, “although now presenting a prospect frightful to the eye of humanity, yet once the nurse of sciences, of arts, of heroes, and of freemen; a country which, although at present apparently devoted to destruction, we fondly hope may yet tread back the steps of infamy and ruin, and once more rise conspicuous among the free nations of the earth.”

But of all the addresses, none seem so zealous on this subject as “the republican natives of Great Britain and Ireland.”—“While,” say they, “we look back on our native country with emotions of pity and indignation at the outrages human nature has sustained in the persons of the virtuous Muir and his patriotic associates, and deeply lament the fatal apathy into which our countrymen have fallen, we desire to be thankful to the great Author of our being that we are in America, and that it had pleased him, in his wise providence, to make these United States an asylum, not only from the immediate tyranny of the British Government, but also from those impending calamities which its increasing despotism and multiptied iniquities must infallibly bring down on a deluded and oppressed people.” What an enthusiastic warmth is here! No Solemn-league-and-covenant prayer, embellished with the nasal sweetness of the Conventicle, was ever more affecting.

To all this the Doctor very piteously echoes back “sigh for sigh, and groan for groan; and when the fountain of their eyes is dry, his supplies the place, and weeps for both.”

There is something so pathetic, so irresistibly moving in all this, that a man must have a hard heart indeed to read it, and not burst into laughter.

In speaking of monarchies, it has often been lamented, that the sovereign seldom or never hears the truth; and much afraid I am, that this is equally applicable to democracies. What court sycophants are to a prince, demagogues are to a people; and the latter kind of parasites is by no means less dangerous than the former; perhaps more so, as being more ambitious and more numerous. God knows, there were too many of this description in America before the arrival of Doctor Priestley; I can, therefore, see no reason for boastings and addressings on account of the acquisition.

Every one must observe how the Doctor has fallen at once into the track of those who were already in possession of the honourable post. Finding a popular prejudice prevailing against his country, and not possessing that patriæ caritas which is the characteristic of his countrymen, he has not been ashamed to attempt making his court by flattering that prejudice. I grant that a prejudice against this nation is not only excusable, but almost commendable, in Americans; but the misfortune is, it exposes them to deception, and makes them the sport of every intriguing adventurer. Suppose it be the interest of Americans that Great Britain should be ruined, and even annihilated, in the present contest, it can never be their interest to believe that this desirable object is already nearly or quite accomplished, at a time when she is become more formidable than ever in every quarter of the globe: and with respect to the internal situation of that country, we ought not to suffer ourselves to be deceived by “gleanings from Morning Chronicles or Dublin Gazettes;” for if we insist that newspaper report is the criterion by which we ought to judge of the governments and the state of other countries, we must allow the same measure to foreigners with respect to our own country; and then what must the people of England think of the Government of Edition: current; Page: [36] the United States upon reading a page or two from the slovenly pen of Agricola?

“It is charitable,” says this democrat,* “it is charitable to believe many who signed the constitution never dreamed of the measures taking place, which, alas! we now experience. By this double Government we are involved in unnecessary burdens, which neither we nor our fathers ever knew: such a monster of a Government has seldom ever been known on earth. We are obliged to maintain two Governments, with their full number of officers from head to foot. Some of them receive such wages as never were heard of before in any Government upon earth; and all this bestowed on aristocrats for doing next to nothing. A blessed revolution! a blessed revolution indeed! but farmers, mechanics, and labourers, have no share in it; we are the asses who must have the honour of paying them all, without any adequate service. Now let the impartial judge, whether our Government, taken collectively, answers the great end of protecting our persons and property! or whether it is not rather calculated to drain us of our money, and give it to men who have not rendered adequate service for it. Had an inspired prophet told us the things which our eyes see in the beginning of the revolution, he might have met Jeremiah’s fate; or, if we had believed him, not one in a thousand would have resisted Great Britain. Indeed, my countrymen, we are so loaded by our new Governments that we can have little heart to attempt to move under all our burdens. We have this consolation, when things come to the worst there must be a change, and we may rest satisfied that either the Federal or State Governments must fall.

If “gleanings” like these were published in England, would not the people naturally exclaim, What! the boasted Government of America come to this already? The poor Americans are dreadfully tyrannized by the aristocrats! There will certainly be a revolution in America soon! They would be just as much mistaken as the people in this country are when they talk of a revolution in England.

Neither ought we to look upon the emigration of persons from England to this country as a proof of their being persecuted, and of the tyranny of the English Government. It is paying America a very poor compliment to suppose that nothing short of persecution could bring settlers to its shores. This is, besides, the most unfortunate proof that could possibly be produced by the advocates of the French revolution: for if the emigration of a person to this country be a proof of a tyranny existing in that from which he comes, how superlatively tyrannical must the Government in France be? But they say, those who emigrate from France are aristocrats; they are not persecuted; they emigrate because they hate a free country. What! do they really come to America because they hate a free country? Did the governors of Martinico, &c., make a capitulation to be sent here, to avoid going to a free country? The Democratic Society will certainly oblige the world very much in explaining this enigma.

I am one of those who wish to believe that foreigners come to this country from choice, and not from necessity. America opens a wide field for enterprise; wages for all mechanics are better, and the means of subsistence proportionably cheaper, than in Europe. This is what brings foreigners amongst us: they become citizens of America for the honest purposes of commerce, of turning their industry and talents to the best account, and of bettering their fortunes. By their exertions to enrich themselves they enrich the state, lower the wages, and render the country less dependent upon others. The most numerous, as well as the most useful, are mechanics. Perhaps a cobler, with his hammer and awls, is a more valuable acquisition than a dozen philosophi-theologi-politi-cal empirics, with all their boasted apparatus.

Edition: current; Page: [37]


The proceedings of the United Irishmen, like those of the American self-created societies, contain general accusations against every branch of the government. An advantageous distribution of the words liberty, tyranny, slavery, &c., does wonders with the populace; but the intelligent reader looks deeper, general accusations do not satisfy; he seeks for instances of oppression, before he will believe that a government is oppressive. Let us extract, then, the instances of oppression complained of by the United Irishmen, from the bombastical rhapsody in which they are buried, and see to what they amount. They tell us that Butler, Bond, Rowan, and about four or five others, were detained some months in prison; and that Muir,* Palmer, and Margarot, with two or three more, were transported; and all this (they say), for having done no more than what the good of their country dictated. I am sure the reader is very well satisfied, that these men were all guilty of the crimes laid to their charge; but to avoid disputation with respect to this fact, I shall suppose them all innocent, and then the sum total of the tyranny against which the United Irishmen exclaim, will amount to eight or nine false imprisonments, and five or six unjust sentences of transportation. This is certainly a great deal too much; may the hand be withered that ever wields a pen in its justification! but, as the United Irishmen wished, as a mean of avoiding such acts of oppression in future, to overturn their monarchical government, and establish a democratic one in its stead, it becomes incumbent on the reader, who would not be their dupe, to contrast the conduct of the government which they wanted to overturn with that of the one they intended to adopt. They have represented the British Government as being arrived at its last stage of tyranny, it will not then, I hope, be esteemed unfair, if I oppose to it the democratic Convention of France, when about the midway of its career.

It is not my intention to give a general character of this assembly; that would be superfluous: nor will I give way to that indignation which every man, who is not by nature a slave, must feel at the very mention of such a divan. General charges against any man, or set of men, as they are very seldom accurate, so they are little attended to, particularly when Edition: current; Page: [38] addressed to a reader, who is rather inclined towards the party accused. For this reason, I shall confine myself to a particular epoch, and even a particular spot. Lyons affords us the properest scene to be described on the present occasion; not because the dreadful deeds committed there surpass those at Nantz, and many other places; but because, taking place within a short space of time, they admit with more facility the form of a compact relation.

In the perusal of this relation the candid reader will make me some allowances; my taste is far from the tragic; scenes such as these must lose half their terrors when drawn by a hand like mine: Melpomene alone should record the actions of the National Convention.

Some time after the death of Louis XVI. the city of Lyons was declared, by the Convention, in a state of revolt, it was attacked by a numerous army of democrats, and after having stood a siege of above two months, was obliged to surrender. What followed this surrender, it is my intention to relate; but first, it is necessary to go back to the causes that led to the revolt; for though no earthly crime could justify the cruelties inflicted upon the brave and unfortunate Lyonnese, yet those cruelties do not appear in their deepest hue, till the pretended crimes of the sufferers are known.

By the new constitution of France,* the King could not be dethroned, unless found at the head of an army marching against his country. This was to be regarded as the highest crime he could possibly commit, and even for this he could be punished no otherwise than by being dethroned. “No crime whatever,” says the constitution, “shall be construed to affect his life.” This constitution every Frenchman had sworn, “to obey, and to maintain with all his might.” When, therefore, it was proposed to the Lyonnese, by the emissaries of the National Convention, to petition for the death of the king, they replied almost with one voice: “No; we have sworn, with all France, to maintain the new constitution with all our might; that constitution declares that no crime whatsoever shall affect the life of the king. For any thing we have yet seen or heard, we believe him innocent of every crime that has been laid to his charge. The mode of his trial is unprecedented in the annals of injustice, the Convention being at once accuser, evidence, and judge. We believe him perfectly innocent; but whether he be or not, the constitution that we have, by a solemn oath, bound ourselves to maintain with all our might, declares that no crime whatever shall be construed to affect his life; that life, therefore, we cannot, we will not demand. The rest of the nation may sport with engagements which they have called the Almighty to witness, they may add the crime of assassination to that of perjury, they may stain themselves with the blood of their innocent and unfortunate prince, the Lyonnese never will.”

Reader, you will hardly believe that this answer, so full of good sense, justice, piety, and honour, drew down on the gallant Lyonnese the most dreadful chastisement that ever was inflicted on any part of the human race. Read and be convinced.

No sooner was the determination of the Lyonnese made known to the Convention, than the latter began to concert schemes of vengeance. A numerous army was prepared, while the democratic agents of the Convention, who still had the executive authority at Lyons, spared no pains Edition: current; Page: [39] in endeavouring to drive the city to what they termed open rebellion, and thus to furnish a pretext for its destruction. The doctrine of equality, so flattering to those who possess nothing, had gained them many converts among the lower classes of the people. To these was committed all authority, civil and military, and it is hardly necessary to say that they exercised every species of tyranny that envy, revenge, and popular fury could invent. All this was borne with a degree of resignation that has been justly regarded as astonishing in people who have since exhibited such unequivocal proofs of inherent valour. A sense of more immediate danger, however, roused them from their lethargy.

There was held, every night, a meeting of the leaders among the partizans of the Convention. It consisted, in general, of men of desperate fortunes, bankrupts, quacks, the dregs of the law, apostate priests, and the like, not forgetting some who had been released from the galleys. In this infamous assembly, which took the name of Democratic Club, a plot was laid for the assassination of all the rich in one night; but this plot, notwithstanding the precautions of the conspirators, was happily discovered; the President Challier, and two others, were tried and condemned to die, the democrats were driven from all the public offices, and the former magistrates reinstated.

This act of self-preservation was called a revolt against the republic, and in consequence of it, the Convention passed* decree upon decree, bearing death and destruction against the Lyonnese. Thus, those very men who had formed a constitution, which declares resistance against oppression to be a natural right, passed an act of proscription against a whole city, because they had dared to lift their hands to guard their throats against the knives of a band of assassins!

The city now began to arm for its defence; but being totally unprepared for a siege, having neither fortifications nor magazines, and being menaced on every side by myriads of ferocious enemies, the people were backward in declaring for hostility, knowing that in that case death or victory must be the consequence. There were, therefore, but about ten thousand men who had the courage to take up arms; but the desperate bravery of these amply made up for every want. During the space of sixty days they withstood an army of fifteen times their strength, plentifully provisioned, and provided with every instrument of destruction. Never, perhaps, were there such feats of valour performed as by this little army; thrice their numbers did they lay dead before their injured city.

The members deputed from the Convention to direct the attack, left nothing untried that might tend to the accomplishment of their object. They succeeded at last, in opening a communication with their partizans in the city, and in seducing many of the mob to espouse their interest. This was the more easy to effect, as the besieged were, by this time, upon the point of starving; the flesh of horses, dogs, and cats, had been for some days their only food, and even that began to grow extremely Edition: current; Page: [40] scarce. In this situation, without the least hopes of succour, some of those who wished well to their city, and who had not borne arms during the siege, undertook to capitulate with the enemy; but these, knowing the extremities to which they were driven, insisted upon executing the decrees of the Convention, which ordered them to put to death indiscriminately, all those who had taken up arms against its authority.

The besieged, then, seeing no hopes of a capitulation, seeing the city without another day’s provision, and the total impossibility of succour from without (being completely invested on every side), had but one measure to adopt; to cut their way through their enemy, or fall in the attempt. A plan of retreat was therefore settled upon; the outposts were to be called in, and the whole were to assemble at the Vaise.

In the mean time, the deputies from the Convention, who were informed by their spies of all that was passing in the city, took care to have the road by which the retreating army was to pass, well lined with troops. The whole country round was under arms. Every person was ordered, on pain of death, not to let pass, or give shelter to, a single Lyonnese, man, woman, or child.

The out-posts were hardly called in, when their stations were taken possession of by the democratic army. Being so closely pressed, rendered the assembling more difficult; all was bustle, confusion, and terror. Not half of these who were under arms had time to join. A little corps was, however, at last formed. It consisted of between three and four thousand persons in all, headed by four field-pieces, and followed by six waggons, bearing the wreck of many a splendid fortune. Thus marched off the remains of these generous defenders of their city, bidding an eternal adieu to the scenes of their youth, the dwellings of their ancestors; resolving to die bravely, as they had lived, or find an asylum in a foreign land.

It was midnight when they began their retreat, lighted by the blaze of bombs and burning houses.——Reader, cast your eyes on this devoted city. See children clinging to their fathers, distracted mothers to their sons; wives, holding in their arms what they held dearer than life, forgetting all but their husbands, marching by their side, and braving death from ten thousand hands!

They had hardly begun their march, when a discharge of artillery, bearing full upon them, threw them into some confusion. One of their waggons, in which were several old men and some children, was set on fire by a shell. Morning coming on, they perceived themselves beset on every side; they were charged by the cavalry, exposed to the fire of a numerous artillery, harassed at every turning, fired upon from every house, every bank and every hedge. Seeing therefore no hopes of escape, they were determined to sell every drop of blood as dear as possible. They broke off into platoons, putting their wives and children in the centre of each, and took different directions, in order to divide the force of the enemy. But what were they to do against fifty times their number? The whole, about fifty persons excepted, were either killed or taken.

The victors showed such mercy as might be expected from them: not content with butchering their prisoners in cold blood, they took a pleasure in making them die by inches, and insulting them in the pangs of death. Placing several together, they killed one of them at a time to render death more terrible to the rest. Neither sex nor age had any weight with them; above two hundred women, thirty of whom had children at the breast, Edition: current; Page: [41] whom conjugal love had led to follow their husbands; more than fifty old men, whom filial piety had snatched from the assassin’s stab, were all most savagely butchered. The death of Madame de Visague deserves particular notice. This young lady was about seventeen years of age, and very near her time of delivery: a party of the democrats found her behind a hedge, to which place she had drawn her husband, who was mortally wounded. When the cannibals discovered her, she was on her knees supporting his head with her arm: one of them fired upon her with a carabine, another quartered her with his hanger, while a third held up the expiring husband to be a spectator of their more than hellish cruelty.

Several wounded prisoners were collected together, and put into a ditch, with sentinels placed round them to prevent them from killing themselves, or one another; and thus were they made to linger, some of them two or three days, while their enemies testified their ferocious pleasure by all the insulting gesticulations of savages.

Such was the fury of the triumphant democrats, that the deputies from the Convention gave an order against burying the dead, till they had been cut in morsels. Tollet, the infamous Tollet, a democratic priest (that is to say, an apostate) of Trevoux, went, blood-hound like, in quest of a few unhappy wretches who had escaped the bloody 9th of October; and when, by perfidious promises, he had drawn them from their retreats, he delivered them up to the daggers of their assassins.

Of all the little army that attempted the retreat, only about forty-six escaped; six hundred and eighteen were brought back in chains; some of them died of their wounds, and all those who were not relieved from life this way, were dragged forth to an ignominious death.

During these dreadful scenes the deputies from the Convention, who were now absolute masters of the unfortunate city, were preparing others, if possible, still more dreadful. As a preliminary step, they reorganized the Democratic Society. To this infernal rendezvous the deputy Javouges repaired, and there broached his project in a speech, the substance of which was nearly as follows: After having represented Challier as a martyr in the cause of liberty, as the hero of the republic, and the avenger of the people, he addressed himself to the assembly in nearly these terms. “Think,” said he, “of the slavery into which you are plunged by being the servants and workmen of others; the nobles, the priests, the proprietors, the rich of every description, have long been in a combination to rob the democrats, the real sans culotte republicans, of their birthright; go, citizens; take what belongs to you, and what you should have enjoyed long ago.—Nor must you stop here, while there exists an aristocracy in the buildings, half remains undone: down with those edifices raised for the profit or pleasure of the rich; down with them all: commerce and arts are useless to a warlike people, and destructive of that sublime equality which France is determined to spread over the whole globe.” He told this enslaved, this degraded populace, that it was the duty of every good citizen to discover all those whom be knew to be guilty of having, in thought, word, or deed, conspired against the republic. He exhorted them to fly to the offices (opened for receiving such accusations), and not to spare one lawyer, priest, or nobleman. He concluded this harangue, worthy of one of the damned, with declaring, that for a man to accuse his own father was an act of civism worthy a true republican, and that to neglect it was a crime that should be punished with death.

Edition: current; Page: [42]

The deeds that followed this diabolic exhortation were such as might be expected. The bloody ruffians of democrats left not a house, not a hole unsearched; men and women were led forth from their houses with as little ceremony as cattle from their pens; the square where the guillotine stood was reddened with blood, like a slaughter-house, while the piercing cries of the surviving relations were drowned in the more vociferous howlings of Vive la Republique!

It is hard to stifle the voice of nature, to stagnate the involuntary movements of the soul; yet this was attempted, and in some degree effected, by the deputies of the Convention. Perceiving that these scenes of blood had spread a gloom over the countenances of the innocent inhabitants, and that even some of their soldiers seemed touched with compunction, they issued a mandate, declaring every one suspected of aristocracy, who should discover the least symptoms of pity, either by his words or his looks!

The preamble of this mandate makes the blood run cold: “By the thunder of God! in the name of the representatives of the French people; on pain of death it is ordered,” &c. &c. Who would believe that this terrific mandate, forbidding men to weep, or look sorrowful, on pain of death, concluded with, Vive la Liberté! (Liberty for ever!)? Who would believe that the people, who suffered this mandate to be stuck up about their city like a play-bill, had sworn to live free, or die?

However, in spite of all their menaces, they still found that remorse would sometimes follow the murder of a friend, or relation. Conscience is a troublesome guest to the villain who yet believes in an hereafter; the deputies, therefore, were resolved to banish this guest from the bosoms of their partisans, as it had already been banished from their own.

With this object in view they ordered a solemn civic festival in honour of Challier. His image was carried round the city, and placed in the churches. Those temples which had (many of them), for more than a thousand years, resounded with hosannas to the Supreme Being, were now profaned by the adorations paid to the image of a parricide.

All this was but a prelude to what was to follow the next day. It was Sunday, the day consecrated to the worship of our blessed Redeemer. A vast concourse of democrats, men and women, assembled at a signal agreed on, formed themselves into a sort of a mock procession, preceded by the image of Challier, and followed by a little detached troop, each bearing in its hand a chalice, or some other vase of the church. One of these sacrilegious wretches led an ass, covered with a priest’s vestment, and with a mitre on his head. He was loaded with crucifixes and other symbols of the Christian religion, and had the Old and New Testament suspended to his tail. Arrived at the square called the Terreaux, they then threw the two Testaments, the crucifixes, &c. into a fire prepared for the purpose; made the ass drink out of the sacramental cup, and were proceeding to conclude their diabolical profanations with the massacre of all the prisoners, to appease the ghost of Challier, when a violent thunder-storm put an end to their meeting, and deferred the work of death for a few hours.

The pause was not long. The deputies, profiting by the infamous frenzy with which they had inspired the soldiery and the mob, and by the consternation of the respectable inhabitants, continued their butchery with redoubled fury. Those who led the unhappy sufferers to execution were no longer ordered to confine themselves to such as were entered on Edition: current; Page: [43] the list of proscription, but were permitted to take whoever they thought worthy of death! To have an enemy among the democrats, to be rich, or even thought rich, was a sufficient crime. The words nobleman, priest, lawyer, merchant, and even honest man, were so many terms of proscription. Three times was the place of the guillotine changed, at every place holes were dug to receive the blood, and yet it ran in the gutters! the executioners were tired, and the deputies, enraged to see that their work went on so slowly, represented to the mob that they were too merciful, that vengeance lingered in their hands, and that their enemies ought to perish in mass!

Accordingly next day, the execution in mass began. The prisoners were led out, from a hundred to three hundred at a time, into the outskirts of the city, where they were fired upon or stabbed. One of these massacres deserves a particular notice. Two hundred and sixty-nine persons, taken indiscriminately among all classes and all ages, were led to Brotteaux, and there tied to trees. In this situation they were fired upon with grape-shot. Here the cannoneers of Valenciennes, who had not had the courage to defend their own walls, who owed theirforfeited lives to the mercy of royalists, valiantly pointed their cannons against them, when they found them bound hand and foot!—The coward is ever cruel.—Numbers of these unfortunate prisoners had only their limbs broken by the artillery; these were dispatched with the sword or the musket. The greatest part of the bodies were thrown into the Rhone, some of them before they were quite dead; two men in particular had strength enough to swim to a sand-bank in the river. One would have thought, that thus saved as it were by miracle, the vengeance of their enemies would have pursued them no farther; but no sooner were they perceived, than a party of the dragoons of Lorraine crossed the arm of the river and stabbed them, and left them a prey to the fowls of the air.—Reader, fix your eyes on this theatre of carnage.—You barbarous, you ferocious monsters! You have found the heart to commit those bloody deeds, and shall no one have the heart to publish them in a country that boasts of an unbounded liberty of the press? Shall no one tell, with what pleasure you plunged your daggers into the defenceless breasts of those whose looks had often appalled your own coward hearts? Shall no one tell, with what heroic, what godlike constancy they met their fate? How they smiled at all your menaces and cannibal gesticulations? How they despised you in the very article of death?—Strewed with every sweetest flower be the grave of Mons. Chapuis de Maubourg, and let his name be graven on every faithful heart! This gallant gentleman, who was counted one of the first engineers in Europe, fell into the hands of the democrats. They offered to spare his life, if he would serve in the armies of the Convention: they repeated this offer, with their carabines at his breast. “No,” replied he, “I have never fought but for my God and my king; despicable cowards! fire away!”

The murder in mass did not rob the guillotine of its prey: there the blood flowed without interruption. Death itself was not a refuge from democratic fury. The bodies of the prisoners who were dead of their wounds, and of those who, not able to support the idea of ignominious death, had given themselves the fatal blow, were carried to the scaffold, and there beheaded, receiving thousands of kicks from the sans culottes, because the blood would not run from them. Persons from their sick beds, old men, not able to walk, and even women found in child-bed, Edition: current; Page: [44] were carried to the murderous machine. The respectable Mons. Lauras was torn from his family of ten children and his wife big with the eleventh. This distracted matron ran with her children, and threw herself at the feet of the brutal deputy Collot d’Herbois.—No mercy!—Her conjugal tenderness, the cries of her children, every thing calculated to soften the heart, presented themselves before him, but in vain. “Take away,” said he, to the officious ruffians by whom he was surrounded, “take away the she rebel and her whelps.” Thus spurned from the presence of him who alone was able to save her beloved husband, she followed him to the place of execution. Her shrieks, when she saw him fall, joined to the wildness of her looks, but too plainly foretold her approaching end. She was seized with the pains of childbirth, and was carried home to her house; but, as if her tormentors had shown her too much lenity, the sans culotte commissary soon after arrived, took possession of all the effects in the name of the sovereign people, drove her from her bed and her house, from the door of which she fell dead in the street.*

About three hundred women hoped, by their united prayers and tears, to touch the hearts of the ferocious deputies; but all their efforts were as vain as those of Madame Lauras. They were threatened with a discharge of grape shot. Two of them, who, notwithstanding the menaces of the democrats, still had the courage to persist, were tied during six hours to the posts of the guillotine; their own husbands were executed before their eyes, and their blood sprinkled over them!

Mademoiselle Servan, a lovely young woman of about eighteen years of age, was executed, because she would not discover the retreat of her father! “What!” said she nobly, to the democratic committee, “what! betray my father! impious villains, how dare you suppose it?”

Madame Cochet, a lady equally famed for her beauty and her courage, was accused of having put the match to a cannon during the siege, and of having assisted in her husband’s escape. She was condemned to suffer death; she declared herself with child, and the truth of this declaration was attested by two surgeons. In vain did she implore a respite, in vain did she plead the innocence of the child that was in her womb: her head was severed from her body amidst the death-howl of the democratic brigands.

Pause, here, reader, and imagine if you can, another crime worthy of being added to those already mentioned. Yes, there is one more, and hell would not have been satisfied if its ministers had left it uncommitted. Libidinous brutality! Javouges, one of the deputies from the Convention, opened the career. His example was followed by the soldiery and the mob in general. The wives and daughters of almost all the respectable inhabitants, particularly of such as had emigrated, or who were murdered or in prison, were put in a state of requisition, and were ordered on pain of death, to hold their bodies (I spare the reader the term made use of in the decree) in readiness for the embraces of the Edition: current; Page: [45] true republicans! Nor were they content with violation: the first ladies of the city were led to the tree of Liberty (of Liberty!) and there made to take the hands of chimney-sweepers and common felons! Detestable wretches! At the very name of democrat, humanity shudders, and modesty hides its head!

I will not insult the reader’s feelings by desiring him to compare the pretended tyranny of the British Government with that I have here related; nor will I tell the United Irishmen, that even an Irish massacre is nothing compared to the exercise of the democratic laws of France; but I will ask them to produce me, if they can, an instance of such consummate tyranny in any government, or in any nation. Queen Mary of England, during a reign of five years, caused about five hundred innocent persons to be put to death; for this, posterity has, very justly too, branded her with the surname of bloody. What surname, then, shall be given to the assembly that caused more than that number to be executed in one day at Lyons? The massacre of St. Bartholomew, an event that filled all Europe with consternation, the infamy and horrors of which have been dwelt on by so many eloquent writers of all religions, and that has held Charles IX. up to the execration of ages, dwindles into child’s play, when compared to the present murderous revolution, which a late writer in France emphatically calls “a St. Bartholomew of five years.” According to Mons. Bousset, there were about 30,000 persons murdered, in all France, in the massacre of St. Bartholomew; there has been more than that number murdered in the single city of Lyons and its neighbourhood; at Nantz there have been 27,000; at Paris, 150,000; in La Vendée, 300,000.* In short, it appears that there have been two millions of persons murdered in France, since it has called itself a republic, among whom are reckoned two hundred and fifty thousand women, two hundred and thirty thousand children (besides those murdered in the womb), and twenty-four thousand Christian priests!

And is there, can there be a faction in America so cruel, so bloody-minded, as to wish to see these scenes repeated in their own, or any other country? If there be, Great God! do thou mete to them, ten-fold, the measure they would mete to others; inflict on them every curse of which human nature is susceptible; hurl on them thy reddest thunder-bolts; sweep the sanguinary race from the face of the creation!


If such, then, are the principles of those men called Democrats, ought not every good man in this country to be very cautious how he gives them the least countenance? Ought he not to follow them in all their actions with an attentive eye, and let slip no opportunity of exposing their ambitious and destructive designs? For my part, I by no Edition: current; Page: [46] means desire to assume the dubious name of patriot; what I am doing, I conceive to be my duty; which consideration, as it will justify the undertaking, will in some measure apologize for the want of abilities that may appear in the execution.

Upon a view of the horrible revolution that at present agitates the world, we perceive that though the grand object of the democrats has been every where the same, yet their pretended motives have varied with their situation. In America, where the Federal* Constitution had just been put in movement, and had begun to extend its beneficent effects, it was impossible to talk of reformation; at least it was impossible to make the people believe that it was necessary. The well-known wisdom and integrity and the eminent services of the President, had engraven such an indelible attachment for his person on the hearts of Americans, that his reputation or his measures could be touched but with a very delicate hand. A plan of indirect operations was therefore fixed upon; and it must be allowed, that, by the help of a foreign agent, it was not badly combined. The outlines of this plan were to extol to the skies every act of the boxing legislators of France; to dazzle those who have nothing with the sublime system of “equality;” to make occasional reflections on the resemblance between this government and that of Great Britain; to condemn the British laws (and consequently our own at the same time) as aristocratic, and from thence to insinuate that “something yet remained to be done;” and finally, to throw a veil over the insults and injuries received from France, represent all the actions of Great Britain in the most odious light, plunge us into a war with the latter, put us under the tutelage of the former, and recall the glorious times of violence and plunder. Thanks to Government; thanks to the steady conduct of the executive power, this abominable plan has been disconcerted; the phalanx has been broken; but it is nevertheless prudent to pursue the scattered remains, draw them from their caballing assemblies, and stretch them on the rack of public contempt.

I do not know whether there were any of the United Irishmen, or their retainers, at the last St. Patrick’s feast, in this city; but I know that they drank to the memory of “Brutus and Franklin (a pretty couple), to the Society of the United Irishmen, to the French, and to their speedy arrival in Ireland.” After this, I think it would be cruel to doubt of the patriotism of the United Irishmen, and their attachment to the British constitution.

In these toasting times it would have been something wonderful if the sans culottes in America had neglected to celebrate the taking of Amsterdam by their brethren in France. I believe from my soul there have been more cannons fired here in the celebration of this conquest, than the French fired in achieving it. I think I have counted twenty-two grand civic festivals, fifty-one of an inferior order, and one hundred and ninety-three Edition: current; Page: [47] public dinners; at all which, I imagine, there might be nearly thirty thousand people; and as twenty thousand of them, or thereabouts, must have been married men, it is reasonable to suppose that eighteen or nineteen thousand women with their children were at home wanting bread, while their husbands were getting drunk at a civic feast.

There is in general such a sameness in those feasts, that it would be tiring the reader to describe them; and it would, besides, be anticipating what I intend to treat more at large, as soon as my materials for the purpose are collected. The grand civic festival at Reading (Massachusetts), however, deserves a particular mention, as it approaches nearer to a real French civic feast than any thing I have yet heard of in this country.

“The day was ushered in by the ringing of the bells, and a salute of fifteen discharges from a field-piece. The American flag waved in the wind, and the flag of France over the British in inverted order. At noon a large number of respectable citizens assembled at citizen Rayner’s, and partook of an elegant entertainment—after dinner Captain Emerson’s military company in uniform assembled, and escorted the citizens” (to the grog-shop, I suppose, you think?) “to the meeting-house!! where an address, pertinent to the occasion, was delivered by the Reverend citizen Prentiss, and united prayers and praises were offered to God, and several hymns and anthems were well sung; after which they returned in procession to citizen Rayner’s, when three farmers with their frocks and utensils, and with a tree on their shoulders, were escorted by the military company, formed in a hollow square, to the common, where the tree was planted in form, as an emblem of freedom, and the Marseillois hymn was sung by a choir within a circle round the tree. Major Bondman, by request, superintended the business of the day, and directed the manœuvres.”

These manœuvres were very curious to be sure, particularly that of the Reverend citizen Prentiss, putting up a long snuffing prayer for the successes of the French atheists! A pretty minister truly! There was nothing wanted to complete this feast but to burn the Bible, and massacre the honest inhabitants of the town. And are these the children of those men who fled from their native country to a desert, rather than deviate from what they conceived to be the true principles of the gospel? Are they such men as Prentiss, to whom the people of Massachusetts commit the education of their children and the care of their own souls? God forgive me if I go too far, but I think I would as soon commit my soul to the care of the devil.

Nor was the Reverend citizen Prentiss the only one who took upon him to mock Heaven with thanksgivings for the successes of the French sans culottes. From Boston they write: “It was highly pleasing to republicans to hear some of our clergy yesterday returning thanks to the Supreme Being for the successes of the good sans culottes.” Yes, reader, some of the clergy of Boston put up thanksgivings for what they imagined to be the successes of a set of impious wretches, who have in the most solemn manner abolished the religion these very clergymen profess, who have declared Christianity to be a farce, and its Founder an infamous impostor, and who have represented the doctrine of the immortality of the soul as a mere cheat, contrived by artful priests to enslave mankind. There is but too much reason to fear that many of those whose duty it is to stand on the watch-tower, whose duty it is to resist this pernicious Edition: current; Page: [48] doctrine, are among the first to espouse it; but let the clergymen of Boston remember—

  • “That those whose impious hands are join’d
  • From Heaven the thunderbolt to wrest,
  • Shall, when their crimes are finished, find,
  • That death is not eternal rest.

But they tell us that it is because the French are true republicans, that we ought to applaud them. What a sarcasm on republicanism! As if fire and sword, prisons and scaffolds, the destruction of cities, the abolition of all religious worship, the inculcation of a doctrine which leads to every crime, stifles remorse, and prevents a return to justice and humanity, were the characteristics of a true republic. If it be so, we ought to blush to call ourselves republicans.

Some of the democratic tribe have cried aloud against me, for speaking of the Dutch and French under the names of Nick Frog and the Baboon; but let them remember, that while they talk about John Bull, I must, and will be permitted to keep up the allegory,* particularly at a time when it is become more strikingly à-propos than ever. “Jupiter,” says the fable, “sent the frogs a log of wood to reign over them; but a bull being let loose in the pasture, and having trod the guts of a few of them out, they set up a terrible outcry against the stupidity and negligence of king log. Jupiter tired at last with their everlasting croakings, and determined to punish them for their ingratitude to his anointed log, sent them a huge baboon that gobbled them up by hundreds at a meal.”

Patriot Paine, the heathen philosopher, has observed that republics never marry. There is more humour than truth in this observation; for though one would imagine that the name of sister which they give to each other would be an insuperable bar to such an union, yet experience proves the contrary; for the French republic does not only marry, but is guilty of polygamy. She has already espoused the republic of Batavia (commonly called Holland), and the poor little Geneva, and she is now swaggering about like a Jack wh—e with a couple of under punks at her heels. She wanted to make love to the cheek of John Bull, but John, beast as he is, had too much grace to be seduced by her. “No,” said John, “you heathenish cannibal, I will not touch you; you reek with blood; get from my sight, you stabbing strumpet!” John was half right; for she is indeed a cruel spouse; something like the brazen image formerly made use of in Hungary, that cracked the bones, and squeezed out the blood and guts of those who were condemned to its embraces.

How happy were we in escaping a marriage with a termagant like this! we were, indeed, within an inch of it. Brissot and his crew sent out one of their citizens (who had been employed with so much success in negotiating the marriage with Geneva) to marry us by proxy, and the democrats were beginning to sing “Come haste to the wedding,” when Edition: current; Page: [49] the president, who had not burnt his bible, saw that the laws of consanguinity did not allow of a marriage between two sisters, and therefore, like a good old father of his country, he peremptorily forbad the bans. Heavens bless him for it! if he had not done this, we might long ago have seen the citizen inviting the Congress, as Pichegru does the Dutch assembly, to send him five hundred oxen for breakfast. He had already begun to scamper about our streets with his sans culottes dragoons (among whom, be it remembered, some of our democrats were base enough to enrol themselves), and he would by this time, perhaps, have ordered us, and not without reason, to call Philadelphia, Commune Affranchie.

The Convention, finding that we were not to be won by this boorish kind of courtship, began to send us billets-doux to soothe us into compliance. Among these, that which invites us to change our weights and measures* is remarkable enough to merit a particular notice. A citizen somebody had been to measure the terrestrial arc contained between Dunkirk and Barcelona, from which operation it appeared that we ought (at the invitation of the French) to divide our pound into ten ounces, our gallon into ten quarts, our day into ten hours, our quadrant into a hundred degrees, &c. &c. &c., just like Hudibras,

  • “For he by geometric scale
  • Could take the size of pots of ale,
  • And tell by sines and tangents straight,
  • If bread and butter wanted weight.”

This communication was a sort of a present by way of breaking the ice; artful gallants begin with trifles—a handkerchief, a ring, any bauble marked with the lover’s name, paves the way in affairs of love. If we had set about making the alterations, which we were invited to make, we should, undoubtedly, have been invited to divide our year according to the decadery calendar, abolish Christianity, and punish with death those who should have dared to worship “the ci-devant God.” I almost wonder that these generous enlighteners of the world, these generous encouragers of the arts and sciences, had not sent us, along with the models of weights and measures, models of their lantern-posts and guillotines. Edition: current; Page: [50] They talk about their nautical discoveries, why had they not sent us, then, a model of their drowning-boats, by which fifty women and children were sent to the bottom at a time? They might also have obliged us with an essay on the method of making bread, without taking the bran out of the flour; and how well pleased must the Congress have been with a treatise on legislative boxing!* But, as the French have all the honour of these discoveries, so, I suppose, they mean to have all the profit too; and God punish the villain that would wish to rob them of it, I say.

The Convention, in this communication, resemble Jack in the Tale of a Tub: “Flay, pull, tear all off,” say they, “let not a single stitch of the livery of that d——d rogue, John Bull, remain.” The Congress, however, have thought proper to imitate the phlegmatic good-nature of Brother Martin. “Steady, boys, steady,” said they one to another; “those fellows, there, are got keel uppermost, and they want to see us in the same plight.” I would have given a trifle for a view of the senators when they received this ten-ounces-to-the-pound proposal; the gravity of a senator surpasses what I conceived of it, if they did not run a risk of bursting their sides. The notice they have taken of it will, I hope, prevent like invitations for the future; and convince the French that our Congress is not an assembly

  • “Where quicks and quirks, in dull debates,
  • Dispute on maximums and weights,
  • And cut the land in squares;
  • Making king mob gulp down the cheat,
  • And singling for themselves the wheat,
  • Leave for the herd the tares.

I do not know whether the French are irritated at our sang froid, or at our consulting our interests with other nations, or how it is, but certainly they begin to show their good-will to us in a very odd manner. Their depredations on our commerce have already surpassed those of the English. One captain writes, “I have been robbed by them; they have broken open my trunks, and took my all.” Another says: “They have called me a damned Anglo-American, beat me, and thrown me into prison.” Another says: “They have kept me here these four months; they do what they please with my cargo; and the Lord knows what will become of me!” Another petitions the sans culotte general, and concludes with, “your petitioner shall ever pray!”—And is this all? Do they now talk of these things with the humility of slaves? No, execrations! Have they emptied their galls on the English? Is there not one curse, one poor spiteful curse, left for the sans culottes? Ye Gods! how men are sometimes ice and sometimes fire! When the English took our vessels, what patriot bosom did not burn with rage? There was nothing talked of but vengeance, war, and confiscation. Where is now all this “republican ardour,” where are all those young men who “burnt for an opportunity to defend the liberty, rights, and property of their country?” Where are all those courageous captains who entered into an association to oblige the Edition: current; Page: [51] government to declare war? Are they dead? do they sleep? or are they gone with their chief, Barney, to fight, like Swisses, for the French Convention? Last year, about this time, nothing was to be heard but their malicious left-handed complaints; a rough word or a wry look was thought sufficient to rouse the whole Union to revenge the insults they received on the high seas. They now seem as insensible to every insult as the images at the head of their vessels; submit to their fate with Christian resignation, with, “Lord have mercy upon us,” and, “your petitioners will ever pray!”

If any one wants to be convinced that the democratic outcry about the British depredations was intended to plunge us into war and misery, let him look at their conduct at the present moment. An Envoy* Extraordinary was sent to England to demand restitution, which has not only been granted, but a long wished-for commercial treaty has also been negotiated. One would think that this would satisfy all parties; one would think that this would even shut the mouths of the democrats;—but no; this is all wrong, and they are beginning to tear the treaty to pieces, before they know any thing about it; they have condemned the whole, before they know any single article of it. They were eternally abusing Mr. Pitt, because he kept aloof in the business; and, now he has complied, they say that no such thing should ever have been thought of. “What!” say they, “make a treaty with Great Britain!”—And why not, wiseacres? Who would you make a treaty with, but those with whom you trade? You are afraid of giving umbrage to France, eh? Is this language worthy an independent nation? What is France to us, that our destiny is to be linked to hers? that we are not to thrive because she is a bankrupt? She has no articles of utility to sell us, nor will she have wherewith to pay us for what she buys. Great Britain, on the contrary, is a ready-money customer; what she furnishes us is, in general, of the first necessity, for which she gives us, besides, a long credit; hundreds and thousands of fortunes are made in this country upon the bare credit given by the merchants of Great Britain.

Think not, reader, whatever advantages we are about to derive from the treaty with Great Britain, that I wish to see such a marked partiality shown for that nation, as has hitherto appeared for the French; such meannesses may be overlooked in those despicable states that are content to roll as the satellites of others, in a Batavia or Geneva, but in us it never can. No; let us forget that it is owing to Great Britain that this country is not now an uninhabited desert; that the land we possess was purchased Edition: current; Page: [52] from the aborigines with the money of an Englishman;* that his hands traced the streets on which we walk. Let us forget from whom we are descended, and persuade our children that we are the sons of the gods, or the accidental offspring of the elements; let us forget the scalping knives of the French, to which we were thirty years exposed; but let us never forget that we are not Frenchmen.


Addressed to the People of the United States, on the Treaty, and on the Conduct of the President relative thereto, in answer to “the Letters of Franklin.”

Note by the Editors.—In our selections from the “Bone to Gnaw,” the reader has seen that its author’s object was, to deter the people of America from seeking an alliance with France. In this pamphlet it was his object to reconcile them to the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with England, which was conditionally ratified on the 24th June, 1795, by the President Washington. The Federalists were in favour of a treaty with England, and the Antifederalists wanted a treaty with France: Washington was of the former party; but his Secretary of State (Jefferson) was of the latter party. The French, through their Minister, Genet, had made a proposal that France and America should join against England, and that America should cease all commercial transactions with her. In accordance with this, Jefferson made a report on commerce to Congress in the fall of 1793, recommending the “burdening with duties, or excluding, such foreign manufactures as we take in the greatest quantity; for such duties, having the effect of indirect encouragement to domestic manufactures of the same kind, may induce the manufacturer to come himself into these States.” He was thus, as far as his office would allow him, thwarting the views of the President, but he was answered by a member of Congress, who showed the folly of such a system, and who showed, too, Jefferson’s inconsistency, by quoting his Notes on Virginia, which contain this passage: “While we have land to labour, then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied, at a work-bench, or twirling the distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths, are wanting in husbandry: but, for the general operation of manufactures, let our workshops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles.”—Notes on V. Query XIX. The report was evidently aimed at England; and, to make this clear, Madison, Jefferson’s bosom friend, in January 1794, moved a string of resolutions, proposing to follow it up, by imposing a higher scale of duties on leather, hard-ware, cottons, wool, and other articles, which were those then imported from England. The resolutions were negatived; but they were more than suspected to be Jefferson’s, and, in the intercepted dispatch from the Edition: current; Page: [53] French Minister, Fauchrt, alluded to in the preface to this work as bringing to light the treachery of Randolph, he says that they were Jefferson’s. The dispute between the English and French parties had now (1794) become, not warm, but hot; the depredations of English privateers and cruisers on the vessels of Americans, were made the stalking-horse of the friends of France; and, on the 27th March, 1794, Mr. Dayton moved a resolution, that “all debts due from citizens of the United States, to the subjects of the king of Great Britain should be sequestered.” It was carried by the Lower House, but rejected by the Senate; and now, Jefferson, finding himself in a cabinet to which he was so much opposed, and against which he was even working, retired to his estate in Virginia; but, before doing so, he recommended Randolph to Washington as his successor (see Jefferson’s Life, vol. 4, p. 506). Washington attempted to stem the tide, by desiring his new Secretary to lay before Congress a report of the depredations committed by England, France, Spain and Holland, on American commerce, and, though it appeared that France had committed the greatest, still the French party moved onward; the President was abused as a traitor to his country, and a Mr. Clarke moved a resolution in the Lower House for suspending all commerce with England. While the resolution was debating, Washington, by advice of the Senate, sent Jay (Chief Justice) off to England to negotiate this famous treaty. The Lower House passed Clarke’s resolution, but the Senate rejected it; the storm thickened—but enough of this has been seen in the “Bone to Gnaw.” When the treaty arrived in America, the friends of France fell upon it and its makers, and we now see that Jefferson, in retirement, launched his execrations on it in letters to his correspondents: in one he thus invokes Madison’s pen to put down the writers on the English side—“for God’s sake take up your pen, and give a fundamental reply to Curtius and Camillus” (Life and Correspondence, vol. 3, p. 322); and, in a letter to Rutledge, he says, “I join you in thinking the Treaty an execrable thing. I trust the popular branch of our legislature will disapprove of it, and thus rid us of this infamous act, which is really nothing more than a treaty of alliance between England and the Anglomen of this country” (Life &c. vol. 3, p. 323). The following pamphlet, then, is an answer to one supposed to be written by Mr. Dallas, Secretary of the State of Pennsylvania, but published under the assumed name of Franklin. It is a defence of the treaty, of Mr. Jay, and of the President. It is one of the best in the works of “Porcupine,” and, therefore, as well as that it shows the objects that the writer had in view, we place it in these selections, observing, that it was an account of writings in this manner and at so critical a juncture, that Mr. Windham, some years after (Debate 5th Aug. 1803), said in the House of Commons, in answer to an attack on Mr. Cobbett by Mr. Sheridan: “Before I had the pleasure to know him personally, I admired the conduct which he pursued through a most trying crisis in America; where, by his own unaided exertions, he rendered his country services that entitle him to a statue of gold.”

A treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation, with Great Britain, is a thing which has been so long and so ardently desired on your part, and so often solicited by your government, that one cannot help being astonished that even the democratic, or French, faction should have the temerity to raise a cry against it, now it is brought so near a conclusion. It is true this perverse faction is extremely contemptible, as to the property they possess, and the real weight they have in the community; and their dissatisfaction, which is sure to accompany every measure of the Federal Government, is a pretty certain sign of the general approbation of those who may be properly called the people: but it must be acknowledged at the same time, that they have for partisans almost the whole of that description of persons, who, among us royalists, are generally designated by the name of mob.

The letters of Franklin are a string of philippics against Great Britain and the executive of the United States. They do not form a regular series, in which the subject is treated in continuation: the first seems to be the overflowings of passion bordering on insanity, and each succeeding Edition: current; Page: [54] one the fruit of a relapse. To follow the author step by step through such a jumble, would be to produce the same kind of disgust in you as I myself have experienced; I shall therefore deviate from the order, or rather disorder, which Franklin has found it convenient to employ, and endeavour to bring the subject before you in a less complicated point of view.

The censure of Franklin has three principal objects; the treating with Great Britain at all, the terms of the treaty, and the conduct of the President relative to the negotiation.

I. He asserts, that to form a commercial treaty with Great Britain is a step, at once unnecessary, impolitic, dangerous and dishonourable.

II. That, if forming a treaty with Great Britain were consistent with sound policy, the terms of the present treaty are disadvantageous, humiliating and disgraceful to the United States.

III. That supposing the terms of the treaty to be what every good American ought to approve, yet the conduct of the President, relative to the negotiation and promulgation of it, has been highly improper, and even monarchical, and for which he deserves to be impeached.

If Franklin has made out any one of these assertions; if he has proved, that to treat with Great Britain is unnecessary, impolitic, dangerous and dishonourable, that the terms of the present treaty are disadvantageous, humiliating and disgraceful, or that the President has pursued a conduct in the negotiation for which he deserves to be impeached, you will all do well to join the remonstrating throng, that are now hunting the President to his retreat at Mount Vernon; but if he has proved none of these; if all that he has said on the subject be mere cavilling and abuse, scolding, reviling, and execrating; if he be every where detected of misrepresentation, inconsistency, and flat contradiction; if, in short, it appears, that his ultimate object is to stir up the unwary to an indecent and even violent opposition against the Federal Government, then, if you consult your own interests, you will be upon your guard, and weigh well the consequences, before you determine on such an opposition.

I. Franklin asserts, that to form a commercial treaty with Great Britain is a step, at once unnecessary, impolitic, dangerous and dishonourable.

1. It is unnecessary, because “commercial treaties are an artificial means to obtain a natural end. They are the swathing bands of commerce, that impede the free operations of nature.” This will not detain us long; it is one of those chimerical notions that so well characterize the Parisian school. Nobody but a set of philosophical politicians ever imagined the plan of opening all the ports in the world to all the vessels in the world, “of interweaving and confounding the interests of all nations, of forming the inhabitants of the earth into one vast republic, of rendering the whole family of mankind enlightened, free and happy.” When this plan shall be put in execution with success, I will allow that commercial treaties are unnecessary, but, till then, I must contend for the contrary.

“The two countries,” says Franklin, “if necessary in their products to each other, will seek an intercourse.” This is all I wanted him to admit, to prove that an exchange of commodities between our countries is necessary; for that they have sought an intercourse with each other, and that they do now seek that intercourse more than ever, is most certain; so much so with respect to this country, that about one-half of her exports are now made to Great Britain and her dominions. But, says he, “this exchange ought to be left to itself; for the commerce Edition: current; Page: [55] of nations ought to be like the trade between individuals, who deal with those who give them the best treatment, and the best bargains.” I subscribe to the justice of the latter part of this remark with all my heart; nothing could be more convenient for my purpose; for if nations, like individuals, trade with those who treat them best, and give them the best bargains, how much better treatment and better bargains must you receive from Great Britain than from other nations, when you purchase from her three times as much as from all the rest of the world put together? But, that this extensive exchange, however necessary to both parties, should be left to regulate itself, I cannot believe; for, keeping up the comparison, the commerce of nations being like the trade between individuals, it will ever be found, I believe, that treaties are as necessary to a continuance of good understanding in the former as written contracts are in the latter.

An observation presents itself here, which must not be omitted. Franklin objects to forming a treaty with Great Britain, because, says he, “She is famed for perfidy and double dealing, her polar star is interest, artifice with her is a substitute for nature, &c. &c.” God knows if all this, and much more that he has said, be true; but, if it be, I am sure it makes strongly for a treaty, in place of against one; for proceeding still upon his own comparison, “that commerce between nations is like trade between individuals,” certainly no individual would ever think of dealing to any amount with a person famed for perfidy and double dealing, without binding him down by written articles.

Out of this observation grows another of not less importance. Franklin has taken an infinite deal of pains to persuade you that the President should have formed a treaty with France instead of Great Britain! Your commerce with France, even in the fairest days of her prosperity, never amounted to more than a fifth part of your commerce with Great Britain; and, if what Franklin says be true, France is the most magnanimous, generous, just, honourable, (humane!) rich, and powerful nation upon the earth; and can you then want a written bargain with France, when a mere trifle is the object, and none with Great Britain, when half you have is at stake? Shall it be said that you distrust France, that honourable, that rich nation? that you bind her down with “hard biting laws,” while you admit Great Britain, “whose days,” Franklin assures you, “are numbered,” to a kind of family intercourse, where the bands of affection are supposed to supply the place of law?

Franklin incautiously acknowledges, “that you repeatedly solicited a commercial treaty with Great Britain,” and this is very true. The first question put to Mr. Hammond,* on his arrival here, was to know, if he was authorized to treat on that subject. This was also the ostensible object of Mr. Madison’s famous resolutions. “To force the nations of Europe, and particularly Great Britain, to enter into commercial treaties with you.” The words, nations of Europe, were afterwards changed for Great Britain. These resolutions were a long time and are still a favourite theme of panegyric among the French faction; all the democratic societies in the Union have passed resolves in approbation of them; they have been toasted at every patriotic dinner, every civic feast, and even our Franklin himself sings forth their praises. How comes it then, that all these people now deprecate the idea of making a treaty Edition: current; Page: [56] with Great Britain? This will be no longer a secret, when patriot Madison’s real object is known, and to know this you have only to compare his resolutions with a passage in citizen Genet’s instructions. The fact is, patriot Madison had no such thing as a treaty in view; nothing on earth was further from his wishes. War was his object; but this he could not propose in direct terms, and therefore, he proposed such restrictions on the British commerce, as he was sure, if adopted, would produce a war. He failed, and Great Britain, in consenting to what he pretended was the object of his resolutions, and the President and Senate in ratifying it, are now loaded with the execrations of all his partisans. But what must be the patriot’s remorse? What will he be able to say against treating with a nation, whom he wished to force to a treaty with you?

2nd. Treaties are impolitic, because they lead to war; and, consequently a treaty with Great Britain is exceptionable on that account. This is another idea borrowed from the legislators of your sister republic, and surely it is not, for that reason, less whimsical. “Treaties lead to war,” says Franklin, “and war is the bane of republican government.” Treaties of alliance offensive and defensive lead to war, it is their object; but how treaties of amity, commerce and navigation, can lead to war; how a treaty like that under consideration, made expressly to terminate all differences in an amicable manner, to produce satisfaction and good understanding, to establish universal peace and true friendship between the parties, how a treaty like this can lead to war, is to me inconceivable. With just as much reason might it be said, that treaties of peace lead to war, that independence leads to subjugation, that liberty leads to slavery, and that good leads to evil.

“Treaties,” says our demagogue, “are like partnerships, they establish intimacies, which sometimes end in profligacy, and sometimes in ruin and bankruptcy, distrust, strife and quarrel;” and then on he goes with an abusive apostrophe (which decency prevents me from copying here) inferring that you ought, on this account, to avoid a connection, as he terms it, with Great Britain. This comparison is not so good as the last we quoted; treaties of amity and commerce do not at all resemble partnerships. “The commerce of nations is like trade between individuals;” but commercial treaties resemble contracts between individuals of separate interests, and not co-partnerships. A co-partnership implies an union of interests, a participation in profits and losses, in debts and credits. Are any of these understood by a commercial treaty? Assuredly not. In a commercial treaty two nations say: On these terms we will buy and sell, of and to each other. Had you made a treaty with Great Britain to club your merchandise and revenues, and to carry on trade under the firm of Madam Britain and Miss America, such a treaty would, indeed, have resembled a partnership, and would very probably have been attended with all the inconveniences stated by Franklin; but commercial treaties are, I repeat it, among nations what written bargains are among individuals, and the former have exactly the same tendency as the latter, that is, to render mistakes, disputes, and quarrels, less frequent.

But, however, even if treaties do lead to war, it is rather surprising to hear Franklin object to them on that account, when one-third part of his book is taken up with invectives against the President for not forming a treaty with France, the direct object of which was your taking a part Edition: current; Page: [57] with her in the present war. “The treaty proposed by citizen Genet,” says he, “was a treaty on liberal and equitable principles.” What were these liberal principles now? Citizen Genet came forward with an offer to treat, which offer, it must be confessed, contained no express desire of involving you in a war; but what were the citizen’s private instructions concerning this treaty? For it is from these that you are to judge, and not from the contents of a mere complimentary letter. What were they then?

“Citizen Genet,” says the Executive Council, “shall open a negotiation, which may become a national agreement in which two great people shall suspend their commercial and political interest, to befriend the empire of liberty, wherever it can be embraced. Such a pact, which the people of France will support with all the energy that distinguishes them, will quickly contribute to the general emancipation of the New World. But should the American administration adopt a wavering conduct, the executive council charges him, in expectation that the American government will finally determine to make a common cause with us, to take such steps as will appear to him exigencies may require, to serve the cause of liberty and the freedom of the people. The guarantee of our West India islands shall form an essential clause in the new treaty which will be proposed: the executive council, in consequence, recommend to citizen Genet to sound early the disposition of the American government, and to make it a sine qua non of their free commerce to those islands, so essential to the United States.”

Here then are the “liberal principles,” so much boasted of by the partisans of France! A treaty on these principles is what Franklin would have approved of. For not forming a treaty on these principles he loads your President with abuse, while he declares, that his objection to treaties, is “they lead to war, and war is the bane of republican government!” A demagogue, like a liar, should have a good memory.

3rd. To form a treaty of commerce with Great Britain is dangerous, he says, because “it is forming a connection with a monarch, and the introduction of the fashions, forms, and precedents of monarchical governments, has ever accelerated the destruction of republics.” To suppose this man in earnest would be to believe him guided by something below even the imbecility of a frenchified republican. It would be to suppose him almost upon a level with a member from the southward, who gave his vote against a law, merely because it appeared to him to be of monarchical origin, while at the same moment he represented a state,* whose declaration of rights says: “The good people are entitled to the common law of England, and the trial by jury, according to the course of that law, and to the benefit of such of the English statutes as existed at the time of their emigration, and which, by experience, have been found applicable to their local and other circumstances, and of such others as have been since made in England, or Great Britain, and have been introduced here, &c.” Can the people who have been so careful in preventing their future rulers from depriving them of the benefit of the laws of England, who look upon the being governed by those laws as the most inestimable of their rights, be afraid of introducing among them the fashions, forms, and precedents of England? Can it be possible, that they are afraid of introducing among them what they already possess, and what they declare they will never part with?

It is not my object to intrude on you my opinion of the fashions, forms and precedents, as Franklin calls them, of the British Government; they Edition: current; Page: [58] may be better or they may be worse than other governments; but be they what they may, they are nearly the same as your own, and they are the only ones ever adopted by any nation on earth to which yours bear the most distant resemblance; therefore, admitting, for a moment, what Franklin says to be true, “that you should make treaties with no nation whose fashions and forms are different from your own,” it follows of course, that, if you ought not on this account to make treaties with Great Britain, you ought to do it with no nation in the world.

But this would not suit the purpose of Franklin, who, at the same time that he reprobates the idea of making a treaty with Great Britain, inculcates the propriety and even necessity of making one with France. “If foreign connections are to be formed,” says he, “they ought to be made with nations whose influence and example would not poison the fountain of liberty, and circulate the deleterious streams to the destruction of the rich harvest of our revolution—tell me your company, and I will tell you who you are.” And then he tells us, that “there is not a nation in Europe, with an established government, whose example should be our imitation, but that France is our natural ally; that she has a government congenial with our own, and that there can be no hazard of introducing from her, principles and practices repugnant to freedom.” Take care what you are about, Mr. Franklin! If there be none of the established governments in Europe congenial to your own, the inevitable conclusion is, that neither you nor your sister republic have an established government! Do you begin to perceive the fatal effects of your want of memory?

But, are you governed by an assembly of ignorant caballing legislators? An assembly of Neros, whose pastime is murder, who have defied the God of Heaven, and, in idea, have snatched the thunder from his hand to hurl it on a crouching people? And do you resemble the republican French? Have you cast off the very semblance of virtue and religion? Do you indeed resemble those men of blood, those profligate infidels, who, uniting the frivolity of the monkey to the ferocity of the tiger, can go dancing to the gallows, or butchering their relations to the air of ah! ca ira? If you do, you have not much to fear from the introduction of the fashions, forms, and precedents of other nations.

Another source of danger, that Franklin has had the sagacity to discover in treating with Great Britain, is, that she “meditates your subjugation, and a treaty will give her a footing amongst you which she had not before, and facilitate her plans.” The executive council of France ordered citizen Genet to tell you something of this sort, in order to induce you to embark in the war for the liberty and happiness of mankind. “In this situation of affairs,” says the executive council, “when the military preparations in Great Britain become every day more serious, we ought to excite, by all possible means, the zeal of the Americans, who are as much interested as ourselves in disconcerting the destructive projects of George III., in which they are probably an object.” I beseech you to pay attention to this passage of the instructions. When military preparations were making against France, she wanted your aid, and so the good citizen was ordered to tell you that you were the object of those preparations. The citizen was ordered to tell you a falsehood; for the war has now continued three years, and George III. has not made the least attempt against your independence.

You have the surest of all guarantees that Great Britain will never attempt Edition: current; Page: [59] any thing against your independence, her interest. I agree with Franklin, that “her interest is the main-spring of all her actions, and that, had not her interest been implicated, the commercial relation between you and her would long since have been destroyed.” Her interest will ever dictate to her to keep up that relation, and certainly making an attempt on your independence is not the way to do that; for, as to her succeeding in such an attempt, I think every American will look on that as impossible. The idea of your “again becoming colonies of Great Britain,” may be excused in Franklin and the other stipendiaries of the French republic; but an American, who holds the good of his country in higher estimation than a bundle of assignats, and who entertains such a disgraceful belief, must have the head of an idiot and the heart of a coward.

Besides, has not our demagogue himself given a very good reason for your having nothing to apprehend from Great Britain? “Happily for this country,” says he, “the days of that corrupt monarchy are numbered; for already has the impetuous valour of our insulted French brethren rushed like a torrent upon the Dutch Provinces, and swept away the dykes of aristocracy. Perhaps Heaven will direct their next steps to Great Britain itself, and by one decisive stroke, relieve the world from the miseries which that corrupt government has too long entailed upon mankind.” I shall not stop here to prove, that it was not an act of a corrupt government to frame such laws, as the people of these states have bound their rulers never to depart from; nor have I time to prove, that peopling the United States, changing an uncouth wilderness into an extensive and flourishing empire, in little more than a century, was not entailing miseries upon mankind. I hasten to my subject; and, I think, I need take no great deal of pains to prove to you, that, if Great Britain be in the situation in which Franklin has described her, you have very little to fear from her. A nation whose “days are numbered,” and particularly who is in continual expectation of a domiciliary visit from the French, is rather to be pitied than feared.

And yet this same Franklin, who tells you that the “days of Great Britain are numbered, that she is upon the point of annihilation, and that nothing can save her but repentance in sackcloth and ashes;” this same Franklin who says all this, and much more to the same purpose; this same Franklin winds up almost every one of his letters in declaring, that you have every thing to fear from her, and that nothing on earth can save you but France! “That gallant nation, whose proffers we have neglected, is the sheet-anchor who sustains our hopes, and should her glorious exertions be incompetent to the great object she has in view, we have little to flatter ourselves with from the faith, honour, or justice of Great Britain. The nation on whom our political existence depends we have treated with indifference bordering on contempt.—Citizens, your only security depends upon France, and by the conduct of your government, that security has become precarious.” Now before I go any further, I shall bring another sentence from Franklin, which will certainly give you a favourable idea of the veracity and consistency of that demagogue. “Insulated as we are, not an enemy near to excite apprehension, and our products such as are indispensable, we need neither the countenance of other countries, nor their support!” What, no enemy near to excite apprehension, no need of support, and yet “France is the sheet-anchor of your hopes!” and yet “your political existence Edition: current; Page: [60] depends upon her,” and yet, because your government has refused to make a common cause with her, “your security has become precarious:” To a hireling writer nothing is so necessary as memory.

If Great Britain had really been so foolish as to form a design upon your independence, and your political existence had depended upon France, it would, I believe, have been at an end long before this time. Citizen Genet was ordered to promise you, that his country would “send to the American ports a sufficient force to put them beyond insult;” but, if they had defended your possessions no better than they have their own, they would have brought you into a poor plight. If the fleet, they were so good as to offer you, had been no more successful than the others they have sent out, it might as well have remained at home, blocked up, as their fleets now are, and left you to the defence of your own privateers. They have given but a poor sample of their protecting talents, either at home or abroad. Letting two-thirds of their colonies be taken from them, and making war upon the rest themselves, is not the way to convince me that you would have been safe under their protection. Nobody but a madman would ever commit his house to the care of a notorious incendiary.

Franklin proceeds exactly in the manner of citizen Genet (of whom he is a pupil, as we shall see by-and-by): First, he tells you that “Great Britain has contemplated either your misery or subjugation, and that armaments were made to this end.” Then he tells you that “France alone has saved you; that she is now fighting your battles; that you owe her much; that she gave you independence, and that she alone is able to preserve it to you.” After this, fearing that these weighty considerations may not have the desired effect, he has recourse to the last trick in the budget of a political mountebank, menaces. He tells you dreadful tales about the resentment of France, and this he makes a third source of danger in treating with Great Britain.

“The conduct of the French republic,” says he, “towards us has been truly magnanimous, and, in all probability, she would have made many sacrifices to preserve us in a state of peace, if we had demeaned ourselves towards her with becoming propriety; but can we calculate upon her attachment, when we have not only slighted but insulted her? To enter into a treaty with Great Britain at this moment, when we have evaded a treaty with France; to treat with an enemy against whom France feels an implacable hatred, an enemy who has neglected no means to desolate that country, and crimson it with blood, is certainly insult.” Then on he goes to terrify you to death. “Citizens of America,” says he, “sovereigns of a free country, your hostility to the French republic (in making a treaty with Great Britain, he means) has lately been spoken of in the National Convention, and a motion for an inquiry into it has been only suspended from prudential motives.—The book of account may soon be opened against you—what then, alas! will be your prospects?—To have your friendship questioned by that nation, is, indeed, alarming!”—There spoke the Frenchman! there broke forth the vanity of that vaunting republic!

The above are certainly the most unfortunate expressions that ever poor demagogue launched forth. What he has here said, completely destroys the position he meant it to support. If you must be so cautious in your demeanour towards the French republic, if you dare treat with no nation against whom she feels an implacable hatred, if to treat with a Edition: current; Page: [61] nation that has endeavoured to desolate that country, is to expose your conduct to an inquiry in the National Convention; if to have your friendship questioned by that nation is an alarming circumstance; if to refuse treating with her, when and how she pleases, is to open the doomsday-book of account against you; if all this be so, I can see no reason for apprehensions on account of your independence, for you are no more than mere colonies of France. Your boasted revolution is no more than a change of masters.

The fact is, as you stand in no need of the protection of France, so you have no cause to fear her resentment. She may grumble curses against you, but speak out she will not. She dares not, she dares not make a second attempt to overturn your Federal Government, by appealing from “the President to the Sovereign People.” You are “the sheetanchor” of her hopes, and not she of yours. To you she clings in her shipwrecked condition, to you her famished legions look for food, and to you her little pop-gun fleets fly for shelter from the thundering foe. What have you then to expect, what to fear from a nation like this? Nothing, alas! but her insidious friendship.

4th. Franklin asserts that it is dishonourable to treat with Great Britain; “because,” says he, “her king is a tyrant that invaded our territory, and carried on war against us.” He seems to have made a small mistake here; for, at the time the king of Great Britain invaded your territory, it was his territory, and you his loving subjects; at least, you all declared so. However, without recalling circumstances, that can be of no use in the present discussion, admitting all that has been said on this subject to be true; that the fault was entirely on the side of Great Britain, that all her conduct was marked with duplicity and cruelty, and all yours with frankness and humanity; admitting all this, and that is admitting a great deal, yet, how long has it become a principle in politics, that a nation, who has once done an injury to another, is never after to be treated with upon a friendly footing? Is this a maxim with any other State in the world? How many times have you seen France and England, after the most bloody contests, enter into an amicable treaty of commerce, for their mutual advantage? Have they not done so since the American war? and will they not do so again as soon as the present war is over? Nay, has not France very lately, unmindful of her promises and oaths, entered into a treaty of amity, and almost alliance, with his Royal Majesty of Prussia, who had invaded her territory, without having the least shadow of excuse for so doing? Is it for you alone, then, to sacrifice your interest to your vengeance, or rather to the vengeance of France? Are you to make everlasting hatred an article of your political creed because she wills it?

To this old grudge, Franklin adds some injuries recently received from Great Britain. The first of these is her depredations on your commerce. To urge the depredations on your commerce as a reason against treating, is to find fault with a thing for being calculated to accomplish its object; by treating, you have guarded against such depredations for the future, and have obtained a compensation for the past. I shall enter more fully into this subject when I come to speak of the terms of the treaty; at present it is necessary to speak of the depredations, only as they render a treaty with Great Britain dishonourable.

In the first place, the injury does not appear to me to be of so outrageous a nature as Franklin would persuade you it is. It was possible, at least, that the orders of the British Court might be misunderstood of Edition: current; Page: [62] misconstrued. It is also possible that great part of the vessels seized were really employed in a commerce that would justify their seizure by the law of nations. Admitting, however, that the British cruisers and Courts of Admiralty have done no more than fulfil the intention of their king, and that none of your captured vessels were employed in a contraband trade, yet I cannot allow that the depredations committed on your trade is a sufficient reason, or, indeed, any reason at all, for your not treating with the nation who has committed them. To maintain the contrary, is to adopt that system of eternal irreconciliation which I shall ever deprecate, and which militates against every principle of justice and sound policy. The partisans of France, and Franklin among the rest, were for demanding satisfaction in such a manner, that Great Britain, consistent with her honour (for I must be excused for thinking she has some left), could not grant it; but must not a treaty have been the consequence at last? Suppose they had succeeded in plunging you into a war, that war itself must have ended in a treaty, and a treaty much more dishonourable, perhaps, than the one now negotiated; unless, indeed, their intention was to wage a bellum eternum, side by side with their French brethren, till there should be no government left to treat with. These people are always for violent measures; they wanted a commercial treaty with Great Britain, but then she was to be “forced” into it; and now again they wanted satisfaction, but it is not worth a farthing, because no violence has been used to obtain it. They are of the taste of Swift’s “true English dean that was hanged for a rape;” though they have all their hearts can wish for, their depraved appetites render it loathsome, because it has been yielded to them without a struggle.

But it is, or ought to be, the opinion of Franklin himself, that depredations on your commerce ought to be no bar to your treating with the nation who has committed them; for he has exhausted himself to persuade you that a treaty ought to have been made with France, and yet it is notorious that her depredations have very far outstripped those of the British. Within the last five or six months the French have seized upwards of two hundred of your vessels; some they have confiscated, others they have released, after having taken their cargoes, and others are yet in suspense. Many of these vessels have been seized in their own ports, where they went in full confidence, and with the most upright intentions. The mariners have been thrown into prison, where many of them now are; the masters have been robbed, stripped, and beaten, by some of the vilest wretches that ever existed. They have the insolence to call the American masters, the caned captains, “les capitaines à coup de bàton.” Let Franklin find you, if he can, an instance of an American ship being seized at sea by the English, and burnt without further ceremony. These things the French have done, and yet he would not think it dishonourable to enter into a treaty with them.

I know I shall be told that the depredations of the French here mentioned have taken place since the departure of Mr. Jay for Great Britain; we will then confine ourselves to the depredations committed by the two nations at that epoch. And here, luckily, we have not to depend upon rumour and newspaper report; we have a sure guide, the report of the Secretary of the State to the President, which was communicated to the Senate and House of Representatives on the 5th of March, 1795.

“Against the French it is urged: 1st, that their privateers harass our trade no less than those of the British, 2nd, that two of their ships of Edition: current; Page: [63] war have committed enormities on our vessels. 3rd, that their Courts of Admiralty are guilty of equal oppression. 4th, that these points of accusation, which are common to the French and British, the French have infringed the treaties between the United States and them, by subjecting to seizure and condemnation our vessels trading with their enemies in merchandise, which that treaty declares not to be contraband, and under circumstances not forbidden by the law of nations. 5th, that a very detrimental embargo has been laid on our vessels in French ports. 6th, that a contract with the French government for coin has been discharged in depreciated assignats.”

If, then, the French privateers had harassed your trade no less than those of the British, if their ships of war also had committed enormities on your vessels, if their Courts of Admiralty had been guilty of equal oppression, and if they had, besides, infringed the treaty already existing between you, had embargoed your vessels, and cheated your merchants by discharging a contract for cash in depreciated assignats, what could you see in their conduct to invite you to a treaty with them, whilst a treaty with Great Britain would, on account of the depredations committed by her, be dishonourable?

On this subject, Franklin takes occasion to introduce one of his conventional threats. “As long,” says he, “as we kept up the farce, that the negotiation was designed to produce an indemnity for the past and security for the future, so long did France not complain; but now we have abandoned it to the same uncertainty as before, and have favoured Great Britain at her expense, she cannot, she will not be passive;” and then he says, “If France should act as our conduct merits, she will not seize our vessels.” Without inquiring here what reason France can have to complain about your not having obtained an indemnity for your losses; without inquiring how your conduct merits her resentment, because you have abandoned your commerce to the same uncertainty as before; without inquiring what she ought to do, you have only to look at what she has done, and you have no reason to fear that the treaty will increase her depredations. In short, ever since the French found that your government was determined not to join them in the war, they have neglected no opportunity of doing you mischief whereever they could and dared to do it; and perhaps it is owing to the British Freebooter (as Franklin calls Admiral Murray), that you are now blockaded up in your ports. I know nothing of the British Admiral’s instructions; perhaps they were no more favourable to you than those of the French Minister; but I think you ought to feel a considerable obligation to him for having rid your coasts and towns of the swarthy red-capped citizens that infested them.

With respect to the charge against Great Britain and the Algerines, it is the most whimpering, babyish complaint that ever disgraced the lips of manhood, and when a member of the House of Representatives made mention of it, he deserved to have his backside whipped. Great Britain, for her convenience, has, it seems, employed her mediation, and prevailed on the Dey of Algiers to make an arrangement with the court of Lisbon, which arrangement gives the Algerines an opening into the Atlantic, where they take your vessels. This is unfortunate for you; but how is it hostile towards you, on the part of Great Britain? How is it letting the Algerines loose upon you? It is, indeed, letting them loose upon the great ocean, where they may do what they can; but to call it Edition: current; Page: [64] letting them loose on you, is mere childishness. One would think, to hear Franklin, that Great Britain held the Algerines in a string, ready to let loose on whomsoever she pleases. A clear proof that this is not the case is, she has not yet let the Algerines loose on the French; a thing that she most certainly would have done, if she could.

But, it seems, Great Britain is not only to refrain from every act and deed that may give the Algerines an opportunity of incommoding you; she is not only to sacrifice her interest, and that of her allies, to yours; but she ought to take an active part in your protection. A writer against the treaty expresses himself thus: “Our negotiator has omitted to make any stipulation for the protection and security of the commerce of the United States to Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean, against the depredations of the Algerine and Barbary corsairs, although he knew that this forms one of the most beneficial branches of our trade.”* This writer certainly forgot that you were independent. He talks about Mr. Jay’s making this stipulation, just as if it depended upon him alone. When he was about it, he might as well have stipulated for Great Britain to protect you against all the nations in the world, as she used to do formerly. And do you then stand in need of Great Britain to protect you? Do you stand in need of the protection of this “ruined nation?” This nation whom “nothing will save but repentance in sackcloth and ashes?” This “insular Bastile of slaves?” Do you stand in need of them to protect you, “the sovereigns of a free country?” Is it dishonourable to treat with Great Britain, and yet is it honourable to accept of her protection? Prevaricating demagogues! You accuse the envoy extraordinary of having made a humiliating treaty, while you blame him for not having made you drink off the cup of humility to the very dregs.

The truth is, these depredations on your commerce by all the belligerent nations, and by the Algerines, is what ought to surprise nobody; it is one of those little rubs to which your situation naturally exposes you: independence, for some years at least, is not a rose without a thorn. All that ought to surprise you in contemplating this subject is, that France, to whom alone you give shelter, for whose cause your good citizens have ever felt the most unbounded enthusiasm, and for whose successes they have toasted themselves drunk and sung themselves hoarse a thousand times, should stand foremost on the list of the spoilers; and that notwithstanding this your patriots should insist upon a close alliance with her, while they reprobate the treating with Great Britain as an act at once unnecessary, impolitic, dangerous, and dishonourable.

Having now gone through Franklin’s reasons for not treating with Great Britain, I proceed to examine his objections to the terms of the treaty itself.

II. Franklin asserts, that if forming a treaty with Great Britain were consistent with sound policy, the terms of the present treaty are disadvantageous, humiliating, and disgraceful to the United States.

This is the place to observe, that the letters of Franklin were written before the contents of the treaty were known. He introduces his subject in the following words: “The treaty is said to be arrived, and as it will be of serious consequence to us and to our posterity, we should analyze it before it becomes the supreme law of the land.” That is to say, before it be known. “It will be said,” continues he, “to be a hasty Edition: current; Page: [65] opinion which shall be advanced before the treaty itself shall be before us; but when it shall be promulgated for our consideration, it will have all the force of law about it, and it will then be too late to detect its baneful effects.” Certainly no mortal ever heard reasoning like this before; what a lame apology for an inflammatory publication, intended to prepossess the rabble against the treaty!

It is not my design to dwell upon every objection that has been started, either by Franklin or the town-meeting; I shall content myself with answering those only in which they discover an extraordinary degree of patriotic presumption or dishonesty.

Art. I. Says that there shall be peace and friendship between the two countries.

As nobody but the French can have anything to say against this article, and as I have already answered all that their emissary Franklin has said on the subject, I look upon it as unexceptionable.

Art. II. Stipulates, that the western posts shall be evacuated in June next; that in the mean time the United States may extend their settlements to any part within the boundary line as fixed at the peace, except within the precincts and jurisdiction of the posts; that the settlers now within those precincts shall continue to enjoy their property, and that they shall be at full liberty to remain there, or remove; that such of them as shall continue to reside within said boundary lines, shall not be compelled to become citizens of the United States, but that they may do so if they think proper, and that they shall declare their choice in one year after the evacuation of the forts, and that all those who do not declare their choice during that time, are to be looked upon as citizens of the United States.

The citizens of the Boston-town meeting object to “this article, because it makes no provision to indemnify the United States for the commercial and other losses they have sustained, and the heavy expenses to which they have been subjected in consequence of being kept out of possession for twelve years, in direct violation of a treaty of peace.”

The good citizens, before they talked about indemnity, should have been certain that Great Britain was not justifiable in her detention of the western posts; because, if it should appear that she was, to make a claim for indemnity would be ridiculous.

By a treaty of peace, Great Britain was to give up these posts, and by the same treaty, the United States were to remove certain legal impediments to the payment of British debts, that is to say, debts due to British merchants before the war. These debts were to a heavy amount, and Great Britain had no other guarantee for their payment than the posts. Your credit, at that time, was not in the most flourishing state; and that the precaution of having a security was prudent, on the part of Great Britain, the event has fully proved. Nobody pretends that the impediments, above mentioned, are removed; nay, some of the States, and even their members in Congress, aver that they ought not to be removed; what right have you, then, to complain of the British for not giving up the posts? Was the treaty to be binding on them only? If this be the case, your language to Great Britain resembles that of Rousseau’s tyrant: “I make a covenant with you, entirely at your expense and to my profit, which you shall observe as long as it pleases me, and which I will observe as long as it pleases myself.” This is not the way treaties are made now-a-days.

Edition: current; Page: [66]

It is said that the federal government has done all in its power to effect the removal of the impediments, according to stipulation; but to this I answer, that all in its power is not enough, if the impediments are not removed. Are they removed, or are they not? is the only question Great Britain has to ask. The States from which the debts are due, having enacted laws that counteract those made by the general government, may be pleaded in justification of the latter, in a domestic point of view; but every one must perceive, that it would be childish in the extreme to urge it as an excuse for a failure towards foreign nations. The very nature of a treaty implies a power in the contracting parties to fulfil the stipulations therein contained, and, therefore, to fail from inability is the same thing as to fail from inclination, and renders retaliation, at least, just and necessary. Upon this principle, founded on reason and the law of nations, Great Britain was certainly justifiable in her detention of the western posts.

Another objection, though not to be found in the resolutions of the Boston citizens, deserves notice, “That the leaving British subjects in possession of their lands &c. in the precincts of the forts, will be to establish a British colony in the territory of the United States, &c.”* This is an objection that I never should have expected from the true republicans. The treaty says that the settlers in those precincts shall have full liberty to choose between being subjects of the King of Great Britain and citizens of the United States: and can these republicans doubt which they will choose? Can they possibly suppose that the inhabitants near the forts will not rejoice to exchange the humiliating title of subject for the glorious one of citizen? Can they, indeed, imagine that these degraded satellites of the tyrant George will not be ready to expire with joy at the thought of becoming “sovereigns of a free country?” Each individual of them will become a “prince and legislator” by taking the oath of allegiance to the United States; is it not, then, sacrilege, is it not to be a liberticide to imagine that they can hesitate in their choice? How came these enlightened citizens to commit such a blunder? How came they to suppose, that the people in the precincts of the forts were more capable of distinguishing between sound and sense, between the shadow and the substance, than they themselves are. Thousands of times have you been told that the poor Canadians were terribly oppressed, that they were ripe for revolt, that the militia had refused to do their duty, and, in short, that the United States had nothing to do but to receive them. And now, when a handful of them are likely to be left amongst you, you are afraid they will choose to remain subjects to the king of Great Britain?

Art. III. Stipulates for a free intercourse and commerce between the two parties, as far as regards their territories in America. This commerce is to be carried on upon principles perfectly reciprocal; but it is not to extend to commerce carried on by water, below the highest ports of entry. The only reservation in this article, is, the King of Great Britain does not admit the United States to trade to the possessions belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

To this the citizens of Boston object: “because it admits British subjects to an equal participation with our own citizens of the interior traffic of the United States with the neighbouring Indians, through our Edition: current; Page: [67] whole territorial dominion; while the advantages ostensibly reciprocated to our citizens, are limited both in their nature and extent.”

The word ostensibly is the only one of any weight in this objection. They could not say that the advantages were not reciprocal, as stipulated for; they therefore found out the word ostensible to supply the place of contradiction. The article provides for advantages perfectly reciprocal, and to say that they are only ostensibly so, is to say; the treaty says so, to be sure, but it does not mean so. The fault then naturally falls upon the words, which say one thing and mean another.

Art. IV. Relates to a survey of a part of the Mississipi.

Art. V. Relates to a survey of the River St. Croix.

It would have been extremely hard, indeed, if these articles had not escaped censure. I cannot, indeed, say that they have escaped it altogether; for, I have been informed that the democratic society of Pennsylvania have declared that the United States should be bounded by nothing but the sea. This, we may presume, is in consequence of the intimation of the Executive Council of France, who ordered citizen Genet to assure the Americans, that with their help, nothing was easier than to finish the emancipation of the New World.

Art. VI. Relates to debts due by citizens of the United States to British subjects, and provides, “that by the operation of various lawful impediments since the peace, not only the full recovery of the said debts has been delayed, but also the value and security thereof have been, in several instances, impaired and lessened, so that by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, the British creditors cannot now obtain, and actually have and receive full and adequate compensation for the losses and damages which they have thereby sustained: It is agreed, that in all such cases where full compensation for such losses and damages cannot, for whatever reason, be actually obtained, had and received, by the said creditors in the ordinary course of justice, the United States will make full and complete compensation for the same to the said creditors.” Then the article provides for the appointment of commissioners, who are to be invested with full power to determine finally on the several claims. Two commissioners are to be appointed by each party, and these four are to appoint a fifth.—“Eighteen months from the day on which the commissioners shall form a board, shall be assigned for receiving complaints and applications. And the United States undertake to cause the sums so awarded to be paid in specie, &c.”

Art. VII. Relates to the spoliations on your commerce by British subjects, and provides, “that during the course of the war, in which his Majesty is now engaged, certain citizens of the United States have sustained considerable loss and damage by reason of irregular, or illegal captures, or condemnation of their vessels and other property, under colour of authority or commissions from his Majesty; and that from various circumstances belonging to the said cases, adequate compensation for the losses so sustained cannot now be actually obtained, had and received by the ordinary course of judiciary proceedings; it is agreed that in all cases where adequate compensation cannot, for whatever reason, be now actually obtained, had and received by the said merchants and others in the ordinary course of justice, full and complete compensation for the same will be made by the British Government to the said complainants”——and for the purpose of “ascertaining the amount of such losses and damages five commissioners shall be appointed, and authorized to act in London, exactly in the manner directed with respect to those mentioned in the preceding article.”—“The same term of eighteen months is also assigned for the reception of claims, and they are in like manner authorized to extend the same.”—“And his Britannic Majesty undertakes to cause the same to be paid to such claimant in specie, &c.”

Edition: current; Page: [68]

I have placed these two articles opposite to each other to give the reader an opportunity of comparing them; because the citizens of Boston town-meeting seem to found their objection to both on the dissimilarity between them. “The capture,” say they, “of vessels and property of the citizens of the United States, made under the authority of the government of Great Britain, is a national concern, and claims arising from such captures ought not to have been submitted to the decision of their Admiralty Courts, as the United States are thereby precluded from having a voice in the final determination in such cases. Besides, the indemnification proposed to be made, is to be sought by a process tedious and expensive, in which justice may be delayed to an unreasonable time, and eventually lost to many of the sufferers from their inability to pursue it; and this mode of indemnification bears no proportion to the summary method adopted for the satisfaction of British claims.”

You will not be able to account for this, till you are told, that the town-meeting citizens never read the treaty, before they had sanctioned these resolutions. You see by the 6th and 7th articles, that the mode of indemnification to the British subjects and American citizens is one and the same, that both are to be finally determined by commissioners, and both paid punctually in specie; and yet the citizens of the Boston town-meeting see a difference in every part of it. They complain that the decision of American claims is left to the English Courts of Admiralty, when the treaty says it shall be left, in cases where satisfaction cannot be obtained in the ordinary course of justice, to commissioners, with full power to determine finally. They oppose things to each other which are not only the same in substance, but almost word for word. What must the President think of the town-meeting, when he received from them a senseless memorial, or rather ordinance, like this?

What do they mean by the mode of indemnification bearing no proportion to the summary method, adopted for the satisfaction of British claims? Can any method be too summary in the payment of debts, that have been due for twenty years? I think not. However, as I have already observed, summary or not summary, the method is exactly the same as that adopted for the satisfaction of American claims, and, therefore, if you have reason to complain, so have the British, and this would be singular, indeed.

Art. VIII. Provides for the payment &c. of the above-mentioned commissioners.

This article has had the good fortune to escape censure.

Art. IX. Stipulates, that the subjects of Great Britain holding lands in the United States, and the citizens of the United States now holding lands in the dominions of his Britannic Majesty, shall continue to hold them, and, in what respects those lands shall not be regarded as aliens.

Art. X. stipulates, that neither the debts due from individuals of the other, nor shares, nor money which they may have in the public funds, or in the public or private banks, shall ever, in any event of war, or national differences, be sequestered or confiscated.

That people who disapprove of paying debts that have been due twenty years, should also disapprove of this article is not at all surprising; accordingly the citizens of the Boston town-meeting highly disapprove of it; “because,” say they, “the exercise of this right may contribute to preserve the peace of the country, and protect the right and property of the citizens.”

Edition: current; Page: [69]

It is well known that, before Mr. Jay’s departure for England, a resolution was entered into by the House of Representatives, on the motion of Mr. Dayton, to sequestar all debts and funds, the property of British subjects: The article before us guards against this, and as there was not an honest man in the Union (a majority of the House of Representatives excepted), who did not execrate Mr. Dayton’s plundering motion, as it was called; so, I believe there is not one of that description, who does not most cordially approve of the article which will, for the future, render such motions abortive.

Credit is with nations as with individuals; while unimpaired it is almost unbounded, it can perform any thing; but one single retrograde step, and it is blasted, it is nothing. Your credit has suffered much from the motion of Mr. Dayton, and had the sequestration become a law, or had the mercantile world been left in doubt concerning what might happen in future, one half of the great capitals that now give wings to your commerce, would have found their way to other countries. Riches seek security, as rivers seek the sea.

“The capture” (say the town-meeting in another of their resolutions), “the capture of the vessels and property was a national concern.”

Here, then, there is a good reason for deprecating Mr. Dayton’s motion, in place of approving of it. But, Franklin has something so very striking on this subject, that it must not be passed over in silence. In one place he blames the President for preventing the adoption of Mr. Dayton’s resolution, which he calls a dignified measure; and in another place, speaking of the indemnity obtained by the treaty, he says,

“The aggression was an offence against the nation, and therefore no private compensation ought to be deemed competent. As the depredations on our commerce, and the indignities offered to our flag, were a national outrage, nothing short of national satisfaction ought to be admitted. The piracies of Great Britain were committed under the authority of the Government, the Government therefore ought to be answerable for them.”

And yet, the same man that has made this plain, unequivocal declaration, has also declared, that it was a dignified measure, to seize the property of innocent individuals lodged in the banks, and the funds of this country, or in the hands of their friends! He has declared it to be a dignified measure, to rifle the bureau of the merchant, pry into the secrets of the friend, sanction the proceedings of the villain, and forbid the honest man to pay his debts.

One thing, above all, ought to be considered on this subject; that an act of sequestration or confiscation must ever fail in its operation, or establish the most consummate tyranny. Do these humane citizens think, that I, for example, would give up what had been intrusted to me by a friend, or what I owed to a correspondent? No; I should look upon the oaths they might impose on me, as taken with a dagger at my breast. In short, their plundering law could never be put in execution, except under the government of a French Convention.

Art. XI. Is only an introduction to the following ones.

Art. XII. Is to be the subject of a future negotiation, and therefore, is not a part of the treaty as approved of by the Senate.

Art. XIII. Consents, that the citizens of the United States may carry on a free trade to and from the British territories in India, but they must carry the merchandise shipped in the said territories, to some part of the United States, and that the citizens of the United States cannot Edition: current; Page: [70] settle in the said territories, or go into the interior of the country, without express permission from the government there.

To this the town-meeting object;

“Because the commerce we have hitherto enjoyed in India, in common with other nations, is so restricted by this article, that, in future, it will be of little or no benefit to our citizens.”

This objection seems to have been founded on a mistake (perhaps a wilful one), which has been propagated with a good deal of industry: “that this article prevents you from re-exporting the merchandise brought from the British territories in India.” It was excusable in the citizens to follow up this error, because they either did not, or could not, read the treaty; but I hope, they will now take my word, and assure themselves, that if ever any of them should acquire property enough to be concerned in mercantile affairs, and should receive a cargo from India, they may ship it off again as soon as they please.

Art. XIV. and XV. Stipulate for a free intercourse between the British dominions in Europe and the United States. The advantages are perfectly reciprocal, as far as they can be rendered so by treaty. The two parties agree that no higher duties shall be paid by the ships or merchandise of the one party in the ports of the other, than such as are paid by the like vessels and merchandise of all other nations. This is the principal object of these articles; but there are some particular stipulations respecting the equalization of duties &c. in which Great Britain appears to have reserved to itself a trifling advantage.

To these articles the town-meeting have some particular objections; but as these are founded upon an opinion, expressed afterwards in a general objection, it will be sufficient to answer the general objection only.

“Because the nature and extent of the exports of the United States are such, that in all their stipulations with foreign nations they have it in their power to secure a perfect reciprocity of intercourse, not only with the home dominions of such nations, but with all their colonial possessions.”

It is first necessary to observe, that, what these citizens mean by reciprocity, goes a little beyond the common acceptation of that term. They do not mean, an advantage for an advantage, they mean all the advantage on their side, and none on the other; they mean, that all the ports of all the nations with whom they trade ought to be as free for them as for the subjects of those nations; they mean, that other nations should maintain fleets and armies to keep up colonial possessions, and that they should reap the profit of them; in short, they mean, that all the poor subjects in the world are made for the citizens of the United States to domineer over.

Before I go any further, I must notice what Franklin says on the subject.

“The articles of commerce in the United States are generally the necessaries of life; few of its luxuries are borne or cultivated among us; does it appear, then, that a commercial treaty is necessary to afford an outlet to things of the first requisition? It is a fact well ascertained, that the West India Islands are in a state of dependence among us, and by means of this dependence we are enabled to make such regulations with respect to our commerce with Great Britain wholly superfluous. It is equally ascertained, that in our commerce with Great Britain herself the balance of trade is considerably in her favour; and from this circumstance, likewise, she would be induced to reciprocate interests, without a commercial treaty, were those means pursued which are in our power.”

Edition: current; Page: [71]

Now to know the real value of the term reciprocity, take the following sentences.

“If we cede an advantage for an advantage ceded to us, whence the boast of a treaty? She (Great Britain) can grant us no commercial privileges that our situation does not enable us to exact; why, then, waive the most important demands to obtain a grant of commercial advantages which we could compel?”

This is the language of all the patriots of the present day.

If what the patriots say be true, then you have it in your power to exact from Great Britain what conditions you please; 1st, because your articles of exportation are, in great part, necessaries of life; 2nd, because the British West Indies are in a state of dependence on you; 3rd, because the balance of trade with Great Britain is greatly in her favour.

1. Because your articles of exportation are, in great part, necessaries of life. This idea is originally of the populace, who look upon every barrel of provision shipped off to the West Indies, or elsewhere, as so much loss to themselves, and as a kind of alms to keep the poor foreign devils from starving: and, in return for this generosity on their part, they imagine they have the power to compel the beggars to do just what they please. From the populace it found its way into Congress, under the auspices of a member of that body, who made it the ground-work of his famous resolutions, intended to force Great Britain to yield you commercial advantages. No wonder, then, that it should now be taken up by Franklin, and all the opposers of the treaty. They cannot conceive how a nation, to whom you throw a morsel of bread when you please, should dare refuse you any thing.

That your exports being, in great part, necessaries of life (that is eatables), ought to give you a preference in commercial relations, is an error, and not the less so for being a popular one. Commodities being estables may give the seller a preference in a town during the time of a siege, but not in the great world of commerce. It is as necessary for you to sell your produce as for a toy-man to sell his toys. If they rot in your stores, their being necessaries of life will not diminish the loss. If the land is obliged to lie fallow, the mill stand still, and the vessels rot at the wharfs, little satisfaction will it be to the farmer, the miller and the merchant, that they all used to be employed in cultivating and distributing the necessaries of life. When a man is reduced to beggary for want of a vent of his goods, it signifies not a farthing to him, whether these goods were necessaries of life, or luxuries. No; it is the pecuniary gains, arising from trading with a nation, which ought to give, or which can give, that nation a right, or a power, to exact commercial advantages; and not the nature of the merchandise she has to export.

2. Because the British West Indies are in a state of dependence upon you. For my part, I cannot conceive how they make out this state of dependence. The exportation of your articles being as necessary to you, as the importation of them is to the islands, you depend upon them as much as they depend upon you. You receive sugar, molasses, coffee and rum, from the islands; these, too, are necessaries of life; and such as you could not possibly do without. I cannot pretend to say what proportion your imports from the islands bear to your exports to them; but there must be a balance of trade either for or against you. If you receive more of the necessaries of life from the islands than you carry to them, they cannot be in a state of dependence, on that account: if the balance be in your favour, then the trade is an advantageous one for you, and, Edition: current; Page: [72] if it makes a dependence on either side, it makes you dependent on the islands. Observe here, that the patriots suppose you have the power of compelling Great Britain to do what you please, because, in her trade with you, the balance is greatly in her favour, and because, in your trade with the West Indies, the balance is in your favour. Thus the West India Islands are in a state of dependence on you, because you gain by them; and Great Britain is in the same state, because she gains by you! No wonder the citizens of the United States should think themselves sovereigns.

3. Because the balance of trade with Great Britain is greatly in her favour. This balance of trade, assert the patriots, is to give you what terms you please to exact, “if you pursue the means that are in your power.” These means are prohibiting the importation of British merchandise; and this, they assert, would do her much more harm than it would you. A better reason of action than this might perhaps be found; but as it seems to be a favourite one with them, and indeed the only one by which they are actuated, I shall take them up upon it, and endeavour to convince you that they are mistaken.

I will suppose, with the patriots, that the manufactures you receive from Great Britain are not necessary to you. I will suppose that you have the capitals and raw materials for establishing manufactories of your own; I will suppose one-third of your peasants and sailors changed by a presto into weavers, combers, fullers, whitesmiths, &c. &c.; I will suppose the manufactories going on, and all of you inspired with patriotism enough to be happy, dressed in the work of their hands; I will suppose, in short, that you no longer stand in need of British manufactures. This is allowing my adversaries every thing they can ask, and all I ask of them in return, is to allow me, that Great Britain stands in no need of your manufactures. If they do not refuse me this, as I think they cannot, I have not the least doubt but I shall prove, that cutting off all communication between the countries, would injure you more than Great Britain.

The imports being prohibited on each side, and both being able to do without them, the injury must arise from the stoppage being put to the exports; and as Great Britain sells you much more than you sell her, the patriots maintain that this stoppage would do her more harm than it would you. This was the shield and buckler of Mr. Madison. He compared the United States to a country gentleman, and Great Britain to a pedlar; and declared that you might do without her, but that she could not do without you.

How illusive this is we shall see in a minute. It is a maxim of commerce, that the exports of a nation are the source of her riches, and that, in proportion as you take from that source, she is injured and enfeebled; hence it follows, that cutting off the communication between Great Britain and you, would injure her more than you, in proportion to the balance now in her favour; that is to say, if the total of her exports and the total of your exports were to the same amount. But this is far from being the case: your exports amount to no more than twenty millions of dollars, or thereabouts, nine millions of which go to Great Britain and her dominions, while the exports of Great Britain amount to one hundred millions of dollars, no more than fifteen millions of which come to the United States. Suppose, then, all communication cut off at once; you would lose nine-twentieths of your exports, while Great Britain would Edition: current; Page: [73] lose only fifteen-hundredths of hers: so that, if there be any truth in arithmetic, you would injure yourselves three times as much as you would her.

If what I have advanced on the subject be correct, “the nature and extent of your exports” do not give you a power “to demand, to exact, to compel,” what conditions you please in your commercial relations with Great Britain; and it follows, of course, that Franklin and the citizens of the Boston town-meeting are mistaken.

Art. XVI. Relates to consuls.

This article has not been meddled with as yet.

Art. XVII. Permits, or rather expressly stipulates, for what is allowed by the law of nations, the seizing of an enemy’s property on board the vessels of either party.

Art. XVIII. Specifies what are contraband articles, and settles an honourable and equitable system of seizure.

As these two articles have been objected to by nobody but the agents of France, as they seem to affect the French more than anybody else, and as that august diet, the Convention, may be at this time debating on the subject, it would be presumption in the extreme for me to hazard an opinion on it.

Art. XIX. Provides for the protection of the vessels and property of the subjects and citizens of the contracting parties.

I have heard nothing urged against this article.

Art. XX. Stipulates that the two contracting parties will not only refuse to receive pirates into their ports &c., but that they will do the utmost in their power to bring them to punishment.

Without objection, for any thing I have heard.

Art. XXI. Stipulates that the subjects and citizens of each of the contracting parties shall not commit violence on those of the other party, nor serve in the fleets or armies, or accept of commissions from its enemies.

Some of the friends of neutrality object to this, as it prevents them from assisting the French, and from making war upon Great Britain for the future, under the cloak of neutrality.

Art. XXII. Stipulates that no act of reprisal shall take place between the parties, unless justice has first been demanded and refused, or unreasonably delayed.

This is opposed by the friends of sequestration and confiscation, as it would give people time to shelter their property from the claws of the patriots.

Art. XXIII, XXIV, and XXV, Provide certain regulations concerning ships of war, privateers, and prizes taken from the enemies of the contracting parties.

Much was said about these articles, till it was proved that they were copied from the treaty of commerce made between France and England since the American war, since your treaty with France. This was a circumstance that the patriots, who are none of the best read in such things, were not aware of.

Art. XXVI. Provides for the security and tranquillity of the subjects and citizens of the two parties living in the territory of each other at the breaking out of a war.

This article has escaped censure.

Art. XXVII. Stipulates for the giving up of murderers and forgers.

Edition: current; Page: [74]

From the description of the persons who have hitherto opposed the treaty, and from the futility of the reasons they have given for their opposition, there is every reason to imagine that great part of them object (in the bottom of their hearts) to this article only. If this be the case, it is pity the article was introduced. Forgers and murderers, if left to themselves for a time after their flight, would not fail to meet the fate which the article was made to ensure to them, and it is little matter in what country they suffer.

Art. XXVIII. Relates to the duration of the foregoing ones, and the ratification of the treaty.

This article, which ends the treaty, is of such a nature as to admit of no objection.

Now, you will observe that it is not my intention to render this treaty palatable to you; I shall not insist, therefore, that the terms of it are as advantageous as you might wish or expect them to be; but I insist that they are as advantageous as you ought to have expected. Great Britain grants you favours she has never granted to any other nation; and that no other nation, not even your sister republic, has granted you. Nor can it be said that in return, you grant her favours which you have not granted to other nations; several favours granted to France you have still withheld from Great Britain, even if the present treaty goes into effect. Great Britain does not, then, receive favours, as it has been absurdly asserted, but she grants them.

I cannot dismiss this part of my subject without observing, that Charles Fox made in the British Parliament exactly the same objections to the treaty as the patriots in this country have made. It was humiliating to Great Britain, he said. Unfortunate, indeed, must be the negotiators who have made a treaty humiliating to both the contracting parties! Mr. Fox’s censure is the best comment in the world on that of the American patriots, and theirs on his.

I now come to the third object of the censure of Franklin: the conduct of the President relative to the treaty.

III. That, supposing the terms of the treaty to be what every good American ought to approve, yet the conduct of the President, relative to the negotiation and promulgation of it, has been highly improper and even monarchical, and for which he deserves to be impeached.

Franklin has not obliged the world with articles of impeachment regularly drawn up; but, as far as can be gathered from his letters, he would have the chief magistrate of the union impeached: 1st, for having appointed Mr. Jay as Envoy Extraordinary; 2nd, for having appointed an Envoy Extraordinary on this occasion contrary to the opinion of the House of Representatives and of the democratic society; 3rd, for his reserve towards the Senate, previous to Mr. Jay’s departure; 4th, for his reserve towards the people; and 5th, for having evaded a new treaty with France, while he courted one with Great Britain.

The first of these, the appointing of Mr. Jay as Envoy Extraordinary, is declared to be unconstitutional.

“The man of the people,” says Franklin, “it was believed, would not have consented to, much less have originated a mission, hostile to the constitution, unfriendly to the functions of the legislature, and insulting to a great people struggling against tyrants. The appointment of the Chief Justice of the United States as Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Great Britain put to defiance the compact under which we have associated, and made the will of the executive paramount to the general will of the people. The principle laid down by this Edition: current; Page: [75] appointment, strikes at the root of our civil security; nay, it aims a deadly blow at liberty itself.”

The word unconstitutional is with the opposers of the government a word of vast import: it means any thing they please to have it mean. In their acceptation of the word, therefore, I cannot pretend to say that the conduct of the President, in appointing Mr. Jay, was not unconstitutional; but if unconstitutional be allowed to mean something contrary to the constitution, I think it would be very difficult to prove that the appointment was unconstitutional; for certain it is there is no article in the Constitution that forbids, either literally or by implication, the employing of a Chief Justice of the United States on an extraordinary embassy.

“The constitution,” says Franklin, “has provided that the different departments of government should be kept distinct, and, consequently, to unite them is a violation of it, and an encroachment on the liberties of the people, guaranteed by that instrument.—The appointment of John Jay, Chief Justice of the United States, as Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Great Britain, is contrary to the spirit and meaning of the constitution; as it unites in the same person judicial and legislative functions.”

If, as it is here asserted, the President had united the judicial with the legislative functions, it must be confessed that he would have departed from the spirit and meaning of the constitution; but has the mere negotiation of a treaty anything to do with the legislative functions? It appears to me not. Treaties are the supreme law of the land, and therefore the sanctioning of them, the making of them laws, is a legislative act; but the mere drawing of them up, the preparing of them for the discussion of the legislature, is no legislative act at all.

If negotiating be a legislative act, it naturally follows that nobody but the legislature, or some member or members of it, could be employed in a negotiation; and the constitution expressly provides that

“No member of Congress shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office, under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created during such time.”

Thus, then, if the spirit of the constitution makes negotiating a legislative act, and consequently requires a legislator to negotiate a treaty, and the letter positively forbids it, the whole clause respecting treaties is superfluous, for there ought never to be any such thing as treaties.

When the secretary of either department brings forward a plan for the consideration of Congress, does he act in a legislative capacity? And what more is an unratified treaty? In short, if a negotiator acts in a legislative capacity, so does every petitioner; nay, every clerk and printer employed by Congress.

The Chief Justice is further objected to as an Envoy Extraordinary on this occasion, because

“Treaties being the supreme law of the land, it becomes the duty of the judiciary to expound and apply them; and therefore, to permit an officer in that department to share in their formation, is to unite distinct functions, tends to level the barriers of our freedom, and to establish precedents pregnant with danger.”

If the mere formation of laws by gentlemen of the bar tends to level the barriers of your freedom, I am afraid the barriers of your freedom are already levelled; for I believe there are very few laws that do not pass through their hands, or concerning which their advice is not asked, before they are sanctioned, Franklin (perhaps through ignorance) confounds Edition: current; Page: [76] the formation with the making of a law; how essentially they differ I leave you to determine.

If it be unsafe to trust the expounding and applying of a law to him who has assisted in framing it, must it not be much more unsafe to trust the expounding and application of it to those who have assisted in making it? And, is it not, then, unsafe to admit gentlemen of the law into Congress, without incapacitating them from pleading at the bar, or, at least, from becoming judges for ever after? Suppose, for instance, that one of the present senators were to be appointed Chief Justice in the room of Mr. Jay, would he not have to expound and apply the treaty which he has just assisted in making? And should some of the gentlemen of the other House be, at a future period, appointed judges of the supreme court, would they not have to apply the laws, which, as legislators, they have assisted in making?

But, at any rate, had this objection been well founded; had there been cause to fear the consequences of leaving the treaty to be expounded and applied by him who had assisted in framing it, the danger is now over: Mr. Jay is no more Chief Justice;* the freemen of the State of New York knew how to estimate his merit rather better than Franklin. Fortune seems to have lent a hand in depriving the enemies of the government of all grounds of complaint, and yet they make a shift to keep the union in an uproar.

Another objection to sending the Chief Justice on this mission, is, that a President might thereby escape from the hands of justice, or, at least, elude a trial.

“From the nature,” says Franklin, “and terms of an impeachment against a President of the United States, it is not only necessary that the Chief Justice of the United States should preside in the Senate, but that he should be above the bias which the honour and emolument in the gift of the Executive might create.”

Tis true, the Constitution says, that,

“When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.”

But, waiving the insolence and most patriotic ingratitude of this insinuation; admitting your President to be what Franklin would make you believe he is, and that the necessity of impeaching him was a thing to be expected, I cannot perceive any great inconvenience that could arise from the absence of the Chief Justice. The President could not be impeached before the opening of Congress, and by that time it was reasonable to suppose, that the object of the extraordinary mission would be accomplished, and the Envoy ready to return. An impeachment against the President could hardly be hurried on in such a manner as not to leave an interval of four months between his accusation and trial, a space quite sufficient for recalling the Chief Justice.

Franklin, conscious that Mr. Jay’s character for wisdom and integrity was unimpeachable, has conjured up against him an opinion, which he gave some time ago, concerning the Western Posts. He says:—

“After the declaration made by John Jay, that Great Britain was justifiable in her detention of the Western Posts, it was a sacrifice of the interest and peace of the United States to commit a negotiation to him in which the evacuation of those posts ought to form an essential part.”

Edition: current; Page: [77]

This unqualified declaration,

“That Great Britain was justifiable in her detention of the Western Posts,”

Is a most shameful misrepresentation of Mr. Jay’s opinion on the subject. By this declaration Franklin insinuates, that Mr. Jay had given it as his opinion that Great Britain would be justifiable in her detention of the Western Posts for ever; whereas his opinion was, that she was justifiable in detaining those Posts, only till the stipulation of the treaty of peace with respect to debts, due to British subjects from some of the States, should be fulfilled.

Must not those people, who so boldly assured you, that John Jay would betray your interests, that he would sell the Western Posts, &c., have blushed when they saw that a surrender of these Posts was the first thing he had stipulated for? No; a patriot’s skin is like the shield of a Grecian hero; blood cannot penetrate through “ten bull hides.”

The following anecdote will at once prove the injustice of charging Mr. Jay with a wish to abandon the Western Posts to the British, and confirm the prudence of the President’s choice.

“At the time of laying the foundation of the peace of 1783,* M. de Vergennes, actuated by secret motives, wished to engage the ambassadors of Congress to confine their demands to the fisheries, and to renounce the Western Territory. The minister required particularly, that the independence of America should not be considered as the basis of the peace, but, simply, that it should be conditional. To succeed in this project, it was necessary to gain over Jay and Adams. Mr. Jay declared to M. de Vergennes, that he would sooner lose his life than sign such a treaty; that the Americans fought for independence; that they would never lay down their arms till it should be fully consecrated; that the Court of France had recognised it; and that there would be a contradiction in her conduct, if she deviated from that point. It was not difficult for Mr. Jay to bring Mr. Adams to his determination; and M. de Vergennes could never shake his firmness.”

This is the man whom the patriots accuse of intentions of rendering the United States dependent on Great Britain, and of abandoning the Western Posts! This is the man, who, after twenty years spent in the service of his country, after having a second time ensured its happiness and prosperity, is called “a slave, a coward, a traitor,” and is burnt in effigy for having “bartered its liberty for British gold!”

2. Franklin would have the President impeached, for having appointed an Envoy Extraordinary to Great Britain contrary to the opinion of the majority of the House of Representatives.

“A majority of that House,” says Franklin, “were in favour of dignified and energetic measures; they spurned the idea of a patient and ignominious submission to robbery and outrage. The different propositions of Messrs. Madison, Clarke, and Dayton, substantiate this assertion. And yet the Executive nominated an Envoy Extraordinary in coincidence with the minority, apparently to defeat the intentions of the representatives of the people. This fact is serious and alarming.”

That the President did nominate, and, by and with the advice of the Senate, appoint, the Envoy Extraordinary, contrary to the opinion of the majority of the House of Representatives, is, at least, doubtful, because no such question could be agitated in that House; but that he would have been justifiable in so doing is not doubtful at all. Your Constitution, which this demagogue affects to call the palladium of your liberty, says, Edition: current; Page: [78] that the President, with the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors &c., and not a word about the House of Representatives.

Besides, as to the fact, how did the appointment of the Envoy interfere with the dignified and energetic measures? They were adopted by the House of Representatives, and presented to the Senate, who rejected them, and who would have rejected them, whether the Envoy had been previously appointed or not. This is evident, because had they intended to sanction the dignified and energetic measures, they would not have appointed the Envoy; and therefore, by delaying the appointment, till these measures were rejected by the Senate, nothing could have been gained but a loss of time.

Franklin seems to triumph in proving, that the President acted contrary to the opinion of the House of Representatives. I have already observed that that House had nothing to do in the appointment in question; but, even suppose they had, is the Senate nothing? What is the use of three branches in the Constitution, if two of them must ever yield to the will of a third, or the whim of a faction? To what end has a power been given to the Senate to reject bills sent to them by the other House, if they are never to exercise it, unless it should happen to be agreeable to the democratic clubs? In short, why is there a Senate and President at all?

If the immediate representatives of the people, as Franklin is pleased to call them, were permitted to decide upon treaties, there is no one act of authority that they would not soon exercise exclusively. Very soon would the whole power of the state be consecrated into one heterogeneous assembly split up into committees of confiscation, war, and murder. Very soon would your legislature resemble that of your sister republic, where every crude idea that comes athwart the brain of a harlequin legislator, becomes a law in the space of five minutes, and issues forth amidst the acclamations of the sovereign people, bearing terror and devastation through the land. You may thank God that your Constitution has provided against a legislative scourge like this. It is this prudent provision alone that has saved you from the dreadful consequences, which the dignified and energetic measures of the triumvirate, Madison, Clarke, and Dayton would most inevitably have produced.

After having censured the President for not acting in coincidence with the sentiment of the majority of the House of Representatives, Franklin returns to the charge by censuring him for acting in coincidence with the sentiment of the minority of the same House; this he calls “a serious and an alarming fact,” just as if it was not an unavoidable consequence of the other. But, is it not a little extraordinary to hear him censure the President for acting in coincidence with the minority of the House of Representatives, when a few pages before, he censures him for not acting in coincidence with the sentiment of the respectable minority of the Senate? Perhaps the epithet respectable, which Franklin has bestowed on his minority of the Senate, renders them superior to the majority, and if so, their opinion certainly ought to have been followed. But, the truth is, I believe, this respectable minority of the Senate were in favour of those dignified and energetic or dragooning, plundering, measures, which the President did not approve of, and so were the majority of the House of Representatives; and this is the reason why Franklin, who is a sort of war trumpet, would have had him guided by the minority of one house and the majority of the other.

Edition: current; Page: [79]

The President’s having acted in coincidence with the minority of the House of Representatives ought to be looked upon as a mere matter of accident; for, on the appointment of an Envoy, it was not necessary for him to take cognizance of what was passing amongst them; but as to his acting in coincidence with the majority of the Senate, it was a duty that the Constitution imposed on him. According to the wish of Franklin, the President should have rejected the advice of that branch of the legislature which the Constitution has associated with him in the appointment of an Envoy, to adhere to the advice of another branch, to which the Constitution has allotted no participation in such appointments. This is what the patriots would have called acting constitutionally.

There was no person of the least discernment who was not well assured that the object of your patriotic members of Congress, was to reduce you to the necessity of making a common cause with the French. I know they pretended, that they wished to preserve peace. With this desirable object in view, one proposed laying such duties on British merchandise and ships, as would go nearly to a prohibition; another proposed an entire prohibition; and a third, in order to preserve peace with Great Britain, proposed seizing all debts and funds, the property of British subjects!

I am totally at a loss to account for these gentlemen’s motives in endeavouring to plunge this country into a war with Great Britain. I will not affect to believe, that they were under the influence of foreign gold, though I believe them to be as corruptible, at least, as Mr. Jay. Interested considerations could have no weight with them; for, they appear to have lost all idea of private as well as public interest. But whatever might be their motives, the measures they proposed were fraught with beggary, ruin, and dishonour, and if the President, by his nomination of the Envoy to Great Britain, contributed to their being rejected, though supported by the majority of the House of Representatives, he is entitled to the blessing of every lover of this country.

3. Franklin would have the President impeached, for his reserve towards the Senate previous to Mr. Jay’s departure. Franklin says,

“The advice of the Senate was not taken in the treaty with Great Britain.”

By this, he ought to mean, that the Senate was not informed of the particular objects to be obtained by Mr. Jay’s mission; for, if he means (which is possible) that their advice was not taken on the subject of the mission itself, and of the person to be employed on it, he wishes to impose on the unwary what he knows to be untrue. On these subjects their advice was taken, and any further it was not necessary, either in a constitutional or prudential point of view.

“By the Constitution,” says Franklin, “all treaties are to be made by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The term advice has a natural and obvious reference to the negotiation; that no negotiation shall be entered into but with the advice of the Senate.”

Before I take the liberty of contradicting here, give me leave to make Franklin contradict himself.

“The President,” says he, in another place, “has power by and with the advice and consent of the Senate to conclude treaties; that is, the Senate has the power to accept or reject any treaty negotiated by the President; but this power has not gone to prevent him from opening a negotiation with any nation he thought proper.”

Edition: current; Page: [80]

This patriot was determined no one should triumph in confuting him. A disputant that thus contradicts himself point blank without any kind of ceremony or apology, sets his adversary at defiance.

Reserving myself till by-and-by to account for these contradictory expositions of the same text, I am ready to allow, that the latter of them exactly meets my sentiments: that is, that the share of power, in making treaties, allotted to the Senate, does not go to prevent the President from opening a negotiation with any nation he may think proper. This is so clearly pointed out by the Constitution, that one is astonished to hear it controverted by persons capable of reading.

“He shall,” says that instrument, “have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur: and he shall nominate, and, by and with the advice of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors,” &c.

And yet Franklin, in one place, insists that the term advice has a natural and obvious reference to the negotiation only;

“For,” says he, “it would be the extremity of absurdity to say, that advice was necessary after the thing was done.”

The natural and obvious sense, and, indeed, the only sense of the clause of the Constitution just quoted, is, in my opinion, that the Senate is to be consulted in making treaties, but not in opening negotiations.

Franklin has had the ingenuity to give to the words advice and consent an application, that most certainly never entered into the thoughts of those who framed the Constitution. Can he be serious in confining advice to what precedes the negotiation, and consent to what follows it? If this were correct, the Senate ought never to give their consent to a negotiation, nor their advice concerning a ratification.

To me the sense of the Constitution is extremely clear, as to this point. The words advice and consent have both a reference to what follows the negotiation; and this will fully appear, if their import in the latter part of the above clause be well weighed. “The President shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint ambassadors,” &c. Now, if advice in the making of treaties, has a natural and obvious reference to negotiation, so, in the appointment of ambassadors, it must have reference to nomination. I leave any one to judge how nonsensical it would have been to authorize the Senate to consent to the appointment of a person, whose nomination they had before advised; and yet it would not be more so than to give them the power of consenting to the terms of a treaty formed by their advice.

Indeed, it would be slandering the Constitution, to suppose that it contained any thing approaching so near to the anarchical, as to subject the particular objects of a negotiation to an assembly, not obliged to secrecy, before the negotiation is opened. Were this ever to be the case, it is easy to foresee that it would be impossible to conclude any treaty of moment, or, at least, to conclude it with advantage. Suppose, for instance, that the threatened rupture with Great Britain had rendered it necessary for you to form a close alliance with some power in Europe, and that the President had been obliged to make known every stipulation to be made on your part, before the departure of the Envoy; can you believe that the affair would have been kept secret till concluded? or even till it was begun? No; I’ll be hanged if it would. It would have been known in London long before the Envoy’s arrival in Europe, and you would have Edition: current; Page: [81] had an English fleet upon your coast, before he could possibly have fulfilled his mission.

4. The President ought to be impeached, according to Franklin, for his reserve towards the people.

When ignorance or factiousness, or both together, have led a man beyond the bounds of truth and candour, they never let him go, till they have plunged him into an abyss of absurdity. Thus has it happened to Franklin. After having persuaded himself that the President ought to withhold nothing from the knowledge of the other branches of the legislature, it was natural for him to pursue the error, till he found, that,

“To withhold the contents of a treaty from the people, till it was ratified, indicated a contempt for public opinion, and a monarchical supremacy.”

“In the compact,” says Franklin, “entered into by the citizens of the United States, certain concessions were made by them, and these concessions are specified in the Constitution; but have they conceded a right to an acquaintance with their own affairs?”

Yes, if his question applies, as it evidently does, to the terms of an unratified treaty, the people have conceded a right to an acquaintance with their own affairs; for, in the right of making treaties is necessarily included the right of observing a prudent secrecy concerning them, and, as the former is expressly conceded to the President and the Senate, so is the latter. The people have conceded the right of making treaties, and the concession is unconditional; they have made it without reserving to themselves the right of demanding their promulgation, before they become the law of the land; without reserving to themselves the right of advising, disputing, and caballing about their contents, before they are known, or of tormenting and reviling the Executive, and burning the negotiators in effigy, when their contents are known.

5. Franklin would advise the impeachment of the President, for having evaded a new treaty with France, while he courted one with Great Britain.

This is the great offence; to bring this home to the President seems to have been the chief object of Franklin, who is affected by nothing that does not concern the French Republic.

“We have,” says Franklin, “treated the overtures of France for a treaty with neglect. The nation that has barbarously insulted us, and plundered us, we have courted, meanly courted, and the nation on whom our political existence depends, and who has treated us with affection, we have treated with indifference bordering on contempt. Citizen Genet was empowered to propose a treaty with us on liberal principles, sch as might strengthen the bonds of goodwill which unite the two nations.”

How your government has courted Great Britain, how your political existence depends on France, and how she has treated you with affection, we have already seen; it only remains for us to see what were the “liberal principles” which citizen Genet was authorized to treat upon, and whether it was prudent on your part to refuse to treat upon those “liberal principles,” or not.

But previously it is necessary to observe, that let these “liberal principles” be what they might, the President’s conduct in refusing or evading to treat on them could amount to no more than imprudence. The President, I agree, has power to open negotiations with any nation he thinks proper, and then, says Franklin, “Why did he not treat with citizen Genet?” To which I answer, that the Constitution, in authorizing the President to open negotiations with any nation whom he thinks Edition: current; Page: [82] proper to treat with, has not obliged him to open negotiations with every nation that thinks proper to treat with him. It has not obliged him to open negotiations with a nation so circumstanced as not to be depended on for the value of a cargo of flour, with a nation in jeopardy, with an assembly who had declared themselves a committee of insurrection against every government on earth not founded on their principles, with an Executive Council composed of half a dozen unhappy wretches, who were all either publicly executed or outlawed before the treaty with them could have been ratified: no; the Constitution has obliged him to nothing of this sort—if it had, I am sure he never would have accepted the post of President. The Constitution has left it entirely to his own prudence to make or to avoid treaties; whether he has on the present occasion made a good use of the trust reposed in him, or not, we shall now see.

Soon after the citizen’s arrival at Philadelphia, he announced to the President, through the Secretary of State, that he was authorized to open a negotiation with the government of the United States. I have not room to give you his letter at length here:—

Sir,—Single against innumerable hordes of tyrants and slaves, who menace her rising liberty, the French nation would have a right to reclaim the obligations imposed on the United States by the treaties she has contracted with them, and which she has cemented with her blood; but, strong in the greatness of her means, and of the power of her principles, not less redoubtable to her enemies, than the victorious arm which she opposes to their rage, she comes, in the very time when the emissaries of our common enemies are making useless efforts to neutralize the gratitude, to damp the zeal, to weaken or cloud the view of your fellow citizens; she comes, I say, that generous nation, that faithful friend, to labour still to increase the prosperity and add to the happiness which she is pleased to see them enjoy.”

“The obstacles raised, with intentions hostile to liberty, by the perfidious ministers of despotism; the obstacles whose object was to stop the rapid progress of the commerce of the Americans, and the extension of their principles, exist no more. The French Republic, seeing in them brothers, has opened to them by the decrees now enclosed, all her ports in the two worlds; has granted them all the favours her own citizens enjoy in her vast possessions; has invited them to participate in the benefits of her navigation, in granting to their vessels the same rights as to her own; and has charged me to propose to your government to establish a true family compact, that is, in a national compact, the liberal and fraternal basis on which she wishes to see raised the commercial and political system of two people, all whose interests are confounded.

I am invested, Sir, with the power necessary to undertake this important negotiation, of which the sad annals of humanity offered no example before the brilliant era at length opening on it.”

This letter admits of half-a-dozen interpretations. One would imagine by its outset that the French convention was graciously pleased to suffer you to remain in peace,

“Notwithstanding she had a right to reclaim the obligations imposed on the United States, and which she had cemented with her blood.”

But what follows seems to overturn this supposition, for the Citizen declares that

“The emissaries of your common enemies were making useless efforts to neutralize the gratitude and to damp the zeal of your fellow citizens,” &c.

Citizen Genet arrived soon after the proclamation of neutrality* was issued, and he took the earliest opportunity of declaring that useless Edition: current; Page: [83] efforts had been made to neutralize the gratitude of the citizens of America; and yet Franklin and all the other stipendiaries of France assert, that

“France, with a magnanimity which she alone seems susceptible of, has not urged the fulfilment of her treaty with you; but that she has expressed her wish, and her conduct has proved it, that you should remain in peace.”

At the same time that the Citizen came forward with his republican fanfaronnade to propose negotiations, he carried in his pocket certain instructions according to which the proposed treaty was to be formed, and from which he could not depart. By the extracts that I am going to make from those instructions, it will appear to every one of you who is not so prepossessed in favour of the French as to be incapable of conviction, that the new treaty was to accord you no advantages of which your participation in the war was not to be the price, and that citizen Genet was to plunge you into a war, with or without the consent of your government, to make a diversion in favour of France at the expense of your prosperity, and even your very existence as a nation.

Citizen Genet, though abundantly assuming and insolent, though uniting the levity of a Frenchman to the boorishness of a Calmuc, though deserving of much censure from your government, has, however, been loaded with a great deal of unmerited odium by the people of the United States. The man acted in full conformity to his instructions in all his attacks on your independence, and therefore his conduct is to be attributed to the Government of France, or the sovereign people of that happy Republic, and not to the poor Citizen himself. He was a mere machine in the business, and his not being ordered home to answer for his conduct is a strong presumptive proof that the sovereigns of France approved of it, without daring to avow it openly. I say without daring to avow it; because, though you could not have directly chastised them, yet they wanted your flour, and it is well known that empty cupboards are no less formidable than great guns.

Now for the Citizen’s instructions:—

“Struck with the grandeur and importance of this negotiation, the Executive Council prescribed to citizen Genet, to exert himself to strengthen the Americans in the principles which led them to unite themselves to France: The Executive Council are disposed to set on foot a negotiation upon those foundations, and they do not know but that such a treaty admits a latitude still more extensive in becoming a national agreement, in which two great people shall suspend their commercial and political interests, to befriend the empire of liberty, wherever it can be embraced, and punish those powers who still keep up an exclusive colonial and commercial system, by declaring that their vessels shall not be received in the ports of the contracting parties.* Such a pact, which the people of France will support with all the energy which distinguishes them, will quickly contribute to the general emancipation of the New World. It is to convince the Americans of the practicability of this that citizen Genet must direct all his attention: for, besides the advantages which humanity (humanity!!) will draw from the success of such a negotiation, we have at this moment a particular interest in taking steps to act efficaciously against England and Spain, if, as every thing announces, these powers attack us. And in this situation of affairs we ought to excite, by all possible means, the zeal of the Americans. The Executive Council has room to believe that the consideration of their own independence depending on our success, added to the great commercial advantages Edition: current; Page: [84] which we are disposed to concede to the United States, will determine their government to adhere to all that citizen Genet shall propose to them on our part. As it is possible, however, that they may adopt a timid and wavering conduct, the Executive Council charges him, in expectation that the American government will finally determine to make a common cause with us, to take such steps as will appear to him exigencies may require, to serve the cause of liberty and the freedom of the people. Citizen Genet is to prevent all equipments in the American ports, unless upon account of the French nation. He will take care to explain himself upon this object with the dignity and energy of the representative of a great people, who in faithfully fulfilling their engagements know how to make (ah! make!) their rights respected. The guarantee of the West India islands is to form an essential clause in the new treaty. Citizen Genet will sound early the disposition of the American government, and make this a condition, sine qua non, of their free commerce to the West Indies, so essential to the United States. The minister of the marine department will transmit to him a certain number of blank letters of marque, which he will deliver to such French and American owners as shall apply for the same. The minister at war shall likewise deliver to citizen Genet officers’ commissions in blank for several grades (ranks) in the army.”

Now, was your taking part in the war that your sister is carrying on for the good of the human race to be the price of a treaty with her, or was it not?—The President, then, has not only acted consistently with his duty in avoiding it, but consistently also with your sentiments, already decidedly expressed by your approbation of his proclamation of neutrality.

But, say the patriots, we could forgive him for not treating with France, if he had not treated with Great Britain. He treated with her while he refused to treat with our French brethren. But, for this accusation to have any weight with even the friends of France, it ought to be proved that the treaty negotiated with Great Britain bears some resemblance at least to the one proposed by Citizen Genet. Can this be done? Has the President stipulated with Great Britain to suspend your “commercial and political interests in order to befriend the empire of liberty, wherever it can be embraced?” Has he promised that you shall “contribute to the general emancipation of the New World?” Has Great Britain asked you to assist her in the war? Are you to make a “common cause with her?” Has she made your “guarantee of her islands an essential clause in the treaty, and a sine qua non of your free commerce with them?” Where, then, is the likeness between the two treaties? And if there be none, by what sort of patriotic reasoning do they prove that the President, because he had refused to treat with France, ought not to have treated with Great Britain? This, however, appears to be the heaviest charge against him.

“So bold an attack,” says your demagogue Franklin, “upon the palladium of our rights deserves a serious inquiry. However meritorious a motion for such an inquiry might be, if suggested in the Senate, yet it could not be considered in place; for inquiries of this sort belong to the House of Representatives, as the Senate are the constitutional judges to try impeachments. If the grand inquest of the nation, the House of Representatives, will suffer so flagrant a breach of the Constitution to pass unnoticed, we may conclude that virtue and patriotism have abandoned our country.”

Hence you are to conclude, then, that General Washington must be impeached, or virtue and patriotism have abandoned your country.

It is not for an Englishman to determine whether this be true or not; but, if it be true, you will excuse him for saying, The Lord have mercy upon your country!

Edition: current; Page: [85]

The only fair way for you to judge of the President’s conduct relative to the treaty negotiated with Great Britain, and the one proposed by France, is, to draw a comparison between your present situation, and the situation in which you would have now been, had he followed a different conduct. As the tree is known by its fruit, so are the measures of the statesman by their effects. Look round you, and observe well the spectacle that the United States present at this moment. Imagine its reverse, and you have an idea of what would have been your situation, had the President yielded to the proposals of citizen Genet, or those of the war party in Congress. The produce of the country would have been at about one-third of its present price, while every imported article would have risen in a like proportion. The farmer must have sold his wheat at four shillings a bushel in place of fourteen, and in place of giving four dollars a yard for cloth, he must have given ten or twelve. Houses and lands, instead of being risen to triple their former value, as they now are, would have fallen to one-third of that value, and must, at the same time, have been taxed to nearly half their rent. In short, you would have been in the same situation as you were in 1777, and without the same means of extricating yourself from it. However, such a situation might, perhaps, be a desirable one to you. Habit does great things. People who were revolution mad, might look back with regret to the epoch just mentioned, and might even view with envy the effects of the French Revolution. If so, it is by no means too late yet; the President has only to refuse his ratification of the treaty with Great Britain, and adopt the measures proposed by the honest and incorruptible friends of the French Republic, and you may soon have your fill of what you desire. If you have wished to enjoy once more the charms of change, and taste the sweets of war and anarchy (for I look upon them as inseparable in this country), then the President may merit an impeachment at your hands; but, if you have desired to live in peace and plenty, while the rest of the world has been ravaged and desolated, to accuse the President now, is to resemble the crew of ungrateful buccaniers, who, having safely arrived in port, cut the throat of their pilot.


Or, Observations on a Pamphlet entitled, “A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation.”

  • “For gold defiles by frequent touch;
  • There’s nothing fouls the hand so much.
  • But as his paws he strove to scower,
  • He washed away the chemic power;
  • And Midas now neglected stands,
  • With ass’s ears and dirty hands.

Note by the Editors.—The pamphlet now before us relates to the detection of a corrupt Secretary of State, to whom we have alluded in the Preface, and also in the note preceding the “Little Plain English;” but there is a circumstance connected with it that we must explain to the reader. Edition: current; Page: [86] He will see a constant reference to the “Western Insurrection,” and, as that does not explain itself, we must do it here. Late in 1794, four of the western counties of Pennsylvania broke out into open revolt in consequence of an excise on spirits which was levied within them. It became so alarming that an army was raised to quell it; but Washington’s Government was foiled in its attempts to raise the militia for the purpose. They would not come out. Mifflin, the Governor of Pennsylvania, and Dallas, his Secretary, were thought to be supine in their duties; but it remained for the discovery on which “the New Year’s Gift” is a commentary to show precisely why they were so. The insurrection was quelled without fighting; but, at the outbreak of it, the secretary of state, Randolph, made overtures to the French Minister, which amounted to a treasonable conspiracy to overthrow the Government; it involved others as well as himself, and it was discovered by one of those miracles which bring treachery to light, and was made known to Washington on the 11th August 1795. The discovery was made just in the heat of the conflict of parties concerning the British Treaty. It gave a blow to the French party, and great strength to the President and the friends of England, and, indeed, the adoption of the Treaty was attributed to this affair. Randolph retired instantly on the discovery, but was suffered to go unpunished into retirement. The “New-Year’s Gift” is an answer to a pamphlet in which he attempted a vindication of himself. It is so clear and convincing an exposure of fallacies, and is so good a picture of the difficulties which surrounded Washington’s Government; it is so clear a proof that its author was not, as is represented by foolish and malignant men, an insane “Royalist, libelling the Federal Government and its founders,” but, rather, that he supported that Government and upheld its founders against a band of traitors; this is so clear, that we place it in our Selections. At the time of writing it, Mr. Cobbett was still unknown, but he says (Pore. vol. 4, p. 122), “Bradford (his publisher) told me he had read some pages of the ‘New Year’s Gift’ to two of the Senators, who were mightily pleased with it and laughed heartily; and he related a conversation that had taken place between him and Mr. Wolcot, the present Secretary of the Treasury, who assured him, that some of the officers of Government did intend to write an answer to Randolph’s Vindication, but that my New-Year’s Gift had done its business so completely that nothing further was necessary. He added that they were all exceedingly delighted with my productions.” In our note to “Plain English,” we said that Randolph was suggested to the President for the Secretaryship by Jefferson. This we gather from the Anas, in the fourth volume of the Life of Jefferson, p. 506, where he gives a conversation between the President and himself, upon his retiring from the office of Secretary, in these words: “I asked him whether some person could not take my office par interim, till he should make an appointment; as Mr. Randolph for instance. ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘but there you would raise an expectation of keeping it, and I do not know that he is fit for it, nor what is thought of Mr. Randolph.’ I avoided noticing the last observation, and he put the question to me directly. Then I told him, I went into society so little as to be unable to answer it: I knew that the embarrassment in his private affairs had obliged him to use expedients which had injured him with the merchants and shopkeepers, and affected his character of independence.” Jefferson remained some time after in office and then retired, when Randolph was appointed. The surprising thing is, that Jefferson could not think of a fitter man in all America to succeed him than Randolph appears to have been; but it is very evident that he bore ill-will towards Washington. In a letter to Mr. Giles (Life &c. vol. 3, p. 325), he observes on the address and answer at the opening of Congress in 1795, “I remark, in the reply of the President, a small travestie of the sentiment contained in the answer of the representatives. They acknowledge that he has contributed a great share to the national happiness by his services. He thanks them for ascribing to his agency a great share of those benefits. The former keeps in view the co-operation of others towards the public good. The latter presents to view his sole agency:” a piece of hypercriticism that shows what jealousies were at work within him; for really, if one examines it, Washington’s answer was a modest echo of the address. It says he had contributed a great share (by-the-by, Jefferson is guilty of worse than travestie, for the words of the address are “contributed a very great share”); that is, he had been a great contributor, whereas he only Edition: current; Page: [87] assumes to have been an agent in the work of bestowing benefits on his country. The general meaning of the word agency is, acting in behalf of another; so that Washington assumed a lower station than the address ascribed to him. In the same letter, which is dated 31st December 1795, he speaks of Randolph, and of his pamphlet, which he had just received from his correspondent, in these extraordinary terms: “I thank you much for the pamphlet. His narrative is so straight and plain, that even those who did not know him will acquit him of the charge of bribery. Those who knew him had done it from the first.” No man who reads the following pamphlet can think as Mr. Jefferson did of this offender, and indeed it is hardly to be believed that Randolph’s pamphlet could have imposed any such belief upon his mind. It is curious, too, to observe the discrepancy between the passage just quoted and that which we take from the Anas. In the latter, it is clear that Washington suspected Randolph, and that he sounded Jefferson to find if he did not. Jefferson says that he avoided the question; and on being pressed more home upon it, he goes “so little into society as to be unable to answer it;” and yet only about a twelvemonth afterwards, on receiving Randolph’s pamphlet, he vouches that “those who knew him had acquitted him from the first,” leaving his correspondent to suppose, that, if he did not know Randolph himself, he at any rate knew all those who did, and could rely upon their opinions.

Among the means employed by the anarchical assemblies of France, in the propagation of their detestable principles, that of corruption may be regarded as one of the most powerful, and, accordingly, it has ever shared a principal part of their attention. If we take a survey of their confiscations, proscriptions and assassinations, from the seizure of the property of the ecclesiastics, by the constituent assembly, down to the horrid butcheries of Carrier, we shall find that this has often been a leading motive for the perpetrating of those deeds, which will blacken the French name as long as honesty and humanity shall be esteemed amongst men. It is, at least, an object of which they have never lost sight, and which they have spared nothing to accomplish. They have ransacked the coffers of the rich, stripped poverty of its very rags, robbed the infant of its birth-right, wrenched the crutch from the hand of tottering old age, and, joining sacrilege to burglary, have plundered even the altars of God, in order to possess themselves of the means of corrupting degenerate foreigners.

That their plans of seduction have been but too successful they themselves avow. Like the gang of highwaymen in the subterraneous cave, each mounts the polluted tribune in his turn, and tells his tale of corruption. According to their own acknowledgments, they have expended millions upon millions in this commerce of consciences, since they have called their country a Republic; and, which is well worthy of remark, these immense sums have all been expended, with a trifling exception, in the Republican States that have condescended to fraternize with them. The patriots of Geneva and Holland, of Genoa and Switzerland, have been bought with the treasures extorted from the unhappy French. The two former states are, in every political point of view, annihilated, and the two latter exist as a proof, that states, as well as individuals may sometimes triumph in successful baseness and vanity.*

The people of the United States of America had not the mortification to see their country included in the dark catalogue; and though it was Edition: current; Page: [88] evident to every discerning man, that some such influence began to prevail, in different parts of the Union, soon after the arrival of citizen Genet; though it was impossible to account for the foundation of the democratic clubs, and for the countenance they received from many persons of weight and authority (particularly in the State of Pennsylvania, where the Secretary of the State was at the head of the mother club) upon any other principle; though people were daily seen acting in direct opposition to their apparent interests; and though the partisans of France did not hesitate openly to declare their enmity to the President of the United States and to the Government he had been chosen to administer; notwithstanding all these striking and well-known facts, the great body of the people would have regarded any one as a slanderer of their national character, who should have insinuated, that the secrets of their Government, and their most important interests, were the price of that sudden exaltation that every where appeared among the persons devoted to the will of the French Minister. The people might have remained in this delusive confidence, till their constitution had been subverted, and till they had been plunged into a calamitous foreign war, or driven to the dire necessity of shedding each other’s blood, had it not been for the accidental interception of the letter, that has led to the vindication on which I have here undertaken to make a few observations.

Before I enter on the vindication itself, two circumstances present themselves as subjects of preliminary observation: the time and the manner of its being introduced to the public.

Mr. Randolph informs us that he gave in his resignation on the 19th of August, in consequence of his having been interrogated on the contents of an intercepted letter of the French minister, citizen Fauchet; and we all know that his Vindication, if vindication it must be, did not appear till the 18th of December, a space of exactly four months, wanting one day. When he had given in his resignation, he did not remain at Philadelphia to court the inquiry that he talks so much of, but flew away to Rhode-Island, in order to overtake Mr. Fauchet, by whose very letter he stood accused, and to obtain from him a certificate of his innocence and morality. We shall see by-and-by how he was employed during his stay at Rhode-Island; at present we must follow him back to Philadelphia, where we find him arrived on the 21st of September, thirty-three days after his departure, and writing to the President of the United States, to inform him that he is preparing his vindication with all imaginable dispatch; and of this he had taken care to inform the public several days before. After this notification, it was impossible that the people should not hourly expect to see in the public papers an elucidation of the whole affair. What then must be their astonishment, when after having waited with the utmost impatience for three long weeks, they were given to understand that the boasting vindicator could not close his laborious performance without having access to certain other papers of a confidential nature? The request for these papers, all evasive and malicious as it was, was at once granted by the President. Hence the idle tales of a British faction.

It was probable, too, that by delaying the publication till after the meeting of Congress, it might be brought out at a moment when some decision of that body respecting the treaty might irritate the feelings of the people against the President’s conduct; and by directing their attention to that part of the vindication intended to criminate him, might turn the shaft of their censure from the vindicator himself.

Edition: current; Page: [89]

Nor shall we find that the manner of his introducing his vindication to the public speaks more in his favour.

In this letter of resignation, he says to the President:—

“I am satisfied, sir, that you will acknowledge one piece of justice on this occasion, which is, that until an inquiry can be made, the affair shall continue in secrecy under your injunction.

But after his return from Rhode-Island, knowing that the President could not lay an injunction for the time past, and knowing also that a copy of the dreadful dispatch was in the hands of Mr. Bond,* on whom the President could lay no injunction at all, he suspected the affair had got abroad, which was indeed the case; it was then, and not before, that, making a virtue of necessity, he informed the public, by publishing a letter he had written to the President, that he would prepare a vindication of his conduct.

After this he suffered the matter to rest for some time, and then published an extract from another letter to the President, dated the 8th of October, in the following words:—

“You must be sensible, sir, that I am inevitably driven into the discussion of many confidential and delicate points. I could with safety immediately appeal to the people of the United States, who can be of no party. But I shall wait for your answer to this letter, so far as it respects the paper desired, before I forward to you my general letter, which is delayed for no other cause. I shall also rely that you will consent to the whole of this affair, howsoever confidential and delicate, being exhibited to the world. At the same time, I prescribe to myself this condition, not to mingle any thing which I do not sincerely conceive to belong to the subject.”

By this stroke, our vindicator imagined he had reduced the President to a dilemma from which he would be unable to extricate him. He thought that the President’s circumspect disposition would lead him to refuse the communication of the paper demanded; and in that case he would have impressed on the public mind an idea of its containing something at once capable of acquitting himself, and of criminating the President. And should the paper be granted, he hoped that he should be able to make such comments on it as would at least render the chief of the executive as odious as himself.

The President did not balance a moment on the course he should take.

“It is not difficult,” says he in the answer, “to perceive what your objects are; but that you may have no cause to complain of the withholding any paper (however private and confidential) which you shall think necessary in a case of so serious a nature, I have directed that you should have the inspection of my letter of the 22nd of July, agreeably to your request; and you are at full liberty to publish, without reserve, any and every private and confidential letter I ever wrote you; nay, more, every word I ever uttered to or in your presence, from whence you can derive any advantage in your justification.”

I am sorry that the bounds within which I propose to confine myself do not permit me to give the reader the whole of this noble letter; here, however, is sufficient to prove the generous deportment of the writer. These extracts most eminently depict the minds of the parties: in one we hear the bold, the undaunted language of conscious integrity, and in the other the faltering accents of guilt.

Baffled in this project of recrimination, the vindicator had recourse to others, if possible, still more unmanly. A paragraph appeared in the Edition: current; Page: [90] public papers, as extracted from a Carolina gazette, telling us a shocking tale about Mr. Randolph having been ill-treated by the President, who had been worked up by a wicked British faction to accuse him of having his price, and that in consequence poor Mr. Randolph had been sacrificed, merely because he had advised the President not to sign the treaty with Great Britain.

After an infinity of other subterfuges and precautions, the Vindication itself comes forth; not in the face of the day, like the honest, innocent man from his peaceful dwelling, but like the thief from his hiding-place, preceded by his skulking precursors. These numerous tricks and artifices have, however, all failed: the public has had the candour to prejudge nothing: the thunder has been reserved for the day of judgment.

Should the vindicator be able to find some quibble to excuse these preliminary manœuvres, how will he justify the sale of his pretended Vindication? If it be not necessary to the justification of his conduct while in the service of the public, why is it published? and if it be, how dares he attempt to make them pay for it? He every where boasts of his pure republicanism, and fawningly courts the favour of the people by calling on them to judge between him and his patron, the President. He pretends to have held his office from them, though every one knows that he held it from the President, at whose pleasure he was removeable, and to whom alone he was in this case accountable. But allow him to hold his office from the people, it is to them he owes an account of his behaviour therein, and that gratis too.

Having dismissed these circumstances, which, though but trifles, if compared with many others that we shall meet with, were too glaring to pass unnoticed, I now come to the Vindication itself.

Mr. Randolph begins by a “statement of facts,” and in this I shall imitate him; but as to the manner of doing this we shall differ widely. He has endeavoured to lose us in a maze of letters and answers, and extracts and conversations, and notes and memorials and certificates; but as it is not my intention to render what I have to say unintelligible, not to weary my readers’ patience with a roundabout story, I shall endeavour to be as concise as possible consistent with perspicuity.

On the 31st of October, 1794, citizen Fauchet, the then French minister at Philadelphia, dispatched a letter to the committee of the government in France, informing them, among other things, of the rise and progress of the insurrection in the Western counties of Pennsylvania. This letter was put on board the Jean Bart, a French corvette, which sailed directly afterwards for France, and on her passage took an English merchant vessel. When the corvette arrived in the British channel, she was brought to by a frigate of the enemy. As soon as the commander of the former saw that it was impossible to escape, he brought the dispatches, and citizen Fauchet’s letter among the rest, upon the deck, and threw them overboard. But unfortunately for Mr. Randolph and some other patriots that we shall see mentioned by-and-by, there was a man on board who had the presence of mind and the courage to jump into the sea and save them. The reader will not be astonished at this heroic act, at this proof of unfeigned and unbought patriotism, when I tell him that the man was no sans-culotte citizen, but a British tar. It was indeed no other than the captain of the English vessel that the corvette had taken on her passage. This good fellow and the dispatches he had so gallantly preserved were taken up by the frigate’s boat; the dispatches were, of course, sent to Edition: current; Page: [91] the British government, by whom citizen Fauchet’s letter was, through Mr. Hammond, communicated to the President of the United States. The President showed it to Mr. Randolph, desiring him to make such explanations as he chose; and Mr. Randolph tells us that it was in consequence of what passed at this interview that he give in the resignation, of which he has since published a vindication.

Although this extraordinary performance is called “A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation,” people naturally look upon it as an attempt to vindicate his conduct previous to that resignation. The people had heard about corruption, about thousands of dollars, and about the pretended patriots of America having their prices; these were the points the people wanted to see cleared up. They could not conceive that exposing to the whole world, and consequently to the enemies of this country, their President’s private letters of July 1795, relative to the treaty, could possibly tend to invalidate the charges of treason contained in the French minister’s letter, written in the month of October, 1794. But Mr. Randolph, it appears, saw the matter in another light. He has thought proper to attempt to balance the crime laid to his charge against another supposed crime which he imputes to the President, concerning the ratification of the treaty.

Hence it follows that the Vindicator labours at two principal objects: to wash away the stain on his own reputation, and to represent the President of the United States as ratifying the treaty under the influence of a British faction. That the latter of these can, as I have already observed, have no sort of relation to the great and important point towards which the public mind has been so long directed, it is very manifest; nevertheless since it has been forced upon us, it would look like flinching from the inquiry to pass it over in silence. I shall therefore, after having observed on that part of the Vindication which comprehends what ought to have been its only object, endeavour to place in as fair a light as possible the indirect charge that is brought against the President.

From citizen Fauchet’s intercepted letter it appears that Mr. Randolph did betray to him the secrets of the American government, and make him overtures for money, to be applied to some purpose relative to the insurrection in the Western counties of Pennsylvania.

The first of these is fully set forth in the very first paragraph of the letter, which runs thus:—

“The measures which prudence prescribes to me to take with respect to my colleagues, have still presided in the digesting of the dispatches signed by them, which treat of the insurrection of the western counties, and of the repressive means adopted by the Government. I have allowed them to be confined to the giving of a faithful, but naked recital of events; the reflections therein contained scarcely exceed the conclusions easily deducible from the character assumed by the public prints. I have reserved myself to give you, as far as I am able, a key to the facts detailed in our reports. When it comes in question to explain, either by conjectures or by certain data, the secret views of a foreign government, it would be imprudent to run the risk of indiscretions, and to give oneself up to men, whose known partiality for that government, and similitude of passions and interests with its chiefs, might lead to confidences, the issue of which is incalculable. Besides, the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph alone throw a satisfactory light on every thing that comes to pass. These I have not yet communicated to my colleagues. The motives already mentioned lead to this reserve, and still less permit me to open myself to them at the present moment. I shall then endeavour, citizen, to give you a clue to all the measures of which the common dispatches give you an account, and to discover the true Edition: current; Page: [92] causes of the explosion,* which it is obstinately resolved to repress with great means, although the state of things has no longer any thing alarming.”

Notwithstanding the unequivocal expressions contained in this paragraph, the vindicator has endeavoured at a satisfactory explanation of it, and so confident does he pretend to be of having succeeded, that he says:—

“I hesitate not to pronounce, that he who feels a due abhorrence of party manœuvres will form a conclusion honourable to myself.”

Let us see, then, how he has extricated himself; what proof or what argument he has produced to wipe away the stigma, and to warrant the confidence with which he expresses himself of the people’s forming a conclusion to his honour.

The phrase of the first paragraph of citizen Fauchet’s letter which more immediately attracts our attention, is the “precious confessions of Mr. Randolph.” These words the vindicator has taken a deal of pains to explain away, and with his usual success. He begins by saying, that

“This observation upon the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph involves the judicious management of the office. It implies no deliberate impropriety, and cannot be particularly answered, until particular instances are cited.”

I see nothing here from which we are to form a conclusion to his honour; nor did he, it seems, for he immediately throws the task on citizen Fauchet’s certificate. This extra diplomatic instrument was obtained by the famous journey to Rhode-Island, under what circumstances we shall see by-and-by; at present let us hear what citizen Fauchet says in it:—

“As to the communications which he (Mr. Randolph) has made to me at different times, they were only of opinions, the greater part, if not the whole of which, I have heard circulated as opinions. I will observe here, that none of his conversations with me concluded without his giving me the idea that the President was a man of integrity, and a sincere friend to France. This explains in part (well put in) what I meant by the terms, his precious confessions. When I speak in the same paragraph in these words: ‘Besides the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph alone cast upon all which happens a satisfactory light,’ I have still in view only the explanations of which I have spoken above; and I must confess, that very often I have taken for confessions, what he might have communicated to me by virtue of a secret authority. And many things which I had, at the first instant, considered as confessions, were the subject of public conversation.”

Without admitting, even for a single moment, the validity of the evidence of this certificate, we may be permitted to admire its effrontery. Precious confessions are here explained to signify opinions, and opinions, too, that were the subject of public conversation! Oh! monstrous! Oh! front of tenfold brass! Were we to give credit to what citizen Fauchet has endeavoured to palm upon us in this certificate, we must conclude him to be either drunk or mad at the time of writing the paragraph which he thus explains, and the rest of his letter by no means authorizes such a conclusion. What idea do the words precious confessions convey to our minds? What is a confession? An acknowledgment which some one is prevailed on to make. And in what sense do we ever apply the epithet precious, but in that of valuable, rare, costly or dear? Would any man, that knows the meaning of these words, apply them to designate the common chat of a town, mere newspaper topics? We say, for instance, precious stones; but do we mean by these the rocks Edition: current; Page: [93] that we see cover the lands, or the flints and pebbles that we kick along the road? If some impudent quack were to tell us, that the pavement of Philadelphia is composed of precious stones, should we not hurl them at his head; should we not lapidate him?

But, let us see in what sense citizen Fauchet employs the same word precious, in another place, even in the very certificate where he endeavours to explain it to mean nothing. After speaking of the secret machinations of Mr. Hammond, the conspirations of the English, and their being at the bottom of the Western insurrection, he comes to the means that Mr. Randolph had proposed to get at their secrets, and says,

“I was astonished that the Government itself did not procure for itself information so precious.

Here, then, precious signifies secret. This information so precious, was rare information; information not to be come at without a bribe. This phrase fallen from the pen of citizen Fauchet, while his invention was upon the rack, to explain away another charge against the moral Mr. Randolph, fully proves in what sense he had ever used the word precious.

However, we should be very far from doing justice to these “precious confessions of Mr. Randolph,” by considering them in their naked, independent sense. It is very rarely that the true meaning of any phrase, or even of a complete sentence, is to be come at without taking in the context. That these precious confessions were neither so trifling nor of so public a nature as the citizen would make us believe, is clear from the tenor of the whole first paragraph above transcribed, which Mr. Randolph forgot to beg his friend to explain. After having mentioned the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph, “these,” says he, “I have not yet communicated to my colleagues.” And why?—“Because,” adds he, “the motives, already mentioned, lead to this reserve, and still less permit me to open myself to them at the present moment.” How is this, then? Why was this cautious reserve necessary, even towards his colleagues of the legation, if there was nothing to communicate but mere “opinions,” that were “the subject of public conversation?” What an over-and-above close man this must have been! Would to God, Mr. Randolph had been as close! But what were these “motives already mentioned?” We must consult the paragraph again here. The citizen, after stating that he allowed the dispatches, signed by his colleagues, to be confined to a naked recital of events, scarcely exceeding what might be gathered from the newspapers, observes, that he has reserved to himself the task of giving a key to these joint reports, and adds: when it comes in

“question to explain the secret views of a foreign government, it would be imprudent to give oneself up to men, whose known partiality for that government, and similitude of passions and interests with its chiefs, might lead to confidences, the issue of which is incalculable.”

Here we have the motives that prevented citizen Fauchet from communicating the precious confessions to his colleagues. Ordinary information, hardly exceeding what was to be learnt from the gazettes, he suffered them to participate; but as to the secret views of the Government, and the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph, he kept them in his own breast; because his colleagues were men

“who had a known partiality for the Government, and a similitude of passions and interests with its chiefs!”

Edition: current; Page: [94]

This reason for not trusting the colleagues of citizen Fauchet, is corroborated by a sentence of Mr. Randolph himself, who certainly forgot what he was about when he wrote it.

“Two persons,” says he, “were in commission with Mr. Fauchet, and it was suspected, from a quarter in which I confided, that these persons were in a political intimacy with members of our Government, not friendly to me.”

I am sure the reader will agree with me, that this was a reason, and a substantial one too, for not communicating to them the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph, if those confessions went to expose the secret views of the Government; but, if, on the contrary, they went no further than “opinions,” that were “the subject of public conversation,” the precaution was perfectly ridiculous. It was like the secret of the idiot, who, whispering a by-stander, told him the sun shined, but begged him to let it go no further.

In short all the parts of this account correspond so exactly, that they only want to amount to a proof of innocence instead of guilt, to render them a subject of pleasing contemplation. Citizen Fauchet receives certain precious confessions from Mr. Randolph, which he keeps from his colleagues, because they have a partiality for the Government, and because, from their intimacy with some of the members of it, they might make dangerous discoveries. The inevitable conclusion then is, that these precious confessions were not of opinions, that were the subject of public conversation, and that they were of a nature hostile to the Government; and whether this be “a conclusion honourable” to Mr. Randolph, or not, I leave the reader to determine.

Citizen Fauchet, in that part of his certificate which I have above quoted, makes an indirect attempt to establish a belief, that Mr. Randolph, in his confessions, never uttered any thing to the prejudice of the character of the President of the United States. This is his aim, when he says that,

“None of his conversations concluded without giving the idea that the President was a man of integrity.”

But, we are to observe, that the certificate was originally intended for the persual of the President. Who could tell how far such a declaration, if it should be believed, might go towards making Mr. Randolph’s peace? It has never yet appeared, that he was in earnest about a public vindication, till after his return from Rhode-Island; that is, till he saw that it was absolutely impossible to smother the affair. To have brought this declaration into the certificate with any other view than that of softening the President, would have been pure folly. The President being a man of incorruptible integrity, was surely no precious confession; on the contrary, I am mistaken if it was not among the most disagreeable information that citizen Fauchet ever received from his friend, the Secretary. If this certificate had, then, been intended for the public, to what purpose was the declaration concerning the President thrusted into it? Did the framer, or rather framers of it, imagine; nay, could they possibly imagine, that Mr. Randolph would acquire favour with the people for having declared that the man he now attempts to blacken, the man he now represents as under the guidance of a British faction, is a man of incorruptible integrity? The President’s character stood in no need of the eulogy of Mr. Randolph, or the certificate of a mushroom French minister.

Edition: current; Page: [95]

The desperate Vindicator makes one struggle more. He endeavours to back the evidence of citizen Fauchet’s certificate with a protestation of his own, in which he denies ever having received a farthing for the communication of state-secrets; says that he never communicated any such secrets; that he never uttered a syllable which violated the duties of office; all which, adds he,

“I assert, and to the assertion I am ready to superadd the most solemn sanction.”

I shall not throw away my time in attempting to invalidate this kind of testimony. There was a time when the solemn sanction, or even bare assertion, of Mr. Randolph, might have been formidable; but that time is, alas! no more.

We now come to the overtures for money, to be applied to some purpose relative to the insurrection in the Western counties of Pennsylvania.

Citizen Fauchet, in the 15th paragraph of the fatal letter, had been speaking of the assembling of the insurgents at Braddock’s Field, and of the preparations of the Federal government to reduce them to order and obedience. Then, in the 16th paragraph, he comes to speak of the conduct of certain persons in power at this momentous crisis.

“In the meantime,” says he, “although there was a certainty of having an army, yet it was necessary to assure themselves of co-operators among the men whose patriotic reputation might influence their party, and whose lukewarmness or want of energy in the existing conjunctures might compromise the success of the plans. Of all the governors whose duty it was to appear at the head of the requisitions, the Governor of Pennsylvania* alone enjoyed the name of Republican; his opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury, and of his systems, was known to be unfavourable. The Secretary of this State possessed great influence in the popular society of Philadelphia, which in its turn influenced those of other States; of course he merited attention. It appears, therefore, that these men, with others unknown to me, all having, without doubt, Randolph at their head, were balancing to decide on their party. Two or three days before the proclamation was published,§ and of course before the cabinet had resolved on its measures, Mr. Randolph came to me with an air of great eagerness, and made me the overtures of which I have given you an account in No. 6. Thus, with some thousands of dollars, the Republic could have decided on civil war or on peace! Thus, the consciences of the pretended patriots of America have already their prices! It is very true, that the certainty of these conclusions, painful to be drawn, will for ever exist in our archives! What will be the old age of this government, if it is thus early decrepid!”

From this paragraph we learn that certain men of weight and influence were balancing as to the side they should take, at the time of the insurrection; that two or three days before the issuing of the proclamation for the assembling of a military force to march against the insurgents, Mr. Randolph went to citizen Fauchet, and made to him certain overtures; and that from the nature of these overtures, citizen Fauchet concluded that if he had had some thousands of dollars at his disposal, he could have decided on civil war or on peace. From this latter circumstance it is evident that the overtures were for money, to be applied to some purpose relative to the insurrection; and, therefore, our inquiries (if, indeed, inquiries are at all necessary) are naturally confined to two questions: who was to receive this money? and for what purpose?

Edition: current; Page: [96]

The shortest way of determining the first of these questions is, to resort to the fair and unequivocal meaning of the paragraph itself. Suppose the following passage of it alone had come to light:—

These men, with others unknown to me, all having, without doubt, Randolph at their head, were balancing to decide on their party. Two or three days before the proclamation was published, Mr. Randolph came to me with an air of great eagerness, and made to me the overtures, of which I have given you an account in No. 6. Thus, with some thousands of dollars, the Republic could have determined on civil war, or on peace.”

Suppose, I say, that of all the letter, this passage alone had been found, what should we have wanted to know further?—Why, certainly, who these men were. This is what we should have cursed our stars for having kept from us. Randolph, we should have said, is at the head of them; but who are these men? To whom do these important words refer?—Luckily, citizen Fauchet’s letter leaves us nothing to wish for on this head; these words are relative to “the Governor of Pennsylvania,” the “Secretary of this State,* and other persons unknown to the writer. These men, according to citizen Fauchet’s letter, were, with Randolph at their head, balancing to decide on their party; and while they were thus balancing, Mr. Randolph, being the leader, went to citizen Fauchet and made him such overtures as would have enabled him, had he had “some thousands of dollars,” to decide on civil war or on peace.

I shall not amuse myself with drawing conclusions here, as I am fully persuaded that no one who shall do me the honour of reading these sheets will find any difficulty in doing it for himself. It is, however, necessary to notice what has been advanced with an intention of doing away the impression that this part of citizen Fauchet’s letter must inevitably leave on our minds, with respect to the persons in whose behalf the money overtures were made.

The reader has observed that citizen Fauchet mentions a dispatch, which he calls his No. 6, and to which he refers his government for the particulars of Mr. Randolph’s overtures. An extract from this No. 6 the Vindicator has obtained from citizen Adet, the present French minister, which he has published in his Vindication, and which I here insert:—

“Scarce was the commotion known, when the Secretary of State came to my house. All his countenance was grief. He requested of me a private conversation. It is all over, he said to me. A civil war is about to ravage our unhappy country. Four men, by their talents, their influence, and their energy, may save it. But, debtors of English merchants, they will be deprived of their liberty if they take the smallest step. Could you lend them instantaneously funds sufficient to shelter them from English persecution? This inquiry astonished me much. It was impossible for me to make a satisfactory answer. You know my want of power, and my defect of pecuniary means. I shall draw myself off from the affair by some common-place remarks, and by throwing myself on the pure and unalterable principles of the Republic.”

God of Heaven! what must be the situation of a man who publishes such a piece as this, in order to weaken the evidence against him!

We should certainly be at full liberty to reject the testimony contained in this extract; not on account of the person who signs it (though his not being a Christian might with some weak-minded people be a weighty objection), but on account of its being but a part of the No. 6 referred to. Edition: current; Page: [97] I do not, however, wish to derive any advantage from this circumstance: I admit the validity of the testimony contained in the extract, and well I may, for the greatest enemy of Mr. Randolph and of those who are involved with him, could wish for no better confirmation of the 16th paragraph of citizen Fauchet’s letter.

The only circumstance in which the extract from No. 6 appears to differ from the letter is, that in the extract mention is made of four men, and in the letter of only three. But let it be observed, that though only three persons are named in the letter, yet citizen Fauchet adds to them, “others unknown to me.”

The next piece of exculpatory evidence produced is the certificate of citizen Fauchet. But before we quote this paper again, it is necessary to see how it was obtained.

When citizen Fauchet’s letter was first shown to Mr. Randolph in the council-chamber, and he was asked to explain it, he hesitated; desired time to commit his remarks to writing; went to his office, locked up his own apartment there, and gave the key to the messenger; then went home, from whence he wrote to the President, requesting a copy of the letter, and informing him that if citizen Fauchet had not quitted the continent he would go after him, to prepare himself for an inquiry. Was this the behaviour of a man grossly calumniated? Such a man would have said: I see, sir, by this letter that I am charged with crimes which my heart abhors; I declare the writer to be an infamous slanderer; but as appearances are against me, here are the keys of my office and even of my private papers: examine them all, and I will remain here till the examination is ended. Send also for citizen Fauchet, if he be yet in the country: bring him here, and let him avow this to my face, if he dares.—I appeal to the reader’s breast whether there is any thing that a man, strong in his integrity, would have so ardently desired as to be confronted with his accuser; or any thing he would have so obstinately refused as to be the messenger to seek him? Allowing, however, that a man falsely accused of such heinous crimes had, in a paroxysm of rage, quitted the council-chamber to pursue the assassin of his reputation, would he not have instantly departed? Would he have closed his eyes till he came up with him? Would any mortal means of conveyance have been swift enough for his pursuit? And, once arrived, would he not have rushed into his presence? Would not the sight of the perfidious miscreant have almost driven him to madness? Had he found him in the arms of his harlot, or grovelling at the altar of his pagan gods, would he not have dragged him forth to chastisement? The heart that swells with injured innocence is deaf to the voice of discretion!

How different from all this was the cool and gentle, and genteel deportment of the Vindicator! He stays very quietly two days at Philadelphia, before his departure for Rhode-Island, and loiters away no less than ten days in performing a journey that the common stages perform in five. When he arrives, he goes and has a téte-à-téte with citizen Fauchet, and so mild and so complaisant is he, and so little malice does he bear on account of the wound given to his honour, that he afterwards writes the citizen a note, in which he styles himself his humble servant.

I pass by the certificates of a tipstaff and a pilot, which were brought in as auxiliaries to that of citizen Fauchet, and come to the questions that were to be put, but which were not put, to citizen Fauchet, before Mr. Marchant, a judge of the district of Rhode-Island, and Mr. Malbone, a Edition: current; Page: [98] member of the House of Representatives. This play at question and answer must have been fine sport for Messrs. Marchant and Malbone, who would have had the dramatis personæ before their eyes; but when committed to paper, a perusal of it would have been quite flat and insipid to us. No question, I am positive, would on this occasion have drawn truth from the lips of citizen Fauchet; except, perhaps, the question formerly employed in the Inquisition: for as to oaths upon the Holy Evangelists, what power could they have had upon the conscience of a man whose creed declares the Bible to be a lie, and who alternately adores the goat, the hog, the dog, the cat, and the jack-ass?*

After these remarks on the manner in which this certificate, which we are called upon to give credit to, was procured, we may venture to quote it, without running the risk of being misled by its protestations. Let us then hoar what it says with respect to the persons in whose behalf the overtures for money were made:—

“About the month of July or August, in the last year, he (Mr. Randolph) came to see me (citizen Fauchet), at my house. We had a private conversation of about twenty minutes. His countenance bespoke distress. He said to me that he was afraid a civil war would soon ravage America. I inquired of him what new information was procured. He said that he began to believe that, in fact, the English were fomenting the insurrection, and that he did not doubt that Mr. Hammond and his Congress would push some measures with respect to the insurrection, with an intention of giving embarrassment to the United States. He demanded of me if, as my Republic was itself interested in these manœuvres, I could not, by the means of some correspondents, procure some information of what was passing. I answered him, that I believed I could. He replied upon this, that having formed many connections, by the means of flour contracts, three or four persons, among the different contractors, might, by talents, energy, and some influence, procure the necessary information, and save America from a civil war, by proving that England interfered in the troubles of the West.”

After this the certificate says that Mr. Randolph stated a doubt as to the pecuniary affairs of these contractors, and observed that those whom citizen Fauchet

might be able to employ, might perhaps be debtors of English merchants; and that, in that case, might perhaps be exposed to be harassed and arrested; and, therefore, he asked if the payment of the sums due them, by virtue of the existing contracts, would not be sufficiently early to render them independent of British persecution.”

So! here are all “these men who were balancing to decide on their party; these men, who, by their talents, influence, and energy, might save the country!” these men who could have decided on civil war or on peace are, by this barefaced certificate, turned into industrious, peaceable flour-merchants.

Edition: current; Page: [99]

This explanation exceeds even the impudence of Lord Peter, who swore that the words gold lace meant a broom-stick.

Mr. Randolph pretends that, so far from having made overtures for himself and company, he rejects with horror the idea of giving a pair of gloves even to these honest flour-men. Citizen Fauchet, it is true, did understand Mr. Randolph as advising him to obtain intelligence, by assisting with loans those who had contracted with him for flour: but now calling to mind all the circumstances, he has an intimate conviction that he was mistaken in the propositions of Mr. Randolph, who only asked if these good people could not be accommodated with the “sums due them on their contracts!” Hence, then, they wish to infer that all was fair and honest; that no such thing as corruption was ever dreamt of. Admit them this, for a moment, and then let them account for the following expressions, which come immediately after the money overtures, mentioned in the dispatch, No. 6:—

“This inquiry astonished me much. It was impossible for me to make a satisfactory answer. You know my want of power, and my defect of pecuniary means. I shall draw myself off from the affair by some common-place remarks, and by throwing myself on the pure and unalterable principles of the Republic.”

Now, why pure? Why throw himself on the pure principles of his Republic? How could the pure principles of his Republic forbid him to yield to a proposal that had nothing impure in it? And why does he talk of his want of power, and of pecuniary means? Would it not be the height of stupidity for a man to talk this way, if he was required to do nothing but to pay three or four flour-men “the sums due them on their contracts?”

Nor was such a trifling proposal better calculated to awaken in citizen Fauchet these reflections!

“Thus, with some thousands of dollars, the Republic could have decided on civil war, or on peace! Thus, the consciences of the pretended patriots of America have already their prices! It is very true that the certainty of these conclusions, painful to be drawn, will for ever exist in our archives! What will be the old age of this government, if it is thus early decrepid!

Would any man, except a madman or a fool, have made these reflections on a proposal to pay certain merchants “sums due them,” and particularly when those sums were to enable them to serve their country, by exploring the secret machinations of an hostile power? Mr. Randolph’s proposing to come at the secrets of the English minister, by prevailing on citizen Fauchet to pay the sums due to his contractors, would certainly have excited a laugh in Fauchet: and if he had thought such a silly proposition worth a mention in his dispatches, he would naturally have said—“What a loggerheaded fellow they have chosen for Secretary of State here! Would you imagine that he has proposed to me to pay my flour-contractors what I owe them, as a mean of inducing them to penetrate into the designs of the English government! The man must certainly be out of his wits, or he never would be foolish enough to suppose that these people, in gratitude for having received no more than their due from me, would be induced to undertake a dangerous and expensive service for him. However, the poor man, though a little crack-brained, is a good patriot, and has no other motive in all this than to serve his country.” These would have been the remarks of citizen Fauchet had the overtures been of the nature he now pretends they were. He would Edition: current; Page: [100] have had all the reason in the world to accuse the Secretary of folly, but none to accuse him of guilt; none to authorize those bitter reflections on the saleableness of the consciences of the pretended patriots of America, or on the decrepitude of the Government.

This is not all. If the overtures for money were in behalf of citizen Fauchet’s flour-men, there remains a very important passage of his intercepted letter which both he and the Vindicator have left unexplained. It is this:—

As soon as it was decided that the French Republic purchased no men to do their duty, there were to be seen individuals about whose conduct the Government could at least form uneasy conjectures, giving themselves up with a scandalous ostentation to its views, and even seconding its declarations.* The popular societies soon emitted resolutions stamped with the same spirit; and who, although they may have been advised by love of order, might nevertheless have omitted or uttered them with less solemnity. Then were seen coming from the very men whom we had been accustomed to regard as having little friendship for the system of the Treasurer, harangues without end, in order to give a new direction to the public mind. The militia, however, manifest some repugnance, particularly in Pennsylvania; at last, by excursions or harangues, incomplete requisitions are obtained. How much more interesting than the changeable men I have painted above were those plain citizens!” &c.

That citizen Fauchet understood the money overtures to be made on the part of these changeable men is evident; for the passage here transcribed follows immediately after the paragraph in which those overtures are mentioned. And the passage itself is too unequivocal to be misunderstood. All this scandalous ostentation, he says, these second-hand declarations, and harangues without end, in favour of the Government, took place among these changeable men as soon as it was known (and not before) that the French Republic purchased no men to do their duty. Now then, let Mr. Randolph, or any one of these changeable men, twist this passage till it applies to his flour-merchants, if he can. What! did the flour-merchants give themselves up to the views of the Government with a scandalous ostentation? What harangues did these poor devils ever make, I wonder, to disguise their past views, and give a new direction to the public mind? We all know that the democratic Societies and the good Governor of Pennsylvania issued declarations seconding that of the Government; but the flour-merchants never issued any, or at least that I know of. And yet the citizen tells us, that all these harangues and declarations took place as soon as it was decided that the French Republic purchased no men to do their duty. How then, in the name of all that is vile and corrupt, could the money overtures be made in behalf of three or four flour-merchants?

But I must not let these haranguers go off so.

Then,” says citizen Fauchet, “were seen coming from the very men whom we had been accustomed to regard as having little friendship for the system of the Treasurer, harangues without end.”

Who, then, were the persons that citizen Fauchet had been accustomed to regard as having little friendship for the system of the Treasurer?

“Of all the governors,” says Citizen Fauchet, in the 16th paragraph, already quoted, “of all the governors whose duty it was to appear at the head of the requisitions, the Governor of Pennsylvania alone enjoyed the name of Republican: his opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury, and of his systems, was known Edition: current; Page: [101] to be unfavourable.” In another part of the letter, when speaking about the behaviour of several of the general officers on the Western expedition, he says, “The Governor of Pennsylvania, of whom it never would have been suspected, lived intimately and publicly with Hamilton.

As to the fact concerning the harangues without end, those of my readers whose memories are not very faithful, have only to open the Philadelphia newspapers for the months of August and September, 1794. Let the reader, particularly if he be a Pennsylvanian, treasure up all these things in his mind.

I have but one more observation to add here, and that does not arise from any thing said in the Vindication, but from a paragraph which appeared in Mr. Bache’s Gazette of the 22nd December, signed A. J. Dallas, and which contained the following words:—

“The publication of Mr. Fauchet’s intercepted letter, renders any remark unnecessary on my part, or on the part of the Governor, upon the villanous insinuations of the libeller” [meaning Mr. Wilcocks, who had said that it was reported that citizen Fauchet’s letter charged the Governor of Pennsylvania, Mr. Randolph, and Valerius (by which name Mr. Dallas looks upon himself as designated) of bribery and corruption], “in relation to the contents of that letter; but we may expect to derive a perfect triumph on the occasion, from the candour of those who have incautiously circulated injurious conjectures, and from the mortification of those who have wilfully fabricated iniquitous falsehoods.”

It seems that this A. J. Dallas is the self-same “Secretary of this State,” and that this governor is the same “governor of Pennsylvania,” of whom citizen Fauchet has made such honourable mention, and of whom we have been talking all this time. For my part, I do not know the men, nor either of them, nor have I any ambition to know them, but if they can see any thing in citizen Fauchet’s intercepted letter from which they “expect to derive a perfect triumph,” I congratulate them on their penetration with all my heart. Should they triumph, their triumph will be perfect, indeed; for conscious I am, that it will be attended with this singular and happy circumstance, that it will excite envy in no living soul?*

As I am pretty confident that no further remark is necessary with respect to the persons who were to receive the product of Mr. Randolph’s overtures, I shall now speak to the second question: for what purpose were they to receive it?

I believe few people have read the intercepted letter without being fully convinced that the money, if obtained, was to be so employed as to Edition: current; Page: [102] enable the receivers openly to espouse the cause of the Western insurgents, and overturn the Federal government, or, at least, counteract its measures so far as to oblige those at the head of it to abandon it to the direction of those corrupt and profligate men who wished to prevent any accommodations taking place with Great Britain, and to plunge their devoted country into a war on the side of France. The passage of the letter where the overtures are mentioned authorizes this conclusion; and when we come to examine the other paragraphs, together with the extract from the dispatch No. 6, and to compare the whole of citizen Fauchet’s account with the well-known conduct of those who are clearly designated as the persons in whose behalf the money overtures were made, the evidence becomes irresistible.

To weaken this evidence, nothing has been advanced, that does not, if possible, add to its force, by showing to what more than miserable shifts and subterfuges the Vindicator has been driven. Nevertheless as we profess to make observations on the Vindication, all that it contains, however false and absurd, claims some share of our attention; and, therefore, we must now take a view of what has been said concerning the application of the money to be obtained by the overtures of Mr. Randolph, beginning, as before, with the certificate of citizen Fauchet.

After telling us, that he had frequently had conversations with Mr. Randolph about the insurrection, and that he himself suspected the English of fomenting and supporting it, he says:—

“I communicated my suspicions to Mr. Randolph. I had already communicated to him a Congress, which at this time was holden at New-York. I had communicated to him my fears, that this Congress would have for its object, some manœuvre against the Republic of France, and to render unpopular some virtuous men, who were at the head of affairs; to destroy the confidence which existed on one hand, between General Clinton (late governor of New-York) and his fellow-citizens, and on the other, that which united Mr. Randolph to the President.”

He then tells us the old story about the flour-merchants.

Now comes Mr. Randolph’s turn:—

“Our discourse,” says he, “turned upon the insurrection and upon the expected machinations of Mr. Hammond and others at New-York, against the French Republic, Governor Clinton, and myself.—Fresh as the intelligence was upon my mind, that the British were fomenting the insurrection, I was strongly inclined to believe that Mr. Hammond’s Congress would not forego the opportunity of furnishing, to the utmost of their abilities, employment to the United States, and of detaching their attention and power from the European war. I own, therefore, that I was extremely desirous of learning what was passing at New-York. I certainly thought that those men, who were on an intimate footing with Mr. Fauchet, and had some access to British connections, were the best fitted for obtaining this intelligence.”

And for this reason he recommended the flour-men. Oh, master Randolph! master Randolph, Oh!

Here, then, this worthy statesman was endeavouring to render a most important service to his country, His only object being to dive into the machinations that the English Minister and his Congress were hatching against the United States! A very laudable pursuit. This story has something in it so flattering to human nature, that it is a pity it should be the most abominable falsehood that ever issued from the procreant brain of a pettyfogging politician.

In the first place, nobody sincerely believed, that the English had even Edition: current; Page: [103] the slightest correspondence or connection with the insurgents; nor did any body ever, from first to last, pretend to avow such a belief, that I know of, except Mr. Randolph and a certain Governor. These two gentlemen endeavoured to impress the idea of such a connection as well on the mind of the President as on that of the public; but neither of these yielded to the insidious suggestion. Both very naturally demanded proofs, and proofs were not to be found; unless the insurgents’ howling out liberty and equality, their planting liberty trees, and their wearing cockades à la tricolore, were proofs of their attachment to the English. No one circumstance that has yet come to light is a stronger proof of a deep-laid plot against the Federal government than the efforts of these men to give a false direction to the public mind. While they were making overtures to the French Minister, while they were endeavouring to feed the insurrection from that source, they threw out, in order to disguise their views, insinuations that another nation was at the bottom of it.

And what was this pretended Congress of Mr. Hammond at New-York, that it should so alarm our Vindicator, and make his friend Fauchet fear, that something would be attempted by it to the prejudice of Mr. Randolph and the “virtuous” father-in-law* of citizen Genet? Who composed this Congress? Why, Mr. Hammond was the President, and his wife, a sick child, and a nurse, were the members! A pretty Congress this to form machinations against the Government of the country, and to stir up a rebellion in a quarter four or five hundred miles distant! This Congress, too, was assembled at New-York, or rather on Long-Island, where I do not believe that citizen Fauchet had three or four, nor even one, flour-contractors; and, if so, how came the wise Mr. Randolph to imagine that the contractors would have made a journey from Virginia, where the greatest part of them were, or even from this city, to New-York, in order to dive into Mrs. Hammond’s and her maid’s secrets? The fellows must necessarily have remained some time there to effect the object of their mission; they must have gone skulking about incognito like other spies, and must of course have run the risk of kickings and rib-roastings in abundance; and all this for what? why truly, for nothing! for it would have been nothing, if they were to receive no more than what was “due them on their contracts,” and both our certificate-makers declare that they were not to have another farthing.

If the overtures had been for money to be employed in the procuring of intelligence of what the English Minister was about, is it not natural to suppose, that citizen Fauchet would have mentioned this circumstance in his very confidential letter? Yet we see that he has not let fall a word about it, either in his letter or in his dispatch, No. 6. Again, what would his reflections on such overtures have been? He would probably have exclaimed: Thus with some thousands of dollars, the Republic could have dived into all the machinations of the English! Instead of: “Thus with some thousands of dollars, the Republic could have decided on civil war or on peace! Thus the consciences of the pretended patriots of America have already their prices!”—And, let me repeat, what could induce him to talk, in his dispatch No. 6, of throwing himself on the pure principles of his Republic, if nothing was in contemplation but the unravelling of the treacherous designs of the English?

But I do not rest upon this negative evidence to disprove all that the Edition: current; Page: [104] certificate-makers have attempted to impose on us, on this subject. Citizen Fauchet has let fall a sentence in his intercepted letter that proves, that he did not look upon the money overtures as being made with an intention of coming at the secrets of the English; that he never thought the English at all concerned in fomenting the insurrection; that he was well persuaded that the insurgents never looked for support from them; and that he was fully convinced of the meanness and baseness of all those who attempted to propagate such an opinion. “But,” says he in the 15th paragraph of the letter, “but, in order to obtain something on the public opinion, it was necessary to magnify the danger, to disfigure the views of those people (insurgents), to attribute to them the design of uniting themselves with England.—This step succeeded, an army is raised, &c. &c.” Here, then, he unequivocally gives the lie to every word that he has said on the subject in his certificate, and to every word that Mr. Randolph has been awkward enough to repeat after him. If he was so well informed that all these malicious tales about the interference of the English were invented and propagated merely in order to obtain something on the public opinion by magnifying the danger and disfiguring the views of the insurgents, all which, it is clear, he learnt from the precious confessions of Mr. Randolph; if he was so thoroughly convinced of all this, at the time of writing his letter, in October 1794, how comes he to recollect, in the month of August 1795, that both he and Mr. Randolph did “really suspect, that the English were fomenting the insurrection?” No; they never suspected any such thing; and they, and all others who pretended to suspect it, have only discovered to what pitiful tricks, what political quackery, they were reduced.

One closing observation on this subject. If money had been wanted to obtain intelligence concerning the pretended Congress of Mr. Hammond; if this object was so near Mr. Randolph’s heart as he hypocritically declares it was, whom ought he to have applied to? Whom would he naturally have applied to for the necessary sums? Whom but the President of the United States, under whose authority alone he could have acted in so delicate a conjuncture? He would have laid before him his suspicions of the dreadful Congress, and proposed to him the means the most likely of unveiling its machinations; and, if money had been necessary, it would, of course, have been granted. But, instead of this, away he runs to a foreign minister, and unbosoms himself to him, as if the secret was of too much importance to be deposited in the breast of the President, or as if the French had more interest in quelling the insurrection than the United States had. He appears to have looked upon citizen Joseph Fauchet as his father confessor; and for that reason it was, I suppose, he reserved for his ear, like a pious and faithful penitent, those precious secrets that he had kept hidden from all the world besides. In the council chamber at Philadelphia he was troubled with a locked jaw; but the instant he entered the confessional on the banks of the Schuylkill, to which the citizen seems to have retired on purpose, the complaint was removed, and he said more in “twenty minutes” than he will be able to unsay in twenty years.

  • To the side of a stream, in a deep lonely dell,
  • Father Joseph retir’d, as a hermit to dwell,
  • His hermitage, crown’d with a cap tricolour,
  • Brought a beggarly pilgrim his aid to implore.
  • First the holy man promis’d, and, for his professions,
  • The penitent made him most precious confessions.
  • Edition: current; Page: [105]
  • Now tell me, dear son, said the hermit, your needs:—
  • Give me, good Father Joseph, a string of gold beads.
  • A string of gold beads, says the hermit, Parbleu!
  • Your request, my dear son, appears dev’lish new,
  • He told him, in short, he was damnably poor,
  • Kick’d him out of his den, and slam’d to the door.

It is a great pity we are obliged to quit this delightful theme to return to the dry mercenary overtures of Mr. Randolph.

As it appears that he cannot persuade us that the money was to be employed for the purpose of coming at the machinations of the English, let us now see to what purpose it is much more likely it was to have been applied.

From the intercepted letter we learn, that the complying with the overtures would have enabled the French Republic to decide, for this country, on civil war or on peace; and we are told, in the extract No. 6, which has been intruded on us purposely to give a favourable turn to this passage of the latter, that the money, if obtained, would have put it in the power of four men to save the country. Mr. Randolph, in handling these two passages, has gone rather beyond his usual degree of assurance. He has taken a phrase from one and a phrase from the other, and tacked them together to suit himself. This done, he boldly asks, “what were to be the functions of these men.” And then comes out his triumphant answer—“To save the country from a civil war.” This is Lord Peter again with his totidem verbis. By running over the two papers, or either of them, this way, culling a phrase here and a phrase there, he may make them say anything he pleases; and he may do the same thing with any other writing. In this manner he may make even the New Year’s Gift say that he is an upright, worthy, incorruptible man; and God knows how far that is from the sentiments of the author. Is this phrase, which he compounded of ingredients taken from two different places, to be found in any part of citizen Fauchet’s dispatches? Has this tattling father confessor any where said, that the overtures were for money to save the country from a civil war? Has he said anything that will countenance such an inference? No; his dispatches, in every rational construction they will bear, clearly lead to a contrary conclusion.

He could have decided on civil war or on peace. If we are to understand by civil war, a successful opposition to the Federal government, the whole of his letter, from one end to the other, proves that nothing was so near his heart. He everywhere exclaims against the ambitious views of the Government, and defends the cause of the insurgents. He speaks of them as an oppressed people, and of the laws which they were armed to oppose, as harsh and unnecessary. The anarchical assembly in the neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, those outrageous villains who insulted the officers of justice, plundered the mail, drove peaceable and orderly people from their dwellings, dragged others forth to endure every other cruelty short of death, and who, in a word, were daily committing robbery and murder; this assembly of ruffians he calls, “the very pacific union of the counties in Braddock’s Field! a union which could not justify the raising of so great a force as fifteen thousand men.—Besides,” added he, “the principles uttered in the declaration of these people, rather announced ardent minds to be calmed, than anarchists to be subdued.

Edition: current; Page: [106]

When he comes to speak of those who wished to enforce the excise law, he gives way to the most bitter invectives, and almost curses the officers of Government, who counselled the marching of the troops. But, at last, he is compelled to give an account of the triumph of the Federal army; and here we plainly perceive, by the chagrin he expresses at that event, what he would have desired. He laments that the Government will acquire stability from it “for one complete session at least,” the discredit it will throw on “the insurgent principles of the patriots,” and concludes with this, to him, melancholy reflection:

“Who knows what will be the limits of this triumph? Perhaps advantage will be taken by it to obtain some laws for strengthening the Government, and still more precipitating the propensity, already visible, that it has towards aristocracy!”

Who, then, can be stupid enough to believe that if this man had had “some thousands of dollars to advance,” he would have advanced them to aid the Government, either directly or indirectly, against the insurgents, and to save the country from a civil war? And yet this we must believe, before we believe that Mr. Randolph, who was in all his secrets, would have made him overtures for that purpose.

As to the words in the dispatch No. 6, which are allowed to signify save the country, they must not be thus disjointed from what precedes them. The passage is this:

Scarce was the commotion known when the Secretary of State came to my house. All his countenance was grief. He requested of me a private conversation. It is all over, said he to me. A civil war is about to ravage our unhappy country. Four men, by their talents, their influence, and their energy, may save it.

Save it from what? Not from a civil war; it was, it seems, too late to do that; for it was all over. A civil war was to take place; that was a settled point, though the commotion was scarcely known; but four men, with the help of citizen Fauchet’s dollars, might save the country. That is, bring it out of that civil war refined and regenerated, and unclogged with the Federal government, or, at least, with those men who thwarted the views of citizen Fauchet and his nation.

Of all the expressions to be found in the Babylonish vocabulary of the French Revolution, there is not one the value of which is so precisely fixed as that before us—to save the country. When their first Assembly, the fathers of all the miseries of their country, violating the powers with which they were invested, reduced their king to an automation, laid their crooked fingers on the property of sixty or seventy thousand innocent persons, drove the faithful pastors from their flocks, and replaced them by a herd of vile apostates, they had the impudence to declare that they had saved their country! When their worthy successors hurled this degraded monarch from his throne; and, after a series of injustices, insults, and cruelties, as unmerited as unheard of, put an end to his sufferings on a scaffold, they, too, had saved their country! They have saved it, alas! again and again! Every signal act of their folly and tyranny, every one of their massacres, has ended with a declaration of their having saved their country. Even when they exchanged the Christian religion, the words of eternal life, for the impious and illiterate systems of a Paine and a Volney; when they declared the God of Heaven to be an impostor, and forbade his worship on pain of death; even then they pretended they had saved their country!——If Mr. Randolph meant to save his country in this Edition: current; Page: [107] way, he is welcome for me to the exclusive possession of the honour due to his zeal. He might surely venture to make overtures to citizen Fauchet for operating a salvation of this kind, without the least fear of a rebuff. But, stopping short of French salvation, he might wish to save it from the excise; from the Treasurer’s plans of finance; from a treaty with England; and, above all, from that “strengthening the Government, which had so visible a propensity to aristocracy.” Besides, when a man comes to ask for a bribe, he must have some excuse; for, base as he may be, and lost to shame, and well as he may be convinced that the person whom he addresses is as base as himself; yet there is something about the human form, though disfigured with a tricoloured cockade, which reminds the wretch that he has a soul.

As a convincing proof that the overtures mentioned by citizen Fauchet ought to be understood as made to obtain money for supporting, in some way or other, the insurrection in the West, and that the whole letter inevitably conveys this meaning, we need no other proof than that furnished by Mr. Randolph himself. It will certainly be supposed that he, above all others, would read this essay on bribery and corruption with an anxious and scrutinizing eye. We may fairly presume that he conned it over with more attention than ever school-boy did his lesson, or monk his breviary; and that, from the moment he was in his penitential weeds, he repeated the some-thousand-dollar sentence as often as a devotee Catholic repeats her Ave-Maria. Yet, notwithstanding all this; notwithstanding the interest he had in finding some other meaning for it; notwithstanding even his talent at warping, and twisting, and turning everything that falls in his way, we find him, on the 19th of August, writing to the President thus:

“For I here most solemnly deny, that any overture ever came from me which was to produce money to me [and not to flour-merchants], or any others for me; and that in any manner, directly or indirectly, was a shilling ever received by me; nor was it ever contemplated by me that one shilling should be applied by Mr. Fauchet to any purpose relative to the insurrection.

He understood, then, the letter to mean, that money was to be received by him, and that it was to be applied to some purpose relative to the insurrection. This was the charge that he at first thought the letter contained against him. And when did he begin to think otherwise?—After he had been to see citizen Fauchet at Rhode-Island, and not a moment before. It was after this edifying tête-à-tête with his old father Joseph, that he began to recollect all about the flour-merchants and Mr. Hammond’s Congress; and so, with his memory thus refreshed, he comes back, and tells us in his Vindication:

“Mr. Fauchet’s letter, indeed, made me suppose that No. 6 possibly alluded to some actual or proffered loan or expenditure, for the nourishment of the insurrection; and, therefore, I thought it necessary to deny, in my letter of the 19th of August, that one shilling was contemplated by me to be applied by Mr. Fauchet relative to the insurrection.”

Citizen Fauchet’s memory, too, was, it seems, furbished up by this tête-à-tête; for he tells us, in his certificate, that

now, calling to mind all the circumstances to which the questions of Mr. Randolph call my attention, I have an intimate conviction that I was mistaken in the propositions which I supposed to have been made to me.”

So here is a pretty story for you: Mr. Randolph forgets all about the flour-merchants, till he talks to citizen Fauchet; and citizen Fauchet forgets Edition: current; Page: [108] all about them, till he talks to Mr. Randolph! Their memories, like a flint and steel, could bring forth no light but by friction with each other. If this do not prove a close connection, I do not know what does. Even “their minds,” as the poet says, “in wedlock’s bands were joined.”

There is another singularity worth notice here. Citizen Fauchet’s intercepted letter was written on the 31st of October 1794; and at that time (though it was just after the overtures were made), he did not recollect a word about the flour-men, nor about the machinations of the English: but, on the 27th of September 1795, that is to say, ten months and twenty-seven days afterwards, he has an intimate conviction of the whole matter; and tells as good a tough story about it, as one can in conscience expect from a being that kneels down at the shrine of a jackass. Mr. Randolph, also, recollected nothing about it on the 19th of August; but, in some thirty days after, it all came as pat into his head, as if it had but that moment happened.—Rhode-Island must be like the cave of the Dervise, where every one that entered saw, written in large characters, all the actions of his past life. If so, no wonder our adventurers made such haste to quit it.

I cannot dismiss this subject, without begging the reader once more to call to mind the sarcasms that citizen Fauchet pours out on the changeable men, who seconded the views of the Government with the most scandalous ostentation, who uttered resolutions and harangues without end, and who made excursions to collect troops, “as soon as it was decided that the French Republic purchased no men to do their duty.” Mr. Randolph lays hold of this word duty, too, as a drowning man would of a straw, and to just as much purpose; for if by this word citizen Fauchet meant the real duty of these haranguers, they were here in the performance of it. Their duty, their allegiance to the United States, required them to speak forcibly to the people, to second the declarations of the general Government, and, if ordered, to make excursions to collect troops; and yet he tells us, or rather he tells the French government, that they did all this, “as soon as it was decided that the French Republic purchased no men to do their duty.” Hence it is a clear case, that what he conceived to be their duty, and what he would have paid them to perform, if he had had money, was exactly the contrary of all this; and exactly the contrary of this would have been an opposition to the general Government, its probable defeat and consequent destruction.

After all, to fix the blackest guilt on the conspirators, it is not necessary to prove what their precise intentions were. It is sufficient that we have the clearest evidence, that in consideration of some thousands of dollars, they would have enabled a foreign nation to decide on civil war or on peace for this country. After having, then, satisfied ourselves with respect to who they are, this is the crime we have to lay to their charge. All their asseverations, all their windings and subterfuges are vain: they will never wash away the stain as long as words shall retain their meaning, and as long as virtue shall hold her seat in our hearts, and reason in our minds.

I have already trespassed on the reader’s patience much longer than I intended, and I fear longer than he will excuse; but, as I have promised to take some notice of the Vindicator’s attempt at recrimination, I must be as good as my word.

He has exerted his labyrinthian faculties to the utmost, in order to make it be believed, that the President of the United States ratified the Edition: current; Page: [109] Treaty with Great Britain, under the influence of what he modestly terms, a British Faction. With this object in view, he says, as addressing himself to the President—

“By my advice the United States would have been masters of all contingencies at the end of the campaign. To my unutterable astonishment, I soon discovered that you were receding from your determination. You had been reflecting upon your course from the 26th of June to the 16th of July: on the latter day you decided on it; a communication was made to the British Minister in conformity with it; letters were addressed to our own ministers in conformity to it; they were inspected by you before you rescinded your purpose: no imperious circumstances had arisen, except the strength of the popular voice, which would, according to ordinary calculation, corroborate, not reverse your former resolution; you assigned no new reasons for the new measures; and you disregarded the answer to Boston, although it had committed you upon a special fact, namely, a determination not to ratify during the existence of the provision-order. While I was searching for the cause of this singular revolution, and could not but remember that another opinion, which was always weighty with you, had advised you not to exchange ratifications until the provision-order should be abolished, or the American minister should receive further instructions, if it were not abolished; after duty had dictated to me an acquiescence in your varied sentiments, and I had prepared a memorial to Mr. Hammond adapted to them; after you had signed the ratification on the 18th of August; Mr. Fauchet’s letter brought forth a solution of the whole affair; thence it was that you were persuaded to lay aside all fear of a check from the friends of France; thence it was that myself and the French cause were instantaneously abandoned.”

This appears to be the sum of Mr. Randolph’s statement, the correctness of which is, at least, very doubtful; but, not to tire the reader with a discussion of little importance as to the main point, and in which I might possibly err, I shall take it for granted, that all that he has said and insinuated here is strictly true; and then his charge amounts to this: that the President, even after the decision of the Senate with respect to the treaty was known, hesitated, from the 26th of June to the 13th of July, as to what course he should pursue in regard to the ratification; that, on the day last mentioned, he came to a resolution not to ratify, until the order of his Britannic Majesty, for seizing provisions destined from this country to France, should be withdrawn; and that, notwithstanding this resolution, he did afterwards ratify, leaving the order in force, and that he was induced to this change of conduct from the discovery made by citizen Fauchet’s intercepted letter.

Now, admitting all this to be so, it requires a greater degree of penetration than I am master of, to perceive how it proves the President to have ratified the treaty under the influence of a British faction, or any faction at all.

It would seem, that the Vindicator imagines, that, when a man has once taken a resolution, he can never change it, without incurring the censure of acting under some undue influence. How far such a maxim is from being founded in truth, the experience of every day will prove. A voluntary resolution must ever be supposed to be formed upon existing circumstances; and, of course, if any thing arises that totally alters those circumstances, it would be mere obstinacy to adhere to the resolution. If, for instance, a man determines on giving up a part of his income to a friend, and the next day finds that friend plotting against his life, must he, notwithstanding the discovery, put his determination in practice, or be subjected to the charge of acting under some undue influence? To maintain such a position appears to have been reserved for Mr. Randolph Edition: current; Page: [110] alone. The true question, therefore, is this: Was the discovery, made by citizen Fauchet’s intercepted letter, sufficient to justify the President’s altering his resolution, or not?

The only objection that it is pretended the President ever had to ratify the treaty, as advised by the Senate, was, the existence of the order of the King of Great Britain for seizing provisions destined from this country to France; because, he was given to understand, that ratifying while this order remained in force, might look like acknowledging the legality of the seizure, and might embroil the United States with the French Republic. That this was the suggestion of Mr. Randolph he now avows; and he even owns, nay, boasts, that he never would have given his advice in favour of the ratification at all, if he had not remembered, “that if the people were averse to the treaty, it was the constitutional right of the House of Representatives to refuse, upon original grounds, unfettered by the Senate and President, to pass the laws necessary for its execution.

He has been tempted to make this avowal in order to ingratiate himself with the opposition; and the need they have of a man, able and willing to expose every secret of the Executive, may, perhaps, ensure him a momentary success; but the avowal furnishes, at the same time, an irresistible proof of his double dealing. We plainly perceive from this, as well as from all the documents he has brought forward on the subject, that he was the great, if not the only cause, of the delaying of the ratification. First, he starts objections; then proposes conferences between himself and the English Minister; then he drafts memorials; in short, he was taking his measures for undoing all that had been done, or, as Mr. Pickering well termed it, for “throwing the whole up in the wind.”

The situation of the President was, at this time, truly critical. On the one hand, he saw an instrument ready for his signature, which completed the long-desired object, an amicable termination of all differences with Great Britain; an object that twenty long years of war and disputation had not been able to accomplish: on the other hand, he was haunted with the feigned, but terrific forebodings of an artful Secretary of State, who lost no opportunity of representing the consummation of the act as a just cause of offence to France, the faithful ally of the United States, and the favourite of the people. At this embarrassing moment arrives the intercepted letter of citizen Fauchet. The charm, that held him in suspense, is at once dissolved. Here he sees that the hypocrite in whom he had confided, who first awakened doubts in his mind, who had been the cause of all the procrastination, and who had hitherto withheld his hand; here he sees him at the head of a faction opposed to his government, unveiling all its most secret views to a foreign minister, and even making overtures for money, which, if acceded to, would have enabled that minister to decide on civil war or on peace for this country. Was it not natural to imagine, that he should now see the advice of this “pretended patriot” as a lure to lead him into a snare, to render the treaty abortive, and eventually plunge the United States into a war with Great Britain? And was it not, then, I ask, as natural, that he should turn from it with indignation and horror? “Hence it was,” says the Vindicator, “that myself and the French cause were instantaneously abandoned.” And, upon my soul, I think it was high time.

In this letter the President saw also, what it was he had to expect from the friendship of the regenerated French. Here he finds a foreign Edition: current; Page: [111] minister writing a letter that breathes, from the first syllable of it to the last, the most treacherous hostility to the Federal government. He finds him caballing with some of the leading men in the state, reviling his administration; representing him as the head of an aristocracy; approving of an open rebellion; regretting its want of success, and that he had not the means of nourishing it. All this he sees addressed to the rulers of a nation professing the sincerest friendship for himself and the people of America. Was it possible that he should see any thing here to induce him to delay the ratification of an instrument, calculated to ensure peace and uninterrupted prosperity to his country, merely for the sake of obtaining an advantage for that nation? “Hence,” says the Ex-Secretary, in his plaintive style, “hence it was that he was persuaded to lay aside all fear of a check from the friends of France.” And well he might; for, what more had he to fear from them? Open war with such people is as much preferable to their intrigues, as a drawn sword is preferable to a poisoned repast.

The Vindicator, pursuing his plan for opening to himself a welcome from the adverse party, insidiously brings forward the remonstrances against the Treaty as a reason that ought to have prevented its ratification. Few people, who consider how these remonstrances were obtained, ever looked upon them as a reason of any weight: but, whatever attention they might merit before the discovery made by the intercepted letter, they merited none at all afterwards; for, there was, and there is, all the reason in the world to believe, that they originated from the same all-powerful cause as did the suggestions, difficulties, and delays of the Vindicator. He would fain persuade us, indeed, that no money-overtures ever passed between him and citizen Fauchet, after the little affair of the flour-merchants; but the method he takes of doing this is rather calculated to produce admiration at his effrontery, than conviction of his repentance. Addressing himself to the President he says—

“Do you believe, Sir, that if money was pursued by the Secretary of State, he would have been rebuffed by an answer, which implied no refusal; and would not have renewed the proposition: which, however, Mr. Fauchet confesses, he never heard of again?

I do not know what the President might believe of the Secretary of State; but one would imagine that even such a rebuff as the Vindicator met with would have prevented any man from returning to the charge; however, I shall not contradict him here, as he must understand these things better than I, or, perhaps, any other man living.

After this, it is diverting to hear citizen Fauchet solemnly declare [in his certificate, mind that], “that the morals of his nation, and the candour of his government, severely forbid the use of money in any circumstances, which could not be publicly avowed.

Consummate impudence! The morals of a nation that do not now so much as know the meaning of the word! The morals of a nation that, one day in the year, have hemp for their God! And the candour of his government, too! A pretty sort of candour, truly, to profess the tenderest affection for the President and Congress, while they were preparing to blow them all up. While they were endeavouring to foster a nest of conspirators, who would have sent them all to the guillotine, like the magistrates of Geneva, or swung them up in the embraces of their elastic god: From the morals and candour of such people, God defend us!

Edition: current; Page: [112]

When citizen Fauchet informed the Convention of the great bargains that were offered him here, when they found at what a low rate “the consciences of the pretended patrons of America” were selling off, it would be to contradict every maxim of trade, to suppose that the purity of their principles, and the morals of their nation, would prevent them from enabling him to make a purchase; and particularly at the important moment, when the Treaty with Great Britain was to be ratified or rejected. There was, indeed, one difficulty; and that was, the Treasury of the Convention was nearly as empty as father Joseph’s purse, or the pouch of his mendicant pilgrim. And, as to assignats, besides their being a tell-tale currency, they never would, as we have no guillotine in the country, have been convertible into food and raiment; so that, of course, they would have been as despicable and despised waste paper, as the Aurora of Philadelphia, the Argus of New-York, or Chronicle of Boston. This difficulty, however, formidable as it was, appeared as nothing in competition with the object in view. We may well suppose that their indefatigable financiers would make a last effort; would give the nation another squeeze, to come at the means of defeating the Treaty. They have a greater variety of imposts than Mr. Hamilton or even Mr. Pitt; and in a pressing occasion like the one before us, they had only to set the national razor* at work for two or three days, upon the heads of the bankers and merchants, to collect the sum required: or, if these should be grown scarce, a drowning of four or five thousand women might bring them in ear-bobs and other trinkets sufficient to stir up fifty town-meetings, and to cause two-thirds of the Federal Senators to be roasted in effigy.

Let any one look at the conduct of the leaders in this opposition to the treaty, and believe, if he can, that they were not actuated by some powerful motive which they dared not openly to avow. They began to emit their anathemas against it, long before it was even laid before the Senate. Mr. Randolph protests, that he never divulged its contents to any one. How he came to imagine this unasked-for declaration necessary in his Vindication, I know not; but this I know, that almost every article of it was attacked in the democratic papers, immediately after it was received by the President, and that too with such a confidence of its being what it has since appeared to be, that it requires something more than the protestation of Mr. Randolph, to persuade me that it was not divulged before its appearance from Mr. Bache’s press.

And who has forgotten the diligence of the opposers, the moment the treaty was published? Did they give it time to circulate? Did they let it come before the people as public acts in general do, and leave them to form a fair and unprejudiced opinion on it? On the contrary, was not every spring put in motion to prepossess them; to fix in their minds a Edition: current; Page: [113] hatred to the measure, that truth would not be able to remove? How can we account for individuals quitting their homes, neglecting their business, and sacrificing to appearance, their interests, to carry this instrument to the extremities of the Union, and there form combinations against it in order to intimidate the President from a ratification?

Will any one believe, then, that the President, with this on his mind, stood in need of British influence to determine on a ratification? What other determination could he possibly take? Was he, though he saw the pit open before his eyes, to plunge headlong into it? Was he, after having discovered the conspiracy, tamely to yield to its machinations, and assist in the ruin of his country? There was but one course for him to pursue to make the Government respected, and blast all the hopes of the conspirators, and that was to ratify the Treaty. By this act he preserved to us the inestimable blessings of peace, gave stability to the Constitution, not only for one, but for many sessions, by a legal and manly exercise of the powers it has vested in him, convinced the French that the interests of the Union are not to be sacrificed to her vengeance and caprice, and showed to the whole world, that we wish to live in friendship with all nations, but that we are determined to be the slaves of none. And yet this act, Mr. Randolph would persuade us, was the work of a British faction!

Thus has the Vindicator failed in all his attempts. On the article of corruption, of which we before doubted, we now doubt no longer; and as to his indirect accusation against the President, it only serves to show that one who, with unblushing front, can ask a bribe, will never be ashamed to publish his ingratitude and apostacy.


Note by the Editors.—The “Remarks on the Blunderbuss,” is a paper contained in the sixth number of the “Political Censor,” and it consists of an answer to a long string of accusations against the President and Government of America by the French Minister Adet, in consequence of the Treaty with England. It closes that affair. We have seen that the French ministers, Genet and Fauchet, attempted to enlist America on the side of France by divers means, and we have seen how they failed. We here see that their successor, Adet, attempted to move some internal strife by way of punishment to Washington’s Government for the course which it pursued with regard to the Treaty. Adet published his notes, in the American newspapers as a kind of appeal to the people; and Mr. Cobbett collected them in the fifth number of the “Political Censor,” giving them the title of the “Gros Mousqueton Diplomatique;” or, “Diplomatic Blunderbuss;” to which he prefixed the following Preface.


When we see an unprincipled, shameless bully, “A dog in forehead, and in heart a deer,” who endeavours, by means of a big look, a threatening aspect, and a thundering voice, to terrify peaceable men into a compliance with what he has neither a right to demand, nor power nor courage to enforce, and who, at the same time, acts in such a bungling, stupid manner, as to excite ridicule and contempt in place of fear; when we see such a gasconading, impudent bluff as this (and that we do every day), we call him a Blunderbuss. But, the reader will not, I hope, have conceived me so devoid of all decency and prudence, as to imagine, even for a moment, that it is in this degrading sense that the name of Blunderbuss has been given to the invaluable collection which I here present to Edition: current; Page: [114] the public. Indeed, it is so evident that I could mean no such thing, that this declaration seems hardly necessary; but, as my poor old grandmother used to say, “A burnt child dreads the fire,” and after the unrelenting severities of misconception and misconstruction, that a humane and commiserating public have so often seen me endure, they will think it very natural for me to fear, that what I really intended as a compliment, would, if left unexplained, be tortured into insult and abuse, if not into the horrid crime of lèze-republicanism, at the very idea of which my hair stands on end, and my heart dies within me.

“But,” cry the democrats, “in what sense, then, do you apply the word Blunderbuss? Come, come, Mr. Peter, none of your shuffling.”—Silence, you yelping devils; go, growl in your dark kennel; slink into your straw, and leave me to my reader: I’ll warrant I explain myself to his satisfaction.

Writings of a hostile nature are often metaphorically expressed, in proportion to the noise they make, by different instruments that act by explosion. Thus it is, for instance, that an impotent lampoon is called a Popgun; and that a biting paragraph or epigram, confined to a small circle, is termed a squib; and thus it is, that, rising in due progression, the collection of Citizen Adet’s Notes and Cockade Proclamation is denominated a Blunderbuss, a species of fire-arms that exceeds all others, manageable by a single hand, in the noise of its discharge.

If we pursue the metaphor, we shall find the application still more strikingly happy. The first Note is a kind of preparative for the Cockade Proclamation, and this latter adjusts matters for the grand explosion; or, in the military style,—

  • Make Ready!
  • Present!
  • Fire!

To be sure we are not dead, but this circumstance, instead of mutilating my metaphor, renders it complete; for of all the long list of fire-arms, none is so difficult to adjust, or makes so much noise and smoke, with so little execution, as a Blunderbuss.

This is the first time, I believe, that a Preface ever turned its eyes backwards, and talked about the title till there was no room left to say a word about the book. Indeed the book stands in little need of commendation, or of any thing else, except what I am determined shortly to bestow on it, in a manner worthy of its merits.

In the succeeding number, he answered the charges which it contains against the President and his Government. The paper contains the substance of Adet’s charges, as well as the answer, so that we need not insert the official notes of the French Minister. As this paper closes the affair of the British Treaty, we have taken it a little out of its order in the original work, and shall give in our next number a paper written in answer to attacks on Mr. Cobbett, which, strictly following chronological order, should have come in before this one. The “Remarks” contain one argument which we think will of itself repay the reader; we mean that on the doctrine of allegiance, which is so correctly stated that it would do credit to the soundest lawyer or statesman, as is fully verified by the fact, that numerous decisions have been made by the courts of law in England and America since it was written, all of which agree in the principles here laid down. It is put to the reader in so plain, so forcible, and so eloquent a manner, that, if nothing more, it is a model of good writing, and therefore deserves to be preserved.

To Correspondents.—As nothing is more gratifying than the applause, or profitable than the admonition, of good men, I have reason to congratulate myself on an abundance of both: but as applause ought never to be purchased with money, and as admonition is a commodity that every one is ready to bestow gratis, I must request that future communications of this kind may come to me post free.—I also beg leave to hint to those who give me advice, which they wish I should follow, not to do it in too dictatorial a style; for, if I have any good qualities, docility, I am afraid, is not to be numbered amongst them.

Edition: current; Page: [115]

The moment the Gallic usurpers had murdered their sovereign, and, from the vilest walks in life, mounted into his seat, they assumed the tone of masters to the Government of the United States. Their style has softened, it is true; but the general tenor of it has regularly approached towards that loftiest note, that ne plus ultra of insolence, which it attained in Citizen Adet’s last communications.

In offering my sentiments on these arrogant effusions of upstart tyranny, I feel an unusual degree of diffidence: a diffidence that does not arise from any fear I entertain of the citizen or his factious adherents, or even of the “terrible nation,” to use his own words, of which he was lately the worthy representative, but from a consciousness of my inability to do justice to the subject. The keenest satire, were I master of it, would fall blunted from such hardened impudence, such pure unadulterated brass as it would here have to encounter. Terms of reproach are not yet invented, capable of expressing the resentment that every man, who has the least respect for the Government, ought to feel on this occasion.

Thus voluntarily to interfere in a correspondence between a foreign minister and the officers of state, might, under other circumstances, appear rather a bold intrusion; but, the citizen’s having communicated his papers to the people, at the same time, if not before, they reached the Secretary of State, happily precludes the necessity of an apology.

The notes on which I am about to remark, to which, collected together, I affixed the title of Diplomatic Blunderbuss, are intended chiefly to notify to the people of America, that the French rulers are angry with the Federal Government, and that, in consequence of this anger, they have ordered citizen Adet to suspend his functions as minister, till the Government shall alter its conduct, or, in the pedagogue style, mend its manners.

In the 44th page of the Blunderbuss, the citizen makes a recapitulation of the offences that have brought on us this dreadful chastisement, this political excommunication; and it will not appear a little surprising, that some of them have existed ever since the birth of the French Republic, notwithstanding the love and esteem this outlandish lady has ever expressed towards her sister America.

These offences, amounting to seven in number, are as follows:

  • 1. The Federal Government put in question, whether it should execute the treaties, or receive the agents of the rebel and proscribed princes.
  • 2. It made a proclamation of insidious neutrality.
  • 3. By its chicaneries, it abandoned French privateers to its courts of justice.
  • 4. It eluded the amicable mediation of the French Republic for breaking the chains of the American citizens in Algiers.
  • 5. It allowed the French colonies to be declared in a state of blockade, and allowed the citizens of America to be interdicted the right of trading to them.
  • 6. It eluded all the advances made by the French Republic for renewing the treaties of commerce upon a more favourable footing to both nations.
  • 7. It anticipated Great Britain, by soliciting a treaty, in which treaty it prostituted its neutrality; it sacrificed France to her enemies, or rather, looking upon her as obliterated from the chart [map] of the world, it forgot the services she had rendered it, and threw aside the duty of gratitude, as if ingratitude was a governmental duty.
Edition: current; Page: [116]

These are the heinous crimes of which the Federal Government stands charged by the sultans of France. Let us now, if they will permit us, examine these crimes, one by one, and see whether the President, and Messrs. Hamilton, Knox, Jay, Pickering and Walcot, really deserve to be guillotined, or not.

1. The Federal Government put in question, whether it should execute the treaties, or receive the agents of the rebel and proscribed princes.

The King of France was murdered on the 21st of January, 1793. Information of this event could not be received here much before the 18th of April, and it was on that day the President submitted to his council, the questions of which the above charge forms the substance.

The treaties here spoken of were made with Louis XVI., whose minister, at the time these questions were proposed for consideration, was resident at Philadelphia. The President knew, indeed, that the king was dead; but he, at the same time, knew that the treaties were binding on the United States in behalf of his lawful “heirs and successors,” and he certainly knew that Pétion, Danton, Roland, Clavière, Condorcet, Brissot, and the innumerable horde of bloody usurpers who have come after them, were not those “heirs and successors!” He also knew, that even the whole French nation could not, in the sense of the treaties, become the “heirs and successors” of Louis XVI., and, though treaties, made with a monarch, may remain in force with the nation under a new form of government, yet this is, as most assuredly it ought to be, entirely at the option of the other contracting party. The American government had, therefore, an indisputed right to refuse to execute, in behalf of the French nation, treaties made with their sovereign alone.

If we turn back a little, we shall find this very audacious and unprincipled Convention, whose minister was coming to Philadelphia, publicly deliberating, “whether the treaties, made with the tyrant Louis, were binding on the regenerated nation, or not.” This question was determined in the negative, and accordingly the treaty with Holland was immediately violated. And yet they will not permit the poor Government of America to debate about any such thing, nor even to talk of it in secret, though the result be in their own favour! Let it be remembered, too, that Genet came authorized to make new treaties, a pretty certain proof, that the Convention did not call in question the right of the Government to refuse to adhere to the old ones. It is a proof of more; it is a proof that they expected that it would make the refusal. Would to God their expectation had been realized!

I will not go so far as to say, that the Federal government was fully justified in its decision on this important subject;* but I insist that its conduct evinced the utmost partiality for the new Republic. When Genet arrived here, it was far from being ascertained that the whole, or even a majority, of the French nation, approved of the murder of their sovereign, or had abandoned the cause of his successors. The Government of America had, but a few months before, beheld them raising their hands to heaven, and swearing to die, if necessary, in defence of their king. Their constitution, establishing an hereditary monarchy, had been voluntarily formed, and solemnly sanctioned by the whole nation, Edition: current; Page: [117] amidst festivals and Te Deums, and had been officially communicated to the world. Each member of the Assembly, as well as every individual Frenchman, had repeatedly sworn “to maintain this constitution with all his might.” Laws had been made, punishing with transportation all who refused to take the oath, and till then unheard-of cruelties had been exercised on the non-jurors. After all this, was it astonishing that the Federal government should, for a moment, hesitate to believe, that the nation was really become a Republic, and that this constitution, about which there had been so much noise, and rejoicing, and feasting, and singing, and swearing, should be so completely destroyed as to leave neither remnant nor rag visible?

The Government had the interests of America to attend to in this important decision, as well as those of France. A weighty debt was due from this country, not to the regenerated nation nor to its bloodthirsty tyrants, but to Louis XVI., his heirs and successors. A minister from the Republic once admitted, a claim of the interest of the debt could not be refused; and if the volatile and perjured nation had recalled the successor of their sovereign, would not that successor have demanded, and with justice, a second payment of such interest? This has not yet happened, but it does not follow that it might not have happened. In the common affairs of men, he who has been once convicted of perjury, is never after looked upon as credible; and the same rule is applicable to societies.

Republicanism is become, for what reason I know not, synonymous with freedom and happiness, and there are thousands among us who pretend to believe, notwithstanding the terrible example before their eyes, that men cannot be enslaved under a form of government that is called republican. Mr. Adams, in his Defence of the American Constitutions, vol. 1, p. 87, says:

“Our countrymen will never run delirious after a word or a name. The name Republic is given to things in their nature as different and contradictory as light and darkness, truth and falsehood, virtue and vice, happiness and misery. There are free republics, and republics as tyrannical as an oriental despotism.

How fully is the truth of these observations exemplified in the republics of America and France! But even this wise and deep-sighted civilian could not imagine that his countrymen would ever run delirious after a name; much less could he imagine, that he should live to see many of them extolling, as the paragon of republics, a system of tyranny that has all the appearance of being an instrument of the wrath of Heaven.

I shall dismiss this first charge against the Government, with observing, that the meanness equals the impudence of making it.

2. The Government made a proclamation of insidious neutrality.

This charge is as false as it is rude. I would beg this well-informed and polite citizen, to name one single instance of the insincerity of the Federal government, in enforcing this proclamation. As applied to the conduct of some part of the people, indeed, the neutrality might be called insidious; but then, this insidiousness operated in favour of the French and not against them. There were many who highly approved of the proclamation, and who at the same time actually made war upon the enemies of France. An army of Americans, under the authority of Genet, invaded the Spanish territories, while privateers were fitted out to cruise on the British: cargoes of ammunition and arms were shipped off, and thanksgivings, and other public demonstrations of joy, were heard Edition: current; Page: [118] from one end of the Union to the other. The bells of the good old Christian church, opposite me, fired rounds to celebrate the inundation of the atheistical barbarians into Holland; and the English flag was burnt at Philadelphia, on the public square, as a sacrifice to the goddess of French liberty. These latter circumstances are trifling in themselves, ’tis true, and certainly excited nothing but contempt and ridicule, in the minds of those whom they were intended to insult; but, the question is (and it is to ask this question that they are here mentioned), what would the French, that “terrible nation,” have said, had these insults, these marks of an insidious neutrality, been offered to them? Every opprobrious term in their new-fangled vocabulary would have been heaped on our heads. How many sacrés mâtins, and jean-f—tres, and f—tus chiens, and libertécides, and neutralitécides, would they have called the poor Anglo-Americans, in the course of a Decade!

Where a breach of neutrality, cognizable by the laws, appeared, the Federal government always did its utmost to bring the offenders to justice, and it is for this very reason, that the late diplomatic Mounseer has dared to accuse it of an insidious neutrality. After the proclamation was issued, and Genet saw that there was no hope of setting it aside by inciting the people to rebellion, he feigned an acquiescence, and declared that the Convention did not wish the prosperity of their dear brethren of America to be interrupted by a participation in the war. It entered into his delirious brain, that the proclamation was to be a mere cloak, under which he thought to enlist as many soldiers and arm as many privateers as he could pay for. Such a neutrality would, indeed, have been more advantageous to France than an open declaration of war on the part of the United States; but when he found that the Government was resolved to enforce the proclamation; when he found that his pirates were not permitted to rob and plunder with impunity, and that the American harbours were not to serve them as hiding places, whence they might sally out upon poor old John Bull, as their great predecessor did upon the bevees of Hercules; then he began to foam and sacré Dieu against the libertécide government, for “neutralizing the zeal of the citizens and punishing the generous children of liberty, for flying to the relief of their mother, when she was upon the point of violation by a horde of crowned monsters.”

The only breach of neutrality with which the Federal government can possibly be charged, is, the liquidation of the French debt. This favour, as beneficial to France as it was apparently hazardous to the United States, would have been acknowledged by citizen Adet and his masters, had they not been as ignorant of the law of nations as of the laws of politeness and decency. Citizen Genet, when he opened the negotiation, promised that every farthing of the debt, if liquidated, should be expended in the country, and, for once, I believe, contrary to the German proverb, the Frenchman kept his word; for, except what was retained for the unavoidable daily hire of Poor Richard, and some few other items, I believe every single sous of it went among the Flour Merchants. What think you, Mr. Dallas? Come now, d—n it, tell the truth for once in your life. Be frank with your countrymen, and we’ll make up all old grievances.—Well, you may be as sulky as you please; I believe it; or your friend Fauchet never would have stood, like a bilked cully, with his pocket turned inside out, when he could have purchased a delicious civil war with a few thousand dollars.

Edition: current; Page: [119]

But, to return to my subject; whether this liquidation were a breach of neutrality, in a rigorous sense, or not, every real friend of America must rejoice at its being effected. It was one effort towards shaking off a dependence that yet hangs about our necks like a millstone. One of our poets has called a dun “a horrid monster, hated of gods and men.” Exactly such was Genet, when he first arrived, and such would have been his successors, had not the clamorous creditors (or rather claimants) been silenced by a discharge of the debt. This the Government undoubtedly foresaw, and therefore wisely resolved to relieve us from their importunities. But there is another debt of enormous magnitude, that still remains; I mean the debt of gratitude due from this country to the regenerated French. This we shall never liquidate, while there is a Frenchman left to ask, or an American to give. It is incalculable in its amount, and eternal in its duration; we will therefore leave it to pass down the stream of time along with the insidious neutrality.

3. The Government, by its chicaneries, abandoned French privateers to its courts of justice.”

This is, I tremblingly presume, the “terrible” style, and is therefore looked upon as sufferable in a minister from a “terrible nation;” but I am pretty confident, it would be suffered with impunity in no other. Some writer on the belles lettres, I believe it is Burke, observes, that terror is a property of the sublime, and I am sure that insolence is a property of the terrible. I know not precisely what punishment the law of nations has awarded for such language, but I should imagine it can be nothing short of breaking of bones. A good Irish sheeleley or Devonshire quarter-staff seems much better calculated for answering a charge like this than a pen.—The chicaneries of the Government!—Abandoning privateers to courts of justice!—If this does not deserve a rib-roasting, I do not know what does. If this goes off so, then I say there is no such thing as justice on this side the grave.

Does the general Government of America then act by chicane? Does General Washington, whose integrity, whose inflexible firmness and whose undaunted bravery have been acknowledged and admired as far as his name has reached, merit to be put on a level with a miserable petti-fogger? And is a cause abandoned, because it is submitted to an American court of judicature? Are both judges and juries in this country so very, very corrupt, that no justice can be expected from their decisions? Are we so nearly like Sodom and Gomorrah that twelve honest men are not to be found among us?

An accusation may be so completely absurd and impudent, that no one can attempt to refute it, without sinking, in some degree, towards a level with the accuser; and as I have no inclination to do this, I leave the present one to be answered by the indignation of the reader.

“4. The Government eluded the amicable mediation of the French Republic for breaking the chains of the American citizens in Algiers.

Every one who recollects the anxiety which the President has ever expressed on the subject of a treaty with Algiers, the innumerable obstacles he had to surmount, and the enormous expense by means of which it was at last effected, need not be told that this charge is as ill-founded as the preceding ones. But as it is intended to bring forward to the people a proof of the friendship of France, at the moment her hatred and hostility Edition: current; Page: [120] are evident to every eye, in this point of view it may be worth while to hear what the citizen has to say in support of it.

He tells us that—

“the French government, zealous of giving to the United States proofs of its attachment, had commenced negotiations with the regency of Algiers, in order to put an end to the war which that power was making on the commerce of the United States:”

That the Minister for Foreign Affairs instructed Fauchet (the very Fauchet who expressed his regret that the Western rebellion did not succeed) to communicate to the Federal government the steps which that of France had taken in this respect, which he did in the following terms, on the 4th of June 1794:—

“I have already had the pleasure, air, to inform you, verbally, of the interest which the committee of public safety of the National Convention had early taken in the truly unhappy situation of your commerce in the Mediterranean.

I now fulfil the duty imposed on me by the Government, by calling to your recollection in writing, the steps which are to be taken by our agent with the Dey of Algiers, for repressing this new manœuvre of the British administration, which has put the finishing stroke to its proofs of malevolence towards free people. The dispatch of the Minister communicating this measure to me, is dated the 5th January 1794, and did not come to my hands till fifteen days ago; I do not yet know by what route; I could have wished it had been less tardy in coming to me, that I might sooner have fulfilled the agreeable task of proving to you by facts, the protestations of friendship of which I have so often spoken in the name of the Republic of France.

The information which I shall receive from Europe in a little time, will doubtless possess me of the success of those negotiations which were to have been opened in January last. If the situation of your affairs is yet such with respect to that barbarous regency, as that our intervention may be of some utility, I pray you to invite the President to cause to be communicated to me the means that he will join to those of the committee of public safety, for the greatest success of the measures already taken. It is in virtue of the express request of the Minister that I solicit of the President some communication on this subject; I shall be satisfied to be able to transmit it by a very early conveyance which I am now preparing for France.”

The Secretary of State replied to him on the 6th June 1794, by a letter of which the following is an extract:—

“Your other letter of the 4th of June, is a powerful demonstration of the interest which the Republic of France takes in our welfare. I will frankly communicate to you our measures and expectations with regard to Algiers; but as you will so soon receive the detail of those measures, which your Government has pursued in our behalf, it will be better perhaps to postpone our interview on this matter, until the intelligence which you further expect shall arrive.

First, observe here, that Adet tells the people that somebody in France, no matter who, had actually commenced negotiations with the regency of Algiers in behalf of their countrymen. To prove this, he quotes a letter of Fauchet, in which this latter begs to call to the recollection of the Federal Government “the steps which are to be taken,” and not the steps which are taken. Afterwards Fauchet, presuming on what has been done since his latest instructions came away, talks in the very same letter, about measures already taken; but is unable to say any thing about the nature or success of them, until he receives further information from Europe, which he makes no doubt is upon the point of arriving.—Now, is it not very surprising that this further information never came to hand, from that day to this? And is it not still more surprising, that no traces of Edition: current; Page: [121] this friendly mediation, of these steps that were to be taken, and those measures that were already taken, should ever be discovered by the American Envoy to Algiers? When the French do what they can possibly construe into an act of generosity, they are not very apt to keep it hidden from the world, or to suffer the obliged party to remain unreminded of it.

But, let us hear how Master Adet accounts for his worthy predecessor’s receiving no further information relative to this generous interference in our behalf. Fauchet told the Government he was in daily expectation of it, and yet it never came. How will citizen Adet get out of this? We have him fairly hemmed up in a corner here; and he has a devilish deal more wit than I take him to have if he gets himself decently out of it.—He tells us that the French government had taken measures for the relief of the captives, that the mediation was in a charming train, that Fauchet communicated this pleasing intelligence to the President, who waited with anxious expectation for further information, which Fauchet hourly expected to receive, and that

then Mr. Jay was charged to negotiate with the British government.”

Well, and what then?—Why,

“and then citizen Fauchet did not receive any communication on the subject.”

What?—O, oh! and so then, it seems Mr. Jay’s being appointed to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce with King George, prevented the agreeable information, “the facts proving the sincerity of the French protestations of friendship” from being received! and did so completely do away all those steps which were to be taken, and which were taking, and which had already been taken, that they were never after heard of! Surprising, that the United States should have chilled, should have perished even, the zealous interest that France took in their distresses, merely because they wished to avoid still greater distresses by an amicable negotiation elsewhere!

Let us recur to him also. A lie that is bound down to dates is difficult to be successfully kept up.

The committee of public safety (it should have been called the committee of public misery) instructed citizen Fauchet on the 5th of January 1794, to inform the American government that they were about taking means for “breaking the chains of our captive citizens in Algiers.” This “proof of the protestations of their friendship” did not come to Fauchet’s hands till the 4th of the ensuing June, just five months to an hour; and when it did at last arrive, citizen Fauchet could not tell by what route!—A pretty story this, and a pretty sort of ambassador to receive dispatches of such importance, without knowing by whom or by what route. Let Citizen Adet and his worthy predecessor, Father Joseph, go and impose such humbug tales upon the poor stupid enslaved Hollanders and Genevese, they will find few such gulls here.

Again: how could the appointment of Mr. Jay prevent the reception of further information, if such information was daily expected? Robespierre and his bloody colleagues, who felt such a tender concern for the captives, could not hear of this appointment sooner than about two months after it took place; the information promised, as they say, on the 5th of January, must therefore have been on the way; and what then, I would be glad to know, prevented its coming to hand? That it never did come to hand Master Adet has confessed; and we must inevitably conclude Edition: current; Page: [122] therefrom, that it was never either promised on that side of the water, or expected on this.—These dates form a net in which the citizen has hampered himself. He had got the Messidors and the Fructidors into his brains, and could he have got them into ours also, could he have made us adopt the bestial calendar of Poor Richard, we might have lost our account too; but by sticking to the good old June and January we have caught him out.

The motive for advancing the charge at this time is, to instil into the minds of the people, that the President felt extremely indifferent as to the fate of the captives. This base, this calumnious, this insufferably insolent insinuation, I leave to the resentment of those for whose sake he has undergone every toil and every hardship, has a thousand times ventured his life, and, what is more, has patiently borne the viperous bite of ingratitude.

5. The Government allowed the French colonies to be declared in a state of blockade, and allowed the citizens of America to be interdicted the right of trading to them.

It is a wonder citizen Adet did not swell the list here. He might, with equal reason, have complained that the Federal government allowed the British to conquer the half of these colonies; that they allowed Lords Howe, Hood, and Bridport, to destroy their fleets; and that they allowed Prince Charles to beat and pursue their boasting army. He might have complained, that they are about to allow the sans-culotte General Moreau to be Burgoyned, and the ruffian Buonaparte and his wolfish comrades to leave their lank carcasses in Italy, which I hope and believe will be allowed. Had he complained that they allowed it to rain, to snow, and to thunder, his complaint would not have been more absurd than it now is.

But the Government also allowed “the American citizens to be interdicted the right of trading to these colonies.”—As to the power of preventing this, the same may be said as of the prohibitions above supposed; and as to the right of preventing it, if the power had existed, nothing can be said, unless we knew the exact state of the blockades to which the citizen alludes, but of which his Blunderbuss gives no particular account.

When a place or an island is actually invested in such a manner as to enable the besieger to prevent neutrals from entering, he has a right, according to the immemorially established law of nations, not only to exercise this power of prevention, but to seize on and confiscate both goods and vessels, and even to inflict corporal punishment on all those who transgress his prohibition.* That the British have sometimes declared places in a state of siege which were not really invested has often been asserted, but never proved; but it is well known, on the other hand, that they never went to the rigour of the law of nations with those who had the temerity to disregard their prohibitions, in attempting to enter places which were completely blockaded.

Numerous complaints of captures, made at the entrance of the ports of an island, amount to a pretty strong presumptive proof that the captor has formed an actual investiture. If he has done this, he certainly has a right to declare it; and it follows, of course, that no neutral power has a right to take offence at his declaration. When one of the neutral captains complained that the British intercepted and seized on every vessel that attempted to enter the port of St. Pierre’s, and, in the very same letter, Edition: current; Page: [123] inveighed against the illegality of their declaring the place in a state of blockade, he talked like a good honest tar: and when we hear a public minister echoing the complaint we may pardon his ignorance, but we cannot help wishing, at the same time, that he had been sent to hand, reef and steer, stew up lobscous, or swab the deck, rather than to pester us with his boorish grumbling and tarpauling logic.

Where a merchant, or a mariner, through love to the besieged, or hatred to the besieger, through avarice or through indiscretion, has lost his property by an endeavour to elude the prohibition of trading to a blockaded place, it is very natural, and therefore perhaps excusable, in him to be vociferous in complaint against the injustice of the captor; but it is not quite so natural or excusable in his government to participate in his resentment, and plunge the nation into a war to avenge him. Were the harmony of nations to be disturbed by the passions of individuals, peace must take her flight to heaven, for she would never find a resting place on the face of the earth.

It is, however, certain that very many of the captures made by the British cruisers were contrary to the law of nations, and therefore called for the interposition of the general Government. And has not that Government interposed? Yes; and so effectually too, that a mode of indemnification, as equitable and as honourable as either party could wish for, has been firmly settled on. Supposing then, for a moment, that France had a right to make inquiries on the subject, what more does she want? Strange as it may seem to those who are inattentive to the intrigues of this at once volatile, ferocious, and artful republic, it is the success of the negotiation by which this very indemnification was obtained that has occasioned the charge now preferred by her minister! The French, or rather the French usurpers, rejoiced at the British depredations on the commerce of this country; nothing was farther from their wishes than to see the sufferers indemnified. They were in hopes of a rupture being produced between Britain and America, and they are now foaming at their disappointment.

To this charge respecting blockades and the seizure of American vessels may be added that which citizen Adet makes with regard to the impressment of seamen from on board of those and other vessels.

The complaint against British impressments has so often been the subject of public debate and private animadversion that it would seem unnecessary to dwell on it here; yet, as I do not recollect ever having seen it placed in a fair point of view, to attempt doing it at this time can be productive of no harm.

The impressed seamen were of two descriptions, British subjects and American subjects, or (if my readers like the term better) American citizens. This distinction is a very important one, because on it totally depends the legality or illegality of the impressment.

It is an established and universally acknowledged principle, that, to the lawful sovereign power of the state, or, in other words, the state itself in which a man is born, he owes allegiance to the day of his death, unless exempted therefrom by the consent of that sovereign power.* This Edition: current; Page: [124] principle is laid down by nature herself, and is supported by justice and general policy. A man, who is not dead to every sentiment that distinguishes him from the brute, feels himself attached to his native land by ties but very little weaker than those which bind him to his parents, and he who can deny the one will make little scruple of denying the other. For the truth of the former remark I appeal to the heart of my reader, and for the truth of the latter to his daily observation.—Who would not regard as a monster the ungrateful wretch that should declare he was no longer the son of his father? And yet this is but one step from pretending to shake off his allegiance to his country. Such declarations may be made, but the debt of duty and allegiance remains undiminished.

And is it not just that the state which has bred, nourished, and protected you, should have a title to your allegiance? A fool might say, as I heard a philosophical fool lately say, with Godwin’s Political Justice in his hand, “I could not avoid being born in your state.” But, ungrateful fool, the state might have avoided sheltering you under its wings, and suffering you to grow up to manhood. It might have expelled you the society, cast you out to live among the beasts, or have thrown you into the sea, had it not been withheld by that law, that justice, which now sanctions its claim on your allegiance. To say that you “never asked for protection,” is the same thing as to say that you never asked to be born. Had your very first cry been a renunciation of protection, it would not have invalidated the claim of the state; for you were protected in your mother’s womb. Should the state now withdraw its protection from you, and leave you to the mercy of the plunderer and assassin, or drive you out from its boundaries, without any forfeiture on your part, would you not exclaim against such a step as an act of brutal injustice? And yet this is no more unjust than for you to withdraw your allegiance, cast the state from you, and leave it to the mercy of its foes. The obligation here is perfectly reciprocal; as the state cannot, by its own arbitrary will, withhold that protection which is the birthright of every individual subject, so no subject can, by his arbitrary will, alienate that allegiance which is the right of the state.

The general policy, too, the mutual interest of nations in supporting this principle is so evident, that nothing but the influence of the wild and barbarian doctrines of the regenerated French can account for its having been disputed.—If men could alienate their allegiance at pleasure, they could also transfer it at pleasure; and then into what confusion would not mankind be plunged? Where should we look for the distinctive mark of nations, and where find the standard of right and of duty?

Let us illustrate the excellence of this policy by an example of what might result from its contrary, and at the same time bring the question home to America.—It is very natural that the people of this country should wish to draw the seamen from other countries and claim them as hers, but let us see how this doctrine would suit when brought into operation against herself.—Suppose a war (which God forbid!) should break out between America and Great Britain, and that some of the citizens or Edition: current; Page: [125] subjects of these states should be found on board the enemy’s vessels making war upon their country; in this case America would have no right to punish them, according to the new doctrine, if they declared that they had transferred their allegiance to Britain. We may bring the evil still nearer to our doors, and assert that even deserters to an enemy, landed in the country, would also claim exemption from punishment. It will not do to say that this would be treason. If allegiance be transferrable, the transfer may take place for all purposes, at all times, and in all places; for war as well as for peace; in the hour of danger as well as in the hour of security; on this side of the sea as well as on the other; in the camp as well as in the city. This wild doctrine once established, treason would become a duty, or rather there could be no such thing as a traitor in the world. The barriers of society would be broken into shivers; the discontented of every community would be tempted, and would moreover have a right, to abandon, betray, and make war upon their country.

Applying what has been said to the complaint now before us, we shall find that the people residing in these States at the time their independence was acknowledged, and that those who have been born in them since that time, are not subjects of Great Britain; and that all who have emigrated from the dominions of Great Britain since that epoch are her subjects.* It is very certain that nearly all the impressed seamen were of this latter description, and were therefore still subject to the laws of their country and the regulations of their sovereign, when found in any part of his or his enemy’s dominions, or upon the high seas. These regulations authorized his officers to impress them, and therefore they were impressed. That their impressment was frequently a very great loss to their employers might be subject of regret; but the Government of the United States had no more right to complain of it than that of Britain had to complain of their being employed.

The heathenish French are certainly the last people in the world to hold up as an example to Christian nations; but, where their practice is so exactly contrary to the principles they pretend to profess, it is worth noticing. Let it be observed, then, that they have taken thousands of their emigrants, without the limits of their territory, who had renounced their protection, yet every soul of them was put to the sword; not as Austrians, English, or Dutch, but as Frenchmen, who still owed allegiance, and as such were dealt with as traitors. Now, I humbly request the citizen minister of the “terrible” bloody nation to tell me, what claim France had to the allegiance of these emigrants, if Britain had none to her emigrated sailors?

But, to come still closer to the point; the French seized several of their emigrants without arms in their hands, on the high seas, pursuing their peaceable commerce, on board of neutral vessels too, yea even on board of American vessels. Every man of these they also put to death: some they dragged on shore to the guillotine, others they threw into the sea alive, and others they hewed down with their sabres. Therefore, unless citizen Adet will frankly declare, like a good full-blooded sans-culotte, that it is justifiable for a nation to claim the allegiance and seize on the persons of its emigrants only for the purpose of cutting their throats, I must insist that the practice of his nation gives the lie direct to the principle on which his charge is founded.

Edition: current; Page: [126]

I now come to the other description of impressed seamen: those who owed allegiance to America alone. And here I frankly declare, that I believe many acts of rudeness, insolence, and even tyranny, have been committed by particular officers; for there are some of them that would press their own mothers, if they were capable of standing before the mast. But I can never credit all the lamentable stories that the hirelings of France have so industriously propagated on this subject. After a most piteous and pitiful picture of the distresses of the impressed seamen, drawn by that able painter, the taper-limbed and golden-hued Adonis of New York, who has been aptly enough compared to a poplar tree in autumn; after as vigilant and spiteful an inquiry as ever was prosecuted by the spirit of faction, not more than five or six impressed seamen, of the description we are now speaking of, could be named; and with respect to these, the report of the Secretary of State proved that, where proper application had been made for their enlargement, it had always been immediately attended to, and had produced the desired effect.

It was in the course of this memorable investigation that the generous Mr. Livingston proposed to furnish the British seamen, on board American vessels, with certificates of naturalization. These were intended to operate as a charm on the paws and bludgeons of the English press-gangs, or at least it is difficult to conceive for what other purpose they were intended. Was there any man in Congress fool enough to imagine that the just claims of one nation could be annulled by the production of bits of sealed paper given to her subjects by another nation? The particular act, or the general law, by which foreigners are naturalized, may admit them to a participation in all the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the citizens of the state adopting them (which is, indeed, the sole end of naturalization), but can never weaken the claim of the parent state; otherwise traitors and deserters, by producing certificates of naturalization, might bid defiance to the just vengeance of their injured country.

As to the measures taken by the Federal government relative to the impressed seamen, they were such as the peculiar situation of America rendered wise. Mr. Jay endeavoured to obtain a stipulation, by which British seamen, found on board American vessels, would have been exempted from the operation of the impress orders. This Great Britain refused, for the same reason that nations, as well as individuals, generally refuse to make a gratuitous sacrifice of what belongs to them. Agents have since been appointed to attend to impressments, and when their interposition is warranted by the state of the case, there is every appearance that it will be productive of the end proposed, and that both parties will readily co-operate for the preservation of harmony.

Dismissing this charge respecting impressed seamen, the length of my observations on which I am afraid has wearied my reader, I proceed to the remaining ones, on which I promise to be more concise.

6. The Federal Government eluded all the advances made by the French Republic for renewing the treaties of commerce upon a more favourable footing to both nations.

What does this learned citizen mean by treaties of commerce? This country has but one treaty of commerce with France: the other is a treaty “eventual and defensive.” Perhaps, indeed, he may regard war as a species of commerce; and it must be allowed that this is the only commerce that can be carried on with this terrible republic at present. The kind of trucking commerce that she is carrying on in Italy, where Edition: current; Page: [127] she purchases a statue or a picture with the lives of ten thousand soldiers, may, to her, be advantageous enough, because she is a rich lady and a virtuoso; but to America, who is a plain homely dame, and has but little taste for such fine things, this commerce has but few charms: to her, one live farmer is of higher estimation than all the heroes and gods of antiquity.

I rather think, however, that citizen Adet, ignorant as he may be, knows that a defensive treaty is not a treaty of commerce; and if so, he must know that there is but one treaty of commerce between the countries. But there were two treaties to be renewed, and, as it has always been held up to the people here, that their dear friends of France did not wish their prosperity to be interrupted by taking a part in the war, it would not do to talk about renewing a defensive treaty; that would have smelt of powder; yet he could not say, that the treaty of commerce only was proposed to be renewed, and so he has called them both treaties of commerce. The citizen was hemmed in between a lie and an absurdity, and, to the credit of his morality, he has chosen the latter.

That the ground-work of a new treaty, or a renewed treaty, with France, was to be our going to war with her enemies, has been so often and so incontestably proved, that the fact is now universally acknowledged, except by the stipendiaries of that pure-principled republic. But, were a proof yet wanting, citizen Adet has furnished it, in the last page of his Diplomatic Blunderbuss. Here he tells us, that both Genet and Fauchet used their utmost to draw the Government into a negotiation, but in vain; that it eluded all their friendly overtures. Yes, and so it did indeed; just as the sheep eludes the friendly overtures of the wolf, and for much about the same reason.

“On this subject the President authorized the Secretary of State, who explained to the undersigned the manner in which they could proceed in it. But at what time? When the ratification of the treaty concluded between Lord Grenville and Mr. Jay no longer permitted the undersigned to pursue that negotiation.

And why not? Why not go on, man? If you had nothing to propose but “treaties of commerce, upon a footing more favourable to both nations,” how could the treaty with Great Britain prevent the pursuit of your negotiation? The reason is plain: this treaty had happily put an end to all the disputes between America and Britain, and left you no room to hope that your negotiation would rekindle the embers of discord.

The only question for the people to determine, then, is, not whether they wished the treaties to be renewed, but whether they wished for war or not; and this question they have already determined in the negative.

Thank God, we are at last come to the closing article of accusation.

7. The Federal Government anticipated Great Britain by soliciting a treaty, in which treaty it prostituted its neutrality; it sacrificed France to her enemies, or rather, looking upon her as obliterated from the chart [map] of the world, it forgot the services she had rendered it, and threw aside the duty of gratitude, as if ingratitude was a governmental duty.

This is a complicated charge, comprising the crimes of meanness, prostitution, treachery and ingratitude. The meanness of “anticipating Great Britain by soliciting a treaty,” shall not detain us long. When two nations form a treaty, it is clear that one or the other must make the first overtures, or the business could never be begun, and consequently never ended. I believe, therefore, that making the first proposition for a Edition: current; Page: [128] treaty, and particularly a treaty of commerce, was never before construed into an act of meanness. As for soliciting, this word, by which the citizen wishes to convey an insinuation that Mr. Jay was haughtily received, at first rejected, and at last obliged to approach with humiliating condescension, nothing can be farther from the truth. His business was, to demand reparation of the wrongs sustained by America. When these were made known, Great Britain had her wrongs to oppose to them. Both parties were, as their interests dictated, equally desirous of an accommodation; and this desire was productive of a treaty, settling all old disputes, and making provisions for the avoiding of new ones. Now, I pray, in this simple and natural process, what is there to be discovered of meanness or humble solicitation?

The charge proceeds to assert, that the Government “prostituted its neutrality, and sacrificed France to her enemies.” This is too vague to be taken up as it lies before us; except, indeed, it be the word prostituted, which may be dismissed at once, by observing, that it must have been picked up in the purlieus of the Palais-Royal, a place of which the Irish-Town of Philadelphia is a picture in miniature. To avoid the indecency therefore of joining it with the American government, I shall supply its place by the words gave up.

What the polite citizen chiefly alludes to, then, in saying, that the Government gave up its neutrality and sacrificed France to her enemies, is, that article of the British treaty which contains the stipulation respecting an enemy’s goods, found on board the vessels of the United States, when these latter are neutral, with respect to Great Britain.

The stipulation of the treaty which we are about to examine, in substance says, that an enemy’s goods found on board the vessels of the contracting parties, shall be looked upon as lawful prize. This, says citizen Adet, is a violation of the modern law of nations; and this, says the Government, is no such thing. As here is a flat contradiction, somebody must tell a lie; who it is I know not, but I am sure it is not the Government at any rate.

Now, with respect to commerce with an enemy, whoever examines the best writers on the subject, will find that, long since these nations assumed nearly their present relative state, it was the general practice to prohibit all trade whatever with an enemy.*

As the nations grew more polished, and as their relations increased by means of maritime commerce, the rigour of this practice was gradually softened, till confiscation was at last confined to the vessels and property of enemies, to certain articles termed contraband of war, and to the property of enemies found on board of neutral vessels.

Thus far the relaxation became pretty general about the time of Queen Elizabeth. But some powers wished to extend the freedom of commerce still further; even so far as to protect enemies’ goods found on board of neutral vessels; and to do this the Queen of England was one of the first to assert her right. The right was, however, disputed, and that too by the United Provinces, even before their independence was fully assured. They took some of her vessels laden with Spanish property, and condemned the cargoes, without paying freightage. The Queen at first resented this conduct in an infant state that was chiefly indebted to her for support; but, notwithstanding the well-known tenacity and imperiousness Edition: current; Page: [129] of her disposition, her wisdom and justice prevailed, and she at last acquiesced in the legality of the captures. Here then we have an instance of the practice of a nation of modern birth, a republic also, and a republic engaged in a revolutionary war.

I have at least a hundred examples of this nature now before me. But let us descend to still more modern times, and that the example may be, if possible, yet more strikingly applicable, let us appeal to the practice of the French nation itself. The famous Ordinance of 1681, which might be called the navigation act of France, expressly declared to be good prize, not only the enemy’s goods on board of a neutral vessel, but the neutral vessel also.

We are now got down to the close of the last century; but as that may not be quite modern enough for our Decadery Mounseer, let us continue to descend, still continuing our appeal to the practice of his own country. The Ordinance of 1681 was mitigated by successive treaties, in which France, according as her interest prescribed, refused, or granted, the permission which citizen Adet now sets up as a right: but, after these treaties, and even so late as 1757, she declared to the republic of Holland, that if any goods belonging to her enemy were found on board of Dutch vessels, such goods should be condemned as good prize, and to this declaration her practice was conformable, during the whole war which ended in 1763, only thirty-three years ago. So that, unless this man of the “New Style” will absolutely sans-culotte us, and insist upon it that our fathers were antediluvians, and that we ourselves were born in the ages of antiquity, we must insist, on our part, that the principle adhered to in the treaty between Great Britain and America, is a principle of the modern law of nations, and moreover is sanctioned by the practice of France.

The fact is, this principle is either adopted, or not adopted, according to the interests and situations of the contracting parties: as these vary, nations act differently at different times and towards different nations. It is a matter merely conventional, and solely dependent on circumstances, as much as any other stipulation of a treaty.

The citizen has one more fetch; which I think is the most impudent piece of sophistry that ever was attempted to be palmed upon a nation. A nation, did I say! Why, a nation of Indians would have tomahawked him, and we should now see his skin hanging up in the shops for sale, had he offered to chouse them in such a barefaced manner.——I allude to that part of his Blunderbuss, where he says, that America violated her treaty with France, by granting to Britain the favour of seizure, which she had not granted to France, though she was to be treated in the same manner as “the most favoured nation.

The sophistry of this consists in confounding favour with right, terms almost as opposite in signification as right and wrong.——America conferred no favour, when, by treaty, she declared that Great Britain should seize enemies’ goods on board of her vessels: she only acknowledged the existence of Great Britain’s right so to do. Nor was this acknowledgment absolutely necessary: but, some nations having retained the exercise of the right, and others having relinquished it; it was a prudent precaution against future disputes, to declare, by express stipulation, whether it was retained or relinquished in the present instance.

The stipulation for equal favour then, which is to be found in most treaties of commerce now existing in the world, extends to the effects of Edition: current; Page: [130] the municipal laws and regulations of the contracting parties. It implies an equality in duties, in tonnage, in the permission to have consuls; all which, and many others, may properly be called favours: but, it can never be construed to extend to any one of the great rights of national sovereignty. If this were the case, all the advantageous stipulations of a treaty made with one power, would be applicable to every other power, in a treaty with which this usual stipulation for equal favour was found: and of this we shall see the monstrous absurdity in a minute.——America, for instance, has treaties with Spain, Great Britain, and France, in all which the stipulation for equal favour exists. In the treaty with Spain, America allows to that nation a free navigation on the American part of the Mississipi; but does she allow this to Britain and France? In that with Great Britain, America allows her a free navigation and trade on her river, lakes, &c. and Britain allows the same freedom to America on hers; but does either of them extend this permission to France or Spain, or any other nation? Yet they are obliged to do this, if the stipulation for equal favour admits of the construction, which the maritime Goths wish to impose on us, in support of their attack on the commerce of America.

Thus have I had patience to go through the mock charges, which the despots of France have dared to prefer against the free, equitable, and beneficent Government of America. I shall take the liberty of adding a few miscellaneous observations, which would be dispensed with, fearing the reader is already too much fatigued, did not the crisis of affairs seem to demand them now, or never.

The first thing that calls, and most loudly calls, for reprobation, is, the contemptuous manner in which the Frenchman treated the Government, by communicating his Notes to the people, at the same time, or before, they were received by the President.

The sole right of making communications of this nature to the people of a state, so evidently belongs to its government, and is so essential to the very existence of every government, that it is not surprising that the first violation of it should have been reserved for the heathenish French. Former barbarians ever respected this right: the laws of decency had some influence on their uncultivated minds; but the barbarians, or rather the savages, of Paris, have set those and all other laws human and divine, at defiance. They seem to look upon themselves as the children of the devil, and to have assumed, in virtue of their father, the right of prowling about the earth, disturbing the peace of mankind, by scattering the seeds of rebellion and bloodshed.

Their agents have long been practising their fiend-like temptations on the people of this country. They have proceeded from one degree of malice to another, till at last their late minister Adet (for whom I wish I could find a name worse than his own) makes a direct attempt to inflame the people against the Government. After telling them, that the Convention has ordered their vessels to be seized (contrary to treaty), he proceeds:

“And now, if the execution of these measures gives rise to complaints in the United States, it is not against France they should be directed, but against those men, who have entered into negotiations contrary to the interests of their country.

Just as if he had said, pointing to the President, the Senate, and Officers of State: ‘There they are; rise on them, cut their throats, and choose others more pliant to our will.’—His words do not amount to this, ’tis Edition: current; Page: [131] true; but in his country a hint far less intelligible would have been perfectly understood, and would not have failed of the desired effect. Happily he was not haranguing a Parisian mob. Whatever foolish partiality some of us may have had, and may yet have for France, nature has been so kind as not to make us Frenchmen.

In the reign of Queen Anne, when a Tory Ministry, aided by an intriguing Frenchman, were treating for a separate peace with Louis XIV., the Imperial Minister, Count Gallas, in order to prepossess the people of England against the peace, caused the transaction to be published, as an article of news, in one of the daily papers. This step, though it could not be looked upon as an appeal to the people, was so much resented by the Queen, that she ordered him to quit the kingdom immediately; and in this she was supported by the unanimous voice of the nation; who, notwithstanding they disapproved of a peace which was to sacrifice the great advantages obtained by their arms under the immortal Duke of Marlborough, justly and manfully resented the attempt of a foreign minister to step in between them and their own sovereign, however blamable her measures might be.

Such is the situation of America with respect to the insidious, unprincipled, insolent, and perfidious Republic of France; and it only remains for the virtue and public spirit of the people to determine what sort of answer ought to be given to her presumptuous and domineering minister. Let it be well remembered, that the notes containing his calumnious accusations, his contemptuous defiance and hectoring threats, are not the effusions of a paragraphist or a pamphleteer: they are the official communications of a public minister, thrown in the teeth of the nation. In less than two months they will be read and commented on by half the civilized world. Those who know the American character will not be deceived; but far the greater part will set us down as a nation of sharpers or poltroons, who have either not honesty to support our reputation, or not courage to defend it. If there be a man who, with this reflection on his mind, can wish the Government to stoop, and cringe, and sue and beg for peace, to court a repetition of the buffet that yet tingles in our cheek, he may boast about independence, he may even call himself a patriot, but his independence is an empty sound; and he knows no more of the animating glow of patriotism, where affection, duty, and honour unite, than the slave knows of the charms of liberty, or the eunuch of the sweets of love. No; the answer of every man who loves his country, and feels the insult it has received, yet prefers the blessings of honourable peace to the inevitable calamities of war, is, in the words of a good old English king that conquered France and all that France contained;

  • “The sum of all our answer is but this:
  • We would not seek a battle as we are;
  • Yet, as we are, we say we will not shun it:
  • And so go tell your masters, Frenchman.
end of remarks on the blunderbuss.
Edition: current; Page: [132]


Note by the Editors.—We have now given selections from the principal tracts written by Mr. Cobbett on the subject most important to England, during his stay in America. Those which we shall give now will show what abuse his conduct brought down upon his head; how he repelled it, and how he came to be led by degrees into discussions on topics purely American; and this will lead us to the affair of Dr. Rush, which concluded his career in America. Two numbers will contain the whole of what remains for us to give from the “Porcupine,” and then we shall begin with the English writings.

Dear Father,

When you used to set me off to work in the morning, dressed in my blue smock-frock and woollen spatterdashes, with my bag of bread and cheese and bottle of small-beer swung over my shoulder on the little crook that my old godfather Boxall gave me, little did you imagine that I should one day become so great a man as to have my picture stuck in the windows, and have four whole books published about me in the course of one week.”——Thus begins a letter which I wrote to my father yesterday morning, and which, if it reaches him, will make the old man drink an extraordinary pot of ale to my health. Heaven bless him! I think I see him now, by his old-fashioned fire-side, reading the letter to his neighbours. “Ay, ay,” says he, “Will will stand his ground wherever he goes.”—And so I will, father, in spite of all the hell of democracy.

When I had the honour to serve King George, I was elated enough at the putting on of my worsted shoulder-knot, and, afterwards, my silver-laced coat; what must my feelings be then, upon seeing half-a-dozen authors, all Doctors or the devil knows what, writing about me at one time, and ten times that number of printers, bookbinders, and booksellers, bustling, running, and flying about in all directions, to announce my fame to the impatient public? What must I feel upon seeing the newspapers filled from top to bottom, and the windows and corners of the houses placarded, with, a Blue Shop for Peter Porcupine, a Pill for Peter Porcupine, Peter Porcupine detected, a Roaster for Peter Porcupine, a History of Peter Porcupine, a Picture of Peter Porcupine? The public will certainly excuse me, if after all this, I should begin to think myself a person of some importance.

It is true, my heroic adversaries do all set out with telling their readers, that I am a contemptible wretch not worth notice. They should have said, not worth the notice of any honest man, and, as they would all naturally have excluded themselves by such an addition, they would have preserved consistency at least: but, to sit down hammering their brains for a fortnight or three weeks, and at last publish each of them a pamphlet about me and my performances, and then tell the public that I am not worth notice, is such a gross insult to common sense that nothing but democratic stupidity can be a sufficient excuse for.

Edition: current; Page: [133]

At the very moment that I am writing, these sorry fellows are hugging themselves in the thought that they have silenced me, cut me up, as they call it. It would require other pens than theirs to silence me. I shall keep plodding on in my old way, as I used to do at plough; and I think it will not be looked upon as any very extraordinary trait of vanity to say, that the Political Censor will be read, when the very names of their bungling pamphlets will be forgotten.

I must now beg the reader to accompany me in some few remarks that I think it necessary to make on each of their productions, following the order in which they appeared.


What can I say worse of this blustering performance, than that it bears all the internal evidence of being written by the blunderbuss author who disgusted the city with Rub from Snub?

“THE BLUE SHOP; or Humorous Observations, &c.

The inoffensive and unmeaning title of this pamphlet is fully expressive of the matter it is prefixed to, excepting that the word humorous was, perhaps, never before so unfortunately applied. Every one who has been taken in with this quarter-dollar’s worth, whether a friend or an enemy of Peter Porcupine, curses it for the most senseless and vapid piece of stuff that ever issued from the press. The author, I hear, retorts, and swears the Americans are a set of stupid jackasses, who know not what true humour is. ’Tis pity he had not perceived this before, he might then have accommodated his humour to their understandings. It is now too late to rail against their ignorance or want of taste, for, in spite of his railing and fretting, James Quicksilver will, by them, ever be looked upon as a most leaden headed fellow.


This is a caricature, in which I am represented as urged on to write by my old master King George (under the form of a crowned lion), who, of course, comes accompanied with the devil. The Jay, with the treaty in his beak, is mounted on the lion’s back, though, by-the-by, it has ever been said, by the democrats, that the lion rode the Jay. His Satanic Majesty holds me out a bag of money, as an encouragement to destroy the idol, Liberty, to which he points. The American Eagle is represented as drooping his wings in consequence of my hostility, and America herself, on the same account, weeps over the bust of Franklin. This is almost the only part of the print of which I find fault; for, if by America the people of America be to be understood, I believe most of those who have read my essays will do me the justice to say, that I have endeavoured to make America laugh instead of weep.

Perhaps I ought to take some notice of the quarter whence this caricature and the Blue Shop issued, as it furnishes an instance, among thousands, of that degradation which the first movers in the French revolution have long been, and still are exhibiting to the world. These poor miserable catch-penny pictures and pamphlets are published by a man of the name of Moreau, who was one of those whom Tom Paine and his comrades Price and Priestley called, “the great illuminated and illuminating National Assembly of France.”—Goddess of Liberty! and dost Edition: current; Page: [134] thou permit this thy “great illuminated and illuminating” knocker-down of Bastiles to wage a puny underhand war with one of King George’s red-coats? Dost thou permit one of those aspiring “legislators of the universe!” who commanded the folding doors of the Louvre to fly open at their approach, and who scorned to yield the precedence to Princes and Emperors, to dwindle down into a miserable marchand d’estampes? If these be thy tricks, Goddess of French Liberty, may the devil take Peter, if ever thy bloody cap and pike entice him to enlist under thy banners.

Mr. Moreau, to his other misfortunes, adds that most calamitous one of thinking he can write. He is cursed with the scribbling itch, without knowing how to scratch himself with a good grace. As this is torment enough in itself, I do not wish to add to it by mentioning particular instances of his want of taste and talents. The greatest punishment I wish my enemies, is, that Moreau may be obliged to write all his life-time, and that the rest may be obliged to read his productions.


This pamphlet is, I am told, copied, verbatim, from a chap-book, containing the lives of several men who were executed in Ireland some years ago, names and dates only are changed, to give the thing an air of plausibility. It is said to be published by two Scotch lads, lately arrived in the country, and who now live in some of the alleys about Dock-street, no matter which. One of their acquaintances called on me some days after the publication appeared, and offered to furnish me with the book from which it is taken. This offer I declined accepting of. I shall only add here, as a caution to my readers, that these are the men who are seen hawking about a work in numbers, which they are pleased to call a History of France, and who are proposing to publish a Monthly Magazine.


It is a rule with book-makers, that a title should, as briefly as possible, express the nature of the work to which it is prefixed. According to this rule, Pill is a most excellent title to the performance now before me. A Pill is usually a compound of several nauseous, and sometimes poisonous, drugs, and such is the Pill for Porcupine.

Various have been the conjectures as to the author of this abusive piece. Be he who he may, he has certainly done me a favour in grouping me along with Messrs. Hamilton, Belknap, Morse, &c. I would cheerfully swallow my part of his pill, and even think it an honour to be poisoned, in such company as this.

Since the sentimental dastard, who has thus aimed a stab at the reputation of a woman, published his Pill, I have shown my marriage certificate to Mr. Abercrombie, the minister of the church opposite me.—All you who emigrate to the United States of America, to enjoy this unrestrained liberty of the press that they make such a fuss about, take care (if you mean to say a word in favour of your country) to bring your vouchers and certificates with you, or they’ll stigmatize you for thieves; your wives will be called whores, and your children bastards!—Blessed liberty of the press!

Edition: current; Page: [135]


This pamphlet ought, on every account, to come last: we have seen the rest rising above each other progressively; this of Bradford’s crowns the whole, caps the climax of falsehood and villany.

The former part of it bears the assumed name of Tickletoby, the latter, that of Samuel F. Bradford. It is evident, however, that both are by the same author; who he is, is not of much consequence: it is clear that he acted under the directions of Bradford, and Bradford must and shall answer for the whole.

What every one recoils at the bare idea of, is Bradford’s* writing a pamphlet against the works of Peter Porcupine. Had he confined his attack to my private character and opinions, he would not have so completely exposed himself; but this, I suppose, his author would not consent to; I do not know any other way of accounting for his conduct.

Every one perceives that the letter which Bradford inserts in Tickletoby’s part of the pamphlet, is nothing but a poor and vain attempt to preserve consistency. However, to leave no room for dispute on this score, and to convict the shuffling Bradford on his own words, I am willing to allow him to be neuter with respect to Tickletoby’s part, and will take him up on the contents of the letter which he signs. “That I have made use,” says he, “of the British Corporal for a good purpose, I have little doubt—Dirty water will quench fire.”

Of his making use of me I shall speak by-and-by; at present I shall confine myself to the dirty water, which is the name he gives my writings.—Now, how will he reconcile this with his zeal to spread them abroad, and with the awkward flattery he and his family used to bore my ears with? Had I believed the half of what they told me, I should have long ago expired in an ecstasy of self-conceit. When the Observations on Priestley’s Emigration were published, Bradford and his wife took great care to inform me of the praises bestowed on them by several gentlemen, Doctor Green in particular, and to point out to me the passages that gave the most pleasure. The first Bone to Gnaw gave universal satisfaction, they told me: it was read in all companies, by the young and by the old; and I remember that the sons told me, on this occasion, how delighted their uncle, the late worthy attorney-general, was with it; and that he said he should have loved me for ever, if I had not been so severe upon the French. Before the New Year’s Gift appeared in public, Bradford told me he had read some pages of it to two of the Senators, who were mightily pleased with it, and laughed very heartily. While the father was plying me with his Senators, the sons played upon me from the lower house. Several of the members, their intimate friends, wanted to be blessed with a sight of me: one wanted to treat me to a supper, another wanted to shake hands with me, and a third wanted to embrace me. I shall name no names here; but I would advise the members of both houses to be cautious how they keep company with shop-boys and printers’ devils.

One more, however, I must not omit. Bradford, in endeavouring to prevail on me to continue the Congress Gallery, related a conversation that had taken place between him and Mr. Wolcot, the present Secretary of the Treasury (and thereby hangs another tale which I will tell by-and-by), Edition: current; Page: [136] who assured him that some of the officers of Government did intend to write an answer to Randolph’s Vindication, but that my New Year’s Gift had done its business so completely, that nothing further was necessary. He added, that they were all exceedingly delighted with my productions.

Again, if he thought my works dirty water, how came he to beg and pray for a continuation of them? When I gave his son William a final refusal, he urged, with tears in his eyes he urged, the loss his father’s credit would sustain by it, and often repeated, that it was not for the sake of the profit but the honour of publishing my works, that made him so anxious to continue. My wife was present at this interview, and can, with me, make oath to the truth of what I have here asserted.

Nay, if my works were dirty water, why did he threaten to prosecute me for not continuing them? Dirty water is not a thing to go to law about. Did ever any body hear of a man’s prosecuting another, because he refused to bring him dirty water to throw on the public?

After all this praising, and flattering, and menacing, my poor labours are good for nothing. The writings which had given so much pleasure to Dr. Green, that the Attorney-General would have loved me for ever for, that charmed all sexes and all ages, that made grave senators shake their sides with laughter, and Congress-men want to treat and hug me; that were so highly approved of by the officers of Government that it was an honour to publish, and that I was threatened with a prosecution for not continuing; these writings are now become dirty water!—Say rather, sour grapes.

I must, however, do the Bradfords the justice to say, that they very candidly told me, that every body could perceive a falling-off, after the Congress Gallery. How singular it was, that I should begin to sink the instant I quitted them! Was this because they did no longer amend my works for me, or because they no longer pocketed the cash they produced! The Bradfords are booksellers dyed in grain. Heaven is with them worth nothing, unless they can get something by it.

With respect to the motives that gave rise to my pamphlets, I have already stated them, and as to their literary merit, though I have no great opinion of it, yet, after having heard them ascribed to Mr. Bond, Mr. Thornton (not the language-maker, but the secretary to the English ambassador), Dr. Andrews, the Rev. Mr. Bisset, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Sedgewick, Dr. Smith, and, in short, to almost every gentleman of distinguished talents among the friends of the Federal government, it would be mere grimace for me to pretend, that they have no merit at all. It is something singular, that the democrats never pitched upon any low fellow as the author; their suspicions always alighted among gentlemen of family, and gentlemen of learning. It is therefore too late to decry my performances as tasteless and illiterate, now it is discovered that the author was brought up at the plough tail, and was a few years ago a private soldier in the British army.

To return to my friend Bradford. Though I am ready to admit him as a neutral in all that is said by Tickletoby, I cannot do this with regard to what is ushered into the world as the performance of Samuel F. Bradford. This hatter-turned-printer, this sooty-fisted son of ink and urine, whose heart is as black and as foul as the liquid in which he dabbles, must have written, if he did write, at the special instance and request of his father; for, the Lampblack says, “a father’s wish is a law with me.”

After having premised this, making Bradford responsible for what is Edition: current; Page: [137] contained in his letter and his son’s, I shall proceed to remark on such parts of both as I think worthy my notice.

And first, on the grand discovery of the letter to the Aurora-man.—This is a letter which I wrote to the Gazette, under the signature of A Correspondent, against the second part of the Bone to Gnaw. The letter as now printed by Bradford, may, for aught I know, be a very correct copy. I remember the time and all the circumstances well. Bradford, who is as eager to get money into his hands as he is unwilling to let it out again, repeatedly asked me for a Puff to this pamphlet. This very son came to me for it as many as half-a-dozen times. I at last complied; not that I was unwilling to do it at first (for I had bored the cunning grandchild of the cunning almanack-maker several times before), but I could with difficulty spare time to write it.

Puffs are of several sorts. I believe the one now before us, is what is called a Puff indirect, which means, a piece written by an author, or by his desire, against his own performances, thereby to excite opposition, awaken the attention of the public, and so advance the renown or sale of his labours. A Puff indirect is, then, what I stand accused of, and as I have no argument at hand to prove the moral fitness of the thing, I must, as pleaders do in all knotty points, appeal to precedents. My authorities are very high, being no other than Addison, Phillips, and Pope.

No one that has read the Spectator (and who has not done that?) can have failed to observe, that he published many letters against his own writings, imitating the style and manner of his adversaries, and containing weak arguments, which he immediately overturns in his answer.—Dr. Johnson tells us that, before the acting of Phillips’s Distressed Mother, a whole Spectator was devoted to its praise, and on the first night a select audience was called together to applaud it. The epilogue to this play was written by Addison, who inserted a letter against it in the Spectator, for the sake of giving it a triumphant answer. But, Pope’s famous puff is a case exactly in point:—

“He drew a comparison,” says Dr. Johnson, “of Phillips’s performance with his own, in which with an unexampled and unequalled artifice of irony, though he has himself always the advantage, he gives the preference to Phillips. The design of aggrandizing himself he disguised with such dexterity, that, though Addison discovered it, Steele was deceived, and was afraid of displeasing Pope by publishing his paper.”

Now what censure does Lord Chief-Justice Johnson (who, God knows, was far from being over lenient) pass on all this? None at all. He calls neither of these authors “an imposter:” nor can I think he would have done so, had their puffs been written at his request, and for his benefit.

If a puff can ever be construed as an act of meanness, it must be, when its motive is self-interest. This cannot be attributed to me, as I could get nothing by promoting the sale of the work. I had a note of hand for it in my possession; which the number of copies sold could not augment the value of.

What impudence must a man be blessed with, who can usher to the world a puff, which he wishes should be looked upon as something horribly villanous, when he himself requested it to be written, transcribed it himself, and carried it himself for publication! But here the Bradfords play a double game. “It was not I transcribed it,” says old Goosy Tom; and “A father’s wish is a law with me,” returns the young Gosling. But, Edition: current; Page: [138] you hissing, web-footed animals, is it not between you? The puffing for fame belongs to me; but the transcribing and carrying to the press; all the interested part of the business, all the dirty work, lies among yourselves, and so I leave you to waddle about and dabble in it.

Having dismissed the Puff, we now come to the breach of confidence in publishing it. There are many transactions which we do not look upon as criminal, which, nevertheless, we do not wish to have made public. A lady, in love with a handsome young fellow, may make indirect advances, by the aid of a third person. This is certainly no crime; but should the confidant preserve one of her letters, and afterwards publish it, I presume such confidant would meet with general detestation. This is a parallel case so far; but when to this we add the aggravating circumstance of the confidant being the original adviser of the correspondence, we are at a loss for words to express our abhorrence. Yet we must go still further with respect to Bradford. He has not only divulged what was communicated to him under this pledged secrecy, and at his pressing request, to serve him; but he has been guilty of this scandalous breach of confidence towards a man to whom he owes, perhaps, that he is not now in jail for debt.

It is easy to perceive what drove him to this act of treachery. Revenge for the statement I had published concerning the one shilling and seven-pence-halfpenny pamphlet.* He could not help fearing that people would resent this by avoiding his shop. He was right enough; for, though I am an Englishman, and of course a sort of lawful prey to the democrats, yet they, even they, cannot help saying that he is an abominable sharper. To be revenged on me for this, he published the letter, and has thus done what all impotent vindictive men do, injured himself without injuring his adversary. I hinted that he had taken me in, and in return he betrays me: to the reputation of a sharper, he adds that of a villain.

After this, will any one say that I am to blame, if I expose this stupid, this mean, this shabby, this treacherous family? Do they deserve any quarter from me? Every one says, No, Peter, no.

They say I lived in a garret when first they knew me. They found me sole tenant and occupier of a very good house, No. 81, Callowhill. They say I was poor; and that lump of walking tallow streaked with lamp-black, that calls itself Samuel F. Bradford, has the impudence to say that my wardrobe consisted of my old regimentals, &c.—At the time the Bradfords first knew me I earned about 140 dollars per month, and which I continued to do for about two years and a half. I taught English to the most respectable Frenchmen in the city, who did not shuffle me off with notes as Bradford did. With such an income I leave the reader to guess whether I had any occasion to go shabbily dressed.

The Bradfords have seen others attack me upon my sudden exaltation, as they call it; upon my having a book-shop, and all this without any visible means of acquiring it; whence they wish to make people believe that I am paid by the British government. It is excessively base in the Bradfords to endeavour to strengthen this opinion, because they know that I came by my money fairly and honestly, They were never out of my debt from the moment they published the first pamphlet, which was in August 1794, till the latter end of May last. They used to put off the Edition: current; Page: [139] payment of their notes from time to time, and they always had at their tongue’s end, “We know you don’t want money.” And these rascals have now the impudence to say that I was their needy hireling.——’Tis pity, as Tom Jones’s host says, but there should be a hell for such fellows.

It is hinted, and indeed said, in this vile pamphlet, that I have been encouraged by the American government also. I promised the reader I would tell him a story about Bradford’s patriotism, and I will now be as good as my word. In order to induce me to continue the Congress Gallery, he informed me that Mr. Wolcot had promised to procure him the printing of the Reports to Congress: “So,” added he, “I will print off enough copies for the members, and so many besides as will be sufficient to place at the end of each of your numbers, and Congress will pay for printing the whole!” He told me he had asked Mr. Wolcot for this job, which I looked upon as an indirect way of asking for a bribe, being assured that he built his hopes of succeeding upon being the publisher of my works.—Now, here’s a dog for you, that goes and asks for a government job, presuming solely upon the merit of being the vender of what he, nine months after, calls dirty water, and who adds to this an attempt to fix the character of government tool on another man. If I would have continued the Numbers, it is probable he might have printed the Reports; but this I would not do. I wanted no Reports tacked on to the end of my pamphlets; that would have been renewing the punishment of coupling the living to the dead.

Sooty Sam, the Gosling, tells the public that I used to call him a sans-culotte and his father a rebel. If this be true, I am sure I can call them nothing worse, and therefore I am by no means anxious to contradict him. But, pray, wise Mister Bradford, of the “political book-store,” is not this avowal of yours rather calculated to destroy what you say about my being an artful and subtle hypocrite? I take it that my calling you rebels and sans-culottes to your faces is no proof of my hypocrisy; nor will the public think it any proof of your putting a coat upon my back. Men are generally mean when they are dependent; they do not, indeed they do not, call their patrons sans-culottes and rebels; nor do people suffer themselves to be so called, unless some weighty motive induces them to put up with it. This acknowledgment of Bradford’s is conclusive: it shows at once on what footing we stood with relation to each other.

He says that I abused many of the most respectable characters, by calling them speculators, land-jobbers, &c., who were continually seeking to entrap and deceive foreigners.—If I did call those men speculators and land-jobbers, who are continually seeking to entrap foreigners; if I confined myself to such mild terms, I must have been in an extremely good humour. But, young Mister Lampblack, be candid for once, and allow me that your father is a sharper. Oh! don’t go to deny that now: what everybody says must be true.

“How grossly,” says the son, “did you frequently abuse the people of America, by asserting that, for the greater part, they were aristocrats and royalists in their hearts, and only wore the mask of hypocrisy to answer their own purposes!” If young Urine will but agree to leave out people of America, and supply its place with family of Goosy Tom, I will own the sentence for mine; and I will tell the public, into the bargain, how I came to make use of it.—I entered Bradford’s one day, and Edition: current; Page: [140] found him poring over an old book on heraldry. I looked at it, and we made some remarks on the orthography. In a few minutes afterwards he asked me if I knew anything of the great Bradford family in England. I replied, no. He then told me that he had just seen a list of new peers (English peers, reader!), among which was a Lord Bradford; and that he suspected that he was a branch of their family! As the old women say, you might have knocked me down with a feather. I did not know which way to look. The blush that warmed my cheek for him then renews itself as I write.——He did not drop it here. He dunned my ears about it half a dozen times; and even went so far as to request me to make inquiries about it when I wrote home.—It was on this most ludicrous occasion that I burst out, “Ah, d—n you, I see you are aristocrats and royalists in your hearts yet. Your republicanism is nothing but hypocrisy.” And I dare say the reader will think I was half right.—I wonder what are the armorial signs of Bradford’s family. The crest must be a Goose, of course. Instead of scollops and gules, he may take a couple of printers’ balls, a keg of lampblack, and a jorden. His two great bears of sons (I except William) may serve as supporters; and his motto may be, “One shilling and seven-pence half-penny for a pamphlet.” All this will form a pretty good republican coat of arms.

Let it be remembered here, too, that my calling the Bradfords aristocrats and hypocrites does not prove me to be a hypocrite, a needy hireling, or a coward. As to this last term which young Lampblack has conferred on me, it is the blustering noise of a poor timid trembling cock, crowing upon his own dunghill. I hurl his coward back to his teeth, with the addition of fool and scoundrel. I think that is interest enough for one fortnight. The father has served the silly son as the monkey served the cat when he took her paw to rake the chesnuts out of the fire with.

They accuse me of being given to scandal.—If I had published, or made use of, one hundredth part of the anecdotes they supplied me with, I should have set the whole city together by the ears. The governor’s share alone would fill a volume.—I’ll just mention one or two, which will prove that I am not the first old acquaintance that Bradford has betrayed.——He told me of a judge who, when he presented him an old account, refused to pay it, as it was setting a bad example.——“Ah, righteous judge! A second Daniel!”——He told me, that he went once to breakfast with Mr. Dallas, now Secretary of the State of Pennsylvania, and that Dallas said to him, “By G—d, Tom, we have no sugar, and I have not a farthing in the world.”—“So,” says my Lord Bradford, “I put my hand in my pocket, and tossed the girl a quarter of a dollar, and she went out and got some.”——Another time he said, Mr. Dallas’s hair-dresser was going to sue him for a few shillings, when he, like a generous friend, stepped in and put a stop to further proceedings, by buying the debt at a great discount.——I forget whether he said he was repaid, or not.

These anecdotes he wanted me to make use of; but these, as well as all the others he furnished me with, appeared to me to be brought forth by private malice, and therefore I never made use of any of them; though I must confess that, in one instance in particular, this was a very great act of self-denial.

From Secretaries of State, Judges, and Governors, let us come to Presidents.—Don’t start, reader; my bookseller knew nothing against General Edition: current; Page: [141] Washington, or he would have told it.—No; we are now going to see a trait of Bradford’s republicanism of another kind.—Martens’s Law of Nations, a work that I translated from the French for Bradford, is dedicated, by him, to the President of the United States. The dedication was written by me, notwithstanding the Bradfords were obliged to amend my writings. When a proof of it was taken off, old Bradford proposed a fulsome addition to it; “Give the old boy a little more oil,” said he. This greasing I refused to have any hand in; and notwithstanding I did not know how to write, and was a needy hireling, my Lord and Master, Bradford, did not think proper to make any alteration, though I could have no reasonable objection, as it was signed with his name.

While the old man was attempting to wheedle the President and the officers of the Federal government, the son Samuel was wheedling the French Minister: the Bradfords love a double game dearly. He spent whole evenings with him, or at least he told me so. According to his account they were like two brothers. I cannot blame Mr. Adet, who undoubtedly must have a curiosity to know all the secrets of Bradford’s press. For my part, as soon as I heard of this intimacy, I looked upon myself as being as well known to the French Minister as I was to Bradford.

But, there is a tale connected with this which must be told, because it will give the lie to all that young Lampblack has said about correcting and altering my works. His design is to make people believe that I was obliged to submit to his prunings. We shall see how this was in a moment. In the New Year’s Gift, speaking of the French Minister, I make use of the following words: “Not that I doubt his veracity; though his not being a Christian might be a trifling objection with some weak-minded people.”——The old Goosy wanted me to change the word Christian for Protestant, as he was a good friend, and might be useful to his son. He came himself with the proof sheet to prevail on me to do this: but if the reader looks into the New Year’s Gift, he will see that I did not yield.

Bradford never prevailed on me to leave out a single word in his life, except a passage in the Congress Gallery. “Remember,” (says the son in a triumphant manner) “Remember what was erased from the Congress Gallery.”——I do remember it, thou compost of dye-stuff, lampblack, and urine, I do remember it well; and since you have not told all about it, I will.——The passage erased contained some remarks on the indecent and every-way-unbecoming expression of Mr. Lewis, on the trial of Randall, when he said, that gentlemen would have served his client right if they had kicked him out of the room. Bradford told me he had a very particular reason for wishing this left out; and as it was not a passage to which I attached much importance, left out it was: but, had I known that his very particular reason was, that he had engaged Mr. Lewis as his counsellor in a suit which he had just then commenced against his deceased brother’s widow and his own sisters, the passage should not have been left out for him nor for Mr. Lewis neither. I fear no lawyers.——From this fact we may form a pretty correct idea of the independence of Bradford’s press when left to his own conducting.

I shall conclude with observing, that though Bradford’s publication was principally intended to do away the charge of having duped me in the one and seven-pence-halfpenny job, he has left it just as it was. His son has, indeed, attempted to bewilder the reader by a comparison between the prices of the ensuing pamphlets; but what has this to do Edition: current; Page: [142] with the matter? His father took the Observations, was to publish them, and give me half the profits. Long after, many months after, every copy of the work was sold, I asked him for an account of it, which he brought me in writing, and in which my half of the profits was stated at one shilling and seven pence halfpenny, or about twenty-one cents. Now, nothing posterior to this could possibly diminish the barefacedness of the transaction. I did not actually receive the twenty-one cents; I threw the paper from me with disdain; nor did I ever receive a farthing for the publication in question from that day to this.

I now take leave of the Bradfords, and of all those who have written against me. People’s opinions must now be made up concerning them and me. Those who still believe the lies that have been vomited forth against me are either too stupid or too perverse to merit further attention. I will, therefore, never write another word in reply to any thing that is published about myself. Bark away, hell-hounds, till you are suffocated in your own foam. Your labours are preserved, bound up together in a piece of bear-skin, with the hair on, and nailed up to a post in my shop, where whoever pleases may read them gratis.


Note by the Editors.—We shall give a few selections from the articles contained in this Gazette; but we need give but few, as they relate to matters of local interest, or to persons of whom no recollection remains, at any rate in England. The author, having done his work upon the question of the Treaty, might have retired from the scene, and claimed everlasting credit from his country for efforts made under such disadvantageous circumstances, but so completely successful. It was not his way, however, to leave anything undone; and when the French Ambassadors were frustrated, one after another, and the President was successful in allying America with England, he still pursued the remains of the “French faction” with as much ardour as he had pursued its chiefs; and this pursuit led him, by degrees, into matters purely American. Mifflin, who figures in the affair of Randolph, was still Governor of Pennsylvania; and M‘Kean was the Chief Justice, aiming to be Governor. In 1797 the yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia, and Mifflin issued a proclamation, the second article of which ran thus: “That every person infected with a contagious fever (whose case will admit of removal) shall be removed by the friends of the diseased, or by the health-officer, to a proper situation, distant from the city.” Under this proclamation, and in the consternation which it and the fever occasioned, great hardships fell upon the poorer people, as we find from the address of “a poor Citizen” to the Governor: “Sir, if you were seized with this disease, would you peaceably submit to have a negro forcibly drag you from your house into a common cart, from thence conveyed to the place which you term the hospital, but which I and the world term a slaughter-house, there to live in torture for want of proper attendance, and die for a draught of water?” &c. Mr. Cobbett attacked Mifflin’s proclamation; and Dr. Rush, who was a physician at Philadelphia, having begun his practice of bleeding in fever cases, and the most eminent doctors having thought it necessary to warn the public against him, Mr. Cobbett published their warnings, and added to them some strong and sarcastic paragraphs of his own; but in all this he was urged on by the physicians of Philadelphia, from whose writings we shall give one extract. Rush prosecuted him for libel in 1797, but the trial was delayed till December 1799, when it came on before M‘Kean. The jury found for the plaintiff, and gave 5000 dollars damage; which was no sooner known than the money was paid by the people of Canada, and would have been paid by the English residents of Edition: current; Page: [143] Philadelphia and New York, aided by Americans in the former place, had not the Canadians been so prompt as to render it unnecessary. This and the next number of the “Selections” will consist of those short articles that we find to have any lasting interest in them; and the author’s own remarks on the affair of Dr. Rush, being a justification of his attacks on the Doctor’s practice.


Yellow Fever.—We have not been able to learn that a single death from this disorder has taken place since yesterday. The number of deaths in the city for the last fortnight have been much fewer than those during the same season for several years past. Where, then, shall we look for the cause of such an alarm as has prevailed for some days past?

The Governor’s proclamation will cut a considerable figure in the records of liberty and equality. Matched I am certain it cannot be by the decrees or edicts of any despots on earth, excepting only those of republican France. Were a member of the British Parliament to propose anything resembling it, his brains would be knocked out before he got a hundred yards from the House.——What! forcibly enter my house, and drag from thence my wife or my child, for no other offence than that of being sick! and if I dare to defend my “castle,” or insist upon protecting those who are all that is dear to me, to fine me and transport me to State Island! O ye gods of republicanism, we beseech you to shelter us! Pray, good Mr. Thomas Mifflin, do tell us what tyranny is, if you please; for very many of us really begin to fear that it is fast growing upon us. You may probably muster up force enough to drive me out into the fields, or trundle me along against my will to a stinking and infected hospital; but you shall never make me say that this is liberty. You may toast and boast about your republican liberty as long as you please; but suffer me to tell you that the bubble will very soon burst.—The candle is now lighted, and, if it please the Almighty to preserve me from the clutches of the heroes of the yellow flag, it shall not be kept under a bushel.


I yesterday informed my readers that, in consequence of the inhuman proclamation, none of the physicians would any longer make reports to the Board of Health, and that, therefore, all information from that quarter respecting the number of new cases or deaths was at an end.

Another evil of the proclamation is, the relations and friends of diseased persons take special care to conceal their malady from their neighbours, and, in many instances, even from the physicians. The consequence of which is, infection, in its most deadly degree, is deposited in a neighbourhood before any one is aware of it, and physicians are not called in till the moment that their aid is useless. Two awful instances of this nature are mentioned in Brown’s paper of last evening by Doctor Caldwell; and it is now well known, that from No. 13, Chesnut-street, a person was last night carried to the grave in secret, who died with the yellow fever, though the people of the house had constantly denied that the disorder was there. Thus, unless the dreadful proclamation be immediately revoked, and that in the most public and unequivocal manner, will the contagion spread over every quarter of the city. Who, does Thomas Edition: current; Page: [144] Mifflin think, will run to his inquisitors, and denounce their parents or their children, when they are sure that will be immediately followed by their transportation to an infected hospital, where all communication will be instantly cut off between them and the physician they have called in to save their lives, and in whom alone, perhaps, they can have any confidence? The shocking, the cruel example of Mr. Fleetwood, has spread consternation among all those who cannot rely upon the discretion or courage of the persons by whom they are surrounded. The fear occasioned by the proclamation extends its fatal influence to every other disease also. If a man is taken with a bilious fever, or any other disorder, however dangerous delay may be, he, not knowing the nature of it, puts off the sending for a physician, for fear of being hauled off to the infected hospital. Let Thomas Mifflin beware what he is about. I am certain his proclamation is unconstitutional; and if satisfaction cannot be obtained for any act of force that may be committed in obedience to it, the constitution of Pennsylvania is a farce. Were I the heir or succesors of Mr. Fleetwood, I would bring an action immediately against those who forced him from his lodgings. It is said that he remonstrated with all the eloquence of dread and distress. With the full assurance that he never should survive the cruel removal, he offered five hundred guineas to be suffered to remain in his own chamber, from which no one, no not even the proprietor of the house, could lawfully remove him.—Poor man! he very probably, like myself, came to Pennsylvania to seek liberty!!


There is now no getting anything like a correct statement of the progress of the fever, or of the deaths it occasions; but the returns collected from the sextons prove that the deaths are not more numerous now than they were last year at the same season. Thousands of persons are, however, flying from the city. Upwards of one hundred loads of trunks and other goods were met yesterday morning between the city and Shoemaker-town; that is, in the space of nine miles: and I myself, on Sunday morning, met about a dozen families between the middle ferry and the upper end of Market street. The Clergy, who certainly ought never to stir while there is a soul to be saved, or a mind to be soothed by their ministry, are, I am afraid, preparing to join in the flight.

Admitting (which I am far from doing) that nothing is so valuable as life, and that it is right for all who can afford it to fly, what are the poor to do?—They cannot remove; and they will expire in their beds one by one, rather than expose themselves to the dangers of the cart and the hospital. Why does not the proclamation invite them to remove while well, and promise them support in the tents on the commons? When this is neglected, let us hear no more about “the prosperous state of our finances.” If the treasury be full, as it is said to be, let it be emptied instantly, that the poor may have the same chance of living as the rich. This would be something like equality.

Private acts of inhumanity are already spoken of. I hope they will be rare: but I take this opportunity of declaring my fixed resolution of holding all those who are guilty of them up to the abhorrence of mankind.

Edition: current; Page: [145]


  • “The times are ominous indeed,
  • When quack to quack cries, Purge and bleed.

Those who are in the habit of looking over the Gazettes which come in from the different parts of the country must have observed, and with no small degree of indignation, the arts which our remorseless bleeder is making use of to puff off his preposterous practice. He has, unfortunately, his partisans in every quarter of the country. To these he writes letters, and in return gets letters from them: he extols their practice, and they extol his; and there is scarcely a page of any newspaper that I see which has the good fortune to escape the poison of their prescriptions. Blood, blood! still they cry, More blood! In every sentence they menace our poor veins. Their language is as frightful to the ears of the alarmed multitude as is the raven’s croak to those of the sickly flock.

Among all these puffs I do not recollect a more shameless one than the following from Dr. Tilton:

September 12

Extract of a letter from Dr. Tilton, of Wilmington, to Dr. Rush, dated September 12.—“We have had repeated instances of your fever at this place. The infection has generally been taken in Philadelphia. I am not acquainted with any instances where the contagion has been received at Wilmington; but at Newcastle and Newport there are unequivocal examples of the contagion being received from those who brought it from the city.

“In the treatment of the fever we use copious blood-letting in the beginning, and active mercurial purges. I have conceived, however, that mercury is useful not merely as a cathartic, but as a specific against all kinds of contagion. There is no contagious disease in which its use is not acknowledged; not only small-pox, measles, dysentery, &c., but scarlatina and influenza yield to its specific virtues. You probably remember, as well as I, that it was given with advantage in the hospital and camp fever. In short, I have established it as a maxim to give mercury as soon as I know a disease to be contagious.”

The mercurial purges, too, Dr. Tilton must break forth in praise of! Mercury is good for everything that is contagious! Is it good for sansculottism, Doctor? If it be, in the name of goodness, take a double dose of it twice a day, till it has wrought a cure.—Dr. Rush, in that emphatical style which is peculiar to himself, calls mercury the “Samson of medicine.” In his hands, and in those of his partisans, it may, indeed, be justly compared to Samson; for I verily believe they have slain more Americans with it than ever Samson slew of the Philistines. The Israelite slew his thousands, but the Rushites have slain their tens of thousands.*


“Dr. Rush having tried the effects of mercurial purges, which he acknowledged to the College of Physicians on the 26th of August, had been recommended to him by Doctors Hodge and Carson, the latter of whom had experienced their good effects upon himself on a former occasion, in a dose containing twenty grains of calomel, made trial of them, and was so highly pleased with them, that he assumed the credit of the discovery, though they had been frequently employed, both by the East Edition: current; Page: [146] and West India physicians, long before 1793, as may be seen in the publications of Lind, Blaney, Clark, Balfour, and others.

He appears to have read Dr. Moseley’s Directions for treating the Yellow Fever of the West Indies about the 10th of September, for the first time. In that treatise very profuse and frequent bleeding is recommended, from a persuasion that the disease was always attended with inflammatory symptoms in the beginning, which in that climate was probably the case, as the subjects that came under Moseley’s care were strong, vigorous, plethoric English sailors.

Dr. Rush, with that precipitation for which he has always been noted, instantly adopted the practice in its utmost latitude, without reflecting that difference of climate and constitution made a difference in the disease.

On the 12th of September he published in the Federal Gazette the following directions to the citizens:—

‘Dr. Rush, regretting that he is unable to comply with all the calls of his fellow-citizens indisposed with the prevailing fever, recommends to them to take his mercurial purges, which may now be had with suitable directions at most of the apothecaries; and to lose ten or twelve ounces of blood as soon as convenient after taking the purges,* if the headache and fever continue. When the purges do not operate speedily, bleeding may now be used before they are taken. The almost universal success with which it has pleased God to bless the remedies of strong mercurial purges and bleeding in this disorder, enables Dr. Rush to assure his fellow-citizens that there is no more danger to be apprehended from it, when these remedies have been used in its early stage, than there is from the measles or influenza. Dr. Rush assures his fellow-citizens farther, that the risk from visiting and attending the sick at present is not greater than from walking the streets. While the disease was so generally mortal, or the successful mode of treating it only partially adopted, he advised his friends to leave the city; at present he conceives this advice unnecessary, not only because the disease is under the power of medicine, but because the citizens who now wish to fly into the country cannot avoid carrying the infection with them: they had better remain near to medical aid, and avoid exciting the infection into action.’

How far the assertions contained in the address correspond with facts let the obituary of that month determine, and the deaths in his own family.

Those acquainted with the causes and laws of contagion thought him insane.

At other times he promised a removal of the infectious effluvia, with which he asserted the whole atmosphere was loaded, as soon as a heavy rain should fall:—an opinion as groundless as any that ever was generated in a whimsical brain.

Immediately after one of his addresses to the citizens, the following advertisements were published at his request in all the newspapers:—

‘Dr. Rush’s celebrated mercurial purging and sweating powders for preventing and curing the prevailing pulrid fever, may be had, carefully prepared, with proper directions, at Betton and Harrison’s, No. 10, South Second-street.

Edition: current; Page: [147]

‘Dr. Rush’s mercurial sweating purge for the yellow fever may be had, carefully prepared, with the Doctor’s directions, and sold by William Delany, druggist and chemist, &c.

‘Dr. Rush’s mercurial sweating powder for the yellow fever, with printed directions, prepared and sold by permission, by Goldthwait and Baldwin, chemists and druggists, &c.’

In speaking of his exploits in a letter addressed to Dr. Rodgers, dated October 3rd, after accusing most of the physicians of the city of ignorance and obstinacy, he adds, ‘By means of the remedies before mentioned, I think I have been the unworthy instrument in the hands of a kind Providence of recovering more than ninety-nine out of one hundred of my patients, before my late indisposition from the want of bleeding and purging. Since the 10th of September I have found bleeding, in addition to the mercurial purges, necessary in nineteen cases out of twenty, At first I found the loss of ten or twelve ounces sufficient to subdue the pulse; but I have been obliged gradually, as the season advanced, to increase the quantity to sixty, seventy, and eighty ounces.’

So much was the Doctor about this period possessed with the notion that he was the only man of common sense existing, that he not only refused to consult with any but his former pupils who submitted to obey his dictates, but rudely intruded his advice upon other people’s patients. He also appointed two illiterate negro men, and sent them into all the alleys and by-places in the city, with orders to bleed and give his sweating purges, as he empirically called them, to all they should find sick, without regard to age, sex, or constitution; and bloody and dirty work they made among the poor miserable creatures that fell in their way.

That his mind was elevated to a state of enthusiasm bordering on frenzy, I had frequent opportunity of observing; and I have heard from popular report, that in passing through Kensington one day, with his black man on the seat of his chaise alongside of him, he cried out with vociferation, ‘Bleed and purge all Kensington! drive on, boy!’

The contemplation of his own self-created consequence, the hurry of business, the novelty and solemn aspect of the surrounding scenes, had certainly a very extraordinary effect upon his imagination, and impaired his judgment.

I knew several that he terrified into chilly fits, some into relapses, and some into convulsions, by stopping them in the street, and declaring they had the fever—‘You’ve got it! you’ve got it!’ was his usual salutation upon seeing any one with a pale countenance. I have been assured that he pronounced to Dr. Glentworth, that he would be a dead man if he would not submit to more bleeding, after he had reduced him almost to death’s door by the violence of his remedies.* Two other physicians being called in, thought otherwise, and the Doctor recovered without any more loss of the vital fluid, notwithstanding this alarming and positive prognostication.

His pronouncing Mr. Michael Connor to be infected with the yellow fever, when just recovered from the ague and fever, occasioned a relapse. The same gentleman ascribes the loss of his amiable daughter to the drastic operation of his mercurial purges.

When applied to by Mr. Chancellor to visit a patient with Dr. Edition: current; Page: [148] Hodge, he advised him to dismiss Dr. H.; for he was a bark-and-wine doctor, and would do him more harm than good.

Dr. W. he said was an assassin, because he expressed some doubts of the superior efficacy of mercurial purges to those of a less drastic kind.

In his letter to Dr. Rodgers, after treating the opinions of all his fellow-practitioners with the most insulting contempt, and declaring that he believes himself the unworthy instrument in the hands of a kind Providence of recovering more than ninety-nine of a hundred of his patients, he adds, “it was extremely unfortunate that the new remedies were ever connected with my name,” and that he claimed no other merit than that of having early adopted and extended a mode of treating the disorder which he had learned from his first preceptor in medicine Dr. Redman, and which is strongly recommended by Hilary, Moseley, Mitchel, Kirby, and many other writers on the fever.

The Doctor certainly intended to write a romance; for there is no mention in any of the authors he refers to of mercurial purges, or of resting the cure of the disease on copious bleeding and purging, or that God had blessed copious bleeding and purging in their hands, as any person that can read may satisfy himself. Moseley indeed depends much on copious bleeding, in cases where the inflammatory symptoms are manifest; but all the rest inculcate sparing bleeding, and the most mild purges. The recollection of these things was not to his purpose; hence the convenience of having a good memory at forgetting things that would prove obstacles to our schemes—all good democrats acquire this kind of memory.

The Doctor here remembered to forget the information he formerly acknowledged he had received from Doctors Hodge and Carson, respecting the efficacy of mercurial purges in bilious cases. He also remembered to forget having seen the good effects produced by bleeding a fat cook in Water-street, the day after he had threatened to prosecute Doctor Barnwell for a design upon the life of Mrs. Ross in Walnut-street, because he bled her in the very same kind of fever that he now applauds it in, and employs as a cordial and anodyne, and in desperate cases, to make the patient die easy. He also remembered to forget to mention, that he adopted his sanguinary code, not from Draco, but from Moseley, who was a mere empiric that practised in Jamaica some years ago.

He also, in a most extraordinary manner, remembered to forget the victims that were falling by the hands of his apostles, at the very time that he was boasting of recovering more than ninety-nine of a hundred.

To crown all his extravagancies, he has lately threatened to prosecute Dr. Hodge for telling Dr. Way, on the second day of his fever, that he thought he might recover without any more bleeding. The case of Dr. Way is briefly this:—He was attacked on Sunday with the usual symptoms of the prevailing fever; bled himself in the night, about twelve ounces; next day was bled by advice of Dr. Rush three times; took mercurial purges, which operated very copiously; on Tuesday had an intermission; was again bled once, and purged several times. On Wednesday he took without advice eight grains of mercurius dulcis; had all along since the attack observed the most abstemious and cooling regimen. By whose direction he was bled on Wednesday I do not know, for Dr. Rush did not visit him after dinner that day. The mercury that he took of his own accord on Wednesday morning, brought on pain, sickness, and spasms in his bowels, and occasioned such extreme debility, that he sunk Edition: current; Page: [149] under it, and expired on Friday evening. The account of the treatment till Wednesday morning, the writer had from Dr. Way himself.

From this statement, I think Dr. Rush exempt from blame in the case of Dr. Way; and that there are cases of high inflammation in which the patient sometimes recovers, under the most Herculean discipline, his most inveterate enemies must acknowledge.”*


Anecdote extracted from the New York Daily Advertiser:—When Franklin was on his mission to France previous to the alliance, he put up one night at an inn near the frontiers. Gibbon, the celebrated historian, happening to be in the same house, Franklin sent his compliments, requesting the pleasure of spending the evening with Gibbon. In answer he received a card, importing that “notwithstanding Mr. Gibbon’s regard for the character of Dr. Franklin, as a man and a philosopher, he could not reconcile it with his duty to his King, to have any conversation with a revolted subject!” Franklin in reply wrote a note, declaring that “though Mr. Gibbon’s principles had compelled him to withhold the pleasure of his conversation, Dr. Franklin still had such a respect for the character of Mr. Gibbon, as a gentleman and an historian, that when, in the course of his writing the history of the decline and fall of empires, the decline and fall of the British empire should come to be his subject, as he expected it soon would, Dr. Franklin would be happy to furnish him with ample materials which were in his possession.”

Whether this anecdote record a truth or not, I shall not pretend to say; but it must be confessed that the expressions imputed to the two personages were strictly in character. In Gibbon we see the faithful subject, and the man of candour and honour; in Franklin, the treacherous and malicious “old Zanga of Boston.”



Of the Hermit to Alfred.

“Go forth! lead on the radiant years to thee revealed in vision. Lo, they rise! Lo! patriots, heroes, sages crowd to birth, and bards to sing them in immortal verse. I see thy commerce grasp the world: all nations serve thee; every flood subjected pays its tribute to the Thames.

Britons, proceed; the subject deep command:

Awe with your navies ev’ry hostile land.

Vain are their threats, their armies all are vain;

They rule the balanc’d world who rule the main.”

Thomson’s Alfred.


Of the malicious Philosopher Jefferson.

Britain.—The sun of her glory is fast declining to the horizon. Her philosophy has crossed the Channel; her freedom has crossed the Atlantic; and herself seems passing to that awful dissolution, whose issue is not given human foresight to scan.”—Notes on Virginia, by Thomas Jefferson.

Edition: current; Page: [150]

Pray, Monsieur Jefferson, if the freedom of Britain has crossed the Atlantic, whither is it gone? You will not pretend, I suppose, that it has taken up its abode among Americans; unless, indeed, you have the impudence to assert, that to be chained, drudged, kicked, flogged, and thumb-screwed by the French, are the distinctive marks of freedom; unless you have the impudence to assert, that men are free in a country where a governor can order them to be seized without a warrant, and transported for a month without a trial, or even a hearing. Unless, I say, you are prepared to make these assertions, you will not pretend that the freedom of Britain has taken its flight this way; and, above all, you will not now dare to assert this of her liberty of the press.

No, Monsieur Thomas; the sun of Britain will shine; her philosophy will illuminate an admiring world, and her freedom (her real freedom) will continue to be “the charter of the land,” when thy head will be rotting cheek by jowl with that of some toil-killed negro slave. She will flourish in commerce, in arts, and in arms, when thy pivot-chair shall be crumbled into dust; when thy French-spun theories, thy flimsy philosophy, thy shallow shifting politics, and thy envious vindictive predictions, shall all be damned to eternal oblivion; and when nought shall be remembered of thee or thine, save thy cool, unprovoked, and viperous slander on the family of Cresap.


The following is taken from the Boston Mercury, and is said to be derived from an authentic source:—

“The Bishop of Autun, who resided some time in this country under the name of Talleyrand Perigord, has informed the Directory of France, that they need not regard the United States any more than the State of Genoa or Geneva; as our divisions have weakened us down to nothing in point of strength and exertion as a nation; and that there would probably soon be a revolution here, which would tend to throw us entirely into the French scale; as the partisans of France were increasing, and would soon turn out of the Government all the Washingtonian party, all of whom were in the British pay.

In this information he was joined by almost all the Americans who were before in France, or have since gone to that country.

Edition: current; Page: [151]

In the mean time, the French party on this side of the Atlantic are continually exciting the French government to acts of hostility against the United States; and are so desperately determined to destroy the British treaty, as to be willing, for the accomplishment of that purpose, to risk our independence, and even our national existence.”

That the apostate Talleyrand was a spy in this country is evident from his being afterwards received with open arms by the very men who had proscribed him. But I have a word or two to say about this bishop. First he set up as a merchant and dealer at New York, till he had acquired what knowledge he thought was to be come at among persons engaged in mercantile affairs; then he assumed the character of a gentleman, at the same time removing to Philadelphia, where he got access to persons of the first rank, and all those who were connected with, or in the confidence of, the Government. Some months after his arrival in this city, he left a message with a friend of his, requesting me to meet him at that friend’s house. Several days passed away before the meeting took place: I had no business to call me that way, and therefore I did not go. At last this modern Judas and I got seated by the same fire-side. I expected that he wanted to expostulate with me on the severe treatment he had met with at my hands: I had called him an apostate, a hypocrite, and every other name of which he was deserving; I therefore leave the reader to imagine my astonishment, when I heard him begin with complimenting me on my wit and learning. He praised several of my pamphlets, the New Year’s Gift in particular, and still spoke of them as mine. I did not acknowledge myself the author, of course; but yet he would insist that I was; or, at any rate, they reflected, he said, infinite honour on the author, let him be who he might. Having carried this species of flattery as far as he judged it safe, he asked me, with a vast deal of apparent seriousness, whether I had received my education at Oxford or at Cambridge! Hitherto I had kept my countenance pretty well; but this abominable stretch of hypocrisy, and the placid mien and silver accent with which it was pronounced, would have forced a laugh from a Quaker in the midst of a meeting. I don’t recollect what reply I made him; but this I recollect well, I gave him to understand that I was no trout, and consequently was not to be caught by tickling.

This information led him to something more solid. He began to talk about business. I was no flour-merchant, but I taught English; and, as luck would have it, this was the very commodity that Bishop Perigord wanted. If I had taught Thornton’s* or Webster’s language, or sold sand or ashes, or pepper-pot, it would have been just the same to him. He knew the English language as well as I did; but he wanted to have dealings with me in some way or other.

I knew that, notwithstanding his being proscribed at Paris, he was extremely intimate with Adet; and this circumstance led me to suspect his real business in the United States; I therefore did not care to take him as a scholar. I told him that, being engaged in a translation for the press, I could not possibly quit home. This difficulty the lame fiend hopped over in a moment. He would very gladly come to my house. I cannot say but it Edition: current; Page: [152] would have been a great satisfaction to me to have seen the ci-devant Bishop of Autun, the guardian of the holy oil that anointed the heads of the descendants of St. Louis, come trudging through the dirt to receive a lesson from me; but, on the other hand, I did not want a Frenchman to take a survey either of my desk or my house. My price for teaching was six dollars a month; he offered me twenty, but I refused; and before I left him I gave him clearly to understand that I was not to be purchased.

I verily believe that, had I had any flour or precious confessions* for sale, I might have disposed of them to good account; and even my pamphlets, though Bradford calls them dirty water, I think I could have sold to Bishop Judas for more than one shilling and seven-pence-halfpenny apiece.

There is no doubt of there being at this moment hundreds of honest missionaries among us, whose sole business is that of spies. They are flying about the country in every direction; not a corner of it will they leave unexplored. They are now much better acquainted with the sentiments of the people of the Union, and know more exactly those who are to be counted upon in case of a war, than either the Federal government or State governments.


For the Gazette of the United States.

“Mr. Fenno, While I profess myself one of the warmest admirers of the political pamphlets of Mr. Cobbett, I cannot but express my concern at some of the sentiments of this editor, in the late numbers of his Gazette—sentiments, which, with whatever view declared, seem calculated to degrade the American character, and to cast an odium upon the principles of our revolution. I shall only instance his comment upon the anecdote of Mr. Gibbon and Dr. Franklin, in his Gazette of the 18th instant. Now, whatever antipathy he may have to the character of the Doctor (which, upon the score of generosity and political integrity, far be it from me to undertake to defend), he cannot but be aware, that his indiscriminate observation will equally apply to a Washington, an Adams, a Jay, and a Hamilton—characters, which, if I mistake not, he has more than once professed to hold in high estimation. What then shall we say of the conduct of Mr. Cobbett? Is it consistent, liberal, or wise? He is an Englishman, nor does he wish to conceal his attachment to the land that gave him birth, its government, and laws; nor will any generous American blame him for this partiality. But why introduce comparisons, which can have no other tendency than to revive animosities, which all good men desire to bury in oblivion, and to widen a breach, which, in the present distracted state of the world, I presume, the real friends of both countries wish to see closed?

If he thinks the interest of his country requires nothing less than the destruction of the republican system, he has certainly too much delicacy and understanding to attempt writing it down, under our noses. If loyalty, in his opinion, can never be misplaced, he need not, however, take the trouble of telling us of it. If monarchy be his favourite form of Edition: current; Page: [153] government, let it exist, say I, where it is established, and where the state of society may perhaps render it eligible; but, in God’s name, let us quietly enjoy, and make the most of the institution we have framed for ourselves.

While Mr. Cobbett directs his artillery against Jacobinic hypocrisy, and its detestable cant, he is engaged in a cause which every honest and enlightened man must approve: and I shall be sincerely pleased, if I find that his rash and indiscriminate censures (he must excuse me from calling them so) are to be ascribed to petulance of temper, or an indiscreet zeal for the honour of his country, and not to a deliberate plan of discrediting the principles and consequences of our revolution here, whatever may be its effects in other parts of the world. For even upon the supposition of its being an evil, we are to look for its authors to the other side of the water: and let him remember, that its principles were advocated by Mr. Burke, the man for whom he justly expresses such enthusiastic admiration.

A Country Subscriber.


Mr. Fenno’s Subscriber hints at other passages in my Gazette, “calculated to degrade the American character, &c.” besides the one he has noticed; but, as I cannot even guess at these, I shall be excused for confining myself, on the present occasion, to the particular instance which he has cited.

He objects to my “reviving animosities, which all good men desire to bury in oblivion.” How unjust this charge is must be perceived at once, by every one who casts his eye over the above. The anecdote was not of my selection; it was published in a New-York paper, and republished in all those of this city. The publication of it at the time was a sort of dunghill-cock triumph over Great Britain, and could be intended for no other purpose than that of “reviving animosities.

The observations on this spiteful paragraph are such as were naturally called for: the reprobation of the malicious old hypocrite, who is represented as the hero of the anecdote; and they do not contain the least reflection on the American character or the principles of the revolution.

Old Franklin is held up to the admiration of the people, for having wantonly and maliciously predicted, that the empire of Britain would soon fall to the ground; and, because I call him an old Zanga for this prediction, I am charged with degrading the American character; as if every American were admitted to be of the same disposition, and to entertain the same vengeful sentiments, as this remorseless old deist. Nay, Mr. Fenno’s correspondent carries the thing still farther, and observes, that the observation on Franklin necessarily applies itself to Messrs. Washington, Adams, Jay, and Hamilton. But, if this curious logician expects to be believed here, he must first prove each of these gentlemen to have uttered sentiments equally insulting, vindictive, and sanguinary, with those of Franklin; a thing, I believe, which it would be very difficult for him to do: however, this I have nothing to do with. When I am convinced that either of them, not content with obtaining the independence of the colonies, was savage enough to hug himself in the hope that the parent state would perish in the conflict, I will call him a Zanga. Nor shall I be afraid, in so doing, of exposing myself to the charge of inconsistency. I have thought highly, and I have spoken highly, of these gentlemen; but did any one even suppose that I applauded Edition: current; Page: [154] them merely as revolutionists, much less as bitter, inexorable, and brutal enemies of Great Britain?

This Subscriber of Mr. Fenno’s has fallen into the cant of the day. The press is free; but you must not lash the baseness or malice of an American for the world, because that degrades the American character. You must not censure or ridicule certain political vagaries, such as sovereign people, rights of man, committees of safety, universal suffrage, confiscations, &c. &c. &c.: all these little feaks must pass uncensured, in whatever part of the world, and under whatever circumstances they may take place, because they tend to degrade the principles of the American revolution. A pretty reason, upon my word, and I make no doubt may be very satisfactory with some people, though it is not so with me.

One thing, however, I must allow, that while the printers are thus strictly forbidden to degrade the American character, &c. they have ample room left for whatever talent they may possess at degrading. They are allowed to attack, without mercy and without remorse, without truth and without decency, all the other individuals and nations of the world, revolutionary France excepted. Great Britain, and all her subjects, in the mass and individually, have long been consigned over to them as lawful prey. This is the light in which Fenno’s Subscriber sees the matter. He, good soul! wishes to bury all animosities; but he by no means disapproved of the malicious anecdote, because it was a stroke at Great Britain.

The officious defender of the honour of America ought to recollect, that animosities are not buried by continually keeping them in view on one side; and if he be really in earnest with respect to his wishes for healing the breach between the people of the two nations, I beg of him to be assured, that reconciliation and harmony with the ignorant or the rancorous, was never yet effected by mildness and forbearance.

I well know the opinion that prevails respecting newspaper printers. I know that it is a general notion, that a man of this profession should have no sentiment of his own; that he should be a mere puppet, such as little Brown, and many others that I could mention; and that, at the awful name of subscriber, his knees should begin knocking together like those of Nebuchadnezzar.—This does not suit me.—I have no idea of being a subject of the sovereign people, or of any portion thereof.

Let this serve as an answer to Fenno’s Subscriber and to all those who think like him: that whenever, and wherever, I meet with any malicious aspersions on Britain, her King, or her subjects, the bitterest drop in my pen shall be employed in retaliation, whatever interpretation may be given to it, or whomsoever it may displease. And, if Fenno’s Subscriber should be inclined to call this inconsistency, let him recollect, that I declared, in one of the pamphlets which he is pleased highly to approve of, that to the enemies of my country I had always “rendered hatred for hatred, and scorn for scorn.

Threatening Letter.—I yesterday received the following cut-throat letter through the penny-post; and I lay it before the world, that they may judge of the temper and character of my enemies.

Peter Porcupine
Porcupine, Peter

A Friend to America, but an Enemy to bloody England.


You infernal ruffian, it is my full intention, when or wherever I meet you, to give you one of the greatest lambastings ever you got. My reason for doing Edition: current; Page: [155] so, you vagabond, is for writing and speaking in such a disgraceful manner as you do against the greatest and chief heads of our city.—How dare you, you corporal, or any other British subject or slave, have the impudence to speak to a freeman! I think it’s too great an honour conferred on you to be permitted to tread on this blessed ground, for fear of contaminating it, as you have in a great measure done already by your hell-fire paper, and the blackguard scurrilous pieces it contains.

Believe me, you infernal ruffian, it is my full intention to give you a damned whipping when I meet you.

When you publish this, take care of the streets and alleys you walk in.”

This is to inform this infamously free man, that I know he is a base scoundrel, and that he no more dares attack me, than he dares to go to any country where there is a gallows.

January 24, 1798
New York
Peter Porcupine
Porcupine, Peter

I thank you for the compliments addressed to me in your paper of the 20th instant. However polite they may be, and however thankful I may be on account of them, I do not know why, they flatter me but little. Should it arise from your being an anti-Frenchman? That is very possible; for although my country has been subverted, I still love her. She has been torn by every species of faction these nine years. I equally detest them all; and as you blow the trumpet of the British faction here—a faction which has given activity to every other—I am not more disposed to fraternize with you than with Stewart the traveller.

Your wit would be extremely agreeable if it was less dangerous. You not only bite, but you take out the piece; and I never read one of your paragraphs without remarking some attempt to stimulate the worst of passions. Edmund Burke had a very correct idea when, in 1790, he said that the French revolutionists, instead of promoting, had counteracted the cause of liberty. The same reproach is applicable to you in an opposite sense; for, certainly, if you desire the restoration of monarchy in France, your measures are extremely ill-judged—you shoot beyond the mark.

Extremes are always wrong: and jacobinism is not less opposed to the return of order in France, than declamations tending to anglify whatever is not partial to the French revolution—Timeo Danaos, donaque ferentes.

In hopes of a better order of things, and without lessening the esteem I feel for your talents, permit me, therefore, Sir, still to continue

A Frenchman.


Peter Porcupine
Porcupine, Peter
Jan. 27

To the Frenchman of New York.


I made you an offer of my pamphlets and Gazette, with the full persuasion that they neither were nor would be thought worthy of your acceptance. It was intended as nothing more than a forcible mode of expressing my approbation of your sentiments, and the very shrewd manner in which they were expressed. However, I must confess that I do not attribute your refusal altogether to the worthlessness of the present. You were anxious to convince me that you were a true Frenchman; and as you were apprized that I knew something of your nation, you justly apprehended that this little trait of capriciousness would infallibly produce such conviction. Be this as it may, so strongly is the amor patriæ implanted in my breast; and so honourable do I esteem the avowal of it on Edition: current; Page: [156] all occasions, that I am ready not only to excuse, but to applaud the motive, whether real or pretended, from which you politely decline accepting my offer.

Your saying that I “not only bite, but take out the piece,” rather flatters than displeases me. These are not days, my dear Sir, to be wasted in barking and snapping. The hell-hounds are let loose upon us; and if we give quarter, we shall most assuredly receive none. Besides, I am surrounded with such a numerous pack, that I have no time to bestow more than one bite on each. I am absolutely compelled to “take out the piece” every time I bite, or to expire beneath their accumulated mumblings; a species of martyrdom which, be assured, I am by no means prepared to undergo.

You censure me for the violent measures I am pursuing, and insist that they are not calculated to promote the “restoration of monarchy in France.” How you came to fall upon this I know not, unless I suppose, which is very natural, that that restoration is ever uppermost in your mind. You must know, Sir, that I never presumed to have such an object in view; for though it is an event which I most sincerely desire to see take place, not only for your sake, in common with all the valuable part of your countrymen, but for the good of mankind in general; yet I have other cares that come nearer home, which absorb more time than I can command, and require infinitely greater talents than I possess. However, had I been born a Frenchman, I trust I should, in the early stages of your dreadful revolution, have pursued just the same measures you now see me pursuing; and certain I am, that if the vast mass of information and talents possessed by the royalists had been employed in the same way, Louis would now be a king and Barras a barber. You played with the little infant sans-culottes; you nursed and fed them, as the hedge-sparrows did the unfledged cuckoos, till by-and-by they gathered strength, pecked out your eyes, and swallowed you at a single repast. This tragifarce of the poor hedge-sparrow I do not want to see played on the theatre of America.

There is one subject which I am exceedingly sorry you have touched on, because I cannot pass it over in silence, and because I cannot say any thing in reply which must not reflect on the Government, the loss of which you have but too much reason to deplore.

You will at once perceive that I allude to the part of your letter which speaks of a British faction in this country, and of its having given activity to every other. I will not suppose that you have been the dupe of Bache and the M‘Langs, and that you look upon me as a hireling of King George; I will not suppose you tainted with sans-culotte principles, and therefore I will not reproach you with the intrigues of Genet, Fauchet, Adet, and their affiliated clubs. I will not call upon you to point out to me a single instance in which a British Minister has incorporated himself with the enemies of the Federal government, or has appealed to the people from that Government’s decisions. This, and such-like conduct, applies to the sans-culottes. But, Sir, I will call upon you for a fair and impartial comparison between the conduct of the old Court of France, and that of the Court of Great Britain.

From the moment France took up arms in favour of these States, she was unremitted in her endeavours to form a faction here, devoted to her interest, and to that alone. She, in part, succeeded, by gaining over old Franklin and some others, as evidently appeared from the detestable Edition: current; Page: [157] manœuvres at the making of the peace. She was foiled at that time; but want of perseverance was never her fault; and the moment the present Government began its operation, it was discovered that she had not been idle.

One of the first motions made in the Congress assembled at New York was, to give her a preference in trade with this country; and though it was evident that the proposition was preposterous, unnatural, and to the last degree impolitic, I believe the House of Representatives had a majority in her favour. Madison was at the head of the phalanx; Jefferson was then at Paris; these men’s principles have been since fully exposed, and universally exploded.

No one here has forgotten the inveigling mountebank tricks of all her ambassadors, from the first to the last; and nothing more is wanted to prove that France ever had a devoted faction here, and that her object, with respect to America, has ever been the same, than this one fact,—the very men who were the partisans of the monarch, have steadily continued the partisans of his murderers.

When did you ever hear of a member of Congress proposing to make regulations intended solely to favour Great Britain? Never; nor can you bring a single instance of any itinerant vagabond, like Brissot, being sent to explore the country and the hearts of the people. France is very humble or very haughty, just as it suits her interest. She had blinded many persons; but the Quakers were yet without the pale of her politics; and the scoundrel hypocrite Brissot was (by the old Government) sent to convert them. He wrote a book. Yes, the rascal actually wrote a book under the directions of that Government. It was the fruit of his journey, and its object was, to persuade the Americans that France was the only nation on earth with whom they need or ought to trade.

In a fair race for preference in this trade, France well knows, and always has known, that she cannot vie with Great Britain. If her means were convertible into this channel, the good old English prejudices and habits would impede her. She must change the nature of this people, before she can engross their trade. Well apprized of this, and always governed by her inordinate ambition, she has continually endeavoured to effect by political fraud, what by honest means she could not. Hence it is, that she has always had a faction, and always will have one, as long as she has l’argent to maintain it.

Great Britian, on the contrary, neither has nor wants any. She has no object to effect by it. All she wants is a fair trade, and in that she is sure she can never have a rival. Her men of science and genius; her industrious mechanics and manufacturers; her punctual, honest, and generous merchants—these are the British faction; and I trust that the plain habits, sound sense, and upright politics of America, will never give her cause to seek for any other.

I have not here entered much into detail. My time does not allow of it. But every thing I have advanced in general terms, I can prove by facts, while I call upon you, in this public manner, to establish, by the semblance of proof, your assertion respecting a faction under the influence of Great Britain.

After apologizing for the length of this letter, I shall conclude, by assuring you, that no one more than I desires to see a termination of the abominable tyranny which now disgraces your once happy and amiable nation. And, as to yourself, Sir, I beg you to believe me sincere, when Edition: current; Page: [158] I declare, that, though formerly a soldier, I am not now on the recruiting service, and have not the least design to kidnap you from your country; but am, sincerely, your friend, and most obedient, humble servant,

P. Porcupine.

P. S. As this is, as far as I recollect, the first civil letter (and I am much afraid it will be the last) that ever my opponents have given me an opportunity of writing, I trust that any want of formality that may appear in the winding-up will be readily excused. The letters I have to answer, generally end with a curse, in place of your humble servant, Sir. I often wonder how I make shift to get through the world as I do.

Deborah Violet
Violet, Deborah
Dec. 18, 1798
The Century.*

In the Norfolk Herald, appears the following advertisement:—

Messrs. Willett and O’Connor,

I am a poor widow woman, whose great uncle by her father’s side died lately, and by his will he hath left me a legacy of 100l., to be paid me in the 19th century; that is, he says, “Item, I give to my niece Deborah Violet 100l., to be paid to her in the 19th century.” Now, Sirs, as I am a poor woman, and I am told you have a great many law gentlemen in Norfolk, you will render a great service if you will get their opinion when, and at what time, I have really a right to demand the same. In so doing you will oblige, yours at command,

Deborah Violet.
Peter Porcupine
Porcupine, Peter
Deborah Violet
Violet, Deborah

P. Porcupine to Mrs. Violet.

Dear Madam,

Having a singular affection for widows of the Violet race (especially those who are in full bloom), and observing you in some little distress for advice, you will not be surprised, that, without further ceremony, I proceed to offer you the best which it is in my power to bestow.

And, first, my sweet Violet, I think you have applied to the wrong source; for one principal part of a lawyer’s professional skill consists in knowing how to procure delay; and, I assure you, that all the gentlemen of the bench and the bar, whose opinions I have heard on the subject, have decided the point against you. I resided, some time ago, near a small village, which was honoured by being the summer’s retreat of a lawyer and a judge. The former of these might not, indeed, have been much accustomed to the Christian calendar; but be that as it may, they both said (and I believe they swore), that the eighteenth century should not end till 1801. Preposterous as this assertion certainly is, you may be assured that they were prepared to maintain it, even against one who should have risen from the dead to convince them of the contrary.

You may look upon it as a settled point, that whoever has got your 100l. will keep it as long as they can. You will find it difficult, even twenty years hence, to persuade them that the nineteenth century is arrived. Sued they therefore must be for the money, and, according to an established maxim in the law, the sooner you begin the sooner you will have done.

I would advise you to plead your own cause; no eloquence is so convincing as that which flows from female lips. Your adversary, conscious of the badness of his cause, will have plenty of lawyers to oppose you. Edition: current; Page: [159] They will insist that the 18th century cannot be ended till the year 1800 is ended; they will tell you that this is the 1798th and not the 1799th year, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth, to the end of the chapter. In return to all which, you will say:—“Pray, what century are we now in?” They will answer, the “18th to be sure.” You will then ask them, how it happens that we have continued to date 17 hundred during all the 18th century? If there should be a man of sense amongst them, he will laugh in his sleeve; but you will see the young babblers stare like so many stuck pigs. Before they have had time to recover, you must follow up your blow, and put to them the following questions:—“When did we begin to date 17 hundred, at the beginning or the end of the 17th century?” They will immediately answer, “At the end of the 17th century.” “Well, then,” say you, “did we not also begin to date 1798 at the end of the 1798th year? If we began (as you say we did) to date 1798 at the beginning of the 1798th year, why did we not begin to date 18 hundred at the beginning of the 18th century?”—At this they will stand as mute as fishes. You will get no answer from them. They will, however, find their tongues after a time, and then they will go on again with their saids and so forths, and again insist that 1800 years must expire before 1800 years are expired; and that 99 cannot make a hundred, and consequently, and of course, 1799 cannot make 1800, and hence and from thence they will draw a conclusion as clear as day-light that, to attain 1800 years we must arrive at 1800. With about nine-tenths of the jury the force of this reasoning will be irrisistible; but, if there be amongst them any man of a sound understanding and a clear conscience, he will remain locked up till he has gnawed off his hands, before he will give a verdict against you.

With the best wishes for the success of your cause, I remain, my dear Violet, your most obedient, and most humble servant,

P. Porcupine.
A Toad-Eater.

A “Countryman” asks me the meaning of the appellation Toad-eater. I am not at all surprised that a countryman, who generally lives upon the fruit of his labour, and breathes the sweet air of real independence, should not understand what a Toad-eater means; I shall, therefore, endeavour to explain its meaning to him. A Toad-eater, odd as it may seem, is an animal that walks upon two legs. His chief business in life is to seek his food; and, provided he can obtain the end, he is not delicate about the means; but the quality from which he derives his name, is standing in the gap, and swallowing the satire that would otherwise be forced down the throat of a rich knave or fool, rather than do which there is no man of spirit who would not swallow that most loathsome of all creatures, a toad. Hence the name of Toad-eater. Toad-eaters are seldom found, either in Europe or America, any where but in and about great cities. They are of degrees as different as the services they have to perform. Fools and rogues of great wealth generally look for them amongst the refuse of the three learned professions, where they can rarely make a bad choice. Cashiered officers, and players hissed from the stage, are also a most excellent kind. But all these are above the reach of the small game of satire, who are, therefore, obliged to seek toad-eaters elsewhere. If a pettifogger, a poetaster, a quack, or a spurious envoy, stands in need of a toad-eater, he looks for him among the printers of newspapers. Here he is sure to Edition: current; Page: [160] suit himself; here, for a subscription, or the insertion of an advertisement, he finds mouths of all sizes, and gullets of all dimensions, distended to receive his toad, with as much joy and gratitude as the young ones of the crow receives the carrion from her bill.


There is something singularly favourable to civil liberty and free elections in the eligibility of judges to other offices, before they cease to be judges; for, a man cannot distinguish his friends from his opponents, while he is on the bench, any better than if he were not there; and, on the other hand, his office of judge enables him to prevent, in a great measure, all improper or unpleasant publications, either against the other candidate or himself. I say, therefore, that the office of judge, and the quality of candidate for that of Governor, are united in the same person with singular propriety.* Be it remembered, moreover, that if a judge fail in his election, he is still a judge; and every one must perceive, that a hard political struggle furnishes an excellent opportunity for a judge to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the faults and the virtues of all and every of the citizens; a very valuable sort of knowledge, and which, I presume, cannot fail to contribute greatly to the impartial administration of justice.—“Vivat Respublica!”

Dallas is pretty sure that he shall not be Secretary of State, under any Federal Governor, and for that reason, amongst others, he wishes to thrust in M‘Kean. To be sure, he may be disappointed, even if MAC should get in; but he has a chance, and a bad chance is better than none. “What does he care,” said a fool the other day, “he has very good practice at the bar.” But this fool did not perceive, that he might lose that good practice with his office of Secretary of State! The poor fool did not recollect, that it is often very convenient to have one’s cause in the hands of a man who has, ex officio, the ear of the Governor. If I were in danger of being hanged, in England, and the Minister were also a pleading lawyer, I should certainly employ the Minister, and give him a thumping fee. But this is not the case in England; neither Mr. Pitt, nor the Duke of Portland, nor Lord Grenville, is a pleading lawyer; and here we have complete proof of the super-excellence of Republican government, the simple manners of which permit its officers to follow their private and public occupations at one and the same time, by which means the service of the State is performed for little or nothing. Some persons may, indeed, suggest, that this economy may be attended with evil consequences; for, that a man’s private occupation may be made the medium through which to obtain his influence, in his public capacity; but Edition: current; Page: [161] those who talk thus, do not recollect the maxim of the sapient Montesquieu, that “VIRTUE is the basis of Republican government.

Tench Coxe keeps harping away upon Mr. Ross, who, he says, is recommended by me. This is a small mistake; I never presumed to recommend Mr. Ross; I know nothing of him; but I see him recommended by gentlemen of high reputation, for honesty, as well as for understanding; and I see him opposed by Leib, Tench Coxe, Dallas, &c., and, therefore, I am pretty sure, he must be a worthy gentleman, and a firm friend to his country. I must, however, say that I have somewhat more knowledge of the other candidate; I know Tench Coxe’s man; I know M‘Kean, and I know that it is my duty, my bounden duty, to my subscribers in this State, to use all my feeble efforts to preserve them from the power of such a man. From private considerations, there is no man who need care less about the issue of the election than myself. It is out of M‘Kean’s power to hurt me. I will never live six months under his sovereign sway. As soon as he is safe in his saddle, I shall begin to look out for a horse. Nor will a migration of this sort give me a moment’s uneasiness. It would be a durable source of satisfaction to me, that I had scorned to live amongst a set of beings who could voluntarily and deliberately choose such a man to reign over them. As I said before, I look upon it as my duty to the public to assist in opposing M‘Kean’s election; but, as it may concern myself, I view it with the most perfect indifference; and, above all things, Coxe ought to avoid accusing me with acting from motives of enmity to the people; for, if I wished them evil, if I desired to see their humiliation, their misery, their ruin, I should join with Coxe instead of opposing him.

January, 1800.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William

To the Subscribers to this Gazette.*


Agreeably to my notification, made by advertisement, on the 11th ultimo, I now address to you the farewell number of Porcupine’s Gazette.

Remembering, as you must, my solemn promise to quit Pennsylvania, in case my old democratic Judge, MAC KEAN, should be elected Governor; and knowing, as you now do, that he is elected to that office, there are, I trust, very few of you who will be surprised to find that I am no longer in that degraded and degrading State.

My removal from Philadelphia to New York would certainly be sufficient apology for the suspension of my paper from the 26th of October (when the last number was published) to this time; and, were I inclined to resume and continue it, I am persuaded it would, by the far greater part of you, be honoured with a welcome appropriate to the return of an absent friend; but, the renewal of this intercourse between us, pleasing as it would be to me also, under other circumstances, cannot take place either now or at any future time.

My Gazette, Gentlemen, instead of being a mine of gold to me, as it has generally been supposed, has never yielded me a farthing of clear profit; and, therefore, in laying it down I lose nothing but a most troublesome and weighty burden. I must confess, however, that this consideration Edition: current; Page: [162] was no inducement to the step I have taken. Gain was never, in any situation of life, a primary object with me. The other branches of my business enabled me to support the loss incurred by the publication of my paper; and it was my intention, even after I had fully ascertained and sensibly felt the unproductiveness of it, to continue it till the month of March 1801; but, as this intention was founded entirely on my persuasion of the public utility of the continuation, it fell, of course, the moment that persuasion was removed from my mind.

I began my editorial career with the presidency of Mr. Adams; and my principal object was to render his administration all the assistance in my power. I looked upon him as a stately, well-armed vessel, sailing on an expedition to combat and destroy the fatal influence of French intrigue and French principles; and I flattered myself with the hope of accompanying him through the voyage, and of partaking, in a trifling degree, of the glory of the enterprise; but he suddenly tacked about, and I could follow him no longer.

For a first-rater, like Mr. Adams, to beat up in the very teeth of former maxims, professions, and declarations, might, for aught I knew, be not only safe and prudent, but magnanimous also in the sublimest degree; but, for a poor little cock-boat like me, rigged only for a right-forward course, to attempt to imitate the adventurous manœuvre, would have been the very extreme of vanity and presumption; while, on the other hand, to continue my course alone would have been dangerous, useless, and absurd; I therefore waited for the first fair opportunity to haul down my sails, to lie-to, and contemplate the retreating commodore, surrounded with my more versatile companions, whose happy construction enabled them to yield obedience to every signal and to trim to every breeze.

While, however, I most heartily congratulate my brethren on the pliability of their principles, and the consequent respectability of their situation; while I, admiring, behold with what speed and address they retrace their route, and congratulate them on the approach of the time when they are to receive a pardon from the much-abused Talleyrand and the other rulers of the yet dear sister republic; while I thus cordially bestow on them my congratulations, there are some few things on which I humbly presume I may be permitted to congratulate myself. Yes, I must congratulate myself on having established a paper, carried it to a circulation unparalleled in extent, and preserved this circulation to the last number, without the aid of any of those base and parasitical arts by which patronage to American newspapers is generally obtained and preserved;—I congratulate myself on having, in the progress of this paper, uniformly supported, with all my feeble powers, the cause of true religion, sound morality, good government, and real libery;—I congratulate myself on never having, in a single instance, been the sycophant of the Sovereign People; and on having persisted, in spite of calumny, threats, prosecutions, and violence, from the one side, and of praises, promises, and caresses, from the other—in spite of the savage howlings of the Sans Culottes, and the soothing serenades of the Federalilts (for I have heard both under my window);—I congratulate myself on having, in spite of all these, persisted in openly and unequivocally avowing my attachment to my native country and my allegiance to my king;—and, with still greater pride I congratulate myself on being the first, and perhaps the only man, who, since the revolution, has, in open court, refused to take Edition: current; Page: [163] shelter under the title of citizen, and demanded justice as a subject of King George;—finally, I congratulate myself on having the entire approbation of every man of sense, candour, and integrity, the disapprobation of every fool, the hatred of every malignant Whig, and the curse of every villain.

I am, Gentlemen,
Your most obliged and most obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.


The Rushite System of Depletion, with a Statement of Porcupine’s Reasons for opposing it.

“The fever began to ravage the city and suburbs; so that we had abundance of work, and it may easily be conceived what a quantity of innocent blood was spilt. But, I know not how it happened, all our sick died.

Gil Blas.

The novel system, adopted by Rush, is most aptly denominated the system of depletion; for the merit of it entirely consists in emplying the veins and the intestines with an expedition heretofore unknown and unheard of. Of the effects of this system the people of America have heard and felt enough, but of its origin many of them are totally ignorant. For most of the great discoveries, especially those which have contributed to the depopulation of the earth, we are indebted to what appears to have been mere accident; which was, also, in some sort, the mother of the system of depletion.

Rush had constantly endeavoured to place himself at the head of something or other; and, as is common with persons possessed of vanity too great to suffer them to remain quiet in obscurity, and of talents too contemptible, or tempers too fickle, to enable them to attain superiority by the ordinary course of advancement, he had ever been upon the search for some discovery, some captivating novelty, to which he might prefix his name; and thus reach, at a single leap, the goal at which men seldom arrive but by slow, cautious, and painful approaches. To a determination to become a great man, in defiance of niggardly Nature, might be fairly attributed all the solemn fooleries of this versatile doctor, who, in his impatient pursuit after fame, had chopped and changed from science to science, till at last, like the straggling hound, he had the mortification to see himself outstripped in the chase by the slow-motioned companions whom he formerly despised.

Various were the tricks that he tried; Religion, Morals, Jurisprudence, Literature, Economy, Politics, and Philosophy, all became, at times, the subject of his plans and his projects. Still, however, fame fled from his grasp. His “Original Essays,” though aided by puffs in abundance, excited a laugh, and that was all. The learned languages were still taught in the schools; little girls still played with dolls; and parents still kept sharp knives and pointed scissors from the hands of their children; men Edition: current; Page: [164] still used tobacco, and women continued to sweeten their tea with West-India sugar. Thus baffled, thus first despised, and then forgotten, as an author, the doctor saw no hope of rendering himself distinguished but as a physician. On this, therefore, he appears to have resolved, much about the time that the Yellow Fever of 1793 offered an opportunity favourable to the enterprise. He had, by those arts which men of his stamp never fail to employ, obtained some trifling marks of respect amongst certain philosophical bodies in Europe; he had thrust himself into many of the public institutions in America; he read chemical lectures to the young “ladies” in the Philadelphia Academy, and clinical lectures to the young “doctors” in the University of Pennsylvania; but all this did not make him a first-rate medical man. His practice was still confined to that class of people who are not the best qualified to judge of, or the most able to reward, scientific merit.

To recover his lost ground, to relieve himself from this humiliating situation, and to tower over the heads of his envied brethren, he seized, with uncommon alacrity and address, the occasion presented by the Yellow Fever, the fearful ravages of which were peculiarly calculated to dispose the minds of the panic-struck people to the tolerance, and even to the admiration of experiments, which, at any other time, they would have rejected with disdain. Besides this debilitated state of the public mind, Rush had several other circumstances in his favour: the only newspaper (that of Brown), which continued to circulate in the city, was almost entirely under his control; his clamorous professions of republicanism had gained him numerous partisans amongst the class of citizens who could not flee to the country; and the physicians whose opinions he had to encounter, though highly respected by all classes, were men of too peaceable a turn to enter the field with a person who scrupled not, at the very opening of the campaign, to carry the war into the public prints; and though many of them were by no means deficient in point of spirit, they probably thought it beneath the dignity of their characters to engage in a contest of any sort with a discoverer of nostrums.

At the first breaking out of the Yellow Fever, he made use of “gentle purges;” these he laid aside, and had recourse to “a gentle vomit of ipecacuanha;” next he “gave bark in all its usual forms of infusion, powder, and tincture, and joined wine, brandy, and aromatics, with it:” this was followed by “the application of blisters to the limbs, neck, and head;” these torments were succeeded by “an attempt to rouse the system by wrapping the whole body in blankets dipped in warm vinegar;” he next “rubbed the right side with mercurial ointment, with a view of exciting the action of the vessels through the medium of the liver;” after this he again returned to bark, which he gave in large quantities; and, in one case, ordered it to be injected into the bowels once in four hours;” and, at last, having found that wrapping his patients in blankets dipped in warm vinegar did no good, he “directed buckets full of cold water to be thrown frequently upon them!

Surprising as it may seem, his patients died! Thus baffled, as he tells us, in every attempt to stop the ravages of the fever, he anticipated all the numerous and complicated distresses attendant on pestilential diseases. “Heaven alone,” says he, “bore witness to the anguish of my soul! But,” proceeds he, in the same strain of disgusting egotism, “I did not abandon a hope that the disease might yet be cured. I had long believed that good was commensurate with evil, and that there does not Edition: current; Page: [165] exist a disease for which the goodness of Providence has* not provided a remedy.” And modestly presuming that he was (as he afterwards boasted in print) the instrument chosen by Providence for discovering the remedy which it had in this case provided, he tells us that he applied himself with fresh ardour to the investigation of the Yellow Fever, and for a long time in vain. “But,” says he, “before I desisted I recollected that I had, among some old papers, a manuscript account of the Yellow Fever, as it prevailed in Virginia in the year 1741, which had been put into my hands by Dr. Franklin a short time before his death.” This present, which was not the only one Franklin bestowed on Philadelphia, proved to be, in its qualities, something like that which poor Hercules received from Dejanira.

Rush tells us (A. of Yellow F. of 1793, p. 197), that he was much struck with certain passages of this old manuscript, but particularly with one, in which the writer abserved, that “an ill-timed scrupulousness about the weakness of the body was of bad consequence,” and he declared that he had “given a purge when the pulse was so low that it could hardly be felt.” Reading on, Rush says he came to the following words:—“This evacuation must be procured by lenitive chologoque purges.

“Here,” says he, “I paused. A new train of ideas suddenly broke in upon my mind.” He then mentions his former scruples; “but,” adds he, “Dr. Mitchill” [the man of the old manuscript] “in a moment dissipated my ignorance and my fears. I adopted his theory and practice,” and [without any trial] “resolved to follow them!!”

Having, “in a moment,” formed this resolution, he very soon proceeded to put it in practice. The “chologoque purge” that he fixed upon was composed of ten grains of calomel and fifteen of jalap. To this purge, which the inventor sometimes called the Sampson of medicine, was added copious blood-letting,—a most powerful co-operator!

With these remedies the Pennsylvanian “Hippocrates” set to work in the beginning of September. This practice gained no partisans, except amongst the ignorant beings who were about his person, or who had recently been his pupils. But, what with the public rage for wonder-working medicines, the noisy boasting of the Rushites, and the delicacy which imposed silence on such men as Drs. Khun and Wistar, the mercurial purges became popular, and the discoverer so elated that he thought it no longer necessary to suppress the suggestions of his vanity; accordingly, on the 12th of September, he actually came out in the newspapers with an exulting recommendation of the use of his specifics, as the only means of saving the lives of the sick.

Various were the publications that he now sent through the papers, in the form of paragraphs, cards, letters, &c.; in one of which he asserted that, in consequence of his discovery there was no occasion for fleeing to the country, for that the Yellow Fever was no longer a dangerous disease, but was now perfectly under the power of medicine. He concluded this card to the people, which was published on the 12th of September, by saying that, with his remedies, “there was no more danger to be apprehended from the Yellow Fever than from the measles or the influenza.” On the 17th of the same month he concluded a letter to the College of Physicians (who entirely disapproved of his practice) by positively declaring that, could he visit all the sick, and be assisted with proper nurses, the Edition: current; Page: [166] disease would soon be reduced, in point of danger and mortality, to a common cold! Still rising in audacity, he wrote to Dr. Rodgers of New York, on the 3rd of October, a letter, which was immediately published, and in which, after speaking of the practice of the other physicians in terms the most contemptuous, he asserted that he recovered ninety-nine patients in a hundred!

The practice was, as he said, very simple and very efficacious; for it consisted merely of bleeding upon bleeding, sometimes to one hundred and fifty ounces, and of purge upon purge, sometimes to sixty grains of mercury and to ninety grains of jalap! It would be highly presumptuous in me to pretend to give my own objections to this or to any other mode of treating a disease: and, therefore, though such unmerciful bleeding and purging seem to be synonymous with death itself, I shall state the objections which were made by those gentlemen who were, who are, and who will remain, at the head of the medical profession in America.

These gentlemen insisted that the purges were of too drastic a nature; they compared them to arsenic, and said it was a dose for a horse. They said that the mercury excited salivation, even to loosening the teeth.* They said that it inflamed and lacerated the stomach and the bowels; and, in proof, they cited a dissection made at Bush-hill, wherein were exhibited the horrid effects of the mercurial purges. They further said, and, as far as I was able to learn, with great truth, that this violent and dangerous purge, though it must inevitably be destructive in weak habits, was prescribed indiscriminately in all cases, to persons of both sexes, and of all ages. Finally, when the calls of humanity compelled them, after long forbearance, publicly to protest against these dreadful doses, they reprobated the use of them in the strongest terms. Doctor Currie, who was one of the College of Physicians, earnestly besought the poor deluded Philadelphians to open their eyes, to beware of the new remedies; for, said he, “the mode of treatment advised by Dr. Rush cannot, in the Yellow Fever, fail of being CERTAIN DEATH.

As to the bleeding part of the practice, the same learned and experienced gentleman said, and, I believe, most truly, that it was dangerously copious, and that many persons had been destroyed by it. They said, that if the patient happened to survive such copious discharges of the vital fluid, they produced weakness, and that their consequences often terminated in the total ruin of the constitution. Here also they justly complained of the want of discrimination, and asserted that blood-letting was prescribed in all cases, without any regard to the habit, the age, or the force of the diseased.

To each of these objections Rush replied by producing patients who had survived the treatment objected to: that is to say, by proving, to the satisfaction of the most incredulous, that every one he touched did not die! Nobody ever contradicted him; for it was never doubted that there were constitutions capable of resisting even his prescriptions.

I shall now speak of the irregular brethren and sisterhood, who were called in to assist in administering the potent mysteries, and whom the High Priest very properly calls the “undisciplined sect of practitioners.” Of this sect, which was tolerably numerous, Rush records the exploits of Edition: current; Page: [167] a few of the most eminent; these were, a Popish Priest, a German Apothecary, an Auctioneer, two Old Women, and a brace of Negro Parsons, the Reverend Assalom Jones, and the Reverend Richard Allen!

Of this motley squad, the two Reverend Negroes seem to have been his favourites; “for,” says he, “they spent all the intervals in which they were not employed in burying the dead, in visiting the poor who were sick, and in bleeding and purging them, agreeably to the directions” [his directions] “which had been published in all the newspapers.” He has the impudence to add, that the success of these fellows “was unparalleled by what is called regular practice.” But ask any man, who had the mortification to be a spectator of their operations, and he will tell you what bloody and dirty work they made amongst the infatuated creatures who submitted to their treatment.

When the reader casts his eye on the wretched city; when he sees Rush’s sister, his pupils, and, perhaps, twenty apothecaries’ apprentices besides, all making packets of mercury; and when he sees the swift poison (for such mercury is, when improperly used) committed to the hands of old women and negroes, he will not be surprised at the fatal consequences: instead of astonishment at the vast increase of the bills of mortality, he will find ample occasion for thanksgiving that a single man was left alive.

But Rush, on the contrary, blessed God for the discovery he had made, and for the success of his practice. In his above-mentioned letter to Dr. Rodgers of New York, he modestly observed that he had been “the unworthy instrument in the hands of a kind Providence of recovering more than ninety-nine out of a hundred of his patients;” and he had before, with not less modesty, publicly proclaimed in Philadelphia that, with the aid of his remedies, the Fever was, “in point of danger and mortality, reduced to a level with the measles, the influenza, or a common cold.” In his Account of the Yellow Fever of 1793, a work written after he had time to reflect, and to retract these assertions, he repeats them with additional effrontery, and thus deprives himself of all claim to an exemption from the charge of intentional falsehood. He gives no list of his patients; an omission not to be accounted for otherwise than by this assurance, that such a list would give the lie to his assertions, and of course withdraw the only prop by which the virtue of his famous discovery was supported. The evasion by which he attempts to account for this omission, is the most pitiful that ever suggested itself. “I regret,” says he, “that it is not in my power to furnish a list of them, for a majority of them were poor people, whose names are still unknown to me.”—Can you believe this, reader? Can you imagine that this man, who was labouring with might and main to establish his reputation on the success of a discovery to which he had prefixed his name, would omit to note down the names of those he cured? Recollect, too, that his system was opposed by other physicians; that the public had been cautioned against his practice, as against “certain death.” Under such circumstances, had he cured more than ninety-nine out of a hundred; nay, had he cured but ninety-nine out of a thousand, can you believe that he would have omitted to note down the survivors? He says a majority of his patients were poor people. But this did not prevent him from recording the names of the minority: and, besides, poverty does not deprive men of their names; nor are the names of the poor any longer, or more difficult to write down, than those of the rich. The Grand Discoverer had several Edition: current; Page: [168] underlings in his house, and though they did, indeed, die off pretty fast, in spite of the specific powders, there was one at least, I believe, left alive to take down the names of the patients. When I was in the army I frequently wrote from eight to ten regimental muster-rolls in one day, amounting in all to about four thousand names: Rush must have had a fearful trade, if his register would have had more work than this. Moreover, suppose that, contrary to the dictates of common prudence as well as to the laudable example of Dr. Perkins and all other great discoverers, the registering of the names had actually been neglected, till the very hour when the Doctor regretted that he could not furnish a list; how easily might he have repaired the loss by an advertisement in the newspapers, calling on all those who had been cured by him to send their names to his house? He was not very delicate, God knows, in thrusting his remedies into vogue; and why he should be more delicate in obtaining proofs of their wonderful effects is, I think, hard to be satisfactorily accounted for. No doubt can be entertained that his patients (I mean the live ones) would have rejoiced in an opportunity of bearing testimony to the virtue of those means by which they had been rescued from the jaws of death. Never did a healing discovery fail of success for want of certificates of its efficacy; on the contrary, wonder-working nostrums are always indebted for a great portion of celebrity to the importance which each lucky patient attaches to its existence, and to the vanity which almost every one has of appearing in print. I repeat, therefore, that a notification in the papers would have received immediate attention; and that the patients, whom the discovery had left alive, would have vied with each other in a speedy communication of their names; unless, indeed, they were all in the state of the unfortunate woman who was described to Rush by Dr. Woodhouse, and “who after her recovery could not recollect her name!” Poor souls! If the Doctor had advertised, few of them would, I am afraid, have recollected their names!

Fortunately, however, for Philadelphia, and unfortunately for Rush and his discovery, a bill of mortality was kept by the officers of the city. This bill of mortality, compared with the vaunts of the Doctor, will enable any one to form a tolerably accurate judgment, not only of the truth of his statements, but of the saving effects of his remedies, as applied by himself and his numerous assistants.

The Yellow Fever of 1793 broke out on the first of August, and from that day to the eighth of September the number of deaths had been various, once as low as three and once as high as forty-two. Now it was that mercury and the lancet began to be put in motion, and I beseech you, reader, to mark their progress. “List! list! O list!”

On September the twelfth Rush began to recommend his powders by public advertisement. He, at the same time, told the people not to leave the city; that there was no longer any danger, for that his discovery had put the Fever upon a level with the measles, the influenza, or a common cold. For some days previous to this, the ravages of the Fever had become less alarming, the bill of mortality had fallen from forty-two to twenty-three per day; and as Rush had reduced the disease, in point of danger, to a level with a common cold, the poor Philadelphians, who were carried away by his noisy impudence, began to hail him as their deliverer from a calamity which they now looked upon as nearly at an end. But Death, who seems always to have had an implacable grudge against the Pennsylvanian “Hippocrates,” persecuted him, in the present instance, with more severity than Edition: current; Page: [169] ever; for from the day on which Rush declared that his discovery had reduced the Fever to a level with a common cold; from the day on which he promulgated the infallibility of his nostrum; from that day did the bill of mortality begin to increase in a fearful degree, as will be seen by the following extract:—

September 11th 23
12th 33
13th 37
14th 48
15th 56
16th 67
17th 81
18th 69
19th 61
20th 67
21st 57
22nd 76
23rd 68
24th 96
25th 87
26th 52
27th 60
28th 51
29th 57
30th 63
October 1st 74
2nd 66
3rd 78
4th 58
5th 71
6th 76
7th 82
8th 90
9th 102
10th 93
11th 119

Thus you see that though the Fever was, on the 12th of September, reduced to a level with a common cold; though the lancet was continually unsheathed; though Rush and his subalterns were ready at every call, the deaths did actually increase; and, incredible as it may seem, this increase grew with that of the very practice which saved more than ninety-nine patients out of a hundred! Astonishing obstinacy! Perverse Philadelphians! Notwithstanding there was a man in your city, who could have healed you at a touch, you continued to die! Notwithstanding the precious purges were advertised at every corner, and were brought even to your doors and bedsides by Old Women and Negroes; notwithstanding life was offered you on terms the most reasonable and accommodating, still you persisted in dying! Nor did barely dying content you. It was not enough for you to reject the means of prolonging your existence, but you must begin to drop off the faster from the moment that those means were presented to you; and this for no earthly purpose, that I can see, but the malicious one of injuring the reputation of the “saving Angel,” whom “a kind Providence had sent to your assistance!”

But it was not only amongst the people in general that the Doctor met with this mortifying perverseness, even the members of his own household, those who dipped in the same dish with him, and who were to share in his honours, seem, in like manner, to have conspired against the fame of his discovery; for, of his sister and five pupils, all of whom were attacked with the Fever, four had the ingratitude to seal, with their death, the condemnation of his practice.

Such, reader, was the origin, and such were the first blessed fruits, of the far-famed system of depletion. It remains for me to give my reasons for endeavouring to explode it, and to justify the means I made use of for that purpose.

In the dispute of 1793 Rush was fairly defeated, notwithstanding he wrote more in the several newspapers than all the other physicians put together, Edition: current; Page: [170] and notwithstanding he plied his “dear Philadelphians,” his “dear fellow-citizens,” with more than quantum sufficit of that oily lingo, for which he has long been renowned. His “dear fellow-citizens” loved coaxing well enough, but they loved life better. Still resolved, however, not to acknowledge himself in an error, but to support his practice, if possible, he stopped until the fever was over, and then, like the famous physician of Valladolid, he wrote a book; that book to which this pamphlet is so largely indebted, and which produced an effect precisely the contrary of the one intended. Men could not be persuaded, even by the smooth tongue of Rush, that bleeding almost to death was likely to save life.

When, therefore, the yellow fever again broke out in 1797, “Hippocrates” and his pupils (who were the only persons that followed the practice) found very little to do. The “saving angel” recommenced writing in the newspapers, but with somewhat less confidence and more caution than formerly. He did not (except in a few instances) address himself directly to his “dear fellow-citizens,” but published letters, sent to him by his brethren of the lancet practice, giving accounts of the great cures wrought by bleeding and mercurial purges. Sometimes a letter from Rush to some other of the learned tribe would appear, preceded by a letter requesting information respecting his mode of practice. On these occasions the discoverer seldom failed to expatiate largely on the virtues of his remedies, and on the success of their application, always taking care to throw in a due portion of compliment to the skill of his correspondent, and of tender solicitude for the welfare of his “dear countrymen” and “dear fellow-citizens.” These systematic endeavours for reviving the practice were carried to such a shameless length, that there sometimes appeared in print letters written to, and answers received from, physicians dwelling in the same city of Philadelphia, men with whom Rush was most intimate, and with whom he conversed, probably, ten times a day. What necessity was there for such men to write to each other? What could they write for, but the express purpose of publishing their letters in the papers? And what object could they have in view, in these indirect addresses to the public, but that of extolling their own practice, of advancing their own fame, and increasing their own profits?

These tricks did not, however, pass unperceived. Many gentlemen of Philadelphia (not physicians) expressed to me their dread of the practice, and their indignation at the arts that were made use of to render it prevalent. They thought, and not without reason, that it was lawful, just, and fair to employ a newspaper in decrying what other newspapers had been employed to extol. In fact, I wanted very little persuasion to induce me to endeavour to prevent a revival of that which I had always looked upon as the scourge to the city, in 1793, and which now, I was fully persuaded, menaced the lives of my friends, my neighbours, my workmen, my customers, and, in short, of the people in general amongst whom I dwelt. Every thing seemed to threaten a return of the former consternation and calamity. The chariot of the mighty “Hippocrates” began again to rattle along the lanes and alleys; the sect of “undisciplined practitioners” were again taking the field; the Rev. Negroes had tucked up the sleeves of their gabardine, were preparing to draw the lancet and throw away the scabbard. Purge and bleed! purge and bleed! resounded through the half-deserted city, while the responsive howlings of the dogs “gave dreadful note of preparation.”

Edition: current; Page: [171]

Frigid indeed must have been my feelings, or cowardly must have been my heart, if, with a public print, such as I held in my hand, I had, in a scene like this, remained a silent spectator. Far was it from me to think of a course so dishonourable. I thought I saw approaching all the horrors of 1793, and both my interest and my duty commanded me to endeavour to avert them.

For writing medical essays; for controverting scientifically the wild positions of Rush and his adherents, I acknowledged myself then, as I do now, totally unqualified. To the charges of ignorance in medicine, brought against me by the great “Hippocrates,” I might indeed have found a triumphant reply in his own book on the yellow fever; I might have produced himself as a witness against himself; I might have quoted the passages where he asserts, that the success of the two negroes, in curing the yellow fever, was unparalleled by what was called regular practice;” that a hundred things are taught in the common schools, less useful, “and many things more difficult than the knowledge that would be necessary to cure a yellow fever or the plague; and that “all the knowledge necessary to discover when blood-letting is proper, might be taught to a boy or a girl of twelve years old in a few hours! I taught it,” adds he, “in less time to several persons during our late epidemic!” “It is time,” exclaims he in another place, “to take the cure of pestilential fevers out of the hands of physicians, and to place it in the hands of the people!” I might have shown that he very highly applauded the conduct of the Popish priest, who exhorted the other physicians “to renounce the pride of science, and adopt the new remedies.” I might, in short, have proved most satisfactorily, that, according to the written assertions of this impudent innovator, I was duly and amply qualified to approve of, or to condemn, any mode of treating the yellow fever; and, indeed, had I been fool or knave enough to join his troop of mock-doctors, I could probably have talked very learnedly about “bleeding as white as Jersey veal,” about “washing the guts,” and “shaking the gall-bladder;” nay, it is possible, that I could have equalled even the Pennsylvanian “Hippocrates” in that butcher-like dialect, which is so admirably calculated to vulgarize the medical profession, and to brutalize the human frame; but I felt no inclination to imitate, in any way whatever, the “undisciplined sect of practitioners,” and, therefore, while I admitted the sober refutations of those medical gentlemen, who thought Rush worth their notice, I confined myself to squibs, puns, epigrams, and quotations from Gil Blas. In this petite guerre I had an excellent auxiliary in Mr. Fenno, jun., or rather Fenno was the principal and I the auxiliary. Never was a paper war carried on with greater activity and perseverance, or crowned with more complete success. It began about the middle of September, and before October was nearly ended, the system of depletion was the standing jest of the town. Rush suppressed his mortification for a good while; he seemed to say that it was beneath a great physician, and a member of the learned philosophical society of Philadelphia, to be ruffled at what a couple of low newsmongers could say; but, at last, having been coupled, in a ludicrous way, with his dear friend Samuel Coats, a Quaker philanthropist, brother Broadbrim and he, after a secret attempt had been made to silence our presses, laid their heads together, and “sent for a sinful man in the flesh, called an attorney, to prepare a parchment, and carry us unto judgment.”

Edition: current; Page: [172]
John Brickell
Brickell, John
23d Jan. 1800

Observations on the Medical Treatment of General Washington, in his last illness; addressed to his Physicians, Messrs. Craik and Dick.*

The life of this illustrious personage has been so eminently beneficial and ornamental to the world, that every man who has a just value for virtue, talents, or an attachment to civil liberty, must lament his death.

The loss to his country, at this critical period, is incalculable; it is irreparable: we shall never look upon his like again!

I have perused the account published by his physicians, of their medical treatment, and differ from them so entirely in my opinion of its propriety, that, with all due respect for their good intentions, I think it my duty to point out what appears to me a most fatal error in their plan: and although it is not in the power of science to restore his precious life, yet a discussion of this case may be productive of benefit to mankind.

I suppose myself addressing men of science, whose minds are so highly cultivated, as to comprehend my reasoning on this subject; which I shall make as short and clear as possible.

When we examine the human blood by optical glasses, by chemistry, and by experimental philosophy, we find it full of nourishment in young people; but effete and poor in the aged.

When we examine by anatomical injections the state of the vascular system, we find innumerable ramifications in the arteries through which the blood flows freely in young people; while many of their anastomoses are obliterated in the aged.

The blood of old people, therefore, being poorer, and the channels for conveying its nourishment fewer, is the reason that old people cannot bear bleeding so well as the young, and it likewise explains (what every man of science and experience must know) why a small bleeding has the same effect on an aged person, that a large bleeding has upon the young and robust.

These observations, founded on well-established facts, demonstrate how guarded and circumspect we ought to be in the use of the lancet, when our patient is far advanced in life; and how actively we ought to employ our thoughts in devising other methods than profuse blood-letting in such a case.

From what the physicians have published, and other documents, we have data sufficient to ascertain how far the maxims derivable from science, experience, and judgment, have governed in the present instance.

The duration of this illness was 20 hours; from 3 a. m. till after 10 p. m.

A bleeder being sent for at the unusual hour of 3 a. m. we may suppose the operation was not performed until four o’clock; before eleven hours elapsed, he was bled again twice profusely, which must have been about eighteen ounces each time; and soon afterwards he was bled again to the amount of thirty-two ounces.

Thus we see, by their own statement, that they drew from a man in the sixty-ninth year of his age, the enormous quantity of eighty-two ounces, or about two quarts and a half of blood in about thirteen hours.

Very few of the most robust young men in the world could survive such a loss of blood; but the body of an aged person must be so exhausted, Edition: current; Page: [173] and all his powers so weakened by it, as to make his death speedy and inevitable.

Here the effect followed the cause precisely: the physicians soon observed the powers of life yielding; a loss of speech; and that he expired without a struggle! The excessive bleeding had left him no strength to struggle!!

After what has been said, it may be expected that I should point out my plan:—I will speak generally, without descending to criticise on the minor parts of the treatment, which, however, I do not admire.

They ought to have attacked the disease as near its seat as possible: the vein under the tongue might have been opened; the tonsils might have been scarified; the scarificator and cup might have been applied on or near the thyroid cartilage. One ounce of blood drawn in this way would relieve more than a quart drawn from the arm, and would not exhaust and enfeeble the body; in the same manner that an ounce of blood drawn at the temple, relieves an inflamed eye more than a quart drawn from the arm.

The neck might have been rubbed with warm laudanum and camphor, and a bag of warm fine salt laid on; but the unseasonable application of a blister would prevent this.

He ought to have been put into one, two, or three flannels; and instead of calomel, it would have been better to give him small draughts of hot whey, with a little laudanum, camphor, spirituous volatilis aromaticus, or spiritus nitri dulcis, occasionally, to remove the spasm which caused the dyspnea, and produce perspiration, which would relieve the lungs by turning the course of the fluids towards the skin.

John Brickell.


A Defence of the Publications on which the Action of Rush was grounded.

  • “Hear ye my defence, which I now make unto you.”
  • Acts, c. xxii. v. 1.

Note by the Editors.—This Rushlight was written by Mr. Cobbett in March 1800, at New York, whither he had moved on M‘Kean being elected Governor of the State of Pennsylvania, and it is his defence of himself against the action of Rush. We are no judges of the merit or demerit of Dr. Rush’s “system of depletion;” but any one who reads the following paper must see that the Doctor was, to say the least of him, a very “bold experimenter,” and that the comparison drawn by Mr. Cobbett between Rush and Sangrado was by no means an unjust one. The deplenishing system had been disapproved by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and the city had been cautioned against it. Rush took his revenge on one of his brethren by saying that he had slain more by his remedies than had ever been slain by the sword; and, therefore, whatever the law allowed, he came into court with an ill grace to sue for damages the man who had turned one of his puffs against himself, in saying that his mercurial Sampson had slain more than ever were slain by the jaw-bone of an ass. In short, the prosecution was political. Mr. Cobbett had exposed the Governor (Mifflin), the Chief Justice (M‘Kean), and the Secretary (Dallas), all of Edition: current; Page: [174] them powerful in the State of Pennsylvania; he had completely destroyed their friend Randolph; and they were only waiting their opportunity to put him down or drive him away, and the libels on Rush gave them what they wanted. He had done all in America that duty to his own country required of him, and this event may be looked on as one of those which seem untoward for the time, but which bring good in their train. In 1794 he had determined on going to the West Indies; but the discussions on the treaty arose, and his success as a writer in those discussions diverted him from this purpose. He afterwards seems to have thought seriously of remaining permanently in America, though always as an alien; for though he, in one place, speaks of it as his adopted country, we find him abused in a Philadelphia paper for professing himself a subject of the King of England, in an affidavit before the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, seeing that he had lived long enough in the country to entitle him to the privileges of a citizen of the United States. When he removed to New York, he there entered into business again as a bookseller; but, on finding the result of this trial, and that a suit was entered against him by the State of Pennsylvania for forfeited recognizances, he yielded to the invitations of his English correspondents, and came home.

That a low-bred fellow, like Rush, whom the troubled motions of rebellion had brought bubbling up from the mud of society; that a fellow, who had extolled his drugs in newspapers, pamphlets, and books, without number, and who had, in these various publications, not only ridiculed, decried, and abused both the practice and the persons of the first medical gentlemen in the country, but had contemptuously placed them beneath his herd of “undisciplined practitioners,” his auctioneers, his negroes, and his old women; that such a mushroom being, such a notorious despoiler of the medical character, should have the assurance to appeal to the law, the moment his own practice was assailed, would have excited universal indignation amongst any people but the poor, tame, trodden-down citizens of Philadelphia, and must appear totally unaccountable to every foreign reader, till I have, by-and-by, explained the circumstances under which the action was commenced, and under which it was foreseen it would, first or last, be decided.

The commencing of the action proves, however, that the practice of the impudent innovator had received a mortal blow; it proves that the publications, for which I was sued, were efficacious; and, that they were not unlawful, I trust, notwithstanding the decision of a Philadelphian court and jury, I shall find but little difficulty in making appear to the satisfaction of every man who is not an idiot or a prostituted knave.

In making this defence, I shall suppose myself in court, and having heard the evidence and the pleadings, replying to the whole that was urged against me. As I shall use the words, “Gentlemen of the Jury,” I beg leave to premise, that the word gentlemen will be admitted, on this occasion, for form’s sake only.

Gentlemen of the Jury,

I rise to defend a man, remarkable for his frankness, against the underhand machinations of hypocrisy; I rise to defend, against a charge of slander, a man who has been slandered without measure and without mercy; I rise to defend an honest, loyal, and public-spirited Briton against the false and calumnious suggestions of private malice, political prejudice, and national antipathy.

Mr. Cobbett stands charged with having, during the prevalence of the Yellow Fever of 1797, published certain false and malicious slanders against Dr. Rush. The printing and publishing the defendant would rather Edition: current; Page: [175] cut his hand off than disown, but the falsehood and malice imputed to him he utterly denies.

Much might be said as to the extent of the words cited in the declaration. It would, I believe, be very difficult to make out such an application as would, according to the strict letter of the law, establish any one of the charges preferred by the plaintiff; but the defendant scorns to take shelter under a subterfuge: it is for his enemies to have recourse to the perversion of the law. He is proud to acknowledge, that all the censorious expressions, which he is on this occasion accused of having published, were not only published by him, but were pointed at Doctor Benjamin Rush; and, moreover, that they were not only pointed at Rush, but were so pointed for the express purpose of destroying his practice, so far as that practice corresponded with the well-known and justly-abhorred System of Depletion.

The defendant stands charged,

  • 1. With calling Doctor Rush a vain boaster.
  • 2. With calling him a quack.
  • 3. With calling him Sangrado.
  • 4. With saying that he slew his patients.

Not to hamper you with a string of definitions and nice distinctions, I shall observe, generally, that to justify a jury in awarding damages, on any charge of slander, they must be clearly convinced of four things; to wit: 1. That the defendant uttered or published the words laid to his charge; 2. That those words were meant to apply to the plaintiff; 3. That the words are false; and, 4. That they were uttered or published with a malicious or criminal intent.

I shall examine the charges in the order in which they stand. 1. The Defendant has called Doctor Rush a vain boaster. I aver this to be true, and prove it by Rush’s own publications, respecting his practice in 1793. On the 12th of September he published in all the papers, that, with his new-discovered remedies, there was no more danger to be apprehended from the Yellow Fever, than from the measles or influenza. On the 17th of the same month, he wrote to the College of Physicians, that his discovery, as far as it went, reduced the Yellow Fever, in point of danger and mortality, to a level with a common cold. On the 3rd of October he wrote to Dr. Rodgers at New-York (publishing his letter, as well as that to the College, in the newspapers), declaring, that he had been made the instrument in the hands of a kind Providence of curing more than ninety-nine patients out of a hundred. This was certainly boasting, and that it was vain boasting is notorious; for, at the very time that he wrote and published these boastings, his remedies were making dreadful havock; from the date of the first, the 12th of September, to that of the 3rd, wherein he brags of curing more than ninety-nine out of a hundred, the daily bills of mortality rose from 23 to 78! And, just after the last-mentioned most impudent boast was made, four patients out of six died in his own house!

Upon your oaths now I ask you, is this fellow a vain boaster, or is he not?

2. The defendant called Doctor Rush a quack.—And here, in order to make out the justification, it would be my duty to examine the meaning of the term; but the good-natured advocates of the bleeding Doctor have kindly saved me that trouble: they have most unfortunately taken the definition of Addison, and have stated a quack to be, “a beastful pretender Edition: current; Page: [176] to physic; one who proclaims his own medical abilities and nostrums in public places.

Now, then, let us see, whether or not the Doctor’s conduct brings him up to this definition.

During the whole of the Fever of 1793, and from that time to the Fever of 1797, he made no scruple to declare, that none of the physicians, who did not follow his practice, ought to be trusted with the life of a patient. His lectures abound with his insolent pretensions to superiority in medicine. Notorious is it that he has, all his life, been a proclaimer of his own medical abilities; but to come to something more specific: on the 12th of September 1793, he published the following advertisement:


Regretting that he is unable to comply with all the calls of his fellow-citizens indisposed with the prevailing fever, recommends to them to take his mercurial purges, which may now be had with suitable directions at most of the apothecaries, and to lose ten or twelve ounces of blood as soon as convenient after taking the purges, if the headache and fever continue. When the purges do not operate speedily, bleeding may now be used before they are taken. The almost universal success with which it has pleased God to bless the remedies of strong mercurial purges and bleeding in this disorder, enables Doctor Rush to assure his fellow-citizens that there is no more danger to be apprehended from it when these remedies have been used in its early stage, than there is from the measles or influenza. Doctor Rush assures his fellow-citizens farther, that the risk from visiting and attending the sick at present, is not greater than from walking the streets. While the disease was so generally mortal, or the successful mode of treating it only partially adopted, he advised his friends to leave the city; at present he conceives this advice unnecessary, not only because the disease is under the power of medicine, but because the citizens who now wish to fly into the country cannot avoid carrying the infection with them; they had better remain near to medical aid, and avoid exciting the infection into action.”

“Near to medical aid;” that is, near to him.—It was safer to remain near him, though in the midst of pestilence, than be near any other physician, though in the sweet air of the country! This advertisement is assuredly the most impudent that ever was published; no Leicester-square quack ever equalled it. At the very time that Rush had the impudence thus to tell the people, that there was no longer any danger, if they used his remedies; at the very time that he was thus advising them not to leave the city, but to remain near to medical aid; at the very time that he was blessing God for the almost universal success of his remedies; the bills of mortality were daily increasing in a dreadful degree. On the day before the above advertisement appeared, the number of deaths was twenty-three; and from that day they began to increase, and they went on increasing, until, at the end of one month after the infallible remedies had been in vogue, they had arisen from twenty-three to one hundred and nineteen.

But it is the quackish language of the advertisement which is at present the object of our examination. It is absolutely impossible to read the Doctor’s puff without observing the strict resemblance that it bears to what the Cockneys call the “Doctor’s Bills.” The defendant has compared Rush’s puffs to the puff of Spilsbury; and this has been made a charge against him. But hear Doctor Spilsbury, and then say, if you can, that the comparison is not just.

“We congratulate our fellow-creatures, in having it in their power to get relieved from the most unpleasant complaints incident to human nature, such Edition: current; Page: [177] as the scurvy, gout, rheumatism, evil, ulcers, and other disorders arising from impurities of the blood, indigestion, &c., by taking Spilsbury’s Antiscorbutic Drops, a medicine well known upwards of twenty-six years for having performed more extraordinary cures than any other ever invented, and whose repute has reached the remotest corners of the universe, every nation bearing grateful testimony of its eminent virtues: how happy therefore is it for the inhabitants of this island, that they can supply themselves with a medicine which, should they travel to any part of the globe, will secure them from the fatal consequences that too often attend the above complaints!”

The defendant has called this a puff equal to Dr. Rush’s, and if there be any untruth in his words, it is because Spilsbury’s puff is inferior to that of Rush; for surpass it, it certainly does not.

Still, however, clearly to establish the quackery, the man must not only boast about his medical abilities and the virtue of his nostrums, but he must do this in public places. That Rush’s boastings were heard in all the streets of Philadelphia is notorious, and it is also notorious, that the above boasting advertisement, as well as several others of a like nature, were published in all the newspapers. It is notorious that they were besides printed on handbills, given away in the apothecaries’ shops, handed about the streets, and stuck upon the walls, houses, and public pumps!

Is not this man “a boastful pretender to physic, one who proclaims his own medical abilities and nostrums in public places?” And, if this be quackery, I ask you upon your consciences, if you have any, whether Rush is or is not a quack?*

3. Mr. Cobbett is charged with calling Dr. Rush Sangrado.—To call a man Sangrado is nothing; but, Gentlemen, you have been told by the learned Harper and the more learned Ingersol, who, it would seem, have both studied Gil Blas, “that this Sangrado was a quack damned to everlasting fame,” and that, therefore, to call Dr. Rush Sangrado, is to call him a quack. Were this correct, the charge would be already answered, but it is not so. Poor Sangrado was, according to the definition of Rush’s advocates, no quack; for he did not “proclaim his own medical abilities and nostrums in public places;” and, therefore, the word Sangrado, as applied to Rush, was no slander.

But, Gentlemen of the Jury, the defendant is a candid satirist; he will, in no case, seek for safety under the leeward side of the law. Whether the word Sangrado be slanderous or not, he will allow you to assess damages against him for the application of it, if he cannot prove to you that that application was just.

Eminent men are frequently called by the names of other eminent men, who have lived in former times, or in other nations. It is a figure of rhetoric, which every one is at liberty to make use of. Thus Tom Paine is Edition: current; Page: [178] called the Wat Tyler of the present age; Franklin is called the Zanga of Boston; and Dr. Rush is called the American Sangrado. All that a writer has to do, to justify, either in a court of criticism or a court of law, the use of such a figure, is, to prove that the great man, whom he has designated by the name of another, bears such a resemblance to that other as the tenour of the words does evidently imply.

What sort of resemblance, then, do Mr. Cobbett’s words imply between Dr. Rush and Dr. Sangrado? Do they tend to produce a belief that the American resembles the Spaniard in his person, in his general character, or in his medical opinions, practice, and fame? Most assuredly the resemblance was meant to exist in the latter respect only; for Dr. Sangrado is described as “a tall, meagre, pale man, who had kept the shears of Clotho employed during forty years at least, and who was, in spite of all his vanity and presumption, a downright ninny.*

It being evident, then, that the defendant meant a resemblance in the medical opinions, practice, and fame of these two celebrated physicians, it only remains for me to prove to you, gentlemen, that the words, expressing such a resemblance, were founded in truth. Here are the two pictures; examine them yourselves.


(Extracts from Gil Blas.)

1. “His opinions were extremely singular.

2. “Sangrado sent me for a surgeon, whom he ordered to take from my master six good porringers of blood! When this was done he ordered the surgeon to return in three hours and take as much more, and to repeat the same evacuation the next day!”

3. “This bleeding, Sangrado said, was to supply the want of perspiration. So when I came to practise, says Gil Blas, being asked by an old woman what was the matter with her daughter, I told her, with great gravity, that the illness proceeded from the patient’s want of perspiration, and that, of consequence, she must be speedily blooded, that evacuation being the only substitute for perspiration.

4. “Not bleed in a dropsy!” said he; “the patient in a dropsy “should be blooded every day.”

5. “Sangrado said, it is a gross error, Master Martin Onez, to think that blood is necessary for the preservation of life: a patient cannot be blooded too much!

6. “Dr. Sangrado said to me, I have a regard for thee, Gil Blas [a footboy], and will immediately disclose to thee the whole extent of that salutary art which I have professed for so many years. Other physicians make this consist in the knowledge of a thousand different sciences; but I intend to go a shorter way to work, and spare thee the trouble of studying pharmacy, anatomy, botany, and physic. Know, my friend, all that is required is to bleed the patients, and make them drink warm water. This is the secret of curing all the distempers incident to man.—Yes! that wonderful secret which I reveal to thee, and which nature, impenetrable to my brethren, hath not been able to hide from my researches, is contained in these two points, of plentiful bleeding and frequent draughts of water. I have nothing more to impart; thou knowest physic to the very bottom.”

7. “I have published a book, said Sangrado, in which I have extolled the use of bleeding, and would you have me decry my own work? Oh, no! replied I, you must not give your enemies such a triumph over you; it would ruin your reputation; perish rather the nobility, clergy, and people!”

8. “My master had recourse to physicians, and sent for Dr. Sangrado, whom all Valladolid looked upon as another Hippocrates.


1. Singularity of opinion, in every thing, is his boast; for instance, his plan of a peace-office to supply the place of a war-office; and his taking the cure of diseases out of the hands of physicians to put it into those of the people.

2. “I bled my patients twice, and a few three times a day! I preferred frequent and small, to large bleedings in the beginning of September; but towards the height and close of the epidemic, I saw no inconvenience from the loss of a pint, and even twenty ounces of blood at a time!”

rush on yel. fev. 93.

3. “From the influence of early purging and bleeding in promoting sweat in the yellow fever, there can be little doubt but the efforts of nature to unload the system in the plague through the pores, might be accelerated by the use of the same remedies. A profuse sweat cannot fail of wasting many pounds of the fluids of the body. To correspond in quantity with the discharge from the skin, blood-letting should be copious.

rush on yel. fev.

4. Rush has frequently astounded the physicians of Philadelphia by recommending bleeding in the dropsy.

5. “You should bleed your patients almost to death, at least to fainting.” This is an extract which Rush gives from a letter of poor old Shippen, and calls it “the triumph of reason over the formalities of medicine.”

6. Dr. Rush says:—“All the knowledge that is necessary to discover when blood-letting is proper, might be taught to a boy or girl of twelve years old, in a few hours. I taught it in less time to several persons [the two negroes for instance] during the prevalence of our late epidemic. We teach a hundred things in our schools less useful, and many things more difficult, than the knowledge that would be necessary to cure the yellow fever or the plague. For a long while the elements themselves were dealt out by physicians with a sparing hand. They possessed a monopoly of many artificial remedies; but a new order of things is rising in medicine as well as in government. The time must and will come, when the general use of calomel, jalap, and the lancet, shall be considered amongst the most essential articles of the knowledge and rights of man.”

7. Rush also has published a book, and in that book he has said: “I was part of a little circle of physicians, who had associated themselves in support of the new remedies. This circle would have been broken by my quitting the city. Under these circumstances, it pleased God to enable me to reply to one of the letters that urged my retreat from the city, that I had resolved to stick to my principles, my practice, and my patients, to the last extremity!”

8. “Look at the conduct of Dr. Rush,” said pleader Hopkinson, “and say if it did not resemble that of Hippocrates.

Edition: current; Page: [179] Edition: current; Page: [180]

Now, Gentlemen, what think you of the resemblance? Dr. Sangrado is a man of singular opinions; so is Dr. Rush. Dr. Sangrado draws blood porringer after porringer; Dr. Rush, pint after pint. Dr. Sangrado employs copious bleedings to supply the want of perspiration; so does Dr. Rush. They both recommend bleeding in the dropsy. Dr. Sangrado says that it is a gross error to think that blood is necessary to the preservation of life; Dr. Rush calls it the triumph of reason to prescribe bleeding almost to death. Dr. Sangrado sends a footboy, a lacquey, to bleed and drench the citizens of Valladolid; Dr. Rush qualifies negroes and old women to bleed and purge those of Philadelphia. Dr. Sangrado has written a book; so has Dr. Rush; and they both resolve to stick to their principles and practice to the last extremity. Dr. Sangrado is called, by his contemporaries, the Hippocrates of Spain. Dr. Rush’s contemporaries call him the Hippocrates of Pennsylvania. The only shade of difference is in their practice; the American employs doses of mercury and jalap, while the Spaniard contents himself with draughts of warm water; and I believe you will confess that the latter is, at least, as innocent as the former.

But, Gentlemen of the Jury, there needed no such laboured comparison, to prove to you that the name of Sangrado was fairly applicable to the plaintiff. You know, Gentlemen, that Dr. Rush has erected his bleeding system upon the opinions of Botallus, a French physician, whose name he mentions with great applause in page 330 of his Account of the Yellow Fever. This Botallus endeavoured to introduce the practice of excessive bleeding, which was condemned by the Faculty of Medicine at Paris; and you well know that the practice of his American follower was honoured with something very much like condemnation by the College of Physicians at Philadelphia. But the most curious fact is, that Le Sage introduced the character of Sangrado into the novel of Gil Blas for the express purpose of ridiculing this very Botallus! I have carefully examined the biography of Le Sage, and I can no where find that he was sued or prosecuted by bleeder Botallus: so that the master in blood must have been of a more meek and forbearing disposition than the disciple, or the liberty of the press in the “dark ages,” under a French monarch, Edition: current; Page: [181] must have been greater than it is, even in “these enlightened days,” under the sovereign people of America.

The fourth and last charge preferred against the defendant is, that he has said that Dr. Rush slew his patients. The passage from Porcupine’s Gazette, on which this charge is founded, runs: “Dr. Rush, in that emphatical style which is peculiar to himself, calls mercury the Sampson of medicine. In his hands, and in those of his partisans, it may, indeed, be compared to Sampson; for I verily believe they have slain more Americans with it than ever Sampson slew of the Philistines. The Israelite slew his thousands, but the Rushites have slain their tens of thousands.”

The pleaders for Rush have told you that this is accusing him of murder. How unfair this construction is; what a shameful perversion it is of the defendant’s meaning, must be evident to every man of common understanding. I can hardly believe that it can ever be the duty of advocates to lie in this impudent manner (for wilful misconstruction is lying); and when they do, I am certain that jurors ought not to give any weight to what they say; much less ought they to affect to look upon such barefaced falsehoods as truths. Jurors should recollect that they are sworn to decide according to the conviction which is produced in their own minds; and when they do not act up to the spirit of this oath, they will in vain seek for a justification in the assertions from the bar, or even from the bench.

Unwilling to trust to one interpretation of the words on which this charge is founded, the Rushite counsel have asserted, 1. That these words accuse Dr. Rush of killing people with deadly weapons; and, 2. That they accuse him of killing people with his physic. I shall consider them separately.

Take the passage above quoted from Porcupine’s Gazette, strip it of its figurative quality, insist upon its being literally understood, make it positive instead of doubtful, and then cut it up into simple sentences, considering each as having been made use of detached from all the rest; after having thus strained, twisted, garbled, and gutted the writing of the defendant, I will allow that something like an accusation of killing people with deadly weapons may be made out. But it is not thus that a man’s words are to be treated; his person and estate are not to be brought into jeopardy by such miserable pettifogging interpretations: pitiful, indeed, would be the liberty of speech and of the press, were every sentence liable to a judicial criticism of this sort. No, no; the Common Law of England (which is, in this case, the law of America) encourages no such uncandid, no such litigious proceeding. That law, I had almost said that holy law, which is the result of the researches of wisdom actuated by the spirit of justice; that law which, while it has clad good character in a coat of mail, has thrown a shield before the body of the critic, the satirist, and the public censor; that law tells you, that the words on which an action of slander is grounded shall be understood neither in their best sense nor their worst sense, but “that the words shall be taken in the same sense as they would be understood by those who hear or read them; and for that purpose all the words ought to be taken together.”—See Buller’s Nisi Prius, p. 4.

Now, Gentlemen of the Jury, casting behind you the base misconstructions by which you have been led astray, and taking the law for your guide, go once more over the words of Mr. Cobbett. “Dr. Rush,” says Edition: current; Page: [182] he, “in that emphatical style which is peculiar to himself, calls mercury the Sampson of medicine. In his hands, and in those of his partisans, it may, indeed, be justly compared to Sampson; for I verily believe that they have slain more Americans with it than ever Sampson slew of the Philistines. The Israelite slew his thousands, but the Rushites have slain their tens of thousands.”

What, on your oaths I ask you, do you, upon hearing these words, understand the writer to mean? Should you, had you read this passage in a foreign newspaper, have concluded that this Dr. Rush was in the habit of killing people with deadly weapons? No, no, Gentlemen; you would have drawn no such conclusion; you would have thought he was a man who, with his disciples, followed a very bold and dangerous system of medicine, and you would have thought nothing more. You would have looked upon him as a deceived, an ignorant, and perhaps an obstinate man, but you would have attached to his actions no idea of criminality; and I beg you to observe well, that it is for accusing him with criminal killing that you are, on this count of the declaration, called upon to give a verdict against the defendant: should you comply with the request, the future fate of your characters need not be foretold.

But, Gentlemen, I will, for a moment, suppose the words to imply killing with deadly weapons; and even upon that supposition, I maintain that they are not actionable; and, of course, that they ought to make nothing against the defendant.

In the first place, they are too indefinite with respect to the persons: Dr. Rush is confounded with a numerous class, called the Rushites; and the persons killed are neither named nor described. The law is extremely scrupulous on these points, and positively rejects every thing that has only an imaginary existence. For an action of slander to lie on account of an accusation of killing, the words must not only evidently apply to the plaintiff as the killer, but, in a case like the present, it must also appear that the persons said to be killed are actually dead; for instance, if I say to either of you, “Thou hast poisoned A. B., and it shall cost me 100l. but I will hang thee: no action will lie for these words, without proof being produced by the plaintiff that A. B. is actually dead.”—See Rolle’s Abridgment, vol. 1, p. 77. Thus, you see, though the killer and the killed are clearly designated, the law rejects the action, because the death is not proved.

But, Gentlemen, suppose the Doctor were to pull out a list of his patients for some years past; suppose he were to point to the populous grave-yards of this unfortunate city, and say, These are the people that the defendant has accused me of killing with deadly weapons; and suppose you should be convinced of the truth of his assertion, still the action will not lie; unless it be evident that Mr. Cobbett meant, that these people were killed criminally, and to ascertain this, all the words must be taken together. For instance, if I say, “Mr. Harper is a thief,” and if I stop there, an action will lie against me; but, if I say, “Mr. Harper is a thief, for he has stolen the thoughts, the words, the expressions, the sentences, and even whole paragraphs, from Monsieur Mallet du Pan, and dressed them up into a speech for Congress;” no action will lie for these words, 1. Because the latter part of the words are satisfactorily explanatory of the former; and, 2. Because the words taken all together do not accuse Mr. Harper of any crime, but merely of a little of what the law calls trover and conversion, and what, in the critic’s court, is Edition: current; Page: [183] called plagiarism. A case more in point, however, is to be found in Rolle’s Abridgment, vol. 1, p. 72, where it is said: “If a man says of J. S., As soon as Bushe had killed Smith, he came to J. S. and told him how he had killed Smith, and J. S. gave Bushe money to ship him away;” the law says, Gentlemen, that no action will lie for this accusation, though Smith be proved to be dead; “For,” says the learned Reporter, “the word kill is too general, and a man may kill another in his own defence &c. without committing any crime.” And if the word kill does not imply criminality in the act, how much less does the word slay, which is, now-a-days, exclusively appropriated to narratives of battles, and is never employed as a substitute for murder or assassination, whereas, to kill sometimes is.

This is, however, only a waste of time: for you never can have believed that the defendant meant to accuse Dr. Rush of criminally putting thousands and tens of thousands of Americans to death. The suggestion is an insult to common sense, and a disgrace to the Judges who have suffered you to listen to it.

The other construction put upon the words of the defendant is more reasonable; to wit: That he has accused Dr. Rush of killing his patients with his remedies. The words, taken altogether, do not warrant this construction; but, admit that they do, still they are not actionable, notwithstanding the assertion of the learned Ingersol. This man has told you, that he has “an authority” for this assertion. I wish he had told you what authority it was. Perhaps it was Governor (sometime Chief Justice) M‘Kean! If so, I applaud his prudence in keeping the name to himself. The authority to which I shall appeal, is of a different stamp.—“A man says of a physician, He hath killed J. S. in the Old Jewry with physic, which physic was a pill, and Dr. Atkins and Dr. Pady found the vomit in his mouth.”—This is no vague charge; the meaning of the words is by no means dubious; the defendant does not, like Mr. Cobbett, speak in figurative language, and qualify his assertion with a phrase expressive of uncertainty; the accusation is to be literally understood; it is clear, direct, with the circumstances of manner, time, and place. Yes, says my authority, “no action will lie for these words; for if a physician gives medicines or drugs to his patient, with an intent to recover him from his sickness, though the patient die after having taken them, still the physician is not punishable, so long as it does not appear that he gave the medicines, knowing them to be contrary to the nature of the disease. If the man had said, that the physician killed J. S. with medicines, which he administered, knowing them to be contrary to the nature of the disease, an action would have lain for these words.”—See Rolle’s Abridgment, vol. 1, p. 71.

This, Gentlemen of the Jury, is the language of the common law of England, and give me leave to say, that it is also the language of reason; for it would be absurd to suppose that an action of slander is to be avoided by circumlocutory phrases, by saying in many words what might be said in few. And if no speech and no writing is to be made use of, which can be fairly construed to mean that a physician has killed his patient by his remedies, then I say, that all controversy about modes of cure must from henceforth cease; for it is absolutely impossible to speak with disapprobation of a physician’s practice, without making use of such words as will, directly or indirectly, imply, that he has killed his patients with his remedies. Dr. Brickell, for instance, in remonstrating against the treatment Edition: current; Page: [184] of General Washington by Doctors Craik and Dick, has these words: “Thus do we see, by their own statement, that they drew from a man in the sixty-ninth year of his age, the enormous quantity of eighty-two ounces, or above two quarts and a half of blood, in about thirteen hours. Very few of the most robust young men in the world could survive such a loss of blood; but the body of an aged person must be so exhausted, and all his powers so weakened by it, as to make his death speedy and inevitable. Here the effect followed the cause precisely: the physicians soon observed the powers of life yielding; a loss of speech; and that he expired without a struggle! The excessive bleeding had left him no strength to struggle!!

Now, Gentlemen, follow the rule laid down by the law, take all Dr. Brickell’s words together, and you will, at once, perceive, that he charges these physicians with killing General Washington with their remedies. He tells them, that the blood they took from their patient rendered his death inevitable; he says that their bleeding was the cause of his death; and that the excessive bleeding left him no strength to struggle with. But, are these not truths? And shall this, or any other man, be prevented from speaking and publishing these salutary truths? Shall he be harassed and prosecuted; shall he be muzzled, gagged, or fined to his ruin, because he has had public spirit enough to promulgate truths so necessary to the preservation of even the lives of the people? and all this merely because the promulgation tends to diminish the practice and profits of a second Sangrado and his bleeding disciples? The law says, No! Reason turns with disgust from the absurdity; Justice grasps her sword, and Liberty revolts, at the presumptuous, the tyrannical position!

Having now, Gentlemen of the Jury, completely justified the words of the defendant, by establishing the truth of those which are, in themselves, actionable, and by proving that those, the truth of which does not admit of positive proof, are, in no sense, actionable, it is not a duty incumbent on me to show, that none of them were published with a malicious intent: the charge of falsehood being disproved, that of malice falls of course. But, Gentlemen, witnesses have been produced to make you believe that private malice, and not public good, was the basis of the publications; and the defendant, strong in the purity of his motives, and indignant at the reproach with which he has been assailed, instructs me to repel the ungrateful insinuation.

The three witnesses, to whom you have been listening, are all physicians of the school of Rush; two of them were his pupils, and, I trust, no one of the three would have been admitted to give evidence, in a similar case, in any other court in the world; seeing that each of them, in proportion to the extent of his practice, is as deeply interested in the result of this trial, as the plaintiff himself. Observe, Gentlemen, that, when Mr. Cobbett speaks of the deadly effects of the system of depletion, he does not say, that Rush has slain “his thousands and tens of thousands,” but that the “Rushites” (that is, all those who follow this fatal system) “have slain their thousands and tens of thousands;” so that the persons who have been admitted to give evidence, are, virtually, joint plaintiffs in the cause! It was lately decided by the Judges in this very court, that no inhabitant of Philadelphia should be admitted to give evidence against persons charged with the transgression of the law prohibiting the erection of wooden buildings; because, living in the same city where the building had been erected, he might possibly be interested in Edition: current; Page: [185] the result of the trial. And if this was good ground for exception, how much better is the ground for excepting to the evidence of “Rushites” in the present case! And yet this evidence is admitted! Is this your impartiality? Blush, Americans, for your tranquil submission!

The first of these witnesses is James Mease. He has told you, that, about six months after this action was commenced, he heard the defendant say, speaking of Dr. Rush: “Damn him; he had better withdraw his suit, or I will persecute him while living and his memory after his death.” The plain truth of the matter is this: Mr. Cobbett went to the Island, where Mease was king Robinson Crusoe, along with an English captain, who had some business with a sick sailor. While the captain was gone to the hospital, Mease asked Mr. Cobbett into his apartment, brought out a bottle of wine, and gave him a pressing invitation to dinner. The invitation was declined, but two or three glasses of wine were drunk, and a conversation, of the rallying bantering kind, took place; and, as it is impossible to be with a Rushite for a quarter of an hour, without being pestered with an eulogium on the fraternity and the abominable remedies they employ, Rush and his lawsuit soon became the topic. Mr. Cobbett certainly did, on this occasion, as on many others, make use of words strongly expressive of his resentment at Rush’s insolent and vexatious appeal to the law, and he well remembers threatening to make him repent of it; but, as to damning him, he utterly denies it; for, though he has to atone for too many sins of this sort, he is certain that he never so far degraded a curse as to bestow it on Rush. And, with respect to his saying, that he would persecute his memory after his death, the thing is absolutely incredible: he might as reasonably have threatened to persecute the memory of a butterfly or maggot. “Can the Rush,” says Job, “grow up without mire? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.” Upon reading these words, one is tempted to believe, that the holy seer really had the Pennsylvanian Hippocrates in his eye; for, though he is yet in his greenness, though he is still alive, his fame has perished of itself; it is withered and dead.

However, Gentlemen, what degree of credit soever you may be inclined to give to the testimony of Physician Mease, though you should believe that the defendant uttered the words precisely as the witness has stated; you must remember, that these words were uttered eight months after the suit was commenced; and that they cannot tend to establish the malice imputed to the publications, for which this action is brought, because they express resentment against Rush for his conduct subsequent to those publications.

The next of the volunteer witnesses is John Redman Coxe. He tells you, Gentlemen, that, on the 2nd of October 1797, which was some weeks after this action was commenced, he was in Mr. Cobbett’s house,* and that he there heard him say, that “he did not believe he should have Edition: current; Page: [186] said so much on bleeding or mercurials, if Dr. Rush had not been the founder of the system.” By the little cunning sniveller’s noting down the very day of his visit, it would appear that he attached great importance to these words; but, Gentlemen, you assuredly cannot believe, that they have the least tendency to establish the malice, which is imputed to the publications of the defendant. Mr. Cobbett said, “he believed, that he should not have said so much about bleeding and mercurials, if Dr. Rush had not been the founder of the system.” What is the meaning of these words? Do they imply malice against the man, as the babblers on the other side have asserted? No such thing, Mr. Cobbett having always entertained that opinion of Rush, which his conduct in the fever of 1793 was so well calculated to confirm; having always looked upon him as a wild and persevering experimenter, and having seen him publish, that he was “resolved to stick to his principles and his practice to the last extremity,” was it not very natural, that the character of the man should increase his zeal against the system? And, was it not as natural that he should say, that he believed he should not have said so much against it, if Rush had not been its founder? Permit me to put a case to you, Gentlemen. Suppose Jefferson were to propose to you a new alliance with France: should you listen to it with the same patience as you would to a similar proposition from Mr. Adams? And would you not be justified in declaring, that you believed you should not have said so much about it, if Jefferson had not been the proposer? Should you not, if this your declaration were brought forward as a proof of your malice against Jefferson, spurn at the promoters of the charge and the wretched spies they had employed? Were you free men, nay, were you vassals, were you slaves, were you any thing but Americans, you certainly would.

The last of this goodly trio of betrayers of private conversation is William Dewees.*

And here, Gentlemen, I shall, for the first time, take the liberty to deviate, for one moment, from my subject, in order to give you some idea of the character of the father of this witness. This is fully warranted by the manner in which the action has been attempted to be supported by the Rushite pleaders, who have not only loaded the character of the defendant himself with every species of calumny, but have most shamefully slandered his honest parents, by asserting that he is “a wretch cast up from the slime of mankind.” That this is false you well know, and that it merits that retaliation which truth can inflict you cannot deny.

Edition: current; Page: [187]

The modesty of this “able and useful physician” never suffered him, I dare say, to suppose that the fame of his ancestor was recorded in history; and I have no doubt that he will feel himself obliged to me for acquainting him with the fact. Mr. Smyth, who was a British officer, confined as a prisoner of war in the jail of Philadelphia, during the revolution, and who afterwards published an account of his treatment, speaks thus of the father of the witness:

“All this time the jailer charged us at an extravagant rate for diet, fire, and candle, besides an allowance that he received from the Congress for that purpose; by which means he extorted every farthing of money from us, as far as our credit then would go. But being determined not to run in debt, I at length refused to pay him any more than the Congress allowed, and was obliged after this to subsist upon bread and water alone during seven weeks. This jailer’s name was Thomas Dewees, as tyrannical, cruel, infamous a villain as ever disgraced human nature.”

After Mr. Smyth joined the Royal Army, he came with it from the Head of Elk to Philadelphia.

“On the morning,” says he, “of the day that a detachment of the British army first entered Philadelphia, a number of the Americans fell into my hands, and amongst the rest Thomas Dewees, the cruel, tyrannical jailer, under whose iron talons I had suffered so long and severely. As soon as this wretch found that I was the officer commanding the party, his terror is not to be described, as he expected nothing less than immediate death; falling on his knees, he begged for his life, and for mercy: I desired him to consider what he merited from me. He acknowledged he deserved neither favour nor compassion; said that his orders respecting me had been more rigorous than against any other, and owned that he had executed them in their full severity; but still most earnestly entreated forgiveness. I told him that for the sake of his innocent wife and children (for he had a large family), I would forgive him, as he promised sincere contrition, and proposed to take the oaths of allegiance to his Majesty: this he readily performed; and had the audacity afterwards of applying to Earl Cornwallis to be appointed Deputy Provost Marshal over the rebel prisoners in Philadelphia, in the accomplishment of which pursuit, however, he very justly failed.”*

Such is the account which history gives of the father. Now let us judge of the son, by the evidence which in this trial he has given with the intent of establishing the charge of malice against the defendant.—The witness relates to you that, being at the defendant’s house in the month of January 1797 (nine months previous to the date of the publications on which the action is grounded), he heard him reprobate the “Eulogium on Rittenhouse,” which Rush had just then delivered; and that on this occasion he heard the defendant say, that the “Eulogium” was “too republican,” adding, “Damn him, I will attack him for it.” Hence, gentlemen, you are requested to believe, that the publications of September were no more than a fulfilment of the threat of January; and that Rush’s system of bleeding was attacked from political motives, and not from any opinion that the defendant entertained of its dangerous effects. Levi has told you, that Mr. Cobbett never attacked the Doctor’s politics: “Not a word,” says he, “was ever seen upon that head: his attack was designed to be on a part more injurious to the man; he threatens in January and executes in September. The arrow was stuck in his side, he did not attempt to draw it out at the moment, but he let it remain till a fit period for making it felt.”

Edition: current; Page: [188]

When a small lawyer gets hold of a figure of rhetoric, he uses it as awkwardly as a baby does a knife, sometimes seizing it by the handle and sometimes by the blade, while the compassionate jury sit trembling with anxiety for the consequences. Such, gentlemen, must have been your feelings whilst listening to the illustration of Levi. But the nonsense of my little Moses’s figure, palpable as it is, is not quite so palpable as its falsehood. It is false, notoriously false, to say that Mr. Cobbett never attacked the Doctor’s “Eulogium on Rittenhouse.” He did attack it. Nor did the arrow, as the Israelite calls it, remain long to rankle in his side. He threatened in January 1797, and there is not a man amongst you who does not know that in his “Censor” for the very same month of January he put his threat into execution.

The latter part of this man’s evidence is, like the former, merely presumptive, and upon examination it will be found to be equally destitute of weight. But, gentlemen, there is something else, of which, take it altogether, it is also destitute.

He has told you, that, notwithstanding he is of the school of the American Sangrado, Mr. Cobbett employed him as a physician in his family, and moreover recommended him to his friends. As a conclusive refutation of the former part of this statement, as an unquestionable proof that Dewees was never Mr. Cobbett’s physician, I might remind you that Mr. Cobbett is yet alive. He might reply to this impudent assertion of the witness, in the language of Boileau’s pithy epigram to Doctor Perrault, of which I will give you an humble imitation.

  • You say, then, you blood-sucking elf,
  • That you’ve been our physician all round!
  • I swear that you ne’er bled myself,
  • And the proof is
  • I’m yet above ground.*

From this testimony of Dewees, however, you are requested, and almost ordered, to believe, that Mr. Cobbett had no real dislike to the Rushite system, but that his attack on the system arose from the malice which he entertained against the man. This conclusion, admitting the premises, is very unfair, for the evidence does not state that the witness was either employed or recommended by the defendant in cases of the yellow fever. Indeed it expressly states that he was not; and you well know that the defendant has had the yellow fever twice in his family, and that it is the Rushite treatment of this disease alone, which the publications before you were intended to destroy.

But this general reply, though quite satisfactory, shall not content me, the witness deserves to be exposed. Being asked how long he had attended in Mr. Cobbett’s family, he replies, “from the return of the citizens in 1798,” which certainly means that he had given all the medical assistance required in the family from the autumn of 1798 to this present time, the autumn of 1799. Now, gentlemen, recollect that this man was Edition: current; Page: [189] sworn to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God;” and then I beg your attention to a true story.

Doctor Budd was Mr. Cobbett’s family doctor from the time that he arrived in Philadelphia to the time that he quitted it; but in the summer of 1798 Doctor Budd retired into New Jersey, where he remained till the people returned to the city. Mrs. Cobbett was at this time pregnant, and as a precaution, in case of need, some one was sought for to supply the place of Doctor Budd. Mr. Cobbett was situated at Bustleton, fifty miles from Doctor Budd, twelve from Philadelphia, and eight from Dewees. Very pressing solicitations were made to Doctor Budd, who would have stayed at Bustleton on purpose had not his family demanded his presence. No one from the city could be thought on, because, besides the great risk arising from his constant employment, the gentleman engaged might die before the time arrived, and Mr. Cobbett knew that the friends with whom he lived had some objection to receiving into their house persons coming from the seat of infection and mortality. Under these circumstances Dewees was applied to, but not till after repeated efforts had been made in vain to secure the attendance of a reputable female practitioner.

In the summer of 1799 the parties were distributed precisely in the same way as they were in 1798. The dysentery raged in the neighbourhood of Mr. Cobbett, who was afraid that his little boy had got the disorder, and who thereupon wrote a note to the pis-aller Dewees, describing the state of the child, requesting him to ride over to Bustleton, and to bring with him what he thought might be of use. He attended the next day and left a packet of powders. As soon as the man of science was gone, Mr. and Mrs. Cobbett, and a young man who has long lived in the family, held a consultation, not on the patient but on the drugs; which, after a very deliberate discussion, it was unanimously resolved to throw into the fire. The child recovered; Dewees attributed the recovery to his mercurials, and has I dare say recorded it amongst the wonders he has wrought. He was suffered to hug himself in the deception, and there ended his “attendance” in the defendant’s family for the second and last time.

Now, Gentlemen, was this attending Mr. Cobbett’s family “from the autumn of 1798?” Dewees called at Mr. Cobbett’s in the spring of 1799, and observing a mark on the little boy’s arm he asked if he had been inoculated; Mrs. Cobbett told him he had, and he well knew that he had not been the inoculator. He therefore knew that he had not attended in the family “from the autumn of 1798.”

Being asked whether he had ever been recommended by Mr. Cobbett to any other families, he replies: “Yes; frequently.” The truth is this. While Mr. Cobbett was at Bustleton, and while the physicians were all employed or dispersed, he advised two neighbours, one in the dysentery, and one with a bleeding at the nose, to send for the pis-aller, judging him to be somewhat better than no doctor at all. Twice is not frequently. Frequently means oftentimes and commonly. Besides, if Dewees had recollected that the oath bound him, in the name of God, to tell the whole truth, he would have told you, that at the very time that he was visiting these two neighbours of the defendant, another neighbour was taken ill of what was thought to be the yellow fever, and that Mr. Cobbett, who could have brought Dewees to the spot in an hour, sent for Doctor Monges, first to Philadelphia, then into the Neck, and after that to Edition: current; Page: [190] Jenkintown, whence he was at last brought to the patient, at twelve o’clock at night!

What, then, becomes of the evidence; what becomes of the character and conscience, the body and the soul, of Dewees?*

But, Gentlemen of the Jury, this refutation of the verbal testimony was entirely useless to you. You wanted no information on the subject, but what you already possessed. You all know of yourselves that, when the yellow fever was in Mr. Cobbett’s own family, the physicians he employed were not of the school of Sangrado; you know that they were Doctor Monges and that very Doctor Stevens, whom the impudent and insolent Rush had accused of slaying more than the sword, and to whom the defendant, along with hundreds of others, owe the preservation of their lives. Neither you nor any other inhabitant of Philadelphia, can plead ignorance of this fact. Mr. Cobbett has more than once made his public acknowledgments to these preservers of himself and his family. What further information, then, can you want? You know that, when he was himself attacked by the dreadful disease, in that awful moment, you know, that he not only rejected the system against which he had written, but that he put himself into the hands of the very men whom your Rush had marked out as medical murderers, and thus gave to his opinion the pledge of his life! What better assurance could he give of his disbelief in Rush, and of his confidence in the opposite system? What clearer proof of his sincerity, of the purity and benevolence of his intentions, do you want? And what clearer proof, you suspicious and ungrateful people, what clearer proof can you have, unless you rip open his bosom and look into his heart?

Here, Gentlemen, I close my defence. I have shown you that the publications of the defendant are true; and that, with respect to his intentions, the imputation of malice is false. You must be convinced, that the action is vexatious and groundless; that it is a war of private interest and ambition, against the safety, the happiness, and the very lives of the people. Standing thus upon the firm ground of justification, I disdain hackneyed invocations to the liberty of the press. The defendant stands in need of the interposition of no imaginary goddess; he seeks no shelter from new-discovered principles and new-fangled institutions; he asks no other rights, privileges, or immunities, than those which the humblest of his humble forefathers enjoyed; his motto is the motto of his countrymen, Nolumus leges Angliæ mutari; from those laws, the common, the established, the ancient laws of England, and from those laws alone, he will accept of protection. From your hands he begs not for mercy, but demands justice; and should you despise this demand; should you listen to the suggestions of his base persecutors, and endeavour to “make him a blighted picture of infamy and ruin,” I venture to predict, that not only your efforts will prove impotent, but that you, and your country, will repent of your compliance. My word for it, ruin is not his fate. “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” And, though you should succeed in wresting from him the fruit of his care and his toil; though you should embitter his life with domestic distress, you will, thereby, but extort fresh Edition: current; Page: [191] proofs of his fortitude and integrity, and of the baseness, the malice, the ingratitude and perfidy of his foes; you will only give lustre to his character, and stamp infamy on your own. Nay, should your friends, your neighbours, your countrymen, and the world, join in applauding an iniquitous decision; and should you go on rejoicing to the very verge of the grave, still you and your accomplices should bear in mind, that all does not end there, and that death is not eternal sleep. The witnesses, to whom you have listened with such delight, are no casuists, I ween, or they would have perceived, that giving such evidence as manifestly tends to produce a belief of what is not true, is something very like perjury; and that HE who has said, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” will not be put off with subterfuges and mental reservations. Nor would I have you forget, gentlemen, that there is another tribunal in which you will appear, not to judge, but to be judged; and that, affecting to believe what you do not and what you cannot believe, though it may serve here as a a convenient excuse, will not justify you in the presence of the Searcher of all hearts, in whose awful name you have promised to do justice! There it will not be asked, whether the plaintiff were an American and a republican; nor, whether the defendant were a Briton and a royalist; the only question put to you, will be—Have you acted according to your consciences? That, and that alone, will be the subject of the inquest, and the ground of the judgment!


A Peep into a Republican Court of Justice.

“An Englishman loves liberty, but he loves it not for the sake of the mere name; he must have something substantial that results from it; something that he can see and feel: this he has in the freedom of his person, and the security of his property. An Englishman, therefore, thinks more of his civil than his political liberty.”

Reeves’s Thoughts, &c. Let. I.

In the preceding Rushlights, I have given a sketch of the parentage and of the moral and literary character of Rush; I have detailed the insolent absurdities of his general conduct, and the frightful consequences of his system of depletion; and I have, I trust, most satisfactorily justified the words, for the publication of which the oppressive and unprecedented judgment was given against me, in the city of Philadelphia. Here then I should stop, were my design confined to a defence of my own character, and to the blasting of that of my persecutors. But as I observed in the introduction to the subject, my views extend to far greater utility; and therefore, though the injustice towards myself is already universally acknowledged; though it has excited the indignation of every honest man; though it has roused into action, in my favour, every latent sentiment of friendship, and has, with respect to me, in a great measure extinguished the ardent embers of political hatred; though every wish of a private nature is gratified even to satiety, still the public and the world have on me a claim which it would be a dereliction of duty to resist.

Edition: current; Page: [192]

The narrative of the judicial proceedings in the cause of Rush, furnishes, as I observed before, a series of facts, of which justice to the people of America, justice to foreign nations, and particularly to the deceived and infatuated in my native country, demand an ample exposure. This subject is of some importance to every man who has the slightest notion of real liberty, or the least desire to secure its enjoyment. The character and conduct of Rush, the fatal effects of his medical practice, and the decision against me, are, in different degrees, all matters of private or local consideration; but the proceedings of courts of justice, as they stamp the character of a state, and form the truest criterion of its government, are in some measure interesting to all persons, and in all places. Political liberty is a matter of speculation rather than of interest; it is an imaginary something of meaning undefined, and is, at best, a very distant, if not a very questionable, good. But civil liberty, which is perhaps better expressed by the single word justice, is clearly defined and understood, and is ardently beloved by us all: it brings us into contact with the Government, the excellence of which it makes us feel: it comes to our homes and our fire-sides; it throws a rampart round our property and a shield before our persons; it is our guide and our help through the day, and our guardian when we lie down to sleep. This is the liberty of which our forefathers were so proud: this is the liberty which their blood so often flowed to preserve to their children. What degree of this liberty is enjoyed in America, the following narrative will evince.

The malicious suit of Rush against me was brought in the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania, and my first object was, to remove the suit from that Court to the circuit of the United States, a removal which my being an alien gave me a right to demand, but which was, by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, absolutely refused.

The nature of the Courts of which I have spoken, and the extent of their jurisdiction, are understood by some few persons in America; but as I hope the Rushlight will be read in Great Britain and Ireland, some little explanation respecting these Courts appears to me to be necessary.

The several States composing those dominions which are known to foreign nations by the title of The United States of America, are so many distinct and independent sovereignties, and not, as is generally imagined in Great Britain, so many counties or provinces. The State of Pennsylvania, for instance, has its own governor, who is the chief executive magistrate, and whose authority is, in many respects, less limited than that of the King of Great Britain. It has, besides, its two houses of legislators, who, with the governor, make laws for the government of the state, and who are uncontrolled by any other power whatever. In like manner it has its own judges, who are appointed by the governor, but without the advice or consent of a privy or other counsel, and without the instrumentality of any ministers, on whom responsibility will attach.

In some of the other states, the power of the governors is more limited; in that of New York, for instance, there is a Council of Appointment; but every state is totally independent of all the others, and, as far as relates to jurisdiction, it is also independent of the Government of the United States. In some cases, however, the judiciary of this latter has, in all the States, what is called a concurrent jurisdiction; which concurrent jurisdiction is expressly provided for, in cases where an alien is a party.

Edition: current; Page: [193]

The constitution of the United States is very clear on this head. It says, in Sect. II. “The judicial power of the United States shall extend to all controversies between a State, or citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects.

In order to obviate misconstruction, and more fully to provide for the due observance of this part of the constitution, so necessary to the security of the property of aliens, the Congress of the United States, amongst the first of its proceedings under the present Constitution, passed a law, which says: “And be it further enacted,* that if a suit be commenced in any State court against an alien, and the matter in dispute exceeds the aforesaid sum of five hundred dollars, exclusive of costs, to be made appear to the satisfaction of the Court; and the defendant shall, at the time of entering his appearance in the said State court, file a petition for the removal of the cause for trial into the next Circuit Court of the United States, to be held in the district where the suit is pending, and shall offer good and sufficient security for his entering in such Court on the first day of its session, copies of said proceedings against him, and also for his there appearing and entering special bail in the cause, if special bail was originally requisite therein, it shall then be the duty of the State court to accept the surety, and proceed no further in the case.

Such is the provision which the constitution and the laws of the United States have made for the security of the property of aliens; and whoever knows any thing of America, whoever is in the least acquainted with the national partialities and antipathies which mark the words and the conduct of but too many of the rulers of the individual States, must at once perceive that such provision is absolutely necessary. In Pennsylvania, for instance, it was notorious, that all the influential officers of the Government, executive and judiciary, bore an implacable hatred against Great Britain, and all her loyal subjects; and though a jury stood between these rulers and the British subject, yet it was equally notorious that that jury must be chosen by a man, who held his lucrative office during the pleasure of the rancorous Governor.

In such a state of things, what justice had a Briton to expect in the Courts of Pennsylvania?—Besides, there is an absolute absurdity in his being compelled to plead in those courts; for who ought to administer justice to an alien, but that Government who makes treaties, and who maintains all the national intercourse with the sovereign of that alien? What does His Britannic Majesty, or what do his subjects, know of the government, or of the courts of Pennsylvania? They may hear of them, indeed, and they may stare at their transactions; but that is all. When a British subject contemplates on a residence, or on placing his property in the United States, he looks up for security to the government of those United States; and in order to estimate the security, where should he look but into the constitution and the laws on which alone that security depends?

But if British subjects in general were insecure in the Courts of Pennsylvania, how much more insecure was I, against whom it was well known that not only the Governor, his Secretary of State, and Attorney-General, but even the Chief Justice, who was to preside at the trial, had a personal and mortal grudge? I therefore resolved on removing the cause, Edition: current; Page: [194] notwithstanding the repeated remonstances of my lawyers, who made use of every argument that could be thought of, to persuade me to abandon my intention. They were fully of opinion, that there was no danger in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and that declaring myself, in open court, a subject of the King of Great Britain, would be tantamount to a declaration that monarchy was preferable to republicanism, and would of course not only be very offensive to the Court before whom such declaration was made, but would inevitably tend to render me odious in the eyes of the people of America, and to weaken the force of all my future publications.

My lawyers were Mr. Thomas and Mr. Edward Tilghman. When this advice was given, I had every reason to suspect the former of the basest treachery; but in the fidelity of the latter I had then, as I still have, the most implicit confidence. The reasons, however, on which the advice was grounded, were far from being satisfactory to me. Declaring myself the subject of my Sovereign was no more than the formal assertion of a truth that did me great honour; it was saying nothing for, or against, either monarchy or republicanism; and as to its giving offence to the Court, or to the people of America, the idea appeared to me perfectly absurd. What! said I, you enter into a solemn treaty with my King, in which treaty you recognise my right as a British subject to come and live, and carry on trade amongst you, in return for which recognition you receive an equivalent; and you have, after this, the assurance to tell me, that I must forbear to plead my title of British subject, forego the protection it offers me, and passively submit to injustice and ruin, lest the Court and the people of America should be offended! What, added I, would you say, were such advice as this given to an American living in the British dominions? What would you say, were he told, that to disown and forswear his country were the only means of avoiding legal injustice and public odium? And what, in the name of God! what pretensions has an American to superiority over a Briton? Is his country more dear to him than mine is to me? Are his fellow-citizens more honest and more generous than my fellow-subjects? are they more famous for learning and for noble deeds? Are his rulers more powerful, more wise, more magnanimous, or more just, than my sovereign, who, though his fleets command the ocean, though he is the arbiter of nations, and the acknowledged saviour of the civilized world, makes his chief glory consist in being the defender, the friend, the father of his people?

In vain was I told that my plea was without precedent; and that it had been made by no British subject since the revolution. If this were the case, I thought it was high time that it should be made, and that we should cease to accept of safety and respect on such degrading conditions. Accordingly, at the first meeting of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania I presented, in compliance with the law above quoted, the following petition, which I now copy from the record.

Benjamin Rush v. William Cobbett } Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Case December Term, No. 3.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
30th Dec. 1797
To the Honourable the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

The Petition of William Cobbett, the Defendant in the above action, an alien, and a subject of the King of Great Britain, humbly showeth*,

Edition: current; Page: [195]

That he is sued in the action above mentioned, in which the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of five hundred dollars, exclusive of costs; that he is desirous to remove the said cause for trial into the next Circuit Court of the United States, to be holden for the district of Pennsylvania, and hath good and sufficient security, ready, here in Court, to engage for his entering in said Circuit Court, on the first day of its session, a copy of the process in the said action, agreeably to the Act, entitled, “An Act to establish the judicial Courts of the United States,” and also for his appearing in the said Circuit Court. He therefore prays the Honourable the Court, that security may be taken for the purpose aforesaid, and that the said cause may be removed to the said Circuit Court of the United States accordingly.


William Cobbett, being duly sworn, saith that the facts within stated are true.


The consideration of this petition was put off to the next session, which was held in March 1798. But before I proceed to relate the fate of it, I cannot help remarking on the sensations which its presentation produced in the Court and the auditory. It was towards the evening of the last day of the session, when Mr. Thomas, albeit unused to the modest mood, stole up gently from his seat, and, in a faint and trembling voice, told the Bashaw M‘Kean that he had a petition to present in behalf of William Cobbett. For some time he did not make himself heard. There was a great talking all round the bar; Levi, the lawyer, was reading a long formal paper to the judges, and the judges were laughing over the chit-chat of the day. Amidst the noisy mirth that surrounded him there stood poor Thomas, with his papers in his hands, like a culprit at school, just as the boys are breaking up. By-and-by, one of those pauses which frequently occur in even the most numerous and vociferous assemblies, encouraged him to make a frest attempt. “I present,” says he, “may it please your Honours, a petition in behalf of William Cobbett.” The moment the sound of the word Cobbett struck the ear of M‘Kean, he turned towards the bar, and having learnt the subject of the petition, began to storm like a madman. A dead silence ensued. The little scrubby lawyers (with whom the Courts of Pennsylvania are continually crowded) crouched down for fear, just like a brood of poultry when the kite is preparing to pounce in amongst them; whilst hapless Thomas, who stood up piping like a straggled chicken, seemed already to feel the talons of the judicial bird of prey. He proceeded, however, to read the petition, which, being very short, was got through with little interruption. When he came to the words, “subject of his Britannic Majesty,” M‘Kean did, indeed, grin most horribly; and I could very distinctly hear, “Insolent scoundrel!” “Damned aristocrat!” “Damned Englishman!” &c. &c., from the mouths of the sovereign people. But neither these execrations, nor the savage looks that accompanied them, prevented me from fulfilling my purpose. I went up to the clerk of the court, took the book in my hand, and holding it up that it might be visible in all parts of the hall, I swore, in a voice that every one might hear, that I preserved my allegiance to Edition: current; Page: [196] my king; after which I put on my hat and walked out of Court, followed by the admiration of the few and by the curses of the many.

The consideration of the petition was, as I before observed, postponed till March term; which gave kite M‘Kean time to ruminate on the novel adventure. On the one hand was a violation of the constitution and laws of the general Government; on the other, the escape of his prey. “Of two evils,” says the proverb, “choose the least;” and kite M‘Kean chose on this occasion just as any other kite would have chosen. When the Court met, he did, indeed, listen for about an hour to a contention, which Thomas and Hopkinson called law argument, and which was full as edifying, though not quite so entertaining, as the disputes, with which I had frequently been delighted, between Punchinello and the Devil. While the lawyers were arguing, the Judges were engaged in a conversation, which, from the marks of risibility apparent on their countenances, seemed to be much more diverting than the contest between the puppets of the bar. When, therefore, this pleasant conversation was over, M‘Kean, turning his head towards Hopkinson, bawled out, “Ha’nt you ’most done?” This put an end to the law argument in a moment. No showman, with the help of his wire, ever produced more ready or more implicit obedience; and kite M‘Kean now hastened to put an end to the farce, by declaring, without the least hesitation, without consulting his associates, and without giving any reason whatever for his decision, that the petition of William Cobbett should not be granted.*

Such is the manner in which written constitutions are observed! That indefatigable constitution-grinder, Tom Paine, told his silly partisans in England that they had no constitution at all; and this he represented as a most insupportable grievance. “Now,” says he, “in America it is not so. If you ask an American citizen whether a certain procedure be constitutional or not, he takes down the book from the shelf, opens it, turns to the article that treats of the subject in question, and gives you an answer in a moment.” Very true, Thomas: so you see, I took down my copy of the constitution and of the constitutional law; I turned to the article and the section that treated of the subject in question, and I prayed the Judges to grant me my petition accordingly; but the Judges laughed at me and the constitution too!

But, says the reader, is there no redress in such cases?—None at all. The constitution which has made with aliens this solemn covenant for the Edition: current; Page: [197] security of their property, has made no provision for carrying it into effect, in opposition to the will of such men as M‘Kean. Indeed there seems to be an intentional omission here. The Federal Government promises protection to every alien; but in case he should be oppressed by the State Governments, it takes care, by omitting to provide for redress, to shift all responsibility from itself. Had I petitioned the Lord Chief Justice of the United States to quash the proceedings against me, he would have replied (if indeed he had given me any answer at all), that he had no control over the Courts of Pennsylvania, any more than over the Court of King’s Bench in England; and were I now to petition the President to show how I have been injured by a violation of the constitution, and to beseech him to give me redress, his reply would be similar to that of the Chief Justice; he would tell me that the Government of Pennsylvania is a Government totally independent of him, and that he can in no way undo what it or its judiciary does. This is but too true; but does this diminish my loss? Does it do away the oppression? If the Federal Government has not the power to protect an alien, it should not promise him protection. The Government has, by its constitution and laws, proclaimed to foreign nations that the property of aliens is under the safeguard of its Courts; and when these aliens are harassed and ruined by the unjust and tyrannical proceedings of the State Governments, shall the Federal Government get rid of its responsibility by pleading its want of power? The Government of the United States has stipulated with my Sovereign that his subjects (and I amongst the rest) shall have a right to live and carry on business here, being subject to the laws of the country, which laws provide that I shall have a right to remove my cause into the Federal Courts. And shall this Government now say, that it is not responsible for my having been deprived of this right? If this be the case, neither would it have been responsible for the conduct of the Governor of Pennsylvania, had he banished me from the State. To stipulate always implies the power to fulfil; any other idea of stipulation is absurd; and if the power to fulfil does not exist, to stipulate is to delude.

The vindictive Judge of Pennsylvania having thus determined not to let go his grasp, I was compelled to submit to his jurisdiction, with very little hope of escaping a ruinous decision. I did, however, take every precaution that was in my power; I employed Messrs. Edward Tilghman and Wm. Rawle as my counsellors, and to them I afterwards added Mr. Harper, a man on whose talents and whose spirit I placed a perfect reliance.* The necessary steps were also taken to ensure a special jury, who, it was thought by my lawyers and my friends, would be a sufficient protection against the intrigues of the plaintiff and the tyranny of the Court.

At the next term, September 1798, I was served with a jury list, which I struck; but the trial was put off. I was served with another jury list at December term, 1798; with another at March term, 1799; with another at September term, 1799; and at every term, though the juries were always struck by me, and though I was always ready, the trial was put off. At last, on the 13th of December 1799, it was resolved to bring it to issue. The moment I saw the jury list, “Ah!” said I to a friend that happened to be with me, “the action of Rush is to be tried this time.” We looked over the list again and again, and, after the most Edition: current; Page: [198] mature consideration, we could find but seven men out of the forty-eight whom we thought fit to be trusted on the trial; but as I had the power of rejecting no more than twelve, there were left of course twenty-nine whom I disapproved of, to the seven whom I approved of; and as every one of these seven was struck off by Rush, there remained not a single man on the jury in whose integrity I had the slightest confidence.*

But there were other circumstances highly advantageous to my adversary. M‘Kean, the kite-like Chief Justice, who is better known in England under the title of the Democratic Judge, was now become Governor of the State, and had, by the early exercise of his power, struck terror into all officers under his control. Shippen was the senior Justice on the bench of the Supreme Court, and he was in eager expectation of succeeding to the post of Chief Justice; but M‘Kean kept him in suspense, in a sort of state of probation, till the action of Rush against me should be decided!

Singularly favourable, however, as these circumstances were, there was another still more favourable wanted to encourage the American Sangrado to push the cause on to trial; which was my absence from Philadelphia. I had several months before publicly signified my resolution to quit Pennsylvania, if M‘Kean should be elected Governor of the State; and every one knew I should be as good as my word. Indeed, it was known that my books, furniture, &c. &c. were already sent off to New York; but I remained in the neighbourhood of the city (where I was seen every day), in order to be present at the trial, if it should come on. On the 7th of December there was no prospect of the cause being brought to trial; on the 8th, therefore, I came off for New York, where my affairs required my presence. On the 11th my correspondent wrote me that the cause was put off to another Court; but the very next day it was all at once resolved to bring it to trial immediately. This sudden change was produced Edition: current; Page: [199] by an advertisement of mine, signifying my arrival at New York, and my resolution to drop the publication of Porcupine’s Gazette. Sure, therefore, of all the advantages to be derived from my absence, and relieved from all apprehensions on the score of my future writings, the dastardly wretches at last ventured on the execution of their long-meditated revenge!

In what manner the cause was conducted, on the part of Rush’s lawyers, has already been noticed. The evidence has also been examined and exposed: it therefore only remains for me to insert, and to make a few comments on, the charge of Judge Shippen.


This is an action brought by the Plaintiff against the Defendant for writing, printing, and publishing, divers scandalous libels, to defame and vilify him. The defendant has pleaded that he is not guilty;—his counsel, however, have acknowledged the publication of the papers, which otherwise it would have been incumbent on the plaintiff to prove. The question, therefore, will be, whether they amount in law to defamatory libels, or not.

By the law and practice in England, in the case of libels, the only task of the Jury is, to judge of the fact of publication, and the truth and fair application of the inuendos; the Court, as judges of the law, reserving to themselves the sole power of deciding whether the paper amounts to a libel, or not. But in this State, by the special directions of our constitution, the Jury possess the power of judging both of the law and fact, under the direction of the Court.

A libel is defined by the law, to be the malicious defamation, expressed either in printing or writing, or by signs or pictures, tending to blacken either the memory of one who is dead, or the reputation of one who is alive, or to expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. This offence may be punished, either by indictment at the suit of the commonwealth, or by a civil action at the suit of the party injured. When the prosecution is by indictment, the Court only are to direct the punishment; but in a civil suit, the damages are to be assessed solely by the Jury.

The charges laid against the defendant in the declaration are various; but they may be reduced in substance to the following:—That he repeatedly calls the plaintiff a quack, an empiric; charges him with intemperate bleeding, injudiciously administering mercury in large doses in the yellow fever; puffing himself off; writing letters and answering them himself; styling him the Sampson in medicine; charging him with murdering his patients, and slaying his thousands, and tens of thousands.

The counts laid in the declaration are fully proved by the publications, which are certainly libellous. In what manner do the defendant’s Counsel repel these proofs? Not by justifying the truth of the matters charged against Dr. Rush, which on the contrary they have repeatedly acknowledged to be false, but by analyzing the several allegations in the newspapers, and from thence drawing a conclusion that no intentional personal malice appears, which they say is the essence of the offence.—Malice rests in the heart, and is only to be judged of by the words and actions of the party; the words themselves import malice, and in that case the proof lies on the defendant to show the innocence of his intentions; if he has done that to your satisfaction you will acquit him: but this is chiefly founded on the allegation that the attack was meant to be Edition: current; Page: [200] made on Dr. Rush’s system, and not on the man; it unfortunately appears that not the least attempt is made to combat the Doctor’s arguments with regard to the system itself, but the attack is made merely by gross scurrilous abuse of the Doctor himself. Added to this, one of the witnesses proves a declaration made by the defendant, that if Dr. Rush had not been the man, he should never have meddled with the system.

Another ground of defence is of a more serious nature, as it leads to an important question on our constitution—it is said that the subject of dispute between the plaintiff and defendant was a matter of public concern, as it related to the health and lives of our fellow-citizens, and that, by the words of our constitution, every man has a right to discuss such subjects in print. The liberty of the press, Gentlemen, is a valuable right in every free country, and ought never to be unduly restrained; but when it is perverted to the purposes of private slander, it then becomes a most destructive engine in the hands of unprincipled men. The utmost purity and integrity of heart is no shield against the shafts and arrows of malice conveyed to the world by printed publications. Verbal slander may be frequently very injurious; but slander in writing, or print, being more generally disseminated and more durable in its effects, is consequently infinitely more pernicious and provoking. Our state constitution of 1790 contains certainly very general words with relation to the right of a citizen to print his thoughts, and offer them to the consideration of the public; but it at the same time guards against the generality of the privilege, by expressly declaring, that every person availing himself of the liberty of the press, should be responsible for the abuse of that liberty; thus securing to our citizens the invaluable right of reputation against every malicious invader of it.

Printed publications attacking private character, are considered with great reason by the law as a very atrocious offence, from its evident tendency to the breach of the public peace—if men find they can have no redress in our courts of justice for such injuries, they will naturally take satisfaction in their own way, involving perhaps their friends and families in the contest, and leading evidently to duels, murders, and perhaps to assassinations.

The principal subject of consideration with the Jury will be what damages they are to assess. On this subject you are the ALMOST uncontrollable judges—it is your peculiar province:—The Court have indeed the power to order a new trial where damages are excessive; but in cases of torts and injuries of this kind, the law books say the damages must be so outrageously disproportionate to the offence, as at first blush to shock every person who hears of it, before the Court will order a new trial.

Every one must know that offences of this kind have for some time past too much abounded in our city; it seems high time to restrain them—that task is with you, Gentlemen. To suppress so great an evil, it will not only be proper to give compensatory, but exemplary damages; thus stopping the growing progress of this daring crime—at the same time the damages should not be so enormous as absolutely to ruin the offender.

I hope no party considerations will ever have place in this Court, in the administration of justice—and I entreat you, Gentlemen, to banish them, in considering this subject, entirely from your breasts.”

Edition: current; Page: [201]
Peter Porcupine
Porcupine, Peter

Peter Porcupine to Judge Shippen.


The Charge which you gave against me, on the 14th of December last, has given rise to a very interesting question; to wit:—which is its prominent characteristic, stupidity or malice?—This is a question far too knotty for me to presume to decide; but with all due submission to your Honour and the honourable Judge Brakenridge,* who sits on your right hand; I think I may venture to throw some light on the subject: and in doing this, I will endeavour to forget your private character, that it may not extort from me language derogatory to my own.

You say, “By the law and practice in England, in the case of libels, the only task of the jury is to judge of the fact of publication, and the truth and fair application of the inuendoes; the court, as judges of the law, reserving to themselves the sole power of deciding whether the paper amounts to a libel or not. But, in this State, by the special directions of our constitution, the jury possess the power of judging both of the law and fact, under the direction of the Court.”

Pray, Sir, what are we to call this? Are we to consider it as one of those stale tricks, which have been so long practised for the purpose of making the Americans believe that they enjoy more liberty than their former fellow subjects enjoy? or, must we look upon it as intended to flatter the jury, and give them a high opinion of their power? If the former, if your intention were merely to keep the poor sovereign people in good humour with their present rulers, there is not much to be said; self-preservation is the first law of nature. But if your design were, by puffing up the pride of the jury, to embolden them to gratify your and their private wishes, at the expense of justice; if this were your motive, what do you deserve?

Be your motive, however, what it might; whether the object you had in view were to obtain and secure a good post for yourself, or to ruin me, whatever might be your end, your means were most vile; your statement respecting “the law and practice of England” was a shameful falsehood, and would have been a disgrace to any other bench than that from which it came. “Whereas,” says the English law, “doubts have arisen, whether on the trial of an indictment or information, for the making or publishing any libel, where an issue or issues are joined, between the King and the defendant, or defendants, on the plea of Not Guilty pleaded, it be competent to the jury impanelled to try the same, to give their verdict upon the whole matter in issue; be it therefore declared and enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that on every such trial, the jury sworn to try the issue, may give a general verdict of Guilty or Not Guilty upon the whole matter put in issue upon such indictment or information; and shall not be required or directed, by the court or judge before whom such indictment or information shall be tried, to find the defendant or defendants guilty, merely on the proof of the publication by such defendant or defendants of the paper charged Edition: current; Page: [202] to be a libel, and of the sense ascribed to the same in such indictment or information.”—Act 33 Geo. III. c. 60. ad 1792.

This act was passed in 1792; but you will observe (if, indeed, you understand the meaning of the words), that it is a declaratory act; an act made to remove doubts, to explain and to declare what was then, and what always had been, the law of the land. You will observe, too, if you are capable of comprehending the distinction, that this act declares the right of the jury to decide upon the whole matter put in issue even upon an indictment or information; from which you will perceive, that this right in civil actions never was disputed, never was even a matter of doubt. So that it appears, Mr. Shippen, that your boasted Pennsylvanian constitution has given the people no new rights; it appears that the sovereign citizens, whom you help to rule, enjoy, even nominally, no greater liberty of the press than they would still have enjoyed, had they remained the subjects of a king; and it necessarily follows, that you were wretchedly ignorant of both the statute and common law of England, or that you advanced a wilful and most barefaced falsehood.

Your definition of the law, and your enumeration of the charges laid against me, which are really too stupid to deserve a comment, conclude with asserting that the declaration charges me with having accused Dr. Rush “with murdering his patients,” and “slaying his thousands and tens of thousands.” What could induce you to make this false, this impudent assertion? Neither the word murder, nor any of its derivatives, nor any word that is synonymous with it, or any one of its derivatives, is to be found in the publications laid in the declaration. The passage to which you evidently allude is, I trust, fully justified in the Rushlight; but lest that should have been kept from your sight by the operation of that free constitution which you so consistently boast of, I shall insert it here:—“Dr. Rush, in that emphatical style which is peculiar to himself, calls mercury the Sampson of medicine. In his hands, and in those of his partisans, it may, indeed, be justly compared to Sampson; for I verily believe, that they have slain more Americans with it, than ever Sampson slew of the Philistines. The Israelite slew his thousands, but the Rushites have slain their tens of thousands.” Now, is this as you say it is, charging Dr. Rush “with murdering his patients, and slaying his thousands and tens of thousands?” So shameful a perversion of a man’s words, had it been made use of by a pleader in England, would have been severely reproved by the court; what then will Englishmen think of a judge who could be guilty of it? And what will they, what must they think of the government under which such a man is judge?

Continuing in your pleader-like strain, you observe that the counsel of the defendant do not repel the charges brought against him, “by justifying the truth of the publications; but that, on the contrary, they have repeatedly acknowledged those publications to be false.” It is true, indeed, that my counsel, to their shame be it spoken, did not justify the truth of the publications laid in the declaration; but that they might have justified, every man in America knows well; and you knew, that they would have done it, had their client not been an Englishman, and had they not, like you, been in fear of M‘Kean and of your brother slaves who filled your tribunes and crowded round your bench.

In your zeal for the plaintiff, you did, however, go too far; for my counsel, tame and submissive as they were, did not “repeatedly acknowledge the publications to be false.” Neither Mr. Tilghman nor Mr. Edition: current; Page: [203] Rawle did, in any one instance, make such an acknowledgment. Nor was even the trimming mob-courting Harper guilty of baseness and treachery to the extent that you have imputed to him. He did, indeed, say more than once, that he “believed” the publications were “very untrue;” but he made no unqualified acknowledgment of their being false. He went far enough, in all conscience, against a cause, which he was well paid to support; his conduct wanted no colouring; you might, therefore, have spared the daubings of your awkward brush.

“It appears,” say you, “that not the least attempt is made [in the publications against Rush] to combat the Doctor’s arguments with regard to the system itself.” If you had been candid, if you had remembered your oath, you would have observed further, that the publications for which I was sued, made only a part of those which appeared against Rush and his system of depletion; you would, therefore, have said nothing on this head, unless you had found, upon an examination of Porcupine’s Gazette, from which the pretended libels were extracted, that I had never accompanied these pretended libels with serious arguments against the wild and destructive opinions and practice of the plaintiff. “But,” say you, “added to this, one of the witnesses proves a declaration made by the defendant, that if Dr. Rush had not been the man, he should never have meddled with the system.”—Atrocious falsehood!—The words of the witness, Dr. Coxe, as reported in the account of the trial, are these: “He (the defendant) replied, that he did not believe he should ever have said so much on bleeding and mercurials, if Dr. Rush had not been the author of it.”—Was this declaring, that if Dr. Rush had not been the man, I “NEVER should have MEDDLED with the system?” When you summed up this evidence, were you thinking of the office you filled, or of that which you were in hopes of filling? Were you afraid of being outstripped in the honourable course by either of your worthy compeers? It must be confessed, that such a fear was not unreasonable; for so well are you matched, that had you started together, it is a moot point with me which of the three would have won the prize.

But a misconstruction of the publications, and a perversion of the evidence, did not satisfy you: you seem to have been still afraid, that in spite of such cheering encouragement the jury might have some scruples; and, therefore, you took care to conclude with giving them an assurance, that, provided they laid on damages enough, their verdict should be approved of by you.—“The principal subject of consideration with the jury will be,” say you, “what damages they are to assess.” You then proceed to tell them that they are “the almost uncontrollable judges on this subject,” and that, “though the court has it in its power to order a new trial in case of excessive damages, yet, that in cases of torts and injuries of this kind, the law books say the damages must be so outrageously disproportionate to the offence, as, at first blush, to SHOCK every person who hears of it, before the court will order a new trial!!!”

Bravo! Vivat Respublica! Huzza for “our glorious revolution!” Huzza for the sovereign people! Vive la liberté! But in the midst of all this rejoicing I had almost forgot to ask you, whatlaw books” you found this maxim in. In those of Robespierre and Fouquier Tinville, I suppose; or, perchance, in those of Pennsylvania, or of Algiers. Find it where you will, however, you have applied it, and you and your country are entitled to all the honours it confers. I would give a thousand dollars if old Price were yet alive, to have an opportunity of sticking this Edition: current; Page: [204] charge of yours in one of the curls of his wig. Here, you wayward and discontented Britons, who are hankering after republicanism; look here! Here you see a complete specimen of the blessings of liberty and reform! Were one of your judges to declare, that, in order to induce him to grant a new trial, the punishment for calling a man a quack must be so outrageously cruel, as, at first blush to SHOCK every person who hears of it, you would stone him to death; you would shun his touch as you would the touch of a hangman; but were you in Pennsylvania only for one month, were you once “ameliorated” in the philanthropic city of Philadelphia, were you sovereign citizens instead of subjects, you would listen to him as patiently and submissively as a penitent does to his father confessor.

Begging your Honour’s pardon for this digression, I return to you and your Jury. Having promised them that there should be no check upon their rapacity, you dismiss them with putting into their mouths a pretext for their conduct. “Every one,” say you, “must know, that offences of this kind have, for some time past, too much abounded in our city; it seems high time to restrain them—that task is with you, Gentlemen. To suppress so great an evil, it will not only be proper to give compensatory, but exemplary damages; thus stopping the growing progress of this daring crime—at the same time the damages should not be so enormous as absolutely to ruin the offender.”

The doctrine of exemplary damages is new, and it certainly is as efficacious an instrument of oppression as ever was devised. The very word damages excludes every idea of punishment. It implies compensation for injuries; and no Jury can, without being forsworn, give a farthing more than what they believe to be the amount of the injury; for, if example be the object of prosecution, the process ought to be by indictment, or information.

It has sometimes happened, that actions, similar to that of Rush, have been brought by noblemen and gentlemen in England, who have preferred the civil to the criminal process, merely to challenge an investigation; because the former allows the defendant to justify the truth of his words, which the latter does not. The damages, if any are given in such a case, must be given for the sake of example; for it rarely happens that the slander is productive of any real injury to the plaintiff. Such were the actions brought by Lord Sandwich in 1773, and by the Right Hon. William Pitt in 1786, in both which cases damages were given, though it was next to impossible that the plaintiffs could have sustained any injury. But, Mr. Shippen, there is some little difference between these noblemen and a boasting inventor of purging powders. Neither Lord Sandwich nor Mr. Pitt could receive a compensation; yet, as they were charged with malversation in office, a civil process was necessary to clear up their characters: and, as neither fine nor imprisonment could take place upon such an action, damages were given for the sake of example. But in the case of a bleeder or powder-doctor, all the Jury had to do, if they found the publication false and malicious, was, to ascertain, to the best of their judgments, the amount of the real injury the fellow had sustained, and to assess, as damages, a sum just to that amount, and no more.

But whatever may have been the custom in England, respecting the legality of assessing exemplary damages, it is most certain that, as to the sum to be assessed, no Judge ever attempted, no Judge ever dared attempt, Edition: current; Page: [205] to dictate to the Jury. The following extract from a charge of Lord Mansfield, shows how careful he was not to encroach on the exclusive province of the Jury to estimate damages. “I will not say a word to you about the damages. I am sure no observations on any side can occur, which you are not capable of making yourselves. You will take the paper out with you, and will consider all the circumstances of the case, of a public or private nature.”—This charge was delivered in an action of scandalum magnatum (defamation of a nobleman), brought by Lord Sandwich against the printer of the London Evening Post, for the publication of a piece signed Alfred, on the 2nd of Feb. 1773, in which his Lordship, then first Lord of the Admiralty, was falsely accused of having exposed to sale the office of Commissioner of the Navy for the sum of 2000l. And this instance of Lord Mansfield’s forbearance is the more applicable and forcible, as he was always charged (though I believe very unjustly) with bending the law to favour the ministerial side of the question, and to extend the power of the Judges as far as possible. If he could have found any precedent, or have invented any plausible motive for encroaching on this undoubted province of the Jury, he would not, it is to be presumed, have scrupled to use it on such an occasion.

Another, and still more striking, contrast to your charge is to be found in that of Lord Mansfield’s, delivered in the action of Mr. Pitt against the printers of the General Advertiser and the Morning Herald, who accused him, he being at the time Chancellor of the Exchequer, of gambling in the stocks with the money of the nation. Lord Mansfield closed his charge thus: “The assessing of the damages is entirely in your province. I shall not say a word upon it. You will consider them under all the circumstances of the case, the malignity and the extent, and, for the sake of example, you will give those damages you think proper.*

This is the language of an English Judge. How different is it from yours! Lord Mansfield tells the Jury, that to estimate the damages is entirely in their province: that he shall not say a word upon it. You tell your sovereign men, that they are, indeed, the almost uncontrollable judges of damages, and you promise them, that their verdict shall not be set aside, unless it be so outrageously cruel, as, at first blush, to shock every person who hears of it! The libel on Mr. Pitt was a most atrocious one, yet Lord Mansfield forbears to suggest the propriety of great damages, and tells the Jury to give what they think proper, for the sake of example only. But you call for damages both compensatory and exemplary; you urge them to bring upon the head of the defendant the consequences of both a civil and a criminal prosecution! You do, indeed, observe to them, that “the damages must not be so enormous as absolutely to ruin the offender.” This was a wholesome caution: it was telling them how far they might go, without endangering the success of the scheme; it was saying to them, “Ruin him in effect, but take care to do it in such a way as will not defeat our intention. Bilk him, embarrass him, break up his business, and plunge him into debt; but be careful not to let your malice so far overshoot the mark, as to leave us no excuse for confirming your verdict.”—This was pretty Edition: current; Page: [206] language from a Court to a Jury! The Jury followed your directions with great exactness, and the malignant slaves thought they had given me a deadly blow; but that blow, while it has had no effect on me, has recoiled with redoubled force on themselves, their accomplices, and their city.

But your pretext for recommending a ruinous verdict, is, if possible, more atrocious than the recommendation itself. “Offences of this kind,” say you, “have, for some time past, too much abounded in our city; it seems high time to restrain them—that task is with you, Gentlemen.”—So, because offences of the same kind had abounded in the city, because they had passed unnoticed, because they had been tolerated, I was to be all but absolutely ruined I was to suffer for what all others had done, and also for the negligence of Courts and Juries! Precious justice this!

Yes; offences, not of “this kind,” but of a much worse kind, had, indeed, for a long time abounded in your city. Libels the most false, scandaleus, and malicious; publications the most obscene and most impious, had long abounded, and do still abound; and had I shared in these publications, not a farthing of damages would ever have been given against me. But I was a British subject; I had defended the character of my King and country against the infamous calumnies that you and your associates suffered to be propagated; I exposed the little despots of America; I had contrasted their character with that of the King, against whom they were continually endeavouring to revive the animosity of the people; and it was for this, and this alone, that you and your associates hated me. At the very moment when you gave this scandalous charge, when you called aloud for ruin on my head, you were perfectly convinced that I had rendered America essential services; you knew that my character was unblemished, and that my conduct, as a publisher, was singularly laudable; you knew that I never wilfully published a falsehood; you knew that, as a bookseller, I never gave circulation to a seditious, an irreligious, or an immoral publication, but that, on the contrary, I had constantly endeavoured to obstruct the progress of such works, and that I had been the patron of every effort to counteract their deleterious effects. All this you knew, and with all this in your mind, you uttered the malignant charge which I this day rescue from that oblivion to which its stupidity had condemned it.*

One fact only remains to be narrated, and a most valuable one it is. I beg every Englishman to pay good attention to it, and to bless God for not having placed him under the jurisdiction of an American Judge.

The trial was begun on the 13th, and the 5000 dollar verdict was given on the 14th of December. It is well known that after every verdict, four days are allowed, previous to entering up the judgment, in order to enable the defendant to prepare for application for an arrest of judgment. On the 17th, therefore, my counsellor, Mr Edward Tilghman, made a motion for a rule to show cause why the verdict and judgment should not Edition: current; Page: [207] be set aside for excessiveness of damages; which motion was rejected by you and your associates. Well might you reject it! for, on the 16th, the day before you refused the new trial, I was actually arrested for the 5000 dollars at New-York! so that it appears, that the plaintiff and his counsel were sure, quite sure, that a new trial would not be granted two days, at least, before that new trial was moved for!—Vivat Respublica! Huzza for liberty and revolution!

“And what do I care for all this?” say you; “I have got the post of Chief Justice, and shall hold it; and in spite of all the exposures you can make, I shall still have the huzzas of the base herd of Americans.”*—That is true enough: I have not encountered the hopeless task of making any impression on you, or on the wretched beings by whom you are surrounded; but I know where I shall produce an impression: and though my labours may be slow in their operation, they will be sure and lasting in their effects.

W. Cobbett.

The Rushlight has already made some astonishing exposures respecting the much-boasted liberty of the press. It has many more to make. The mean arts and the abominable tyranny employed in Philadelphia, for the purpose of effecting the suppression of this work, surpass all that ever has been recorded of the detestable Court of Star-Chamber. The Governments of America appear to me to be approaching very fast towards absolute despotism. If a writer, like the author of the Pursuits of Literature, were in this country, he would be ruined, if not assassinated, in less than twelve months. The poor printers and booksellers are reduced to a degree of slavish dread hardly to be conceived; and to hear the language of the inhabitants in general, one would really imagine that the bloody laws of Valentinian (on which M‘Kean lately pronounced an eulogium) were in full force.


A Dialogue between Rush and Percupine.

  • Master Peter, you see, with my twelve sov’reign men,
  • I have tipp’d you a squeeze for the strokes of your pen.
  • These twelve sov’reign men, now I no longer need them,
  • How shall I reward?
Edition: current; Page: [208]
  • Why, bleed them, Rush, bleed them.
  • But to the Judge on the bench, so just and humane,
  • (The worthy successor and tool of M‘Kean);
  • To my lawyers who bellow’d so loudly against you,
  • To Hopkinson, Ingersol, Levi the Jew,
  • The half-quaker Lewis (who once was a carter),
  • And your faithful counsel, the mob-courting Harper;
  • To my volunteer witnesses, grateful young Mease,
  • To the poor Dr. Coxe, and poor granny Dewees,
  • (Who gen’rously came, with no duty to urge them,)
  • What return shall I make?
  • Why, purge them, Rush, purge them!Enter Grave-Digger.
  • By my soul, Master Peter, I think it too hard
  • That with such folks as these I must fill my church-yard.
  • Church-yard! honest fellow, my meaning’s not such;
  • For, where a man’s buried it matters not much;
  • And the great Dr. Mitchell (of bleeding renown)
  • Says, “Let all human carrion be dragg’d out of town.”


Enter Sangrado, with the Rush-Light in his hand. He remains for about half an hour in stupid, sullen silence; and then, starting from his reverie, pours forth, in slow and melancholy accents, the following soliloquy.

  • Unthinking Doctor, wherefore did thy rage
  • Urge thee with printer’s prowess to engage?
  • O, why from puffing to the law retire?
  • Why for thyself construct the fun’ral fire?
  • What though an Ingersol before thee stood,
  • With dangling brush, to paint thee fair and good;
  • A weeping Hopkinson, dear tender creature,
  • Sobbing to wail the injuries of Nature;
  • What though kind-hearted jurors press’d thee round,
  • And philanthropic judges too were found;
  • What though the gentle, just, and gen’rous crowd
  • The verdict sanctioned with applauses loud;
  • What though five thousand dollars were the prize,
  • Which, in idea, gratified thine eyes?
  • Say! could such lenitives relieve thy shame,
  • Or reunite thee to thy shadow, fame?
  • Could they kill Peter, whose vindictive art
  • So well directs his venom to thy heart?
  • Could they prevent exposure and disgrace,
  • Or change the tincture of an Ethiop’s face?
  • Oh, no! they bade these hellish fires arise,
  • And bound thee to the stake.
—(He dies)
Edition: current; Page: [209]


Note by the Editors.—In the Porcupine, vol. 9, p. 389, we find this Sermon of Dr. Priestley, with notes upon it by Mr. Cobbett. The Sermon was delivered, it appears, in the University Hall in Philadelphia, on the 9th of February, 1797; and, while urging the claims of the distressed in general, it seems to have been more particularly intended to relieve those who had emigrated from Great Britain and Ireland. We insert below so much of the Sermon as will be necessary to our purpose; which is, to give one of Mr. Cobbett’s notes, in which he maintains the principles of our old Poor-law system, in opposition to some notions here put forth by the Doctor. Though the following contains but a part of Dr. Priestley’s arguments, we have been careful to preserve the strongest of his assertions in favour of relief, as well as those to which Mr. Cobbett objects as having an opposite tendency.—See the asterisk towards the close of the extract, which marks the passage to which the Note coming after refers.

Let not the rich man make a boast of his charity, as if he gave what he was under no obligation to give. For, strictly speaking, it is a debt which he owes to the needy. Benevolence being the great law of our natures, and the happiness of all being the great object of the Divine government, whatever it be that promotes this end is the proper duty of all, according to their respective abilities, to contribute to it; and any person is guilty of a breach of trust who refrains from doing it. All the good that any man can do he ought to do. The Divine Being, our common Parent, expects it of him as a member of his large family; and if he judge the world in righteousness, as he assuredly will, he will punish the person who does less than it was in his power to do, as having neglected a duty that was incumbent on him.

“In whatever manner any person becomes possessed of wealth, it is the gift of God. If it have accrued to him from superior ingenuity or superior industry, that very superior ingenuity and spirit of activity are alike the gift of God, who makes one man to differ, in these respects as well as others, from another man: so that, as the apostle says (1 Cor. iv. 7), God may say to any man, What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? Consequently, not to make that disposition of our wealth which the Giver of it intended that we should, is to be guilty of ingratitude to God and real injustice to man. It is to act the part of an unfaithful steward. For in this light, and no other, ought we to consider ourselves with respect to everything that we have to spare, after the supply of our own wants.

“Neither let the rich boast of their independence with respect to the poor. In fact, they are more dependent upon the poor than the poor are upon them; and were all persons reduced to a level, every advantage of which they now boast would vanish. They must then labour for themselves, Edition: current; Page: [210] and do for themselves those menial offices which are now done for them by others. But, happily for us all, there is such a foundation laid in the course of nature and the order of Providence, for that inequality in the conditions of men, which has so excellent an effect in binding us all together, in making our connection both necessary and mutually advantageous, that no institutions of man can destroy it; though, as we are in duty bound, we may lessen the evils that necessarily arise from it.

“Since, then, the rich, who really wish to act the part that in strict duty they are bound to do, have only a choice to make of objects on whom to bestow their superfluity; and there are many of them, so that some may apply themselves to the relief of one species of distress, and others of another, or of several in different degrees, according as their attention is attracted to them; I only plead, on this occasion, that the poor emigrants are entitled to a share. Not that I wish to have a fund so open to them as that they should have a claim upon it as a legal right. That circumstance, as we see in the case of the poor of England, would soon defeat the very object of the charity. The more poor of any kind you provide for in this way, the more you will create; the more you may burden yourselves, and that without limit, and the more distress you will occasion in others. By this most injudicious system you would only encourage idleness, improvidence, insolence, and profligacy of every kind.* But let there be a fund provided on which, though no person shall have a legal claim, yet from it persons of discretion may, as they shall see occasion, give temporary relief to such emigrants as really want it.

“Observe, also, that I only say temporary relief, so as to put the poor emigrants in the way of relieving and providing for themselves; and to do this, some assistance may be absolutely necessary. It might not even be amiss to make the sums afforded them a debt which the institution might reclaim, if the parties relieved should afterwards, as it is hoped most of them will, be in a condition to refund it, and also with interest, for the benefit of others. But that, in some-way or other, many poor emigrants are entitled to assistance will appear to every person who shall consider their situation.


Here the Doctor and I differ in opinion. The English system of poor-law is the best in the world; the fairest for the giver, and the least degrading to the receiver. By this wise and humane system those who possess the good things of this world are compelled to assist those who do not possess them; they are compelled to perform the “obligation which,” as the Doctor truly says, “they are under to give;” they are compelled to pay “the debt which they owe to the needy.” And, so wisely did our forefathers contrive this system, that the compulsion being general has in it nothing invidious on the one part, or humiliating on the other. The poor man, in England, is as secure from beggary as is the king upon the throne. The very worst that can befal him is to be obliged to make his distresses known to the parish officers, to the heads of the great family of which he is a member, who are obliged, by law, to give him what he needs, which he receives, not as an alms, but as his legal due. No one is vested with inquisitorial powers over him; he comes not as a supplicant for mercy or compassion, and, therefore, he fears no refusal. His body may be wasted with want and infirmity, but his heart is not broken by degradation. It is somewhat strange to hear Doctor Priestley Edition: current; Page: [211] express his dislike to this system because it encourages “insolence” in the poor; him, who has discovered more insolence towards his superiors than perhaps any man that ever existed. There is no good without its concomitant evil; and it may be, that a certain provision for the poor does, in some instances, encourage idleness, improvidence, and insolence; but, how trifling is this evil, when weighed against the heart-cheering confidence which every man feels that neither himself, nor the widow or the orphans that he may leave behind him, can ever want for the necessaries of life, and can never be exposed to a precarious subsistence! To hear the Doctor railing against English poor-laws one would imagine that there were no poor-laws in the United States; but, to the honour of those States be it spoken, they have poor-laws upon the English plan. I, who have paid poor-taxes in that country, am able to speak with precision on the subject; and I can prove from my receipts that my poor-rates, in the very town where the Doctor was prating, were full as high as they are in London, in 1801. There are poor everywhere. We read of the poor from one end of the Bible to the other. It is the lot of mankind to be subject to poverty; and, as far as relates to the poor, that is the best country where poverty produces the least suffering of body and mind, and that country is Old England.*

Edition: current; Page: [212]


Note by the Editors.]—In 1801, Mr. Cobbett addressed a series of Letters to Lord Hawkeshury (since Earl of Liverpool), on the subject of the Peace of Amiens, which Letters were collected together and published, November 1801, in one volume, under the title of Facts and Observations relative to the Peace with Bonaparte. Immediately after, in January 1802, he published those Letters which we here insert, addressed to Mr. Addington (since Lord Sidmouth), together with another edition of the Letters to Lord Hawkesbury, both in one volume. It is of these writings that Muller the Swiss historian speaks, when he compares the style of Cobbett to that of Demosthenes. We will not discuss the correctness of such a comparison: but the reader cannot help observing, throughout this part of Mr. Cobbett’s works, a comprehension in the view which he takes, a clearness of thought, a vigour in statement, and a conclusiveness in reasoning, which exhibit, all together, what has rarely been equalled by the combination of similar qualities in any other writer. The Letters to Lord Hawkesbury are somewhat more declamatory in their style, and less abounding in facts, than those to Mr. Addington; and therefore, in the space we have to spare, we give the latter the preference. Though the Letters to Mr. Addington are the most full of matter and most strictly to the point, there is, at the same time, no such material difference in manner of writing between the two as would require us to give them both here. Nevertheless, we find one passage in the Letters addressed to Lord Hawkesbury which we think it right to quote. Mr. Cobbett says (Letter III.):—“The motives for my conduct, on this occasion, having been grossly misrepresented, I think it not altogether useless to state them to your Lordship. It has been said, that I acted from pique against Mr. Addington, Mr. Pitt, or your Lordship, from one or all of whom I had received some slight. But, my Lord, you know that, as far as relates to yourself, this imputation is totally groundless; and I declare to you that it is equally so with respect to Mr. Addington and Mr. Pitt, the former of whom stands the first, after the Princes, on the list of subscribers to my works, and the latter has shown me marks of commendation, of which many a greater and better man than myself would have been proud. I did, indeed, once hear of an expression, made use of by Mr. Pitt respecting me, at which I was deeply wounded; but, after inquiry, I have every reason to believe it to have been a base and wicked misrepresentation, fabricated by a servile wretch, who had the impudence to regard me as his competitor for the favour of the Ministry. In short, my Lord, till this unfortunate peace was made public, I entertained no other sentiment towards your Lordship, Mr. Addington, or Mr. Pitt, than that of respect. Some have asserted, that I have shown this marked dislike to the peace, because I was gaining money by the continuance of the war. In every possible view of it, this assertion is false. The war brought me no private good, while it was a very heavy clog on much the most considerable branch of my business; and one of the very first effects produced by that peace, which I so decidedly disapprove of and so loudly condemn, was a saving to me of upwards of seventy guineas in insurance; a fact which, while it establishes my disinterestedness, may serve, en passant, to convince your Lordship and the Edition: current; Page: [213] public, that my success in life depends neither upon your nor their patronage.” * * * * “ ‘You stand alone,’ say some persons. This is not true to the extent which is meant to be conveyed by the words. I do, indeed, stand almost alone with respect to the demolition of my house; but, had no fear of the mob existed in London and Westminster, that house would have been amongst the vast majority. The Public Offices gave an invitation to a general manifestation of joy, and the rabble enforced it. When I began my opposition to French principles and French influence in America, even my countrymen called on me to desist, telling me that I ‘stood alone;’ but I stood long enough to find myself in the majority. I stood long enough to hear ça ira exchanged for God save the King. I stood long enough to see the people of Philadelphia, who had threatened to murder me because I openly exhibited, at my window, a picture of Lord Howe’s victory over the French; I stood long enough to see these very people make a public celebration of Lord Nelson’s victory of the Nile. Nay, my Lord, I stood long enough to see the time, when I was the only writer in the country, who dared to stand forward in behalf of a body of injured and unfortunate Frenchmen, who finally owed to me, and to me alone, their deliverance from ruin, and perhaps from death.” In addition to this extract, the reader will find further light thrown upon Mr. Cobbett’s “motives for his conduct,” in his Address to the People of Hampshire on the Court-Martial affair: Register for June 17, 1809, vol. 15, p. 914. In this address he incidentally introduces the following:—“Mr. Windham and Mr. Yorke have been, since my return, and the former was before, Secretaries at War; they had the whole history in their office; and yet nobody in the country has ever spoken, and, I believe, thought, better of me, than Mr. Windham and Mr. Yorke have. I remember, that in dining with Mr. Pitt, at Mr. Windham’s, in August 1800, the former asked me about Lord Edward Fitzgerald. We talked about him a good deal. I gave the company present (of which Mr. Canning was one) an account of his conduct, while at the regiment; I spoke in very high terms of his zeal for the service, and I told Mr. Pitt, that Lord Edward was the only sober and the only honest officer I had ever known in the army. I did this for the express purpose of leading him on to talk about the Court-Martial; but, it was avoided. In fact, they all well knew that what I had complained of was true, and that I had been baffled in my attempts to obtain justice, only because I had neither money nor friends. The same is known to those who now are publishing and circulating this false account of that transaction; but, what they have in view, is not truth; it is, in short, to preserve their plunder, which they think is in imminent danger, unless they can destroy my credit with the public.” The occurrence of a dinner-party is again alluded to in Mr. Cobbett’s Journal, at the date January 15, in his Year’s Residence, where, speaking of a visit which he had paid to his birth-place, Farnham, shortly after his return to England in 1800, he says:—“The question eagerly put to me by every one in Philadelphia is, ‘Don’t you think the city greatly improved?’ They seem to me to confound augmentation with improvement. It always was a fine city, since I first knew it; and it is very greatly augmented. It has, I believe, nearly doubled its extent and number of houses since the year 1799. But, after being, for so long a time, familiar with London, every other place appears little. After living within a few hundreds of yards of Westminster Hall and the Abbey Church and the bridge, and looking from my own windows into St. James’s Park, all other buildings and spots appear mean and insignificant. I went to-day to see the house I formerly occupied. How small! It is always thus: the words large and small are carried about with us in our minds, and we forget real dimensions. The idea, such as it was received, remains during our absence from the object. When I returned to England, in 1800, after an absence from the country parts of it of sixteen years, the trees, the hedges, even the parks and woods, seemed so small! It made me laugh to hear little gutters, that I could jump over, called Rivers! The Thames was but a ‘Creek!’ But, when, in about a month after my arrival in London, I went to Farnham, the place of my birth, what was my surprise! Every thing was become so pitifully small! I had to cross, in my post-chaise, the long and dreary heath of Bagshot. Then, at the end of it, to mount a hill, called Hungry Hill; and from that hill I knew that I should look down into the beautiful and fertile vale of Farnham. My heart fluttered with impatience, mixed with a sort of fear, to see all the scenes of my childhood; for I had learnt before the death of my father and mother. Edition: current; Page: [214] There is a hill, not far from the town, called Crooksbury Hill, which rises up out of a flat, in the form of a cone, and is planted with Scotch fir-trees. Here I used to take the eggs and young ones of crows and magpies. This hill was a famous object in the neighbourhood. It served as the superlative degree of height. ‘As high as Crooksbury Hill’ meant, with us, the utmost degree of height. Therefore, the first object that my eyes sought was this hill. I could not believe my eyes! Literally speaking, I, for a moment, thought the famous hill removed, and a little heap put in its stead; for I had seen in New Brunswick a single rock, or hill of solid rock, ten times as big, and four or five times as high! The post-boy, going down hill, and not a bad road, whisked me, in a few minutes, to the Bush Inn, from the garden of which I could see the prodigious sand-hill where I had begun my gardening works. What a nothing! But now came rushing into my mind, all at once, my pretty little garden, my little blue smock-frock, my little nailed shoes, my pretty pigeons that I used to feed out of my hands, the last kind words and tears of my gentle and tender-hearted and affectionate mother! I hastened back into the room. If I had looked a moment longer I should have dropped. When I came to reflect, what a change! What scenes I had gone through! How altered my state! I had dined the day before at the Secretary of State’s, in company with Mr. Pitt, and had been waited upon by men in gaudy liveries! I had had nobody to assist me in the world. No teachers of any sort. Nobody to shelter me from the consequences of bad, and no one to counsel me to good, behaviour. I felt proud. The distinctions of rank, birth, and wealth, all became nothing in my eyes; and from that moment (less than a month after my arrival in England) I resolved never to bend before them.” Besides the conversation respecting Lord Edward Fitzgerald, there was another which Mr. Cobbett has been heard to relate, as having taken place at the same dinner-party, and the subject of which he himself introduced, by suggesting to Mr. Pitt the propriety of doing something for a man who had been the means of rescuing those dispatches which are mentioned in our Preface (page 8). Mr. Cobbett’s own account was, that on his making this suggestion, “Mr. Pitt turned round to Mr. Windham, and inquired if that man had received no reward.” Our readers will now please to look back to Mr. Cobbett’s comment on the phrase of “wild fellow,” together with our note appended, at page 12 of our Preface; and we are sure that they will excuse the length of the present note, when they consider the conduct of those anonymous critics, who, while professing to give the public reviews of the works and explanations of the motives of Mr. Cobbett, are so candid to his prejudice as to affect a belief that Mr. Cobbett quarrelled with Mr. Pitt because Mr. Pitt’s pride would not suffer him to dine in Mr. Cobbett’s company! With regard to that “expression, made use of by Mr. Pitt,” which Mr. Cobbett mentions in Letter III. to Lord Hawkesbury; we are not able to say precisely what words he there refers to, or by whom they came reported to him. Mrs. Cobbett does, however, recollect, that just about the time when some offensive expression was attributed to Mr. Pitt, Mr. John Gifford (co-editor of Mr. Canning in the Anti-Jacobin Review) came to Mr. Cobbett’s house in Pall Mall, and there stated that Mr. Pitt had said, alluding to Mr. Cobbett,—“Give him rope enough, and he will hang himself.” If pride had anything to do in the case, it is probable that there was more of that feeling about Mr. Cobbett than about any of his superiors among the politicians of the day. It was a subject of blame (perhaps just blame) with Mr. Cobbett’s intimate acquaintance, that he studied rather to avoid the society of men of high rank and authority.—The sequel of the arguments against the Peace of Amiens will appear at the end of the following series of Letters, where we shall have to make some further remarks on the merits of those opinions which Mr. Cobbett maintained relative to this important question.—Ed.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
23rd Dec. 1801
Henry Addington
Addington, Henry



Our sovereign has placed you at the head of the few whose duty it is to administer the government; and, as I am one of the many, whose prosperity, whose happiness, and whose honour, must be materially Edition: current; Page: [215] affected by the manner in which you perform that duty, I have an unquestionable right to examine into your conduct, and to communicate to my fellow subjects the result of my examination. Were I inclined minutely to investigate all the measures of your administration, I should not want for variety of matter; but the preliminary treaty of peace, which you have entered into with France, “like Aaron’s serpent, swallows all the rest” of the evils which you have brought, and are bringing down, on the humbled head of your country. That treaty appears to me to have laid the foundation of the ruin of the colonies, the commerce, the manufactures, and the constitution, of the kingdom. This being sincerely my opinion, it is my duty to endeavour to convince others of its justness, and thereby to produce such a change of measures, as may yet save us from the destruction with which we are threatened.

Since the hypocritical sect of negro-loving philanthropists arose, it has been the fashion to speak contemptuously of our West-India colonial possessions; but, it is something remarkable, that the very men, who, one hour, have had their mouths full of the cant of humanity, have, the next, been ready enough to make a pompous display of the immense wealth and strength, arising from the possession of those favoured countries, which, for factious or selfish purposes, they denominated “scenes of human woe.” You, however, Sir, who must, by this time, have discovered, that the nation will still stand in need of revenue, surely cannot even affect to despise the possession of those countries, from the productive fields of which so considerable a portion of our revenue has heretofore arisen. In speaking to you, therefore, I may venture to lament the loss of one-half of our colonies, and the perilous situation of the other half, without dreading the idiot like reply which is generally made by the economists and philanthropists of the day.

The danger to our remaining West-India Colonies will arise from several causes, two only of which I at present think it necessary to dwell on; to wit: the additional dominion which France acquires on the coast of South America, and the powerful military force which she will have a sufficient excuse for maintaining in her island of Hispaniola, now commonly called Saint Domingo. Whoever casts his eye over the map of the West Indies, must at once perceive, that these are precisely the two positions which every military man would have chosen, in making his dispositions for the conquest of those territories, which England yet retains in that part of the world.

For more than a hundred years past, it has been the invariable policy of England, to prevent France from acquiring any considerable footing on those shores of South America which are in the vicinity of the West-India Islands, lest, in consequence of such footing, she should become mistress of all the Leeward Islands. For this reason, principally, it was, that French Guiana was considerably narrowed by the Treaty of Utrecht, and that special provision was made for keeping her not only from commanding the Amazons, but from approaching nearer than one hundred and fifty miles distance from that important river. Thus circumscribed within limits, which gave but little scope to enterprise, and holding even what was left her, only, as it were, during good behaviour (which is seldom regarded as a very secure tenure), she seemed to attach hardly any value to the settlements which she had there formed, and which she generally left exposed to the first invader.

Edition: current; Page: [216]

But the treaty, the baleful treaty, which you have made with France, has totally changed her situation in that quarter. To the north-west of her former colony, you have given her the Dutch Colony of Surinam, and that of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, situated on the fruitful banks of four rivers of the same names. These colonies contain about 75,000 square miles, and have 300 miles of sea-coast.

That this country, Sir, is, in fact, given up to France, the world needs no other proof than the statements of yourself, your colleagues, and the public prints, which are known, and well known, to be under the influence, and even under the guidance of the Ministry. Lord Hawkesbury, upon being asked by Mr. Whitbread, “whether Spain and Holland had been made parties to the preliminary treaty, and whether they had actually made the cessions of Trinidada and Ceylon,” replied, that, “the preliminary treaty was made only with France, and that no direct communication was had, upon the subject, either with Spain or Holland.” Some doubts having been expressed, in the public prints, as to the willingness of Spain and Holland to agree to these cessions, it was, by way of reply, stated in the True Briton (the proprietor of which daily receives his directions from the Treasury*), that those nations had not the power to prevent the fulfilment of the treaty. The article, I allude to, concluded with the following words: “They [Spain and Holland] may GRUMBLE, but they MUST SUBMIT.”

Now, Sir, if you look upon as valid a cession made to us, by France, of one part of the territories of Holland, you certainly will not deny, that that same France has a like power over every other part of the territories of Holland: and, indeed, would it not be an absurdity bordering on idiotism, to suppose that France will not virtually possess every Dutch colony, while her armies are quartered, and while her proconsuls dictate laws, in the mother country?

From the boundary line of Surinam, French Guiana sweeps round first towards the south-east, and then towards the south, comprehending a sea-coast of 330 miles. Here the French territory, in South America, would have ended; but, the treaties of Badajos and of Madrid extend it 150 miles to the southward, even to the bank of the Amazons, of the navigation of which river they give her the absolute command.

Before I proceed, Sir, to observe on the dreadful influence which this new empire must infallibly have on our colonial system, I cannot help making some remarks on the conduct of you and your colleagues, relative to the treaty, by which the last-mentioned part of that empire has been obtained by France.

In discussing the terms of a treaty which professed to secure the integrality of the territories of our allies, the effects of every other treaty, containing stipulations relative to those territories, were necessarily taken into consideration. For this reason it was, that Mr. Grey, previous to the discussion of the preliminary treaty, repeatedly inquired of His Majesty’s Ministers, whether the treaty between France and Portugal, signed at Madrid, on the 29th of September 1801, was, or was not, as far as related to cessions of territory, annulled by the preliminary treaty between England and France. To this question, the Ministry at first Edition: current; Page: [217] declined to give an answer; but, on a future day (still previous to the discussion of the preliminary treaty), Lord Hawkesbury replied, to a repetition of the same question, that, “by the integrality of the territories of Portugal, was meant such territories and possessions as Her Faithful Majesty possessed subsequent to the treaty of Badajos. In her subsequent treaty with France, some change was agreed on in the boundaries between French and Portuguese Guiana; but all cessions, subsequent to the treaty of Badajos, were annulled by the preliminaries with England.” And this answer was, by every one, looked upon as proceeding from an unquestionable source, because his Lordship prefaced it by observing, that the reason why it was not given before, was, that “the officers of Government were not, till that day, in possession of official information.” Before, however, the Parliamentary discussion took place, the French official journal (the vehicle, alas! through which Britons are, in future, to learn their destinies!) informed us, that the treaty of the 29th of September had been ratified by Buonaparte,sans aucun changement,” a circumstance which led Lord Temple to inquire, “whether this ratification extended to any cessions, made since the treaty of Badajos;” to which Lord Hawkesbury replied, that “he could assure the noble Lord, that the ratification did not extend to any points of cession.

With this assurance, Sir, it was that the Parliament and the nation entered on the discussion of the preliminary treaty: and need I add, that this explicit and solemn assurance has, from the subsequent proceedings of the French Government, received a contradiction no less explicit and solemn? Need I tell you, Sir, that the ratification of this treaty, in all its parts, has been publicly announced to the Legislative Body of France; that the cession which you and your colleagues declared to be annulled, has there been represented as still in force, and as ensuring to our enemy a vast accession of riches and of power; need I tell you, Sir, that the very assurances, given by you to the Parliament of Britain, have been treated, by the Ministers of France, with the same sort of contempt which they bestow on the proceedings of the burlesque Legislatures of the Helvetian, Cisalpine, and Ligurian Republics?* No: I need not. The humiliating, the disgraceful truth, has been proclaimed to the universe; and, if it has not stung you to the soul, I would not exchange feelings with you for a million times all the millions of which you are the Treasurer.

The importance of the question, whether the treaty of the 29th of September was or was not annulled (as far as related to cessions of territory) by the preliminaries with England, must be evident to every one. To secure the integrality of Portugal was an object of great and general solicitude; and if the preliminary treaty did really effect that object, by annulling the cessions in South America, it acquired a merit which it otherwise did not possess, and thereby weakened the opposition against it. What then, shall be said of the Ministry, who could dare officially to state a circumstance which must so materially affect an approaching discussion, if that circumstance had not the slightest foundation in truth? Edition: current; Page: [218] Either you had “official information” on the subjecet, or you had not: if you had, Buonaparte has given you a tolerable specimen of that good faith on which you have made our future existence to depend; if you had not, your conduct merits an assemblage of epithets which I shall leave the insulted nation to apply.

We have lately, indeed, heard from your own mouth that, notwithstanding the statements in the French Legislative Body, the treaty of Madrid, as far as relates to the cession of territory, is not to go into effect. From this it would appear that Buonaparte has yielded a little to your supplications. Some despicable creature, famous for low cunning, and for nothing else (I mean some foreigner, of course), has, perhaps, whispered in his ear, that to insist on the fulfilment of the treaty of Madrid, after what has passed in the British senate, would rather injure than assist his future projects. He has, perhaps, been told that such unqualified contempt of us so soon might yet produce some sense of feeling in the nation, and might augment the number of those who still wish to prevent their country from becoming a province of France. But, Sir, be assured, that his relinquishment is but a matter of expediency, a mere temporary trick. Some of his legions will garrison Fort Macapa, in less than three months after you have made the actual surrender of our numerous conquests.

The possession of the territory, however, back as far as the Carapanatuba, is by no means necessary to produce the effects which I so much dread. The extension of territory secured to France by the treaty of Badajos, an extension which you ought never to have suffered, will give her all the advantages of which she stands in need. It gives her the command of the Arowary. The mouth of this river affords excellent anchorage, and is but a few miles distant from that of the Amazons. In fact, the Arowary falls into the mouth of the Amazons; and it will require, considering the future situation of Portugal, but a very trifling expedition to give France the possession of the little Island of Caviana, which, only tolerably fortified, will be to the Amazons precisely what a cannon is to an embrasure. This was the light in which these territories were viewed by the statesmen who presided in the councils of England in the reign of Queen Anne. They made the French retreat upwards of a hundred miles from the Arowary, never regarding the Brazils as secure while that river remained at her command, and never dreaming of putting up the sword till that security was provided for. But, alas! the councils of England are changed.

From this long digression, Sir, I return to contemplate the dangers to which, from these newly-acquired possessions of France, our colonial territeries will in future be exposed.

These possessions now extend from the Amazons, or at least from the Arowary, to the Easequibo, comprehending a sea-coast of 780 miles, terminated at each extremity by a navigable river, of which she will have the sole dominion.

On one flank the restless and mighty Republic menaces the territories of Spain, on the other the territories of Portugal; while her front, well provided with harbours, ports, and fortresses, presents to our Leeward Islands an object of never-ceasing alarm. Grenada, Barbadoes, and St. Vincent, can never enjoy an hour’s security, after France has once firmly established herself in her new American dominion; and, as to our island of Trinidada, which we have so dearly and so honestly obtained, a very small detachment, from the mouth of the Essequibo, will, in the space of Edition: current; Page: [219] a few hours, effectually relieve us from the load of expense and of shame with which the possession of that territory will ever be attended.

The evil which I fear in this quarter will not, indeed, be immediate. Those, therefore, who, for the sake of enjoying one or two years of ease and quiet, are willing to submit to a life of misery and disgrace, with the privilege of entailing these “blessings of peace” on their descendants, may treat my apprehensions with indifference. But, Sir, those who have a due regard for their country; those who wish to see her still great and powerful; those who have been proud of the name of Britons, and who wish to hand down to their children, untarnished, that name which untarnished they have received from their fathers; such men would feel no consolation in her respite, were it to postpone the day of her humiliation to the distance of ten thousand years. No such respite, as far as relates to the part of the globe I am now speaking of, will, however, be obtained. Her expulsion from the Leeward Islands was decreed on the fatal first of October. On that day her timid and degenerate sons, abandoning all the maxims and all the principles which had theretofore governed her councils, yielded up the keys of her safety, and exposed her weakest part to the ravages of her most powerful and most implacable foe.

On the other side of the Western Archipelago the danger is still greater, and much nearer at hand. France, having got possession of the whole Island of St. Domingo, will naturally be desirous of obtaining that of the Bahama Islands, which, held by us, are a bridle in the mouth of a power which is growing more and more formidable every day. What France here desires, the control which she has over the Floridas and Cuba, will enable her at any time to accomplish. She will stand in need of the Bahamas; and having the power to seize on them, she will find no inducement for forbearance, particularly in favour of a power whose ruin will ever be the object nearest her heart.

There remains, then, nothing but Jamaica for her to invade and destroy; and I sincerely wish that this opulent, this happy, this loyal island, may be the last on the list of her conquest, as it is on that of my enumeration. But this wish is vain. Long has the envious and malignant fiend scowled on this our favourite colony, this precious jewel in the British diadem. She well knows that it is one of the principal sources of our wealth and our power, and she will risk her very existence but she will wrest it from our hands.

Recollect, Sir, that it is now in the power of France to convey a powerful army to St. Domingo; nay, you already too well know that she is, as the first consequence of the peace, preparing such an armament. Recollect that the whole force which circumstances will allow you to keep up in Jamaica will never amount to much more than one of those legions of which she will have to dispose the moment the negro army is subdued. Recollect that the whole of St. Domingo is now hers; and that Trinidada, when you received it from her hands, was not more completely under her command than Cuba now is. With these facts well fixed in your mind, cast your eye over the map of the West Indies. You will find Jamaica three parts surrounded by St. Domingo and Cuba, from several points of either of which six hours of fair wind will convey an army to any part of its defenceless coast, from Point Morant to Montego-Bay.

But, Sir, I do you wrong to suppose you insensible to the danger. You warlike preparations, like the clapping of a runaway cock, are a sufficient indication of your fear. Those preparations, which have been retarded Edition: current; Page: [220] by that daring and fatal spirit that your pusillanimous peace has revived, will, instead of inspiring confidence, spread distrust and dismay through every part of our islands; and, in that of Jamaica, it will be justly regarded as the signal of approaching destruction. The fleet which but yesterday blockaded that of France in the port of Brest, must now sneak after it at a distance, unseen and unheard, like the impotent wittol, whose jealousy urges him to watch the invader of his honour, but whose cowardice withholds him from preventing the consummation of what he dreads.

Should our fleet, though disheartened by the nature of its employment, prove an efficient protection to Jamaica, when can we hope to withdraw it? With its continuance on the station will cease the protection which it yields; and how are we to reconcile that continuance with a state of peace? How are we to reconcile it with that “security for the future” which your predecessor constantly stated to be the chief object of the war, and which you and your partisans assert to be completely obtained? Am I told, that the commencement of this “security for the future” must take its date from the signature of the definitive treaty? I answer, that I have too high an opinion of your gratitude and fidelity to your sovereign to believe that you will call home the West-India fleet upon the signing of that treaty. Thus then, Sir, we have already entered on that tantalizing state “of mistrust, uneasiness, expense, and danger, on the one part; and of threats, intrigues, and hostile preparations on the other,” which I took the liberty to describe to your noble colleague; and which, I greatly fear, after having broken the spirit and exhausted the patience of the nation, will lead it to seek for repose under the death-like tyranny of France.

To no part of the world can a Briton now turn his eyes without sorrow and shame; nowhere can he look without feeling his heart sink within him at contemplating the lamentable change which a few—a very few—months have, with the aid of you and your colleagues, produced in the aspect and situation of his so-lately great and glorious country. But, in no part of the ocean, of which Britain was truly called the mistress, has that change been so striking, so injurious, and so disgraceful, as in the West-India seas. There we were the uninterrupted lords of the waters and of the soil; not a hostile bark dared to show its canvass to the wind; not a gun was fired without our permission: our flag spoke peace and protection to the oppressed and terror to the oppressor. There foreigners, of whatever nation, gladly owned allegiance to our king, under whose just and gentle sway they found that prosperity and happiness they had never before enjoyed. Wherever we went, in whatever direction, from Mexico to Barbadoes, from Guiana to Bermuda, obedience, respect, and honour, followed our steps. This state of things, this source of wealth and of power, might and should have been preserved till we could have found a compensation for its loss, in the re-establishment of our due portion of weight and authority on the Continent of Europe; but you, Sir, thought otherwise; and, without any such compensation, you have yielded advantages and sacrificed character which your country will never regain. Those who had sought our protection, and had staked their fortunes and their lives on our promises, you have yielded up to the mercy of their remorseless persecutors; the trade and commerce which we had gained you have turned into the channel of our enemy; all the improvements, all the increase of population and of produce Edition: current; Page: [221] which had arisen under our fostering care, you have gratuitously surrendered to that insolent enemy; that security, which had doubled the value of the conquered colonies, is now wanting to our own, even to our oldest and most precious possessions. These will henceforward be every hour in jeopardy; and will, till they shall no longer own the sway of Great Britain, continue to experience that depreciation in value, and that decline in population, which even the suspicion of insecurity never fails to produce,

I am, Sir,
Your most humble and most obedient servant,
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
24th Dec. 1801
Henry Addington
Addington, Henry



In my last letter I endeavoured to show that the West-India colonies remaining in our possession, so far from having by your peace obtained “security for the future,” are by that peace placed in a state of continual alarm and danger, which must lead immediately to their decay, and eventually to their ruin; a process which, as I shall now attempt to prove, our commerce will also undergo.

That very great commerce is a very great evil, I, though perhaps somewhat singular in my opinion, am ready to avow. Mr. Pitt, in his speech of the 7th of June 1799, called the present war “a war of finance;” and Sir Wm. Eden (now Lord Auckland), in his letters to Lord Carlisle, published in 1779, observes that “War is now become a science of money. That side must first quit the field whose Exchequer first fails.” Since the publication of these sententious sentences, his Lordship has had the mortification to see his country twice quit the field in disgrace before a bankrupt enemy. No, Sir; it is on the warlike spirit of a nation that her honour, security, and happiness, must chiefly depend; and this spirit is generally found to exist in an inverse proportion to the magnitude of her purse. When I cast my eye over the calculations of Messrs. Chalmers, Rose, and Pitt; when I perceive them deducing a proof of the increase of our greatness from the increase of our commerce and our wealth; when I see them recurring to the reign of Queen Anne, and stating that then our shipping amounted to only two hundred thousand tons, and that now it amounts to two millions of tons—that our annual revenue then was not three millions of pounds, and that now it is thirty-six millions of pounds; tired with the triumphant comparisons of these arithmetical logicians, I turn to view the conduct and character of my country at the two epochs. At the former, I find her waging a long and arduous war for the preservation of the liberties of Europe. I find her explicitly declaring and honestly pursuing her object; and having attained that object, having weakened the mighty and strengthened the weak, humbled the ambitious and exalted the humble, I see her retiring from the field, loaded with laurels alone; seeking for compensation neither in spices nor in sugars, but contenting herself with a barren rock, at once the emblem of her disinterestedness and the monument of her glory. If I become more minute in my researches, I trace her through a series of those solid and noble national acts which are the indubitable proofs of opulence at home and consequence abroad: her piety she shows, not in attempts to rob, but in bestowing a Bounty on, the pastors of the church; Edition: current; Page: [222] she expresses her gratitude to her hero, not in air-built Naval Pillars, but in a real and princely mansion; with one hand she raises the dome of St. Paul, with the other she demolishes the works of Dunkirk.—Such was England, Sir, in the infancy of her commerce: what she is now, let the treaties of Shelburne and Addington tell.

But, Sir, at the present day the question with us is not, whether very great commerce be a good or an evil: unhappily, we have no choice. Our wants are created, and they must be satisfied, or we cease to exist as an independent nation. The necessities of the State, during any peace that we can preserve with the Republic of France, will require the whole of our present revenue. Nine-tenths of that revenue arise, directly or indirectly, from our commerce. If, therefore, that commerce should now experience a considerable diminution, the measure from which it will arise must necessarily be an object of just condemnation, and must as necessarily be attributed to imbecility, or to some quality more hateful, in the men by whom it was adopted. That such diminution will take place, that it will be the precursor of the total ruin of our commerce, I am thoroughly persuaded; and I now proceed to state the facts and reasons on which this persuasion is founded.

Our commerce, exclusive of that with the East Indies, which will probably continue undiminished, may be considered under three principal heads: I. With the Continent of Europe; II. With the West Indies; III. With the United States of America.

I. With the Continent of Europe Buonaparte will, in consequence of the absolute power he possesses over all those States which have hitherto afforded us the greatest commercial advantages, abridge our commerce by every means that the ingenuity of a rival can invent, and that the malice of an enemy can employ. In the Mediterranean we never had much commerce; what we had, however, will be diminished. The port of Leghorn, which now belongs to Buonaparte’s king of Etruria, will be open to us only so far as is convenient to France, who may sometimes think it not inconvenient to suffer a large quantity of British property to be deposited there, if our merchants should be found adventurous enough to make such a deposit. Our trade with the Ligurian Republic, with Naples, with the Island of Sardinia, and even with Constantinople, will be abridged or not, as the interests of France may require.

In Spain and Portugal, with whom our commercial relations were of considerable importance, we shall have to support a competition with our enemy, and shall be hampered with partial restrictions. The latter of these kingdoms has already, through our pusillanimity, been compelled to throw open to all the world (that is to say, to France) those channels of commerce which, for a century past, have been open to England alone.

With the borders of the Baltic, with Russia, Denmark, and Sweden, our commerce is very unimportant, and may not experience a very great diminution; but with all the ports, through which we traded with Flanders, Holland, and Germany, the diminution will, after a short space of time, be immense. By your recognition, Sir, of the right of France to hold the keys of these countries, to retain the command of the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt, you have banished for ever from the heart of Europe the commerce and the influence of England. In my letters to Lord Hawkesbury, I stated generally my opinion on this subject, which opinion I find fully corroborated by a writer of great eminence, whose Edition: current; Page: [223] work I had not then seen, but which made its appearance a few weeks previous to the signing of the preliminaries of peace. I allude, Sir, to the “Financial and Political Facts of the Eighteenth Century,” by John M‘Arthur, Esq., who is a professed eulogist of Mr. Pitt and yourself. His work, agreeably to its title, takes a view of the revenue, the expenditure, the debts, the manufactures, and the commerce of Great Britain, for a century past. In treating of the commerce, he takes occasion to insist upon the necessity of carrying on the war, till France can be induced to recede from her enormous encroachments. He insists; but I shall give you his opinion in his own words:—“Should the French succeed in their attempts to retain their conquests, and to secure to themselves the free navigation of the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt,” [which Sir, thanks to your treaty, they have now done,]—“they may, on the return of peace, put in execution the vast projects formed by the National Convention in 1792, and which Buonaparte has obviously in contemplation. A consideration of the outline of these projects may create some apprehensions in the minds of the generality of my readers; yet it is to be hoped, for the commercial prosperity of this country, that the Chief Consul’s views, in his present arrangement of indemnities on the banks of the Rhine &c., and thereby attempting to obtain the free navigation of those rivers, may be completely frustrated before this country makes peace.

In order to show the importance of our struggles to prevent the accomplishment of these ambitious projects, on the part of France, the author next points out the probable consequences thereof to other nations, and to Great Britain in particular.

“The French Republic,” says he, “by joining, as intended, many of her navigable rivers and canals to the Rhine, the Meuse, and Scheldt; will be enabled to transport, at a cheaper rate than heretofore, the various bulky commodities of foreign growth and manufacture, and convey them to the centre of Germany; also from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay, to the British Channel, and to the North Sea. The consequence obviously resulting from such boundaries would be to exclude the trade and manufactures of Great Britain from the northern parts of Europe. By joining some of the rivers and canals to the Scheldt, the French would, in time of war, be able to transport without interruption naval stores, ammunition, and provisions of all sorts, from one place to another in the ci-devant Belgic provinces, and thence into Holland.

“The river Meuse would also open an extended communication with part of Germany and Holland, and facilitate the transport of their various articles of commerce. The river Rhine would most effectually complete the interior communication with the rest of Germany and Holland.

“France, with three hundred navigable rivers and a number of extensive canals, some of them already opening communications between the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, would, in accomplishing her ambitious plans of securing the navigation of the three great rivers just mentioned, most essentially militate against the commercial interests of this country, and contribute to her own aggrandizement, population, wealth, and prosperity.

“The secret articles and additional convention of the treaty of Campo-Formio, develop in a striking manner the ambitious views of the French Edition: current; Page: [224] Republic, with respect to the free navigation of these rivers. His Imperial Majesty consents to employ his good offices in the negotiation of the peace of the empire, to obtain, 1. That the navigation of the Rhine, from Huningen to the territory of Holland, shall be free both to the French Republic and the States of the empire, on the right bank. 2. That the possessors of territory near the mouth of the Moselle shall, on no pretence, attempt to interrupt the free navigation and passage of ships and other vessels from the Moselle into the Rhine. 3. The French Republic shall have the free navigation of the Meuse; and the tolls and other imposts, from Venloo to Holland, shall be abolished.

“The treaty of peace, concluded at Luneville on the 9th February, 1801, having regard to what had been agreed upon by the deputation of the empire, at the preceding Congress at Rastadt, resolved in conformity with the precedent of what had taken place in similar circumstances, to stipulate in the name of the Germanic body. Some of the principal objects stipulated are the cession of the ci-devant Belgic provinces to the French Republic in the most formal manner. The Comté of Falkenstein, with its dependencies, the Fricthall, and all belonging to the House of Austria on the left bank of the Rhine, between Zarzach and Basle, are to be given up to the French Republic. The Duke of Modena, as an indemnity for the countries which this Prince had in Italy, is to have the Brisgau. In conformity with the second article of the treaty of Campo-Formio, the navigation of the Adige, which serves as the limits between his Majesty the Emperor and King, and the navigation of the rivers in the Cisalpine Republic, are to be free; nor is any toll to be imposed, nor any ship of war kept there.

“France, by securing the unlimited freedom of navigating the great rivers already noticed, it is natural to expect that she will make every effort on the return of peace, to promote an extensive inland commerce, by means of making canals and rivers navigable. It will give many years employment to at least 50,000 disbanded soldiers, and render her ultimately independent, in peace or war, of many bulky commodities, drawn from the northern states of Europe; more especially such articles as may be required for the construction, repairs, and equipment of ships in the navy and merchant service. In process of time, it may be feared that France may eventually, by dint of numbers, even supersede Great Britain in those two grand points, Navy and Commerce; the former of which may justly be considered the palladium of the country. There are men who treat this matter lightly, and lull their apprehensions to rest, by an idea that these things cannot happen in our times; but may the sun of Great Britain never set so long as there shall remain a sun in heaven!”

Would to God, Sir, that you had participated in the sentiments of this writer! But you are, I am afraid, one of those men, “who treat this matter lightly;” who lull their apprehensions to rest by a hope, that these things “cannot happen in our times;” and who, intrenching themselves behind these selfish reflections, sacrifice the interest, the honour, and the safety of their country to the obtaining of popularity, and the preserving of their places.—I resume my quotation:—

“Should France be suffered to retain the three great rivers before-mentioned,”—[which she has now retained]—“as the boundaries of the Republic, it will give her incalculable advantages; and in proportion as such an event would diminish our commerce and manufactures Edition: current; Page: [225] it would give vigour and energy to those of the French. They would open the most extensive interior navigation with Germany and Holland; they would be able to receive, in a direct manner, the productions and manufactures of Germany, with which they have hitherto been supplied through Holland, Bremen, and Hamburgh. It would open a more extended market for their wines, the growth of Burgundy and Champaign, which would be conveyed at a much cheaper rate by interior water-carriage, instead of being transported, as heretofore, by land-carriage to Rouen and Havre-de-Grace, and thence carried by sea to the Netherlands and Holland; and, what is of far greater consequence, in time of war they would be able to send naval stores, ammunition, and provisions, to the cities and fortified places situated on these rivers, and carry on an extensive commerce from the sea-ports in the south and north, without the protection of armed vessels.

“Should Buonaparte be successful in accomplishing the avowed designs of all the rulers of France since the revolution” [which designs he has now accomplished], “it would not only militate against the trade of this country to Germany, but also materially affect the interests of the northern powers, from whom France formerly purchased timber for her navy; also iron, flax, hemp, &c. since it is obvious, that were France to have the exclusive and free navigation of the Rhine, the Meuse, and Scheld, and joining to them by art many rivers and canals, she could, in any future war, receive at the several ports in the kingdom, timber of all kinds, from the immense forests in Alsace, Lorraine, and Burgundy; also flax and hemp, the growth of the different countries situated on the borders of the Rhine, and of the several rivers which are united to it. The mines of iron, copper, and lead, of Luxemburgh and Limburgh, and the iron mines and coal-pits in the provinces of Namur, Liege, and other places; the leather manufactories in the principalities of Stavelo and Malmedy; and the manufactories of linen and woollen cloths, dispersed in the countries annexed to France, in the vicinity of these rivers, would all tend to increase the wealth and power of that nation to the prejudice of the other states of Europe. In short, France would acquire such a gigantic preponderance in the scale of nations, that she might, on a future day, become more formidable to the liberties of all Europe than she was when in the zenith of her glory and prosperity, in the reign of Louis XIV., or than tyrannical Rome in her best times. Indeed the strength of France would become too great for any power to resist.

“Can Great Britain, then, seeing that her power depends upon the prosperity of her commerce, view with indifference these momentous and colossal attempts of France towards monopoly and universal tyranny? Shall she succeed in her designs of extending her territories and line of coast; at the same time annexing, either by direct or indirect means (and which, if permitted, she will do), all the ports on the Continent, from Dunkirk to Hamburgh, together with the enjoyment of the exclusive navigation of the three great rivers before-mentioned? If it be not insisted upon that France relinquish her former pretensions, and consent to some alienation of these countries, which, according to the laws of her own making, were, and are intended to constitute the territory of the Republic, so as to cut up by the roots the vast objects and designs constantly avowed by her successive revolutionary rulers, there can be little security in peace either for the commerce Edition: current; Page: [226] of Great Britain, or for the tranquillity of the Continental Powers, whose proximity to the extensive boundaries of the Republic, will at all times particularly expose them to the danger of further encroachments. Neither can there be much confidence placed in her preserving, for any length of time, the relations of peace and amity. However painful and burdensome the alternative may be, namely, a vigorous continuance of the war; yet surely the evil will be compensated, if, by our energy and exertion, we ultimately defeat the developed views of France, and thereby retain that weight in the scale of Europe, and influence among nations, which, by the spirit and industry of ourselves and our forefathers, we have, at the close of the eighteenth century, so justly acquired.”

We have not defeated the developed views of France, nor any one of those views; and we shall not retain that weight in the scale of Europe, which was the best legacy of our forefathers. Every encroachment, here represented as big with danger to the commerce and the consequence of Britain, you, in the name of your infatuated country, have sanctioned by the treaty of Downing-street; and every evil here predicted will most assuredly ensue.

The copious extracts, which I have made from Mr. Arthur, leave me but little to add upon this part of the subject of my letter. It may not, however, be amiss, Sir, to state some few of the facts which have already transpired in confirmation of that gentleman’s predictions. From the French papers we learn, that measures are actually taking for turning to account the possession of the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt. To prevent the free navigation of the latter river was, it must be remembered, at one time, the only ostensible object of the war. It was then truly said, that this river was well calculated to be the rival of the Thames; and such is now the confidence of its becoming so, that houses in Antwerp have risen to double their former value, since the signature of the preliminaries of peace. Where the capital is to be found to awaken, from its long sleep, the commerce of that city, and to render it once more the emporium of Germany, is a question to which you may easily find an answer on the Royal Exchange of London.

Precisely when, and to what extent, the diminution of our commerce with Flanders, Holland, and Germany will take place, it is at present impossible to say; but that a diminution will take place, at no very distant period, and to a considerable amount, and that the evil will go on regularly increasing, I think no man possessed of common sense, and a common regard to truth, will hesitate to allow.

II. With the West Indies, Sir, the commerce of Britain will experience, first an immense loss, and afterwards a regular decline, till the arrival of that fatal hour, when she shall there no longer possess a single inch of territory; which hour is, perhaps, less distant than our infatuation will suffer us to perceive.

In speaking of our commerce with Colonies, I must necessarily enter into details with respect to population and produce, for these are the source of exports, and furnish the means of purchasing imports, and these are the materials and the criterion of commerce. I must, too, consider this commerce relatively with that of France, with that of our rival, the sworn foe of our prosperity and our existence. Without taking this view of the subject, to enter on it at all would be totally useless: for, the question is, not how much commerce and power we do, or shall possess, Edition: current; Page: [227] but how much France possesses, or will possess, more or less than we. Not to render still more complex, a discussion, which must of necessity embrace objects so numerous, I shall here avoid supposing, that the commerce of the West-Indies will, for some years at least, be molested by military or naval operations, notwithstanding twenty-five sail of the line and twenty-five thousand men have sailed for St. Domingo, from the port of Brest, and notwithstanding you are attempting to send out a British fleet to follow them à la guette.

With a view to disengage this important subject from the entanglement in which it has been involved by the officious ignorance of the defenders of the peace, I shall endeavour to give a clear statement of the West India commerce of Great Britain and France:—1st. Previous to the breaking out of the French revolution; 2nd, at the close of the war; and, 3rd, I shall give my opinion of what will be the state of it three years hence; for, I am not one of those, who are content to limit the duration of their national existence to less than six-and-thirty months.

A writer, Sir, who has at once disguised and exposed himself under the name of Philanglus, has filled several entire pages of the Porcupine newspaper with figures, ranged in solid columns. These materials have been collected, undoubtedly, from official sources; and, as far as they relate to the commerce of Great Britain, I feel the less inclination to criticise them, because their only tendency, like that of the statements of Lord Hawkesbury, is to furnish a proof of what I acknowledge to be true, and of what is, indeed, notorious to all the world; to wit: that the commerce of this country has been doubled during the war. I should not have noticed this writer, whom, from his style, and his notions of commerce and politics, I take to be some pedagogue out of place, were it not confidently asserted, that you, Sir, have declared his defence of the peace to be the best that has appeared.

That the commerce of Great Britain had regularly increased from the beginning to the end of the War is certain; but this would be a strange argument to use in defence of the Peace, were it not, at the same time, endeavoured to be maintained, that the Peace would not, upon the whole, produce a diminution in that commerce. Here I and your defenders are at issue. With respect to one of the four principal heads, under which I have divided our commerce, I have already stated that this diminution must be immense, a statement which I have backed with the opinion of a writer of great eminence on the subject of commerce and finance: I now proceed to prove, that a like diminution will take place in our commerce with the West Indies.

To reduce our resources even to what they were before the war would be certain ruin. Our permanent necessities have doubled; instead of three hundred millions, our debt is now six hundred millions. To attempt to support this debt upon our former resources, would be like feeding a grenadier upon pap. With great kindness and care, the poor fellow might eke out a miserable existence, as long as he was suffered to lounge about his barracks: but his nerves would hardly be strong enough to support the fatigues of a field-day, much less to encounter the toils, the hardships, and the dangers of war.

Before the beginning of the late contest, the French commerce was, in the West Indies, much superior to that of Great Britain, as will appear from the following table, on the statements of which I must here make some remarks.

Edition: current; Page: [228]
TABLE, No. I.—[Referred to in page 227.] STATE of the WEST-INDIA COMMERCE of GREAT BRITAIN and FRANCE previous to the commencement of the War; being an Account of the Population of the several Colonies, the Vessels cleared outwards therefrom in one Year, and of the Kind and Value of their Cargoes.
COLONIES. Population. Navigation. Sugar. Molasses. Rum. Coffee. Cotton. Miscellaneous Articles, in Value.* Value.
Ships. Tons. Men. lbs. Gallons. Gallons. lbs. lbs. £ Sterling. £ Sterling.
*The Miscellaneous Articles consist of Taflia, Pimento, Ginger, Tobacco, Indigo, Cocoa, Hides, Fustic, Logwood, and some other articles of trifling import. Sugar, Molasses, Rum, Coffee, and Cotton are, and must ever remain, the principal objects of West India commerce. The amount of the Miscellaneous Articles being, however, given in this Table, together with an account of the Population and Shipping, will render the whole sufficiently minute for every useful purpose connected with the present subject.
These Islands produce no exports worth mentioning. They are, however, of great importance as naval stations in time of war; and, as the possession of them is greatly conducive to the prosperity of the commerce with our other Colonies, it is fair to include them here, as far as relates to population.
This Colony, like our Bahamas and Bermudas, produced but little more than provisions for the settlers.
British. { Antigua 30,398 233 28,663 2,048 31,867,136 5,910 716,546 160,510 52,167 592,596
{ Barbadoes 78,282 243 26,917 1,942 15,329,792 13,489 415,489 2,705,975 46,324 539,605
{ Bahamas & Bermudas 14,622
{ St. Christopher’s 22,335 200 32,155 1,590 26,379,136 8,154 334,609 484,640 39,495 510,014
{ Dominica 26,103 162 18,126 1,814 7,985,824 16,803 63,392 2,032,648 970,816 51,912 302,987
{ Grenada 24,926 188 25,764 2,014 19,661,376 4,300 670,390 977,244 2,062,427 69,545 614,908
{ Jamaica 280,000 674 135,888 1,344 90,109,376 6,416 2,543,025 716,240 1,906,467 247,286 2,136,442
{ Montserrat and Nevis 20,720 122 10,787 904 12,347,536 1,313 289,076 92,472 1,755 214,141
{ St. Vincent’s 13,303 122 12,636 969 6,295,296 9,656 88,278 71,008 761,880 2,691 186,450
{ Virgin Isles 10,200 40 6,516 436 8,870,736 2,011 21,417 289,077 2,440 166,959
Total 520,889 1,984 297,252 23,061 218,845,208 68,052 5,132,222 3,797,140 9,334,024 513,615 5,182,912
French. { St. Domingo 578,623 1,640 318,015 26,770 193,485,336 1,986,139 71,154,188 7,384,620 8,486 7,328,801
{ Guadaloupe 170,955 398 65,300 5,180 61,301,314 626,348 160,348 88,526 1,389 1,456,484
{ St. Lucia 32,219 192 18,536 1,941 11,061,319 143,034 300,846 441,062 976 383,516
{ Martinico 146,444 333 38,369 2,903 52,144,018 239,163 7,555,812 323,518 2,965 1,184,022
{ Tobago 29,325 142 10,716 953 9,801,142 168,144 640 276,503
{ French Guiana & the Isle of Cayenne 6,213
Total 963,779 2,705 450,936 37,747 327,793,129 3,162,828 79,171,194 8,237,735 14,476 10,631,326
Edition: current; Page: [229]

I have contented myself in the preceding table with stating the exports from the several colonies, because they are quite sufficient as a criterion of commerce, the imports and all other advantages ever bearing a proportion thereto. As far as relates to the old British colonies I have admitted the statements of Bryan Edwards; but, with regard to those of France, I have had recourse to better authority. The statements respecting the population, shipping, and exports, of these islands, are founded on those of Moreau de St. Mery, and of Monsieur J. M. de la Borde, both of whom were French colonists, one an inhabitant of Martinico, and the other of St. Domingo.

The only statement, Sir, in this table, which will, I imagine, give rise to any doubt or contradiction, is that which relates to St. Domingo. Edwards has stated its population at 535,260, and its exported produce at 5,500,000 sterling, while my statement makes a considerable addition to both. But, not to speak of the superior information of the writers from whom I draw my facts, the misstatements of Edwards have, in the face of the British nation, long ago been exposed by Mons. de Charmilly, who has clearly proved the “Historical Survey of the French Colony of St. Domingo,” to which Philanglus appeals as to “high authority,” to be a tissue of misrepresentation, falsehood, and calumny. Mons. Charmilly divulged too many disagreeable truths to be listened to, at that time; but, I beseech you, Sir, to read his book, and you will, I am sure, agree with me, that the work of Edwards, instead of being quoted as indubitable authority, ought to be consigned to everlasting oblivion.

By means, which, in any times but the present, would have been the subject of parliamentary inquiry, at least; by means and by men, bearing a strong resemblance to those that lost us America, we lost St. Domingo, a colony worth more than all the other colonies we ever possessed. But, still the valour of our fleets and our army obtained us much that we preserved, till you and your colleagues once more reduced us to our former scanty limits. The state of our West-India commerce, at the close of the war, is exhibited in the annexed table. An increase had, indeed, been supposed to take place in the produce of our own colonies, as well as in those taken from the French; but, it is well known, that our old colonies do not admit of much increase, and it is more than probable, that all the increase, which was felt, arose more from the indirect trade with St. Domingo than from any other cause. For this reason, I have chosen to carry the same amounts through all my statements, except in that which relates to the French population of St. Domingo, which will receive a considerable addition (of which I shall speak more particularly hereafter) from the acquisition of the Spanish part of that immense island.

My statements, Sir, relative to the colony of Surinam, and that of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo,* are founded on authority, on which you may place implicit reliance. The statement respecting Surinam has been furnished me by a gentleman, who has long lived in that country, where he is a planter and proprietor. That which relates to the colony of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, was, if I am not misinformed, some few weeks ago, submitted to Lord Hawkesbury by a committee of West-India Edition: current; Page: [230] merchants and planters. I am persuaded that the correctness of neither will be called in question. [See Table, p. 231.]

Such, Sir, was the spectacle which our West-India commerce presented at the moment when you and your colleagues chose to put an end to the war, and, as the price of peace, to yield all the advantages we had gained; when you chose to take the superiority from our scale and place it in that of France, and thereby destroy for ever that source of riches and power which the valour of our fleets and armies, under the favour of Providence, had deposited in our hands, as a balance against the European acquisitions of our enemy.

It now remains for us to see what will be the state of this commerce in three years hence, what will be the change which your administration will have produced, and what will be the consequences of that change. The immediate loss to us, and the immediate gain to our enemy, will be immense; but the subsequent relative change must produce the utter ruin of our West-India commerce. We shall at once become a little power, and finally a power totally insignificant, in that part of the world, where, at the epoch of your unexpected and ominous elevation, we were the greatest, and indeed the only power; where every sail bowed obedience to our triumphant flag; where the commands of our Sovereign were the universal law; where the earth teemed and the waters rolled for Britain, and for Britain alone.

[See Table No. III., page 232.]

Edition: current; Page: [231]
TABLE, No. II.—[Referred to in page 230.] STATE of the WEST-INDIA COMMERCE of GREAT BRITAIN and FRANCE, at the Close of the War.
COLONIES. Population. Navigation. Sugar. Molasses. Rum. Coffee. Cotton. Miscellaneous Articles, in value. Value.
Ships. Tons. Men. lbs. Gallons. Gallons. lbs. lbs. £ Sterling. £ Sterling.
*The disproportion which appears between the Navigation and the Exports of the French Islands, when compared with that of the British Islands, arises frou the double voyages having been included in the statements relative to the former, and not in those relative to the latter.
By circuitous routes, France still received something from this Island; I have therefore given her the advantages attendant on a produce of half a million sterling. It is well known, that Great Britain also still derived great commercial advantages from this Island, which are not reckoned upon in the above statements.
This Island, owing to many causes, has greatly declined in every respect; but I chose, in this view of the subject, to give France the full amount of all the advantages she could possibly enjoy.
British. { British Colonies 520,889 1,984 297,252 23,061 218,845,208 68,052 6,132,222 3,797,140 9,334,024 513,615 5,182,912
{ Martinico* 146,444 333 38,369 2,903 52,144,018 239,163 7,555,812 323,518 2,965 1,184,022
{ St. Lucia 32,219 192 18,536 1,941 11,061,319 143,034 300,846 441,062 976 383,516
{ Tobago 29,325 142 10,716 953 9,801,142 168,144 640 276,503
{ Surinam 105,877 309 35,133 2,796 26,862,964 268,695 16,003,424 5,013,436 93,121 1,386,355
{ Berbice, Demerara, & Essequibo 121,996 333 49,888 3,368 18,839,286 287,750 15,966,562 10,841,100 2,054,148
Total 956,750 3,293 449,894 35,022 337,553,937 887,088 6,419,972 43,623,784 25,953,140 611,317 10,467,456
French. { St. Domingo 500,000
{ Guadaloupe 170,955 398 65,300 5,180 61,301,314 626,348 160,348 88,526 1,389 1,456,484
{ Fr. Guiana and the I. of Cayenne 6,213
Total 177,168 398 65,300 5,180 61,301,314 626,348 160,348 88,526 1,389 1,956,484
Edition: current; Page: [232]
TABLE, No. III.—[Referred to in page 233.] STATE of the WEST-INDIA COMMERCE OF GREAT BRITAIN and FRANCE, Three Years after the Close of 1801.
COLONIES. Population. Navigation. Sugar. Molasses. Rum. Coffee. Cotton. Miscellaneous Articles in value. Value.
Ships. Tons. Men. lbs. Gallons. Gallons. lbs. lbs. £ Sterling. £ Sterling.
*125,000 are here added to the population of St. Domingo on account of the acquisition of the Spanish part of the island.
In this, as well as in the preceding table, I might have included Curaçoa, St. Eustatin, and some settlements of less importance; but, not having the necessary authentic information at hand, I have chosen to omit them, rather than risk any inaccuracy in my statements. Besides, considered in the grand scale of commerce and dominion, they are of very little consequence.
British Colonies Total 520,889 1984 297,252 23,061 218,845,208 68,052 5,132,222 3,797,140 9,334,024 513,615 5,182,912
French Colonies before the War* 1,088,779 2,705 450,936 37,747 327,793,129 3,162,828 79,171,194 8,237,735 14,476 10,631,326
Surinam 105,877 309 35,133 2,796 26,862,064 268,695 16,003,424 5,013,436 93,121 1,386,355
Berbice, Demerara, & Essequibo 121,996 333 49,888 3,368 18,839,286 287,750 15,966,562 10,841,100 2,054,148
Total 1,316,652 3,347 535,957 43,911 373,494,479 3,431,523 287,750 111,141,180 24,092,271 107,597 14,071,829
Edition: current; Page: [233]

A summary of these statements will simplify the comparison:—

Population Tons of Shipping. Seamen. Value of Exports. £ sterling.
Before the War. { Great Britain 520,889 297,252 23,061 5,182,912
{ France 963,779 450,936 37,747 10,631,326
Before the Peace. { Great Britain 956,750 449,894 35,022 10,467,456
{ France 177,168 65,300 5,180 1,956,484
Three Years hence. { Great Britain 520,889 297,252 23,061 5,182,912
{ France 1,316,642 535,957 43,911 14,071,829

Thus, Sir, previous to the peace our West-India colonies had a population of more than nine hundred thousand souls, a produce of nearly ten millions and a half, and employed nearly half a million tons of shipping, with more than thirty-five thousand seamen; while the population of the French colonies was reduced to less than two hundred thousand souls, her produce to less than two millions, her shipping to sixty thousand tons, and her seamen to the number of five thousand. In three years’ time the West-India commerce of Britain, supposing her to retain in full prosperity all the colonies you have left her, will be reduced to a population of five hundred thousand souls, its produce to five millions, its shipping to less than three hundred thousand tons, and its seamen to twenty-three thousand in number; while the commerce of the enemy will be fed by a population of nearly a million and a half of souls, by a produce of fourteen millions of money, employing upwards of fifty thousand tons of shipping, navigated by more than forty thousand seamen! This contrast must pierce the heart of any man not accustomed to anticipate with indifference the decline and disgrace of his country; and if I thought you could contemplate it without shame and remorse, I should think my time ill-bestowed in presenting it to your view.

Now, Sir, as to the correctness of my statements, those which relate to the past will admit of little contradiction or doubt. Those which relate to the future may be objected to on three grounds: 1. It will probably be urged that the colonies of Surinam, and that of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, are not surrendered to the French, but to the Dutch; 2. That the future population of St. Domingo is overrated, and that the colony will not so soon as three years, if it ever does, return to its former flourishing and productive state; 3. That the old British colonies may increase in population and produce, which will consequently occasion an increase of our commerce with them.

1. It is not the nominal possession of territory, of any kind, and particularly of colonies, that is advantageous to the possessor. Such possession may sometimes add to the honours of a Sovereign or State, but never to their riches or their power. Our King was, till very lately, styled King of France, and the title of King of the Indies is still used by the feeble and abject Sovereign of Spain. Nor is it of any consequence of what nation the inhabitants of a colony consist. Those of the Island of St. Thomas are almost entirely English and Scotch; divine service is performed according to the rites and ceremonies of the Churches of England and Scotland, and in the English language; yet the colony belongs boná fide to Denmark, which derives therefrom all the advantages that it yields. The government of the colonies I am now speaking of may indeed be Edition: current; Page: [234] for some time at least, administered in the name of the Batavian Republic; but can any man of common sense and common candour, after viewing the state of vassalage in which that Republic had been left by us, affect to believe that the commerce of all its colonies will not be rendered, either directly or indirectly, subservient to the advantage of France? Holland has not one single characteristic of an independent nation. French generals command in all her districts; her towns and fortresses are garrisoned by French armies; French pro-consuls dictate the measures of her Cabinet; France makes war and makes peace for her, answers for her conduct, stipulates for cessions in her favour, and alienates her territory. Can such a State be called independent? Can such a State be said to be the sovereign of any thing? You, Sir, ought to be the last of all mankind to attribute to her such quality; you who have actively consented to, you who have sanctioned and ratified her subjection, by receiving a portion of her dominions from the hands of her conqueror, without even the formality of her consent.

Without the real, though perhaps not the nominal, possession of the colony of Surinam and of that of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, France would derive little benefit from those possessions in South America which she has been so anxious to extend. The mouth of the river Surinam is the best naval station on the coast, and, as a cruising station, one of the best in the world. Unpossessed of the river Essequibo, she would hold but a slackened rein over the Spanish territory, which is another great object in the long catalogue of her meditated conquests. Add to these considerations the desire which she must ever have to prevent Holland from again becoming opulent and powerful, and the still stronger desire of acquiring opulence and naval power herself, and who can be idiot enough to believe that she will leave the immense commerce of these colonies really in the possession of that conquered and subjected state? Say, however, that this commerce shall still be carried on by the rightful owner, that none but Dutch ships shall trade to the ports of these colonies, and that Holland alone shall receive their exports; still France will be the real and only possessor of all the benefits therefrom derived; for while the fleets and the treasury of Holland are at her command and at her absolute disposal, it matters very little whether the fleets be stationed in the Texel or at Brest, or whether the treasure be collected at Amsterdam or at Bourdeaux; it matters very little to whom you affect to have surrendered her colonies, they are in fact surrendered to France, who now boldly and truly places them on the list of those commercial acquisitions which are to eclipse and extinguish the commerce of Great Britain.

2. It may be objected to my statements, that the future population of St. Domingo is overrated, and that it will not so soon as three years hence, if it ever does, return to its former flourishing and productive state.

The population of the French part of St. Domingo has been greatly underrated by Bryan Edwards, who estimated the white inhabitants at 33,000, at a time when he might easily have been informed that the white militia alone actually consisted of 16,000 men, a circumstance that will fully satisfy any one capable of the least reflection that the whole white population could not possibly have been less than from fifty to sixty thousand souls. To the French population before the war (and I shall hereafter prove that it will, in three years hence, supposing peace to Edition: current; Page: [235] continue, have experienced no diminution) I have added the present population of the Spanish part of the Island, which your “best defender,” Philanglus, states, upon the authority of Edwards, at 20,000, and which I, upon the authority of Moreau de St. Mery, state at 125,000, of which only 15,000 are slaves; and which population is distributed thus:—

In the district of Azua 500
——— Bani 1,800
——— Moulins à Eau 2,500
——— Jayna 2,000
——— Santo Domingo 20,000
——— Mont-de-Plate 600
——— Bayaguana 1,000
——— Seybo 4,000
——— Higuey 500
——— Samana } 500
——— Savane-la-Mer }
——— Monte Christ 3,000
——— Cotuy 8,000
——— La Vega 8,000
——— St. Yago 27,600
——— Hinche 12,000
——— Banique 7,000
——— St. Jean de la Maguana 5,000
——— Des Plaines 21,000

This statement of Moreau was made from the actual census, furnished him by the Spanish Governor. The parts of a hundred were dropped in order to avoid encumbering the sentences, or the total would, probably, have amounted to a thousand or two more. By casting your eye on the population of the City of Santo Domingo and its district, you will perceive whence has arisen the error of Bryan Edwards, and the consequent error of his humble imitator. They have mistaken the population of the capital for the population of the whole colony! And these are “high authorities;” these are writers, on whom a British Minister has the weakness to rely for a defence of his measures!

Nor will the other objection, that St. Domingo will not, so soon as three years, recover its former flourishing and productive state, require any thing to remove it but a simple statement of facts.

Since incapacity, or something worse, lost us the possession of this Island, and particularly since your disgraceful Peace has restored it to the hands of our enemy, it has been much in vogue, to speak contemptuously of its value; to represent it as a colony, which was, indeed, once of some importance, but which is now in such a state of devastation as to leave the owner no hope of deriving any advantage from it, for many years, at least, I can remember, Sir, when different sentiments were entertained, and when a different language was held. I can remember when, soon after our landing on the Island, Lord Hawkesbury (now Lord Liverpool) congratulated the House of Peers on the capture of a Colony, capable of yielding an export produce of ten millions annually; and this congratulation took place after the far greater part of the ravages had been committed. But now behold! this colony of unexampled, and Edition: current; Page: [236] almost incredible resources, though it has been ever since on the return to peace and prosperity, is become “the RUINED and RAVAGED St. Domingo;” a mere waste, a heap of rubbish, where a banditti of negroes are wandering about amongst the graves of their masters. But, not to leave any room for cavil on this score, I beg leave to quote the very words of your defender Philanglus:—“The French colony, thus, appears to have contained, eleven years ago, above 530,000 inhabitants. It was, however, computed, in the year 1793, that the class of negroes alone had sustained a diminution of more than 100,000. Mr. Edwards says, that since that time the mortality has been still more rapid; and, including the loss of whites by sickness and emigration, he reduces the population of St. Domingo, in June 1796, to two-fifths of the whole number of inhabitants (white and black) which it possessed in the beginning of 1791. According to this calculation, upwards of 300,000 human beings have miserably perished in this devoted country within the short period of six years. Of the cultivation and commerce of the Island, we may form an adequate idea from the same authority; from which it appears, that the average exports from the French part of St. Domingo previously to the Revolution, were rather more than 5,000,000l. In 1791, they were upwards of 5,500,000l. In 1800 (according to an official report of the Minister of the Interior, made in 1801),

livres sterling
“The Imports into France from all the French colonies in the East and West Indies, were 1,433,800 or £61,825.
“The Exports from France to all the French colonies in the East and West Indies were 282,300 or £11,762.

“In 1788, St. Domingo imported French goods to the amount of more than 3,500,000l. in five hundred and eighty vessels belonging to France, carrying 189,679 tons, exclusive of ninety-eight vessels engaged in the African trade. In 1800, I believe (though I will not state this as a positive fact), not a single French vessel cleared out from France for this Island.

Now, Sir, the inference, evidently intended to be drawn from this statement, is, that the whites and others who have emigrated, are dead, or, at least, are lost for ever to St. Domingo; that three hundred thousand, out of five hundred thousand blacks and mulattoes, have really died, or have been killed; and that the exports from the colony, in the year 1800, amounted to only a certain portion of 61,825l.; and that, not a single ship did, in that year, clear out for the colony!

I will not charge Philanglus with wilful falsehood, nor with wilful misrepresentation, for, from the simplicity of his manner, it is evident, that his misrepresentation proceeds from that ignorance, in which he, probably, participates with those, who ought to have been better informed, before they adopted a measure, so desperate as to accept of a defender in him. But, Sir, this circumstance does not render an exposure of his misrepresentation less necessary; for, we have lately learned by experience, that neither the improbability, nor the falsehood, of a statement, operates to its discredit.

The devastation and the carnage, in St. Domingo, have been great; but have they been such as to warrant a belief, that 300,000 men have been actually killed by 200,000 survivors? There is, on the face of this statement, something too wonderful to obtain credit from any one, who has advanced beyond the history of Jack the Giant-killer. Philanglus does, indeed, drop a word about emigration; but he confines it to Edition: current; Page: [237] the whites, and makes no deduction, on that account, from the number of his slain. If Philanglus had been where I was, in the year 1793, he might have seen ten thousand blacks, whites, and mullattoes, land, in one day, and at one port, from vessels coming from St. Domingo. Had he understood the subject, on which he was writing, he would have known, that the emigration began in the year 1790, and that it continued till Great Britain and America entered into a treaty with Toussaint, in the year 1798; he would have known, that 80,000 of the inhabitants of the French colony emigrated to the United States, that the slaves were there hired out by their masters, that the whole population there increased rather than decreased in number; and that both masters and slaves have, since the autumn of 1798, been gradually returning to the colony. He would have known, that there was a very considerable emigration of all colours to old France; that great numbers went to New Orleans, to the Floridas, to Cuba, to Porto-Rico, to St. Thomas, and elsewhere: so that Philanglus may rest assured, that a very great portion of “the 300,000 human beings who have miserably perished in that devoted country,” are yet alive and merry; and, I dare say, I shall receive his unfeigned thanks for having thus wiped the tears from his philanthropic cheeks.

Some writers deal in slaughter, as a popular species of the sublime, and as an infallible cure for the obstinate drowsiness of their readers. Whether this innocent motive produced the statement of Philanglus is more than I can say, but that statement is certainly a most glaring exaggeration.—Mons. Jean M. de la Borde, who wrote in 1798, computed the mortality, occasioned by the Revolution, in the French colony of St. Domingo, at fifty thousand souls, and the eventual loss of negroes, supposing the colony soon to return under the government of France, at eighty-five thousand; and these numbers were, by all the St.-Domingo planters, whose opinions I had an opportunity of knowing (and they were not a few), thought to be much too high. There have not been many destructive battles in St. Domingo. Assassinations, murders, and most horrid acts of cruelty, have, indeed, been abundant; but, 300,000 men are not, in this way, so soon and so easily destroyed. The fact is, that the far greater half of the depopulation proceeded from emigration to friendly or neutral countries, and the persons so emigrating are now, and have long been, returning. Like birds that the gun of the fowler has scared from their food, they have been scattered in every direction; but your friendly hand having removed the cause of their fear, they are now flocking back to their haunt, where, when they are all assembled, they will scarcely perceive the diminution in their numbers.

But, false as is the statement of Philanglus, with regard to the depopulation of this colony, his statement respecting the diminution in its resources is still more so. “Of the cultivation and commerce of the island,” says he, “we may form an adequate idea” from these facts, to wit, “that, in the year 1791, the exports were in amount upwards of 5,500,000l., and that, in the year 1800, the imports of France, from all the French colonies, were only 61,825l., and further, that, in the same year, not a single French vessel cleared out from France for that island.”

To tell a lie in the words of truth is an art ascribed to the Society of Jesus, and were I disposed to join in the base calumnies heaped on that Society, I should not scruple to rank Philanglus amongst the most finished of its pupils. He tells us that, from the facts, which he has stated, “we Edition: current; Page: [238] may form an adequate idea of the cultivation and commerce of this island,” which “adequate idea” evidently is, that the colony did not, in 1800, export produce to the amount of 60,000l., and that not a single ship did, during that year, clear out for the colony. This is the “adequate idea,” which the deceived and insulted British public are taught to form of the cultivation and commerce of the French colony of St. Domingo; and this is the writer, whom, report says, you and your colleagues regarded as the best defender of the peace!

Now, Sir, I beg you to listen to a few truths, and if you do not turn with scorn from Philanglus and his defence, you must have much less sense as well as less candour than I sincerely believe you to possess. During the year 1800, during that year in which Philanglus would persuade you, that the exports of St. Domingo did not amount to 60,000l., and that not a ship cleared out for the colony; during that very year, it appears, from the Custom-house returns of the United States, that 642 vessels were entered inwards, and 428 were cleared outwards, for the “ruined and ravaged St. Domingo!” It also appears from those returns, that, during the same year, foreign produce, much of which came from St. Domingo, to the amount of 39 millions of dollars (upwards of eight millions sterling), was brought into the United States for re-exportation. Besides this, the Danes, the Swedes, and the Hamburghers, carried on a considerable trade with the “ruined and ravaged” colony; nor was even Britain without her share; and, Sir, no trifling portion of those West-India imports and exports, boasted of in the House of Commons, on the memorable third of November last, ought to have been attributed to the “ruined and ravaged St. Domingo.”

Of these facts I was in possession at the time when Philanglus began to figure away in the columns of the Porcupine. To stop him would have been an act of mercy, of which I thought him unworthy, and as to justice, I knew he would execute it on himself, were he but favoured with a sufficiency of rope. In the mean time, however, lest his ignorant spirit should resist the dictates of conviction, I provided me an instrument wherewith to give him the coup-de grâce. This instrument is a letter from a merchant, who was in St. Domingo, in the year 1800, and who gives me the following account of the state in which the French colony then was.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
Dec. 21, 1801
Henry Addington
Addington, Henry
Dear Sir,

In answer to your request about the state of St. Domingo, I have to inform you that, when I left it, in the month of April 1800, I had resided at Cape François for about three months prior to that time, and had occasion to go to Gonaïves and St. Mark’s to purchase cotton, about 100 English miles distant from the Cape. The estates every where appeared in good order, and most of the sugar works and distilleries were rebuilt. All the estates had been restored to the proprietors, except those on the list of emigrants. From the best information I could get, they made nearly one-third the quantity of produce they formerly made, and every one seemed to think, they could make full as much as formerly, only for the large army they had to keep up to guard such an extensive colony, and carry on a war against General Rigaud and his Mulattoes, who were then in great force in the south-west part of the island, but who are now subdued and returned to cultivate the estates. During the three months I was in the Cape, about one hundred and thirty American vessels loaded with produce Edition: current; Page: [239] sailed from that port, and also a number of Danes and Hamburghers, and ten French ships. In that time, I sold goods in the Cape to the amount of 102,000 Spanish dollars, and, much to the honour of the Blacks and Whites, collected the whole in cash without any dispute. I paid government duty on my inward cargo 10,500 dollars, and on my outward cargo of sugar, coffee, cotton, and fustic, 7,000 dollars, my ship carrying upwards of 400 tons; and I was allowed to bring away a quantity of dollars, as I had not room in the ship to take more produce. As to the police of the Cape, I have seen none better any where; indeed, all colours seemed to be happy with each other, for I never heard of a robbery nor saw any of the inhabitants intoxicated, or quarrel in the streets. The troops were well armed, clothed, and disciplined, and can, at a short notice, bring into the field upwards of 100,000 able men, under General Toussaint Louverture, Commander-in-Chief of the Colony in the name of the French Republic. The Custom-house, Treasury, and other public offices, were conducted the same as in all other French colonies. I have been often in company with the general-in-chief and many of the black and white officers, who always spoke with great respect of the French nation, and wished it was Peace with England, that the French might come and take possession of the colony. As to what state they are in at this time is not in my power to say; but, when I was there, produce and money were plenty, provisions and dry goods very cheap, and the colony in a prosperous state.

This, Sir, is a rough sketch of what I know of the island at that time. Since that the black army has taken possession of the Spanish part of the island, and a Mr. Caze is made governor of the city of St. Domingo. He is a Frenchman and came out from France, while I was in the colony, as first aid-de-camp to General Toussaint.

I wish, Sir, it were in my power to give you a more circumstantial account, but being always engaged with my commercial business prevented me.

I remain, dear Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
* * * * * *”

Not having taken the precaution to obtain this gentleman’s liberty for so doing, and not having time to wait for a return of post from Liverpool, I do not think myself authorized to insert his name, to which, considering the insignificance of my work, he might, too, very properly object; but, should an occasion offer for him to state these facts at the bar of the House of Commons (and I am one of those, Sir, who hope, that such an occasion will yet offer), I pledge myself to the public, that his testimony there would be strictly conformable to the letter here submitted to your perusal.

This letter, Sir, firmly establishes the truth of all my statements relative to the French colony of St. Domingo. Here we find, that 130 American vessels, besides a number of Danes and Hamburghers, and ten French vessels, took in lading and sailed, in the space of three months from the port of Cape Francois alone, which every one knows to have been the most ruined and ravaged part of “the ruined and ravaged St. Domingo.” We further find, that many of the distilleries and sugar-works were already rebuilt, that the plantations were in a prosperous state, and that the estates had been restored to all those proprietors who Edition: current; Page: [240] had been wise enough not to place confidence in England. We find no want of that capital, of which your defender has represented the colony to be so destitute; we find cargoes, even British cargoes, paid for in cash; we find a profitable custom-house, under proper regulations; and we find abundance of proof that the produce of the colony, even in 1800, was full as great as that of Jamaica ever has been. Before facts like these how quickly do the leaden columns of Philanglus dissolve into their native dross!

If such, Sir, was the state of the French colony of St. Domingo in 1800, and such I am persuaded you will now be convinced it was, it has certainly been growing better and better to this hour. What, then, will it be three years hence, when all the proprietors, except those who foolishly trusted to British wisdom and British perseverance, have returned, strengthened by the connections which they, for the most part, have formed in the United States of America? When France shall, too, enjoy the inestimable advantages to be derived from the sole possession of the Spanish part of the island, which will greatly augment her population, strengthen her military defence, protect her navigation in time of war, extend her cultivation; and, above all, give her an ample, a regular, and never-failing supply of cattle of every description, a resource of which every other West-India colony is almost entirely destitute? Is it too much, Sir, to suppose that with all these additional advantages, and many more that could be mentioned, the French colony will, in the course of three years, attain to its former commercial importance? Most assuredly it is not; and those who attempt to hush the apprehensions naturally excited by such a supposition can be influenced by no motive but that of a desire to deceive the nation, and thereby to shelter Ministers from the effects of its resentment.

3. The remaining objection which will probably be urged against my statement is, that the old British colonies may increase in produce and population, which will, consequently, occasion an increase in our commerce with them.

The plantations in our old West-India colonies, Sir, like the fields of the mother country, will never be exhausted, while there are hands and capital to carry on their cultivation; but the progressive state of the former bears a strong resemblance to that of the latter, and leaves very little reason, to hope for any considerable augmentation in produce, and without an augmentation in produce an increase of inhabitants would be an evil. Besides the state of the lands, however, there are two causes which will powerfully tend, not only to prevent an increase, but to occasion a decrease, in the produce and population of our old colonies; I mean the migration of persons, and the transfer of capital to the more favoured colonies of our enemy; and the vast advantages which the French planters and merchants will enjoy over those of Great Britain both in the field and in the market.

The population and produce, Sir, of our Leeward Islands have already experienced a diminution; a diminution, indeed, which we felt not, because what we lost in St. Vincent’s, Grenada, Barbadoes, and St. Christopher’s, we found transferred, with ten-fold interest, to the colony of Surinam, and that of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo. These colonies are fertile beyond conception, and are capable of improvement to an incalculable extent. The progress of the latter colony, as exhibited in the following account, which your colleague Lord Hawkesbury knows to be Edition: current; Page: [241] authentic, will enable you to form some idea of the value of one of those numerous acquisitions which were gained by the valour and the blood of our countrymen, and which you have surrendered into the hands of an enemy whom they had beaten in every part of the world.

Account of the Produce exported from the Colony of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, since the establishment of a British Custom-house there.
Years. Vessels. Hogsheads of Sugar. Puncheons of Rum. Bales of Cotton. Pounds weight of Coffee.
1797 (from August) 45 1,483 720 2,425 4,938,230
1798 202 6,472 1,803 14,738 4,506,325
1799 212 5,392 1,501 15,758 8,846,877
1800 333 10,513 2,615 33,806 15,966,562

If this colony, Sir, while regarded as mere conquest, while its tenure was so very insecure, increased, as we here see it did, more than one-third in its produce in the space of three years, what, with its vast extent, may not be its produce when safely lodged in the hands of a power which now commands the world? It was the migration of British subjects, and the transfer of British capital, that occasioned this prodigious increase. Both sought a more propitious soil. And, if the difficulties and dangers ever attendant on a state of warfare were insufficient to restrain this inclination, what do you imagine will be able to restrain it in future? The mere circumstance of the colony having changed masters? O no, Sir! The planters who removed their capital and their slaves from Grenada to Demerara, took into their calculation