THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
IN TWELVE VOLUMES
VOLUME THE SIXTH
LONDON JOHN C. NIMMO 14, KING WILLIAM STREET, STRAND, W.C. MDCCCLXXXVII
CONTENTS OF VOL. VI.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND POSTHUMOUS VOLUME, IN A LETTER TO THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM ELLIOT v
FOURTH LETTER ON THE PROPOSALS FOR PEACE WITH THE REGICIDE DIRECTORY OF FRANCE; WITH THE PRELIMINARY CORRESPONDENCE 1
LETTER TO THE EMPRESS OF RUSSIA, November 1, 1791 113
LETTER TO SIR CHARLES BINGHAM, BART., ON THE IRISH ABSENTEE TAX, October 30, 1773 121
LETTER TO THE HON. CHARLES JAMES FOX, ON THE AMERICAN WAR, October 8, 1777 135
LETTER TO THE MARQUIS OF ROCKINGHAM, WITH ADDRESSES TO THE KING, AND THE BRITISH COLONISTS IN NORTH AMERICA, IN RELATION TO THE MEASURES OF GOVERNMENT IN THE AMERICAN CONTEST, AND A PROPOSED SECESSION OF THE OPPOSITION FROM PARLIAMENT, January, 1777 149
LETTER TO THE RIGHT HON. EDMUND S. PERRY, IN RELATION TO A BILL FOR THE RELIEF OF THE ROMAN CATHOLICS OF IRELAND, July 18, 1778 197
TWO LETTERS TO THOMAS BURGH, ESQ., AND JOHN MERLOTT, ESQ., IN VINDICATION OF HIS PARLIAMENTARY CONDUCT RELATIVE TO THE AFFAIRS OF IRELAND, 1780 207
LETTERS AND REFLECTIONS ON THE EXECUTIONS OF THE RIOTERS IN 1780 239
LETTER TO THE RIGHT HON. HENRY DUNDAS: WITH THE SKETCH OF A NEGRO CODE, 1792 255
LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE MEETING, HELD AT AYLESBURY, APRIL 13, 1780, ON THE SUBJECT OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM 291
FRAGMENTS OF A TRACT RELATIVE TO THE LAWS AGAINST POPERY IN IRELAND 299
LETTER TO WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ., ON THE SUBJECT OF CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION, January 29, 1795 361
SECOND LETTER TO SIR HERCULES LANGRISHE, ON THE CATHOLIC QUESTION, May 26, 1795 375
LETTER TO RICHARD BURKE, ESQ., ON PROTESTANT ASCENDENCY IN IRELAND, 1793 385
LETTER ON THE AFFAIRS OF IRELAND, 1797 413
TO THE SECOND POSTHUMOUS VOLUME,
IN A LETTER TO
THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM ELLIOT
My dear sir,—As some prefatory account of the materials which compose this second posthumous volume of the Works of Mr. Burke, and of the causes which have prevented its earlier appearance, will be expected from me, I hope I may be indulged in the inclination I feel to run over these matters in a letter to you, rather than in a formal address to the public.
Of the delay that has intervened since the publication of the former volume I shall first say a few words. Having undertaken, in conjunction with the late Dr. Laurence, to examine the manuscript papers of Mr. Burke, and to select and prepare for the press such of them as should be thought proper for publication, the difficulties attending our cooeperation were soon experienced by us. The remoteness of our places of residence in summer, and our professional and other avocations in winter, opposed perpetual obstacles to the progress of our undertaking.
Soon after the publication of the fourth volume, I was rendered incapable of attending to any business by a severe and tedious illness. And it was not long after my recovery before the health of our invaluable friend began gradually to decline, and soon became unequal to the increasing labors of his profession and the discharge of his Parliamentary duties. At length we lost a man, of whom, as I shall have occasion to speak more particularly in another part of this undertaking, I will now content myself with saying, that in my humble opinion he merited, and certainly obtained with those best acquainted with his extensive learning and information, a considerable rank amongst the eminent persons who have adorned the age in which we have lived, and of whose services the public have been deprived by a premature death.
From these causes little progress had been made in our work when I was deprived of my coadjutor. But from that time you can testify of me that I have not been idle. You can bear witness to the confused state in which the materials that compose the present volume came into my hands. The difficulty of reading many of the manuscripts, obscured by innumerable erasures, corrections, interlineations, and marginal insertions, would perhaps have been insuperable to any person less conversant in the manuscripts of Mr. Burke than myself. To this difficulty succeeded that of selecting from several detached papers, written upon the same subject and the same topics, such as appeared to contain the author's last thoughts and emendations. When these difficulties were overcome, there still remained, in many instances, that of assigning its proper place to many detached members of the same piece, where no direct note of connection had been made. These circumstances, whilst they will lead the reader not to expect, in the cases to which they apply, the finished productions of Mr. Burke, imposed upon me a task of great delicacy and difficulty,—namely, that of deciding upon the publication of any, and which, of these unfinished pieces. I must here beg permission of you, and Lord Fitzwilliam, to inform the public, that in the execution of this part of my duty I requested and obtained your assistance.
Our first care was to ascertain, from such evidence, internal and external, as the manuscripts themselves afforded, what pieces appeared to have been at any time intended by the author for publication. Our next was to select such as, though not originally intended for publication, yet appeared to contain matter that might contribute to the gratification and instruction of the public. Our last object was to determine what degree of imperfection and incorrectness in papers of either of these classes ought or ought not to exclude them from a place in the present volume. This was, doubtless, the most nice and arduous part of our undertaking. The difficulty, however, was, in our minds, greatly diminished by our conviction that the reputation of our author stood far beyond the reach of injury from any injudicious conduct of ours in making this selection. On the other hand, we were desirous that nothing should be withheld, from which the public might derive any possible benefit.
Nothing more is now necessary than that I should give a short account of the writings which compose the present volume.
I. Fourth Letter on a Regicide Peace.
Some account has already been given of this Letter in the Advertisement to the fourth quarto volume. That part of it which is contained between the first and the middle of the page 67 is taken from a manuscript which, nearly to the conclusion, had received the author's last corrections: the subsequent part, to the middle of the page 71, is taken from some loose manuscripts, that were dictated by the author, but do not appear to have been revised by him; and though they, as well as what follows to the conclusion, were evidently designed to make a part of this Letter, the editor alone is responsible for the order in which they are here placed. The last part, from the middle of the page 71, had been printed as a part of the Letter which was originally intended to be the third on Regicide Peace, as in the preface to the fourth volume has already been noticed.
It was thought proper to communicate this Letter before its publication to Lord Auckland, the author of the pamphlet so frequently alluded to in it. His Lordship, in consequence of this communication, was pleased to put into my hands a letter with which he had sent his pamphlet to Mr. Burke at the time of its publication, and Mr. Burke's answer to that letter. These pieces, together with the note with which his Lordship transmitted them to me, are prefixed to the Letter on Regicide Peace.
II. Letter to the Empress of Russia. III. Letter to Sir Charles Bingham. IV. Letter to the Honorable Charles James Fox.
Of these Letters it will be sufficient to remark, that they come under the second of those classes into which, as I before observed, we divided the papers that presented themselves to our consideration.
V. Letter to the Marquis of Rockingham. VI. An Address to the King. VII. An Address to the British Colonists in North America.
These pieces relate to a most important period in the present reign; and I hope no apology will be necessary for giving them to the public.
VIII. Letter to the Right Honorable Edmund [Sexton] Pery. IX. Letter to Thomas Burgh, Esq. X. Letter to John Merlott, Esq.
The reader will find, in a note annexed to each of these Letters, an account of the occasions on which they were written. The Letter to T. Burgh, Esq., had found its way into some of the periodical prints of the time in Dublin.
XI. Reflections on the Approaching Executions.
It may not, perhaps, now be generally known that Mr. Burke was a marked object of the rioters in this disgraceful commotion, from whose fury he narrowly escaped. The Reflections will be found to contain maxims of the soundest judicial policy, and do equal honor to the head and heart of their illustrious writer.
XII. Letter to the Right Honorable Henry Dundas; with the Sketch of a Negro Code.
Mr. Burke, in the Letter to Mr. Dundas, has entered fully into his own views of the Slave Trade, and has thereby rendered any further explanation on that subject at present unnecessary. With respect to the Code itself, an unsuccessful attempt was made to procure the copy of it transmitted to Mr. Dundas. It was not to be found amongst his papers. The Editor has therefore been obliged to have recourse to a rough draft of it in Mr. Burke's own handwriting; from which he hopes he has succeeded in making a pretty correct transcript of it, as well as in the attempt he has made to supply the marginal references alluded to in Mr. Burke's Letter to Mr. Dundas.
XIII. Letter to the Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Meeting.
Of the occasion of this Letter an account is given in the note subjoined [prefixed] to it.
XIV. Tracts and Letters relative to the Laws against Popery in Ireland.
These pieces consist of,—
1. An unfinished Tract on the Popery Laws. Of this Tract the reader will find an account in the note prefixed to it.
2. A Letter to William Smith, Esq. Several copies of this letter having got abroad, it was printed and published in Dublin without the permission of Mr. Burke, or of the gentleman to whom it was addressed.
3. Second Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe. This may be considered as supplementary to the first letter, addressed to the same person in January, 1792, which was published in the third volume.
4. Letter to Richard Burke, Esq. Of this letter it will be necessary to observe, that the first part of it appears to have been originally addressed by Mr. Burke to his son in the manner in which it is now printed, but to have been left unfinished; after whose death he probably designed to have given the substance of it, with additional observations, to the public in some other form, but never found leisure or inclination to finish it.
5. A Letter on the Affairs of Ireland, written in the year 1797. The name of the person to whom this letter was addressed does not appear on the manuscript; nor has the letter been found to which it was written as an answer. And as the gentleman whom he employed as an amanuensis is not now living, no discovery of it can be made, unless this publication of the letter should produce some information respecting it, that may enable us in a future volume to gratify, on this point, the curiosity of the reader. The letter was dictated, as he himself tells us, from his couch at Bath; to which place he had gone, by the advice of his physicians, in March, 1797. His health was now rapidly declining; the vigor of his mind remained unimpaired. This, my dear friend, was, I believe, the last letter dictated by him on public affairs:—here ended his political labors.
XV. Fragments and Notes of Speeches in Parliament.
1. Speech on the Acts of Uniformity.
2. Speech on a Bill for the Relief of Protestant Dissenters.
3. Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians.
4. Speech on the Middlesex Election.
5. Speech on a Bill for shortening the Duration of Parliaments.
6. Speech on the Reform of the Representation in Parliament.
7. Speech on a Bill for explaining the Powers of Juries in Prosecutions for Libels.
*7. Letter relative to the same subject.
8. Speech on a Bill for repealing the Marriage Act.
9. Speech on a Bill to quiet the Possessions of the Subject against Dormant Claims of the Church.
With respect to these fragments, I have already stated the reasons by which we were influenced in our determination to publish them. An account of the state in which these manuscripts were found is given in the note prefixed to this article.
XVI. Hints for an Essay on the Drama.
This fragment was perused in manuscript by a learned and judicious critic, our late lamented friend, Mr. Malone; and under the protection of his opinion we can feel no hesitation in submitting it to the judgment of the public.
XVII. We are now come to the concluding article of this volume,—the Essay on the History of England.
At what time of the author's life it was written cannot now be exactly ascertained; but it was certainly begun before he had attained the age of twenty-seven years, as it appears from an entry in the books of the late Mr. Dodsley, that eight sheets of it, which contain the first seventy-four pages of the present edition, were printed in the year 1757. This is the only part that has received the finishing stroke of the author. In those who are acquainted with the manner in which Mr. Burke usually composed his graver literary works, and of which some account is given in the Advertisement prefixed to the fourth volume, this circumstance will excite a deep regret; and whilst the public partakes with us in this feeling, it will doubtless be led to judge with candor and indulgence of a work left in this imperfect and unfinished state by its author.
Before I conclude, it may not be improper to take this opportunity of acquainting the public with the progress that has been made towards the completion of this undertaking. The sixth and seventh volumes, which will consist entirely of papers that have a relation to the affairs of the East India Company, and to the impeachment of Mr. Hastings, are now in the press. The suspension of the consideration of the affairs of the East India Company in Parliament till its nest session has made me very desirous to get the sixth volume out as early as possible in the next winter. The Ninth and Eleventh Reports of the Select Committee, appointed to take into consideration certain affairs of the East India Company in the year 1783, were written by Mr. Burke, and will be given in that volume. They contain a full and comprehensive view of the commerce, revenues, civil establishment, and general policy of the Company, and will therefore be peculiarly interesting at this time to the public.
The eighth and last volume will contain a narrative of the life of Mr. Burke, which will be accompanied with such parts of his familiar correspondence, and other occasional productions, as shall be thought fit for publication. The materials relating to the early years of his life, alluded to in the Advertisement to the fourth volume, have been lately recovered; and the communication of such as may still remain in the possession of any private individuals is again most earnestly requested.
Unequal as I feel myself to the task, I shall, my dear friend, lose no time, nor spare any pains, in discharging the arduous duty that has devolved upon me. You know the peculiar difficulties I labor under from the failure of my eyesight; and you may congratulate me upon the assistance which I have now procured from my neighbor, the worthy chaplain of Bromley College, who to the useful qualification of a most patient amanuensis adds that of a good scholar and intelligent critic.
And now, adieu, my dear friend,
And believe me ever affectionately yours,
BROMLEY HOUSE, August 1, 1812.
 Works, Vol. V., quarto edition, (London, F., C., & J. Rivington, 1812,)—Vol. IV. of that edition (London, F. & C. Rivington, 1802) being the first posthumous volume,—and Vols. I., II., and III. (London, J. Dodsley, 1792) comprising the collection published during the lifetime of Mr. Burke.
 Prefixed to the first volume, in the other editions. For the account referred to, see, in the present edition, Vol. I., pp. xiii., xiv.
 Page 86 of the present edition.
 In this edition, p. 91, near the top.
 In the fourth volume of the present edition.
 The quarto edition,—extending as far as Book II. ch. 2, near the middle of the paragraph commencing, "The same regard to the welfare of the people," &c.
 This design the editor did not live to execute.
 The Rev. J.J. Talman.
PROPOSALS FOR PEACE WITH THE REGICIDE DIRECTORY OF FRANCE.
THE EARL FITZWILLIAM. 1795-7.
Letter from the Right Honorable the Lord Auckland to the Lord Bishop of Rochester.
EDEN FARM, KENT, July 18th, 1812.
My dear Lord,—Mr. Burke's fourth letter to Lord Fitzwilliam is personally interesting to me: I have perused it with a respectful attention.
When I communicated to Mr. Burke, in 1795, the printed work which he arraigns and discusses, I was aware that he would differ from me.
Some light is thrown on the transaction by my note which gave rise to it, and by his answer, which exhibits the admirable powers of his great and good mind, deeply suffering at the time under a domestic calamity.
I have selected these two papers from my manuscript collection, and now transmit them to your Lordship with a wish that they may be annexed to the publication in question.
I have the honor to be, my dear Lord,
Yours most sincerely,
TO THE RIGHT REV. THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER.
* * * * *
Letter from Lord Auckland to the Right Honorable Edmund Burke.
EDEN FARM, KENT, October 28th, 1795.
My dear Sir,—
Though in the stormy ocean of the last twenty-three years we have seldom sailed on the same tack, there has been nothing hostile in our signals or manoeuvres, and, on my part at least, there has been a cordial disposition towards friendly and respectful sentiments. Under that influence, I now send to you a small work which exhibits my fair and full opinions on the arduous circumstances of the moment, "as far as the cautions necessary to be observed will permit me to go beyond general ideas."
Three or four of those friends with whom I am most connected in public and private life are pleased to think that the statement in question (which at first made part of a confidential paper) may do good, and accordingly a very large impression will be published to-day. I neither seek to avow the publication nor do I wish to disavow it. I have no anxiety in that respect, but to contribute my mite to do service, at a moment when service is much wanted.
I am, my dear Sir,
Most sincerely yours,
RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE.
* * * * *
Letter from the Right Honorable Edmund Burke to Lord Auckland.
My dear Lord,—
I am perfectly sensible of the very flattering honor you have done me in turning any part of your attention towards a dejected old man, buried in the anticipated grave of a feeble old age, forgetting and forgotten in an obscure and melancholy retreat.
In this retreat I have nothing relative to this world to do, but to study all the tranquillity that in the state of my mind I am capable of. To that end I find it but too necessary to call to my aid an oblivion of most of the circumstances, pleasant and unpleasant, of my life,—to think as little and indeed to know as little as I can of everything that is doing about me,—and, above all, to divert my mind from all presagings and prognostications of what I must (if I let my speculations loose) consider as of absolute necessity to happen after my death, and possibly even before it. Your address to the public, which you have been so good as to send to me, obliges me to break in upon that plan, and to look a little on what is behind, and very much on what is before me. It creates in my mind a variety of thoughts, and all of them unpleasant.
It is true, my Lord, what you say, that, through our public life, we have generally sailed on somewhat different tacks. We have so, undoubtedly; and we should do so still, if I had continued longer to keep the sea. In that difference, you rightly observe that I have always done justice to your skill and ability as a navigator, and to your good intentions towards the safety of the cargo and of the ship's company. I cannot say now that we are on different tacks. There would be no propriety in the metaphor. I can sail no longer. My vessel cannot be said to be even in port. She is wholly condemned and broken up. To have an idea of that vessel, you must call to mind what you have often seen on the Kentish road. Those planks of tough and hardy oak, that used for years to brave the buffets of the Bay of Biscay, are now turned, with their warped grain and empty trunnion-holes, into very wretched pales for the inclosure of a wretched farm-yard.
The style of your pamphlet, and the eloquence and power of composition you display in it, are such as do great honor to your talents, and in conveying any other sentiments would give me very great pleasure. Perhaps I do not very perfectly comprehend your purpose, and the drift of your arguments. If I do not, pray do not attribute my mistake to want of candor, but to want of sagacity. I confess, your address to the public, together with other accompanying circumstances, has filled me with a degree of grief and dismay which I cannot find words to express. If the plan of politics there recommended—pray excuse my freedom—should be adopted by the king's councils, and by the good people of this kingdom, (as, so recommended, undoubtedly it will,) nothing can be the consequence but utter and irretrievable ruin to the ministry, to the crown, to the succession,—to the importance, to the independence, to the very existence, of this country. This is my feeble, perhaps, but clear, positive, decided, long and maturely reflected and frequently declared opinion, from which all the events which have lately come to pass, so far from turning me, have tended to confirm beyond the power of alteration, even by your eloquence and authority. I find, my dear Lord, that you think some persons, who are not satisfied with the securities of a Jacobin peace, to be persons of intemperate minds. I may be, and I fear I am, with you in that description; but pray, my Lord, recollect that very few of the causes which make men intemperate can operate upon me. Sanguine hopes, vehement desires, inordinate ambition, implacable animosity, party attachments, or party interests,—all these with me have no existence. For myself, or for a family, (alas! I have none,) I have nothing to hope or to fear in this world. I am attached, by principle, inclination, and gratitude, to the king, and to the present ministry.
Perhaps you may think that my animosity to opposition is the cause of my dissent, on seeing the politics of Mr. Fox (which, while I was in the world, I combated by every instrument which God had put into my hands, and in every situation in which I had taken part) so completely, if I at all understand you, adopted in your Lordship's book: but it was with pain I broke with that great man forever in that cause; and I assure you, it is not without pain that I differ with your Lordship on the same principles. But it is of no concern. I am far below the region of those great and tempestuous passions. I feel nothing of the intemperance of mind. It is rather sorrow and dejection than anger.
Once more my best thanks for your very polite attention; and do me the favor to believe me, with the most perfect sentiments of respect and regard,
My dear Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient and humble servant,
BEACONSFIELD, Oct. 30th, 1795.
TO THE EARL FITZWILLIAM.
My dear Lord,—I am not sure that the best way of discussing any subject, except those that concern the abstracted sciences, is not somewhat in the way of dialogue. To this mode, however, there are two objections: the first, that it happens, as in the puppet-show, one man speaks for all the personages. An unnatural uniformity of tone is in a manner unavoidable. The other and more serious objection is, that, as the author (if not an absolute skeptic) must have some opinion of his own to enforce, he will be continually tempted to enervate the arguments he puts into the mouth of his adversary, or to place them in a point of view most commodious for their refutation. There is, however, a sort of dialogue not quite so liable to these objections, because it approaches more nearly to truth and Nature: it is called CONTROVERSY. Here the parties speak for themselves. If the writer who attacks another's notions does not deal fairly with his adversary, the diligent reader has it always in his power, by resorting to the work examined, to do justice to the original author and to himself. For this reason you will not blame me, if, in my discussion of the merits of a Regicide Peace, I do not choose to trust to my own statements, but to bring forward along with them the arguments of the advocates for that measure. If I choose puny adversaries, writers of no estimation or authority, then you will justly blame me. I might as well bring in at once a fictitious speaker, and thus fall into all the inconveniences of an imaginary dialogue. This I shall avoid; and I shall take no notice of any author who my friends in town do not tell me is in estimation with those whose opinions he supports.
A piece has been sent to me, called "Some Remarks on the Apparent Circumstances of the War in the Fourth Week of October, 1795," with a French motto: "Que faire encore une fois dans une telle nuit? Attendre le jour." The very title seemed to me striking and peculiar, and to announce something uncommon. In the time I have lived to, I always seem to walk on enchanted ground. Everything is new, and, according to the fashionable phrase, revolutionary. In former days authors valued themselves upon the maturity and fulness of their deliberations. Accordingly, they predicted (perhaps with more arrogance than reason) an eternal duration to their works. The quite contrary is our present fashion. Writers value themselves now on the instability of their opinions and the transitory life of their productions. On this kind of credit the modern institutors open their schools. They write for youth, and it is sufficient, if the instruction "lasts as long as a present love, or as the painted silks and cottons of the season."
The doctrines in this work are applied, for their standard, with great exactness, to the shortest possible periods both of conception and duration. The title is "Some Remarks on the Apparent Circumstances of the War in the Fourth Week of October, 1795." The time is critically chosen. A month or so earlier would have made it the anniversary of a bloody Parisian September, when the French massacre one another. A day or two later would have carried it into a London November, the gloomy month in which it is said by a pleasant author that Englishmen hang and drown themselves. In truth, this work has a tendency to alarm us with symptoms of public suicide. However, there is one comfort to be taken even from the gloomy time of year. It is a rotting season. If what is brought to market is not good, it is not likely to keep long. Even buildings run up in haste with untempered mortar in that humid weather, if they are ill-contrived tenements, do not threaten long to incumber the earth. The author tells us (and I believe he is the very first author that ever told such a thing to his readers) "that the entire fabric of his speculations might be overset by unforeseen vicissitudes," and what is far more extraordinary, "that even the whole consideration might be varied whilst he was writing those pages." Truly, in my poor judgment, this circumstance formed a very substantial motive for his not publishing those ill-considered considerations at all. He ought to have followed the good advice of his motto: "Que faire encore dans une telle nuit? Attendre le jour." He ought to have waited till he had got a little more daylight on this subject. Night itself is hardly darker than the fogs of that time.
Finding the last week in October so particularly referred to, and not perceiving any particular event, relative to the war, which happened on any of the days in that week, I thought it possible that they were marked by some astrological superstition, to which the greatest politicians have been subject. I therefore had recourse to my Rider's Almanack. There I found, indeed, something that characterized the work, and that gave directions concerning the sudden political and natural variations, and for eschewing the maladies that are most prevalent in that aguish intermittent season, "the last week of October." On that week the sagacious astrologer, Rider, in his note on the third column of the calendar side, teaches us to expect "variable and cold weather"; but instead of encouraging us to trust ourselves to the haze and mist and doubtful lights of that changeable week, on the answerable part of the opposite page he gives us a salutary caution (indeed, it is very nearly in the words of the author's motto): "Avoid," says he, "being out late at night and in foggy weather, for a cold now caught may last the whole winter." This ingenious author, who disdained the prudence of the Almanack, walked out in the very fog he complains of, and has led us to a very unseasonable airing at that time. Whilst this noble writer, by the vigor of an excellent constitution, formed for the violent changes he prognosticates, may shake off the importunate rheum and malignant influenza of this disagreeable week, a whole Parliament may go on spitting and snivelling, and wheezing and coughing, during a whole session. All this from listening to variable, hebdomadal politicians, who run away from their opinions without giving us a month's warning,—and for not listening to the wise and friendly admonitions of Dr. Cardanus Rider, who never apprehends he may change his opinions before his pen is out of his hand, but always enables us to lay in at least a year's stock of useful information.
At first I took comfort. I said to myself, that, if I should, as I fear I must, oppose the doctrines of the last week of October, it is probable that by this time they are no longer those of the eminent writer to whom they are attributed. He gives us hopes that long before this he may have embraced the direct contrary sentiments. If I am found in a conflict with those of the last week of October, I may be in full agreement with those of the last week in December, or the first week in January, 1796. But a second edition, and a French translation, (for the benefit, I must suppose, of the new Regicide Directory,) have let down a little of these flattering hopes. We and the Directory know that the author, whatever changes his works seemed made to indicate, like a weathercock grown rusty, remains just where he was in the last week of last October. It is true, that his protest against binding him to his opinions, and his reservation of a right to whatever opinions he pleases, remain in their full force. This variability is pleasant, and shows a fertility of fancy:—
Qualis in aethereo felix Vertumnus Olympo Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet.
Yet, doing all justice to the sportive variability of these weekly, daily, or hourly speculators, shall I be pardoned, if I attempt a word on the part of us simple country folk? It is not good for us, however it may be so for great statesmen, that we should be treated with variable politics. I consider different relations as prescribing a different conduct. I allow, that, in transactions with an enemy, a minister may, and often must, vary his demands with the day, possibly with the hour. With an enemy, a fixed plan, variable arrangements. This is the rule the nature of the transaction prescribes. But all this belongs to treaty. All these shiftings and changes are a sort of secret amongst the parties, till a definite settlement is brought about. Such is the spirit of the proceedings in the doubtful and transitory state of things between enmity and friendship. In this change the subjects of the transformation are by nature carefully wrapt up in their cocoons. The gay ornament of summer is not seemly in his aurelia state. This mutability is allowed to a foreign negotiator; but when a great politician condescends publicly to instruct his own countrymen on a matter which may fix their fate forever, his opinions ought not to be diurnal, or even weekly. These ephemerides of politics are not made for our slow and coarse understandings. Our appetite demands a piece of resistance. We require some food that will stick to the ribs. We call for sentiments to which we can attach ourselves,—sentiments in which we can take an interest,—sentiments on which we can warm, on which we can ground some confidence in ourselves or in others. We do not want a largess of inconstancy. Poor souls, we have enough of that sort of poverty at home. There is a difference, too, between deliberation and doctrine: a man ought to be decided in his opinions before he attempts to teach. His fugitive lights may serve himself in some unknown region, but they cannot free us from the effects of the error into which we have been betrayed. His active Will-o'-the-wisp may be gone nobody can guess where, whilst he leaves us bemired and benighted in the bog.
Having premised these few reflections upon this new mode of teaching a lesson, which whilst the scholar is getting by heart the master forgets, I come to the lesson itself. On the fullest consideration of it, I am utterly incapable of saying with any great certainty what it is, in the detail, that the author means to affirm or deny, to dissuade or recommend. His march is mostly oblique, and his doctrine rather in the way of insinuation than of dogmatic assertion. It is not only fugitive in its duration, but is slippery in the extreme whilst it lasts. Examining it part by part, it seems almost everywhere to contradict itself; and the author, who claims the privilege of varying his opinions, has exercised this privilege in every section of his remarks. For this reason, amongst others, I follow the advice which the able writer gives in his last page, which is, "to consider the impression of what he has urged, taken from the whole, and not from detached paragraphs." That caution was not absolutely necessary. I should think it unfair to the author and to myself to have proceeded otherwise. This author's whole, however, like every other whole, cannot be so well comprehended without some reference to the parts; but they shall be again referred to the whole. Without this latter attention, several of the passages would certainly remain covered with an impenetrable and truly oracular obscurity.
The great, general, pervading purpose, of the whole pamphlet is to reconcile us to peace with the present usurpation in France. In this general drift of the author I can hardly be mistaken. The other purposes, less general, and subservient to the preceding scheme, are to show, first, that the time of the Remarks was the favorable time for making that peace upon our side; secondly, that on the enemy's side their disposition towards the acceptance of such terms as he is pleased to offer was rationally to be expected; the third purpose was, to make some sort of disclosure of the terms which, if the Regicides are pleased to grant them, this nation ought to be contented to accept: these form the basis of the negotiation which the author, whoever he is, proposes to open.
Before I consider these Remarks along with the other reasonings which I hear on the same subject, I beg leave to recall to your mind the observation I made early in our correspondence, and which ought to attend us quite through the discussion of this proposed peace, amity, or fraternity, or whatever you may call it,—that is, the real quality and character of the party you have to deal with. This I find, as a thing of no importance, has everywhere escaped the author of the October Remarks. That hostile power, to the period of the fourth week in that month, has been ever called and considered as an usurpation. In that week, for the first time, it changed its name of an usurped power, and took the simple name of France. The word France is slipped in just as if the government stood exactly as before that Revolution which has astonished, terrified, and almost overpowered Europe. "France," says the author, "will do this,"—"it is the interest of France,"—"the returning honor and generosity of France," &c., &c.—always merely France: just as if we were in a common political war with an old recognized member of the commonwealth of Christian Europe,—and as if our dispute had turned upon a mere matter of territorial or commercial controversy, which a peace might settle by the imposition or the taking off a duty, with the gain or the loss of a remote island or a frontier town or two, on the one side or the other. This shifting of persons could not be done without the hocus-pocus of abstraction. We have been in a grievous error: we thought that we had been at war with rebels against the lawful government, but that we were friends and allies of what is properly France, friends and allies to the legal body politic of France. But by sleight of hand the Jacobins are clean vanished, and it is France we have got under our cup. "Blessings on his soul that first invented sleep!" said Don Sancho Panza the Wise. All those blessings, and ten thousand times more, on him who found out abstraction, personification, and impersonals! In certain cases they are the first of all soporifics. Terribly alarmed we should be, if things were proposed to us in the concrete, and if fraternity was held out to us with the individuals who compose this France by their proper names and descriptions,—if we were told that it was very proper to enter into the closest bonds of amity and good correspondence with the devout, pacific, and tender-hearted Sieyes, with the all-accomplished Reubell, with the humane guillotinists of Bordeaux, Tallien and Isabeau, with the meek butcher, Legendre, and with "the returned humanity and generosity" (that had been only on a visit abroad) of the virtuous regicide brewer, Santerre. This would seem at the outset a very strange scheme of amity and concord,—nay, though we had held out to us, as an additional douceur, an assurance of the cordial fraternal embrace of our pious and patriotic countryman, Thomas Paine. But plain truth would here be shocking and absurd; therefore comes in abstraction and personification. "Make your peace with France." That word France sounds quite as well as any other; and it conveys no idea but that of a very pleasant country and very hospitable inhabitants. Nothing absurd and shocking in amity and good correspondence with France. Permit me to say, that I am not yet well acquainted with this new-coined France, and without a careful assay I am not willing to receive it in currency in place of the old Louis-d'or.
Having, therefore, slipped the persons with whom we are to treat out of view, we are next to be satisfied that the French Revolution, which this peace is to fix and consolidate, ought to give us no just cause of apprehension. Though the author labors this point, yet he confesses a fact (indeed, he could not conceal it) which renders all his labors utterly fruitless. He confesses that the Regicide means to dictate a pacification, and that this pacification, according to their decree passed but a very few days before his publication appeared, is to "unite to their empire, either in possession or dependence, new barriers, many frontier places of strength, a large sea-coast, and many sea-ports." He ought to have stated it, that they would annex to their territory a country about a third as large as France, and much more than half as rich, and in a situation the most important for command that it would be possible for her anywhere to possess.
To remove this terror, (even if the Regicides should carry their point,) and to give us perfect repose with regard to their empire, whatever they may acquire, or whomsoever they might destroy, he raises a doubt "whether France will not be ruined by retaining these conquests, and whether she will not wholly lose that preponderance which she has held in the scale of European powers, and will not eventually be destroyed by the effect of her present successes, or, at least, whether, so far as the political interests of England are concerned, she [France] will remain an object of as much jealousy and alarm as she was under the reign of a monarch." Here, indeed, is a paragraph full of meaning! It gives matter for meditation almost in every word of it. The secret of the pacific politicians is out. This republic, at all hazards, is to be maintained. It is to be confined within some bounds, if we can; if not, with every possible acquisition of power, it is still to be cherished and supported. It is the return of the monarchy we are to dread, and therefore we ought to pray for the permanence of the Regicide authority. Esto perpetua is the devout ejaculation of our Fra Paolo for the Republic one and indivisible. It was the monarchy that rendered France dangerous: Regicide neutralizes all the acrimony of that power, and renders it safe and social. The October speculator is of opinion that monarchy is of so poisonous a quality that a moderate territorial power is far more dangerous to its neighbors under that abominable regimen than the greatest empire in the hands of a republic. This is Jacobinism sublimed and exalted into most pure and perfect essence. It is a doctrine, I admit, made to allure and captivate, if anything in the world can, the Jacobin Directory, to mollify the ferocity of Regicide, and to persuade those patriotic hangmen, after their reiterated oaths for our extirpation, to admit this well-humbled nation to the fraternal embrace. I do not wonder that this tub of October has been racked off into a French cask. It must make its fortune at Paris. That translation seems the language the most suited to these sentiments. Our author tells the French Jacobins, that the political interests of Great Britain are in perfect unison with the principles of their government,—that they may take and keep the keys of the civilized world, for they are safe in their unambitious and faithful custody. We say to them, "We may, indeed, wish you to be a little less murderous, wicked, and atheistical, for the sake of morals; we may think it were better you were less new-fangled in your speech, for the sake of grammar; but, as politicians, provided you keep clear of monarchy, all our fears, alarms, and jealousies are at an end: at least, they sink into nothing in comparison of our dread of your detestable royalty." A flatterer of Cardinal Mazarin said, when that minister had just settled the match between the young Louis the Fourteenth and a daughter of Spain, that this alliance had the effect of faith and had removed mountains,—that the Pyrenees were levelled by that marriage. You may now compliment Reubell in the same spirit on the miracles of regicide, and tell him that the guillotine of Louis the Sixteenth had consummated a marriage between Great Britain and France, which dried up the Channel, and restored the two countries to the unity which it is said they had before the unnatural rage of seas and earthquakes had broke off their happy junction. It will be a fine subject for the poets who are to prophesy the blessings of this peace.
I am now convinced that the Remarks of the last week of October cannot come from the author to whom they are given, they are such a direct contradiction to the style of manly indignation with which he spoke of those miscreants and murderers in his excellent memorial to the States of Holland,—to that very state which the author who presumes to personate him does not find it contrary to the political interests of England to leave in the hands of these very miscreants, against whom on the part of England he took so much pains to animate their republic. This cannot be; and if this argument wanted anything to give it new force, it is strengthened by an additional reason, that is irresistible. Knowing that noble person, as well as myself, to be under very great obligations to the crown, I am confident he would not so very directly contradict, even in the paroxysm of his zeal against monarchy, the declarations made in the name and with the fullest approbation of our sovereign, his master, and our common benefactor. In those declarations you will see that the king, instead of being sensible of greater alarm and jealousy from a neighboring crowned head than from, these regicides, attributes all the dangers of Europe to the latter. Let this writer hear the description given in the royal declaration of the scheme of power of these miscreants, as "a system destructive of all public order, maintained by proscriptions, exiles, and confiscations without number, by arbitrary imprisonments, by massacres which cannot be remembered without horror, and at length by the execrable murder of a just and beneficent sovereign, and of the illustrious princess, who with an unshaken firmness has shared all the misfortunes of her royal consort, his protracted sufferings, his cruel captivity, his ignominious death." After thus describing, with an eloquence and energy equalled only by its truth, the means by which this usurped power had been acquired and maintained, that government is characterized with equal force. His Majesty, far from thinking monarchy in France to be a greater object of jealousy than the Regicide usurpation, calls upon the French to reestablish "a monarchical government" for the purpose of shaking off "the yoke of a sanguinary anarchy,—of that anarchy which has broken all the most sacred bonds of society, dissolved all the relations of civil life, violated every right, confounded every duty,—which uses the name of liberty to exercise the most cruel tyranny, to annihilate all property, to seize on all possessions,—which founds its power on the pretended consent of the people, and itself carries fire and sword through extensive provinces, for having demanded their laws, their religion, and their lawful sovereign."
"That strain I heard was of a higher mood." That declaration of our sovereign was worthy of his throne. It is in a style which neither the pen of the writer of October nor such a poor crow-quill as mine can ever hope to equal. I am happy to enrich my letter with this fragment of nervous and manly eloquence, which, if it had not emanated from the awful authority of a throne, if it were not recorded amongst the most valuable monuments of history, and consecrated in the archives of states, would be worthy, as a private composition, to live forever in the memory of men.
In those admirable pieces does his Majesty discover this new opinion of his political security, in having the chair of the scorner, that is, the discipline of atheism, and the block of regicide, set up by his side, elevated on the same platform, and shouldering, with the vile image of their grim and bloody idol, the inviolable majesty of his throne? The sentiments of these declarations are the very reverse: they could not be other. Speaking of the spirit of that usurpation, the royal manifesto describes, with perfect truth, its internal tyranny to have been established as the very means of shaking the security of all other states,—as "disposing arbitrarily of the property and blood of the inhabitants of France, in order to disturb the tranquillity of other nations, and to render all Europe the theatre of the same crimes and of the same misfortunes." It was but a natural inference from this fact, that the royal manifesto does not at all rest the justification of this war on common principles: that it was "not only to defend his own rights, and those of his allies," but "that all the dearest interests of his people imposed upon him a duty still more important,—that of exerting his efforts for the preservation of civil society itself, as happily established among the nations of Europe." On that ground, the protection offered is to "those who, by declaring for a monarchical government, shall shake off the yoke of a sanguinary anarchy." It is for that purpose the declaration calls on them "to join the standard of an hereditary monarchy,"—declaring that the peace and safety of this kingdom and the other powers of Europe "materially depend on the reestablishment of order in France." His Majesty does not hesitate to declare that "the reestablishment of monarchy, in the person of Louis the Seventeenth, and the lawful heirs of the crown, appears to him [his Majesty] the best mode of accomplishing these just and salutary views."
This is what his Majesty does not hesitate to declare relative to the political safety and peace of his kingdom and of Europe, and with regard to France under her ancient hereditary monarchy in the course and order of legal succession. But in comes a gentleman, in the fag end of October, dripping with the fogs of that humid and uncertain season, and does not hesitate in diameter to contradict this wise and just royal declaration, and stoutly, on his part, to make a counter declaration,—that France, so far as the political interests of England are concerned, will not remain, under the despotism of Regicide, and with the better part of Europe in her hands, so much an object of jealousy and alarm as she was under the reign of a monarch. When I hear the master and reason on one side, and the servant and his single and unsupported assertion on the other, my part is taken.
This is what the Octobrist says of the political interests of England, which it looks as if he completely disconnected with those of all other nations. But not quite so: he just allows it possible (with an "at least") that the other powers may not find it quite their interest that their territories should be conquered and their subjects tyrannized over by the Regicides. No fewer than ten sovereign princes had, some the whole, all a very considerable part of their dominions under the yoke of that dreadful faction. Amongst these was to be reckoned the first republic in the world, and the closest ally of this kingdom, which, under the insulting name of an independency, is under her iron yoke, and, as long as a faction averse to the old government is suffered there to domineer, cannot be otherwise. I say nothing of the Austrian Netherlands, countries of a vast extent, and amongst the most fertile and populous of Europe, and, with regard to us, most critically situated. The rest will readily occur to you.
But if there are yet existing any people, like me, old-fashioned enough to consider that we have an important part of our very existence beyond our limits, and who therefore stretch their thoughts beyond the pomoerium of England, for them, too, he has a comfort which will remove all their jealousies and alarms about the extent of the empire of Regicide. "These conquests eventually will be the cause of her destruction." So that they who hate the cause of usurpation, and dread the power of France under any form, are to wish her to be a conqueror, in order to accelerate her ruin. A little more conquest would be still better. Will he tell us what dose of dominion is to be the quantum sufficit for her destruction?—for she seems very voracious of the food of her distemper. To be sure, she is ready to perish with repletion; she has a boulimia, and hardly has bolted down one state than she calls for two or three more. There is a good deal of wit in all this; but it seems to me (with all respect to the author) to be carrying the joke a great deal too far. I cannot yet think that the armies of the Allies were of this way of thinking, and that, when they evacuated all these countries, it was a stratagem of war to decoy France into ruin,—or that, if in a treaty we should surrender them forever into the hands of the usurpation, (the lease the author supposes,) it is a master-stroke of policy to effect the destruction of a formidable rival, and to render her no longer an object of jealousy and alarm. This, I assure the author, will infinitely facilitate the treaty. The usurpers will catch at this bait, without minding the hook which this crafty angler for the Jacobin gudgeons of the new Directory has so dexterously placed under it.
Every symptom of the exacerbation of the public malady is, with him, (as with the Doctor in Moliere,) a happy prognostic of recovery.—Flanders gone. Tant mieux.—Holland subdued. Charming!—Spain beaten, and all the hither Germany conquered. Bravo! Better and better still!—But they will retain all their conquests on a treaty. Best of all!—What a delightful thing it is to have a gay physician, who sees all things, as the French express it, couleur de rose! What an escape we have had, that we and our allies were not the conquerors! By these conquests, previous to her utter destruction, she is "wholly to lose that preponderance which she held in the scale of the European powers." Bless me! this new system of France, after changing all other laws, reverses the law of gravitation. By throwing in weight after weight, her scale rises, and will by-and-by kick the beam. Certainly there is one sense in which she loses her preponderance: that is, she is no longer preponderant against the countries she has conquered. They are part of herself. But I beg the author to keep his eyes fixed on the scales for a moment longer, and then to tell me, in downright earnest, whether he sees hitherto any signs of her losing preponderance by an augmentation of weight and power. Has she lost her preponderance over Spain by her influence in Spain? Are there any signs that the conquest of Savoy and Nice begins to lessen her preponderance over Switzerland and the Italian States,—or that the Canton of Berne, Genoa, and Tuscany, for example, have taken arms against her,—or that Sardinia is more adverse than ever to a treacherous pacification? Was it in the last week of October that the German States showed that Jacobin. France was losing her preponderance? Did the King of Prussia, when he delivered into her safe custody his territories on this side of the Rhine, manifest any tokens of his opinion of her loss of preponderance? Look on Sweden and on Denmark: is her preponderance less visible there?
It is true, that, in a course of ages, empires have fallen, and, in the opinion of some, not in mine, by their own weight. Sometimes they have been unquestionably embarrassed in their movements by the dissociated situation of their dominions. Such was the case of the empire of Charles the Fifth and of his successor. It might be so of others. But so compact a body of empire, so fitted in all the parts for mutual support, with a frontier by Nature and Art so impenetrable, with such facility of breaking out with irresistible force from every quarter, was never seen in such an extent of territory, from the beginning of time, as in that empire which the Jacobins possessed in October, 1795, and which Boissy d'Anglas, in his report, settled as the law for Europe, and the dominion assigned by Nature for the Republic of Regicide. But this empire is to be her ruin, and to take away all alarm and jealousy on the part of England, and to destroy her preponderance over the miserable remains of Europe.
These are choice speculations with which the author amuses himself, and tries to divert us, in the blackest hours of the dismay, defeat, and calamity of all civilized nations. They have but one fault,—that they are directly contrary to the common sense and common feeling of mankind. If I had but one hour to live, I would employ it in decrying this wretched system, and die with my pen in my hand to mark out the dreadful consequences of receiving an arrangement of empire dictated by the despotism of Regicide to my own country, and to the lawful sovereigns of the Christian world.
I trust I shall hardly be told, in palliation of this shameful system of politics, that the author expresses his sentiments only as doubts. In such things, it may be truly said, that "once to doubt is once to be resolved." It would be a strange reason for wasting the treasures and shedding the blood of our country, to prevent arrangements on the part of another power, of which we were doubtful whether they might not be even to our advantage, and render our neighbor less than before the object of our jealousy and alarm. In this doubt there is much decision. No nation would consent to carry on a war of skepticism. But the fact is, this expression of doubt is only a mode of putting an opinion, when it is not the drift of the author to overturn the doubt. Otherwise, the doubt is never stated as the author's own, nor left, as here it is, unanswered. Indeed, the mode of stating the most decided opinions in the form of questions is so little uncommon, particularly since the excellent queries of the excellent Berkeley, that it became for a good while a fashionable mode of composition.
Here, then, the author of the Fourth Week of October is ready for the worst, and would strike the bargain of peace on these conditions. I must leave it to you and to every considerate man to reflect upon the effect of this on any Continental alliances, present or future, and whether it would be possible (if this book was thought of the least authority) that its maxims with regard to our political interest must not naturally push them to be beforehand with us in the fraternity with Regicide, and thus not only strip us of any steady alliance at present, but leave us without any of that communion of interest which could produce alliances in future. Indeed, with these maxims, we should be well divided from the world.
Notwithstanding this new kind of barrier and security that is found against her ambition in her conquests, yet in the very same paragraph he admits, that, "for the present, at least, it is subversive of the balance of power." This, I confess, is not a direct contradiction, because the benefits which he promises himself from it, according to his hypothesis, are future and more remote.
So disposed is this author to peace, that, having laid a comfortable foundation for our security in the greatness of her empire, he has another in reserve, if that should fail, upon quite a contrary ground: that is, a speculation of her crumbling to pieces, and being thrown into a number of little separate republics. After paying the tribute of humanity to those who will be ruined by all these changes, on the whole he is of opinion that "the change might be compatible with general tranquillity, and with the establishment of a peaceful and prosperous commerce among nations." Whether France be great or small, firm and entire or dissipated and divided, all is well, provided we can have peace with her.
But without entering into speculations about her dismemberment, whilst she is adding great nations to her empire, is it, then, quite so certain that the dissipation of France into such a cluster of petty republics would be so very favorable to the true balance of power in Europe as this author imagines it would be, and to the commerce of nations? I greatly differ from him. I perhaps shall prove in a future letter, with the political map of Europe before my eye, that the general liberty and independence of the great Christian commonwealth could not exist with such a dismemberment, unless it were followed (as probably enough it would) by the dismemberment of every other considerable country in Europe: and what convulsions would arise in the constitution of every state in Europe it is not easy to conjecture in the mode, impossible not to foresee in the mass. Speculate on, good my Lord! provided you ground no part of your politics on such unsteady speculations. But as to any practice to ensue, are we not yet cured of the malady of speculating on the circumstances of things totally different from those in which we live and move? Five years has this monster continued whole and entire in all its members. Far from falling into a division within itself, it is augmented by tremendous additions. We cannot bear to look that frightful form in the face, as it is, and in its own actual shape. We dare not be wise; we have not the fortitude of rational fear; we will not provide for our future safety; but we endeavor to hush the cries of present timidity by guesses at what may be hereafter,—
"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow."
Is this our style of talk, when
"all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death"?
Talk not to me of what swarm of republics may come from this carcass! It is no carcass. Now, now, whilst we are talking, it is full of life and action. What say you to the Regicide empire of to-day? Tell me, my friend, do its terrors appall you into an abject submission, or rouse you to a vigorous defence? But do—I no longer prevent it—do go on,—look into futurity. Has this empire nothing to alarm you when all struggle against it is over, when mankind shall be silent before it, when all nations shall be disarmed, disheartened, and truly divided by a treacherous peace? Its malignity towards humankind will subsist with undiminished heat, whilst the means of giving it effect must proceed, and every means of resisting it must inevitably and rapidly decline.
Against alarm on their politic and military empire these are the writer's sedative remedies. But he leaves us sadly in the dark with regard to the moral consequences, which he states have threatened to demolish a system of civilization under which his country enjoys a prosperity unparalleled in the history of man. We had emerged from our first terrors, but here we sink into them again,—however, only to shake them off upon the credit of his being a man of very sanguine hopes.
Against the moral terrors of this successful empire of barbarism, though he has given us no consolation here, in another place he has formed other securities,—securities, indeed, which will make even the enormity of the crimes and atrocities of France a benefit to the world. We are to be cured by her diseases. We are to grow proud of our Constitution upon, the distempers of theirs. Governments throughout all Europe are to become much stronger by this event. This, too, comes in the favorite mode of doubt and perhaps. "To those," he says, "who meditate on the workings of the human mind, a doubt may perhaps arise, whether the effects which I have described," (namely, the change he supposes to be wrought on the public mind with regard to the French doctrines,) "though at present a salutary check to the dangerous spirit of innovation, may not prove favorable to abuses of power, by creating a timidity in the just cause of liberty." Here the current of our apprehensions takes a contrary course. Instead of trembling for the existence of our government from the spirit of licentiousness and anarchy, the author would make us believe we are to tremble for our liberties from the great accession of power which is to accrue to government.
I believe I have read in some author who criticized the productions of the famous Jurieu, that it is not very wise in people who dash away in prophecy, to fix the time of accomplishment at too short a period. Mr. Brothers may meditate upon this at his leisure. He was a melancholy prognosticator, and has had the fate of melancholy men. But they who prophesy pleasant things get great present applause; and in days of calamity people have something else to think of: they lose, in their feeling of their distress, all memory of those who flattered them in their prosperity. But merely for the credit of the prediction, nothing could have happened more unluckily for the noble lord's sanguine expectations of the amendment of the public mind, and the consequent greater security to government, from the examples in France, than what happened in the week after the publication of his hebdomadal system. I am not sure it was not in the very week one of the most violent and dangerous seditions broke out that we have seen in several years. This sedition, menacing to the public security, endangering the sacred person of the king, and violating in the most audacious manner the authority of Parliament, surrounded our sovereign with a murderous yell and war-whoop for that peace which the noble lord considers as a cure for all domestic disturbances and dissatisfactions.
So far as to this general cure for popular disorders. As for government, the two Houses of Parliament, instead of being guided by the speculations of the Fourth Week in October, and throwing up new barriers against the dangerous power of the crown, which the noble lord considered as no unplausible subject of apprehension, the two Houses of Parliament thought fit to pass two acts for the further strengthening of that very government against a most dangerous and wide-spread faction.
Unluckily, too, for this kind of sanguine speculation, on the very first day of the ever-famed "last week of October," a large, daring, and seditious meeting was publicly held, from which meeting this atrocious attempt against the sovereign publicly originated.
No wonder that the author should tell us that the whole consideration might be varied whilst he was writing those pages. In one, and that the most material instance, his speculations not only might be, but were at that very time, entirely overset. Their war-cry for peace with France was the same with that of this gentle author, but in a different note. His is the gemitus columbae, cooing and wooing fraternity; theirs the funereal screams of birds of night calling for their ill-omened paramours. But they are both songs of courtship. These Regicides considered a Regicide peace as a cure for all their evils; and so far as I can find, they showed nothing at all of the timidity which the noble lord apprehends in what they call the just cause of liberty.
However, it seems, that, notwithstanding these awkward appearances with regard to the strength of government, he has still his fears and doubts about our liberties. To a free people this would be a matter of alarm; but this physician of October has in his shop all sorts of salves for all sorts of sores. It is curious that they all come from the inexhaustible drug-shop of the Regicide dispensary. It costs him nothing to excite terror, because he lays it at his pleasure. He finds a security for this danger to liberty from the wonderful wisdom to be taught to kings, to nobility, and even, to the lowest of the people, by the late transactions.
I confess I was always blind enough to regard the French Revolution, in the act, and much more in the example, as one of the greatest calamities that had ever fallen upon mankind. I now find that in its effects it is to be the greatest of all blessings. If so, we owe amende honorable to the Jacobins. They, it seems, were right; and if they were right a little earlier than we are, it only shows that they exceeded us in sagacity. If they brought out their right ideas somewhat in a disorderly manner, it must be remembered that great zeal produces some irregularity; but when greatly in the right, it must be pardoned by those who are very regularly and temperately in the wrong. The master Jacobins had told me this a thousand times. I never believed the masters; nor do I now find myself disposed to give credit to the disciple. I will not much dispute with our author, which party has the best of this Revolution,—that which is from thence to learn wisdom, or that which from the same event has obtained power. The dispute on the preference of strength to wisdom may perhaps be decided as Horace has decided the controversy between Art and Nature. I do not like to leave all the power to my adversary, and to secure nothing to myself but the untimely wisdom that is taught by the consequences of folly. I do not like my share in the partition: because to his strength my adversary may possibly add a good deal of cunning, whereas my wisdom may totally fail in producing to me the same degree of strength. But to descend from the author's generalities a little nearer to meaning, the security given to liberty is this,—"that governments will have learned not to precipitate themselves into embarrassments by speculative wars. Sovereigns and princes will not forget that steadiness, moderation, and economy are the best supports of the eminence on which they stand." There seems to me a good deal of oblique reflection in this lesson. As to the lesson itself, it is at all times a good one. One would think, however, by this formal introduction of it as a recommendation of the arrangements proposed by the author, it had never been taught before, either by precept or by experience,—and that these maxims are discoveries reserved for a Regicide peace. But is it permitted to ask what security it affords to the liberty of the subject, that the prince is pacific or frugal? The very contrary has happened in our history. Our best securities for freedom have been obtained from princes who were either warlike, or prodigal, or both.
Although the amendment of princes in these points can have no effect in quieting our apprehensions for liberty on account of the strength to be acquired to government by a Regicide peace, I allow that the avoiding of speculative wars may possibly be an advantage, provided I well understand what the author means by a speculative war. I suppose he means a war grounded on speculative advantages, and not wars founded on a just speculation of danger. Does he mean to include this war, which we are now carrying on, amongst those speculative wars which this Jacobin peace is to teach sovereigns to avoid hereafter? If so, it is doing the party an important service. Does he mean that we are to avoid such wars as that of the Grand Alliance, made on a speculation of danger to the independence of Europe? I suspect he has a sort of retrospective view to the American war, as a speculative war, carried on by England upon one side and by Louis the Sixteenth on the other. As to our share of that war, let reverence to the dead and respect to the living prevent us from reading lessons of this kind at their expense. I don't know how far the author may find himself at liberty to wanton on that subject; but, for my part, I entered into a coalition which, when I had no longer a duty relative to that business, made me think myself bound in honor not to call it up without necessity. But if he puts England out of the question, and reflects only on Louis the Sixteenth, I have only to say, "Dearly has he answered it!" I will not defend him. But all those who pushed on the Revolution by which he was deposed were much more in fault than he was. They have murdered him, and have divided his kingdom as a spoil; but they who are the guilty are not they who furnish the example. They who reign through his fault are not among those sovereigns who are likely to be taught to avoid speculative wars by the murder of their master. I think the author will not be hardy enough to assert that they have shown less disposition to meddle in the concerns of that very America than he did, and in a way not less likely to kindle the flame of speculative war. Here is one sovereign not yet reclaimed by these healing examples. Will he point out the other sovereigns who are to be reformed by this peace? Their wars may not be speculative. But the world will not be much mended by turning wars from unprofitable and speculative to practical and lucrative, whether the liberty or the repose of mankind is regarded. If the author's new sovereign in France is not reformed by the example of his own Revolution, that Revolution has not added much to the security and repose of Poland, for instance, or taught the three great partitioning powers more moderation in their second than they had shown in their first division of that devoted country. The first division, which preceded these destructive examples, was moderation itself, in comparison of what has been, done since the period of the author's amendment.
This paragraph is written with something of a studied obscurity. If it means anything, it seems to hint as if sovereigns were to learn moderation, and an attention to the liberties of their people, from the fate of the sovereigns who have suffered in this war, and eminently of Louis the Sixteenth.
Will he say whether the King of Sardinia's horrible tyranny was the cause of the loss of Savoy and of Nice? What lesson of moderation does it teach the Pope? I desire to know whether his Holiness is to learn not to massacre his subjects, nor to waste and destroy such beautiful countries as that of Avignon, lest he should call to their assistance that great deliverer of nations, Jourdan Coupe-tete? What lesson does it give of moderation to the Emperor, whose predecessor never put one man to death after a general rebellion of the Low Countries, that the Regicides never spared man, woman, or child, whom they but suspected of dislike to their usurpations? What, then, are all these lessons about the softening the character of sovereigns by this Regicide peace? On reading this section, one would imagine that the poor tame sovereigns of Europe had been a sort of furious wild beasts, that stood in need of some uncommonly rough discipline to subdue the ferocity of their savage nature.
As to the example to be learnt from the murder of Louis the Sixteenth, if a lesson to kings is not derived from his fate, I do not know whence it can come. The author, however, ought not to have left us in the dark upon that subject, to break our shins over his hints and insinuations. Is it, then, true, that this unfortunate monarch drew his punishment upon himself by his want of moderation, and his oppressing the liberties of which he had found his people in possession? Is not the direct contrary the fact? And is not the example of this Revolution the very reverse of anything which can lead to that softening of character in princes which the author supposes as a security to the people, and has brought forward as a recommendation to fraternity with those who have administered that happy emollient in the murder of their king and the slavery and desolation of their country?
But the author does not confine the benefit of the Regicide lesson to kings alone. He has a diffusive bounty. Nobles, and men of property, will likewise be greatly reformed. They, too, will be led to a review of their social situation and duties,—"and will reflect, that their large allotment of worldly advantages is for the aid and benefit of the whole." Is it, then, from the fate of Juigne, Archbishop of Paris, or of the Cardinal de Rochefoucault, and of so many others, who gave their fortunes, and, I may say, their very beings, to the poor, that the rich are to learn, that their "fortunes are for the aid and benefit of the whole"? I say nothing of the liberal persons of great rank and property, lay and ecclesiastic, men and women, to whom we have had the honor and happiness of affording an asylum: I pass by these, lest I should never have done, or lest I should omit some as deserving as any I might mention. Why will the author, then, suppose that the nobles and men of property in France have been banished, confiscated, and murdered, on account of the savageness and ferocity of their character, and their being tainted with vices beyond those of the same order and description in other countries? No judge of a revolutionary tribunal, with his hands dipped in their blood and his maw gorged with their property, has yet dared to assert what this author has been pleased, by way of a moral lesson, to insinuate.
Their nobility, and their men of property, in a mass, had the very same virtues, and the very same vices, and in the very same proportions, with the same description of men in this and in other nations. I must do justice to suffering honor, generosity, and integrity. I do not know that any time or any country has furnished more splendid examples of every virtue, domestic and public. I do not enter into the councils of Providence; but, humanly speaking, many of these nobles and men of property, from whose disastrous fate we are, it seems, to learn a general softening of character, and a revision of our social situations and duties, appear to me full as little deserving of that fate as the author, whoever he is, can be. Many of them, I am sure, were such as I should be proud indeed to be able to compare myself with, in knowledge, in integrity, and in every other virtue. My feeble nature might shrink, though theirs did not, from the proof; but my reason and my ambition tell me that it would be a good bargain to purchase their merits with their fate.
For which of his vices did that great magistrate, D'Espremenil, lose his fortune and his head? What were the abominations of Malesherbes, that other excellent magistrate, whose sixty years of uniform virtue was acknowledged, in the very act of his murder, by the judicial butchers who condemned him? On account of what misdemeanors was he robbed of his property, and slaughtered with two generations of his offspring,—and the remains of the third race, with a refinement of cruelty, and lest they should appear to reclaim the property forfeited by the virtues of their ancestor, confounded in an hospital with the thousands of those unhappy foundling infants who are abandoned, without relation and without name, by the wretchedness or by the profligacy of their parents?
Is the fate of the Queen of France to produce this softening of character? Was she a person so very ferocious and cruel, as, by the example of her death, to frighten us into common humanity? Is there no way to teach the Emperor a softening of character, and a review of his social situation and duty, but his consent, by an infamous accord with Regicide, to drive a second coach with the Austrian arms through the streets of Paris, along which, after a series of preparatory horrors exceeding the atrocities of the bloody execution itself, the glory of the Imperial race had been carried to an ignominious death? Is this a lesson of moderation to a descendant of Maria Theresa, drawn from the fate of the daughter of that incomparable woman and sovereign? If he learns this lesson from such an object, and from such teachers, the man may remain, but the king is deposed. If he does not carry quite another memory of that transaction in the inmost recesses of his heart, he is unworthy to reign, he is unworthy to live. In the chronicle of disgrace he will have but this short tale told of him: "He was the first emperor of his house that embraced a regicide; he was the last that wore the imperial purple." Far am I from thinking so ill of this august sovereign, who is at the head of the monarchies of Europe, and who is the trustee of their dignities and his own.
What ferocity of character drew on the fate of Elizabeth, the sister of King Louis the Sixteenth? For which of the vices of that pattern of benevolence, of piety, and of all the virtues, did they put her to death? For which of her vices did they put to death the mildest of all human creatures, the Duchess of Biron? What were the crimes of those crowds of matrons and virgins of condition, whom they mas sacred, with their juries of blood, in prisons and on scaffolds? What were the enormities of the infant king, whom they caused, by lingering tortures, to perish in their dungeon, and whom if at last they dispatched by poison, it was in that detestable crime the only act of mercy they have ever shown?
What softening of character is to be had, what review of their social situations and duties is to be taught by these examples to kings, to nobles, to men of property, to women, and to infants? The royal family perished because it was royal. The nobles perished because they were noble. The men, women, and children, who had property, because they had property to be robbed of. The priests were punished, after they had been robbed of their all, not for their vices, but for their virtues and their piety, which made them an honor to their sacred profession, and to that nature of which we ought to be proud, since they belong to it. My Lord, nothing can be learned from such examples, except the danger of being kings, queens, nobles, priests, and children, to be butchered on account of their inheritance. These are things at which not vice, not crime, not folly, but wisdom, goodness, learning, justice, probity, beneficence, stand aghast. By these examples our reason and our moral sense are not enlightened, but confounded; and there is no refuge for astonished and affrighted virtue, but being annihilated in humility and submission, sinking into a silent adoration of the inscrutable dispensations of Providence, and flying with trembling wings from this world of daring crimes, and feeble, pusillanimous, half-bred, bastard justice, to the asylum of another order of things, in an unknown form, but in a better life.
Whatever the politician or preacher of September or of October may think of the matter, it is a most comfortless, disheartening, desolating example. Dreadful is the example of ruined innocence and virtue, and the completest triumph of the completest villany that ever vexed and disgraced mankind! The example is ruinous in every point of view, religious, moral, civil, political. It establishes that dreadful maxim of Machiavel, that in great affairs men are not to be wicked by halves. This maxim is not made for a middle sort of beings, who, because they cannot be angels, ought to thwart their ambition, and not endeavor to become infernal spirits. It is too well exemplified in the present time, where the faults and errors of humanity, checked by the imperfect, timorous virtues, have been overpowered by those who have stopped at no crime. It is a dreadful part of the example, that infernal malevolence has had pious apologists, who read their lectures on frailties in favor of crimes,—who abandon the weak, and court the friendship of the wicked. To root out these maxims, and the examples that support them, is a wise object of years of war. This is that war. This is that moral war. It was said by old Trivulzio, that the Battle of Marignano was the Battle of the Giants,—that all the rest of the many he had seen were those of the Cranes and Pygmies. This is true of the objects, at least, of the contest: for the greater part of those which we have hitherto contended for, in comparison, were the toys of children.
The October politician is so full of charity and good-nature, that he supposes that these very robbers and murderers themselves are in a course of melioration: on what ground I cannot conceive, except on the long practice of every crime, and by its complete success. He is an Origenist, and believes in the conversion of the Devil. All that runs in the place of blood in his veins is nothing but the milk of human kindness. He is as soft as a curd,—though, as a politician, he might be supposed to be made of sterner stuff. He supposes (to use his own expression) "that the salutary truths which he inculcates are making their way into their bosoms." Their bosom is a rock of granite, on which Falsehood has long since built her stronghold. Poor Truth has had a hard work of it, with her little pickaxe. Nothing but gunpowder will do.
As a proof, however, of the progress of this sap of Truth, he gives us a confession they had made not long before he wrote. "'Their fraternity' (as was lately stated by themselves in a solemn report) 'has been the brotherhood of Cain and Abel,' and 'they have organized nothing but bankruptcy and famine.'" A very honest confession, truly,—and much in the spirit of their oracle, Rousseau. Yet, what is still more marvellous than the confession, this is the very fraternity to which our author gives us such an obliging invitation to accede. There is, indeed, a vacancy in the fraternal corps: a brother and a partner is wanted. If we please, we may fill up the place of the butchered Abel; and whilst we wait the destiny of the departed brother, we may enjoy the advantages of the partnership, by entering without delay into a shop of ready-made bankruptcy and famine. These are the douceurs by which we are invited to Regicide fraternity and friendship. But still our author considers the confession as a proof that "truth is making its way into their bosoms." No! It is not making its way into their bosoms. It has forced its way into their mouths! The evil spirit by which they are possessed, though essentially a liar, is forced by the tortures of conscience to confess the truth,—to confess enough for their condemnation, but not for their amendment. Shakspeare very aptly expresses this kind of confession, devoid of repentance, from the mouth of an usurper, a murderer, and a regicide:—
"We are ourselves compelled, Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, To give in evidence."
Whence is their amendment? Why, the author writes, that, on their murderous insurrectionary system, their own lives are not sure for an hour; nor has their power a greater stability. True. They are convinced of it; and accordingly the wretches have done all they can to preserve their lives, and to secure their power; but not one step have they taken to amend the one or to make a more just use of the other. Their wicked policy has obliged them to make a pause in the only massacres in which their treachery and cruelty had operated as a kind of savage justice,—that is, the massacre of the accomplices of their crimes: they have ceased to shed the inhuman blood of their fellow-murderers; but when they take any of those persons who contend for their lawful government, their property, and their religion, notwithstanding the truth which this author says is making its way into their bosoms, it has not taught them the least tincture of mercy. This we plainly see by their massacre at Quiberon, where they put to death, with every species of contumely, and without any exception, every prisoner of war who did not escape out of their hands. To have had property, to have been robbed of it, and to endeavor to regain it,—these are crimes irremissible, to which every man who regards his property or his life, in every country, ought well to look in all connection with those with whom to have had property was an offence, to endeavor to keep it a second offence, to attempt to regain it a crime that puts the offender out of all the laws of peace or war. You cannot see one of those wretches without an alarm for your life as well as your goods. They are like the worst of the French and Italian banditti, who, whenever they robbed, were sure to murder.
Are they not the very same ruffians, thieves, assassins, and regicides that they were from the beginning? Have they diversified the scene by the least variety, or produced the face of a single new villany? Taedet harum quotidianarum formarum. Oh! but I shall be answered, "It is now quite another thing;—they are all changed. You have not seen them in their state dresses;—this makes an amazing difference. The new habit of the Directory is so charmingly fancied, that it is impossible not to fall in love with so well-dressed a Constitution;—the costume of the sans-culotte Constitution of 1793 was absolutely insufferable. The Committee for Foreign Affairs were such slovens, and stunk so abominably, that no muscadin ambassador of the smallest degree of delicacy of nerves could come within ten yards of them; but now they are so powdered, and perfumed, and ribanded, and sashed, and plumed, that, though they are grown infinitely more insolent in their fine clothes even than they were in their rags, (and that was enough,) as they now appear, there is something in it more grand and noble, something more suitable to an awful Roman Senate receiving the homage of dependent tetrarchs. Like that Senate, (their perpetual model for conduct towards other nations,) they permit their vassals (during their good pleasure) to assume the name of kings, in order to bestow more dignity on the suite and retinue of the sovereign Republic by the nominal rank of their slaves: Ut habeant instrumenta servitutis et reges." All this is very fine, undoubtedly; and ambassadors whose hands are almost out for want of employment may long to have their part in this august ceremony of the Republic one and indivisible. But, with great deference to the new diplomatic taste, we old people must retain some square-toed predilection, for the fashions of our youth.
I am afraid you will find me, my Lord, again falling into my usual vanity, in valuing myself on the eminent men whose society I once enjoyed. I remember, in a conversation I once had with my ever dear friend Garrick, who was the first of actors, because he was the most acute observer of Nature I ever knew, I asked him how it happened, that, whenever a senate appeared on the stage, the audience seemed always disposed to laughter. He said, the reason was plain: the audience was well acquainted with the faces of most of the senators. They knew that they were no other than candle-snuffers, revolutionary scene-shifters, second and third mob, prompters, clerks, executioners, who stand with their axe on their shoulders by the wheel, grinners in the pantomime, murderers in tragedies, who make ugly faces under black wigs,—in short, the very scum and refuse of the theatre; and it was of course that the contrast of the vileness of the actors with the pomp of their habits naturally excited ideas of contempt and ridicule.
So it was at Paris on the inaugural day of the Constitution for the present year. The foreign ministers were ordered to attend at this investiture of the Directory;—for so they call the managers of their burlesque government. The diplomacy, who were a sort of strangers, were quite awe-struck with the "pride, pomp, and circumstance" of this majestic senate; whilst the sans-culotte gallery instantly recognized their old insurrectionary acquaintance, burst out into a horse-laugh at their absurd finery, and held them in infinitely greater contempt than whilst they prowled about the streets in the pantaloons of the last year's Constitution, when their legislators appeared honestly, with their daggers in their belts, and their pistols peeping out of their side-pocket-holes, like a bold, brave banditti, as they are. The Parisians (and I am much of their mind) think that a thief with a crape on his visage is much worse than a barefaced knave, and that such robbers richly deserve all the penalties of all the black acts. In this their thin disguise, their comrades of the late abdicated sovereign canaille hooted and hissed them, and from that day have no other name for them than what is not quite so easy to render into English, impossible to make it very civil English: it belongs, indeed, to the language of the halles: but, without being instructed in that dialect, it was the opinion of the polite Lord Chesterfield that no man could be a complete master of French. Their Parisian brethren called them gueux plumes, which, though not elegant, is expressive and characteristic: feathered scoundrels, I think, comes the nearest to it in that kind of English. But we are now to understand that these gueux, for no other reason, that I can divine, except their red and white clothes, form at last a state with which we may cultivate amity, and have a prospect of the blessings of a secure and permanent peace. In effect, then, it was not with the men, or their principles, or their polities, that we quarrelled: our sole dislike was to the cut of their clothes.