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Chapter 51:

Parliament is at one with the king.

October—December, 1775.

‘when the Russians arrive, will you go and see
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their camp?’ wrote Edward Gibbon to a friend. ‘We have great hopes of getting a body of these barbarians; the ministers daily and hourly expect to hear that the business is concluded; the worst of it is, the Baltic will soon be frozen up, and it must be late next year before they can get to America.’ The couriers that, one after another, arrived from Moscow, dispelled this confidence. The king was surprised by the refusal of the empress of Russia, and found fault with her manner as not ‘genteel;’ for, said he, ‘she has not had the civility to answer me in her own hand; and has thrown out expressions that may be civil to a Russian ear, but certainly not to more civilized ones.’ Yet he bore the disappointment with his wonted firmness; and turned for relief to the smaller princes of Germany, who now, on the failure of his [158] great speculation, had the British exchequer at their
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The plan of the coming campaign was made in the undoubting expectation of completely finishing the war in season to disband the extraordinary forces within two years. For the Russians, who were to have protected the city and province of Quebec, Germans were to be substituted, whatever might be the cost. The advantage of keeping possession of Boston as a means of occupying the attention of New England, was considered; but it was determined to concentrate the British forces at New York, as the best means of securing the central provinces and the connection with Canada. The vaunts of Dunmore were so far heeded, that a small force of some hundred men was held sufficient, with the aid of loyalists and negroes, to recover the province. The promises of Martin led to the belief that, on the appearance of a few regiments, the Highland emigrants and many thousands in the back counties of North Carolina would rally round the royal standard; and in consequence, five regiments of infantry, with ten thousand stand of arms, six small field pieces, two hundred rounds of powder and ball for each musket and field piece, were ordered to be in readiness to sail from Cork early in December; and this force was soon after made equal to seven regiments. ‘I am not apprized where they are going;’ thus Barrington expostulated with Dartmouth; ‘but if there should be an idea of such a force marching up the country, I hope it will not be entertained. Allow me once more to remind you of the necessity there is in all military matters, not to stir a step without full consultation of able [159] military men, after giving them the most perfect

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knowledge of the whole matter under consideration, with all its circumstances.’ The warning had no influence, for the king, in his dauntless self-will, would not consult those who were likely to disagree with him. A naval force, equal to the requirements of the governor of South Carolina for the recovery of that province, was also prepared.

Of the hearty concurrence of parliament no doubt was harbored. ‘I am fighting the battle of the legislature,’ said the king; ‘I therefore have a right to expect an almost unanimous support; I know the uprightness of my intentions and am ready to stand any attack of ever so dangerous a kind.’

The good sense of the English people reasoned very differently, and found an organ among the ministers themselves. The duke of Grafton, by letter, entreated Lord North to go great lengths to bring about a durable reconciliation, giving as his reasons that ‘the general inclination of men of property in England differed from the declarations of the congress in America little more than in words; that many hearty friends to government had altered their opinions by the events of the year; that their confidence in a strong party among the colonists, ready to second a regular military force, was at an end; that if the British regular force should be doubled, the Americans, whose behavior already had far surpassed every one's expectation, could and would increase theirs accordingly; that the contest was not only hopeless, but fraught with disgrace; that the attendant expenses would lay upon the country a burden which nothing could justify but an insult from a foreign [160] enemy; that, therefore, the colonies should be

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invited by their deputies to state to parliament their wishes and expectations, and a truce be proclaimed, until the issue should be known.’ Of this communication Lord North took no note whatever until within six days of the opening of parliament, and then replied by enclosing a copy of the intended speech.

Hastening to court, Grafton complained of the violent, injudicious, and impracticable schemes of the ministers, framed in a misconception of the resources of the colonies; and he added: ‘Deluded themselves, they are deluding your majesty.’ The king debated the business at large; but when he announced that a numerous body of German troops was to join the British forces, Grafton answered earnestly: ‘Your majesty will find too late that twice the number will only increase the disgrace, and never effect the purpose.’

On the twenty sixth of October, two days after the refusal of the empress of Russia was known, the king met the parliament. Of the many who were to weigh his words spoken on that occasion, the opinion of those not present was of the most importance. Making no allusion whatever to the congress or to its petition, he charged the people in America with being in a state of openly avowed revolt, levying a rebellious war for the purpose of establishing an independent empire; he professed to have received the most friendly offers of foreign assistance; and he announced that he had garrisoned Gibraltar and Port Mahon with his electoral troops, in order to employ the former garrisons in America. To make [161] a speedy end of the disorders by most decisive exer-

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tions, he recommended an increase of the navy and the army; at the same time he proposed to send over commissioners with power to grant pardons and receive the submission of the several colonies. Thus the speech, which in its words and its effects was irrevocable, presented a false issue. The Americans had not designed to establish an independent government; of their leading statesmen it was the desire of Samuel Adams alone; they had all been educated in the love and admiration of constitutional monarchy, and even John Adams and Jefferson so sincerely shrunk back from the attempt at creating another government in its stead, that, to the last moment, they were most anxious to avert a separation, if it could be avoided without a loss of their inherited liberties.

The house of commons took the king at his word; Acland, who moved the address, reduced the question into a very short compass: ‘Does Britain choose to acquiesce in the independence of America, or to enforce her submission?’ Lyttelton, whom we have seen as governor of South Carolina, in seconding the address, explained the inherent weakness of the southern colonies; and with obvious satisfaction intimated that, ‘if a few regiments were sent there, the negroes would rise, and imbrue their hands in the blood of their masters. He was against conciliatory offers; the honor of the nation required coercive measures; the colonies ought to be conquered before mercy should be shown them.’ The house sustained these sentiments by a vote of two hundred and seventy eight against one hundred and ten.

On the report of the address, the debate was renewed. [162] ‘If we suffer by the war,’ said Lord North,

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‘the Americans will suffer much more. Yet,’ he added, ‘I wish to God, if it were possible, to put the colonies on the same footing they were in 1763.’ His seeming disinclination to the measures of his own ministry, justly drew on him the rebuke from Fox for not resigning his place. ‘The present war,’ argued Adair at length, ‘is unjust in its commencement, injurious to both countries in its prosecution, and ruinous in its event, staking the fate of a great empire against a shadow. The quarrel took its rise from the assertion of a right, at best but doubtful in itself; a right, from whence the warmest advocates for it have long been forced to admit that this country can never derive a single shilling of advantage. The Americans, it is said, will be satisfied with nothing less than absolute independence. They do not say so themselves; they have said the direct contrary: “Restore the ancient constitution of the empire, under which all parts of it have flourished; place us in the situation we were in the year sixty three, and we will submit to your regulations of commerce, and return to our obedience and constitutional subjection:” this is the language of the Americans. Our ministers tell us they will not in truth be content with what they themselves have professed to demand. Have you tried them? Make the experiment. Take them at their word. If they should recede from their own proposals, you may then have recourse to war, with the advantage of a united, instead of a divided people at home.’ Sir Gilbert Elliot was unwilling ‘to send a large armament to America without sending at the same time terms of [163] accommodation.’ ‘I vote for the address,’ said Rig-
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by, ‘because it sanctifies coercive measures. America must be conquered, and the present rebellion must be crushed, ere the dispute will be ended.’ The commons unhesitatingly confirmed their vote of the previous night.

Among the lords, Shelburne insisted that the petition of the congress furnished the fairest foundation for an honorable and advantageous accommodation; and he bore his testimony to the sincerity of Franklin as one whom ‘he had long and intimately known, and had ever found constant and earnest in the wish for conciliation upon the terms of ancient connection.’ His words, which were really a prophecy of peace and a designation of its mediators, were that night unheeded; and he was overborne by a majority of two to one. Some of the minority entered their protest, in which they said: ‘We conceive the calling in foreign forces to decide domestic quarrels, to be a measure both disgraceful and dangerous.’

That same day the university of Oxford, the favored printer of the translated Bible for all whose mother tongue was the English, the natural guardian of the principles and the example of Wickliffe and Latimer and Ridley and Cranmer, the tutor of the youth of England, addressed the king against the Americans as ‘a people who had forfeited their lives and fortunes to the justice of the state.’

On the last day of October, Lord Stormont, the British ambassador in France, who had just returned to his post, was received at court. The king of France, whose sympathies were all on the side of monarchical power, said to him: ‘Happily the opposition party is [164] now very weak.’ From the king, Stormont went to

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Vergennes, who expressed the desire to live in perfect harmony with England; ‘far from wishing to increase your embarrassments,’ said he,‘we see them with some uneasiness.’ ‘The consequences,’ observed Stormont, ‘cannot escape a man of your penetration and extensive views.’ ‘Indeed they are very obvious,’ responded Vergennes; ‘they are as obvious as the consequences of the cession of Canada. I was at Constantinople when the last peace was made; when I heard its conditions, I told several of my friends there, that England would ere long have reason to repent of having removed the only check that could keep her colonies in awe. My prediction has been but too well verified. I equally see the consequences that must follow the independence of North America, if your colonies should carry that point, at which they now so visibly aim. They might, when they pleased, conquer both your islands and ours. I am persuaded that they would not stop there, but would in process of time advance to the southern continent of America, and either subdue its inhabitants or carry them along with them, and in the end not leave a foot of that hemisphere in the possession of any European power. All these consequences will not indeed be immediate Neither you nor I shall live to see them; but for be ing remote they are not less sure.’

The moderate men among British statesmen saw

no less clearly that the king's policy was forcing independence upon the colonies. On the first of November the Duke of Manchester said to the lords: ‘The violence of the times has wrested America from the British crown, and spurned the jewel because [165] the setting appeared uncouth;’ but the debate
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which he opened had no effect except that Grafton took part with him, and as a consequence resigned his place as keeper of the privy seal. Every effort of the opposition was futile. On the tenth of November Richard Penn was called to the bar of the house of lords, where he bore witness in great detail to the sincerity of the American congress in their wish for conciliation, and to the unanimity of support which they received from the people. Under the most favorable auspices the duke of Richmond proposed to accept the petition from that congress to the king as a ground for conciliation; he was ably supported by Shelburne; but his motion, like every similar motion in either house, was negatived by a majority of about two to one.

On the same day, the definitive ministerial changes, which were to give a character to the whole war, were completed. Rochford retired on a pension, and his place was taken by Lord Weymouth, who greatly surpassed him in ability and resolution. Dartmouth, who was mild tempered, amiable, and pure, yet weak, ignorant, and narrow, one of the best disposed of British statesmen, yet one whose hand was set to the most cruel and most arbitrary measures, exchanged his seat in the cabinet for the privy seal, consoling himself with the belief that he had been ever laboring for conciliation, while in fact he had been sanctioning and executing the policy at which his soul revolted. The seals of the American department were transferred to Lord George Sackville Germain, who owed his selection to his speech in the house of commons on the twenty eighth of March, 1774, and who came into [166] office on the condition of his enforcing the measures

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recommended in that speech.

Germain stood before Europe as a cashiered officer, disgraced for cowardice on the field of battle; and his unquestioning vanity made him eager to efface his ignominy by a career that should rival that of Pitt in the Seven Years war. Haunted by corroding recollections, he stumbled like one in the dark as he struggled to enter the temple of fame, and eagerly went about knocking for admission at every gate but the right one. He owed his rehabilitation to Rockingham, to whom he instantly proved false; Chatham would never sit with him at the council board. His career was unprosperous, from causes within himself. His powers were very much overrated; he had a feverish activity, punctuality to a minute, and personal application, but no sagacity, nor quickness or delicacy of perception, nor soundness of judgment. He wanted altogether that mastery over others which comes from warmth of heart. Minutely precise and formal, he was a most uncomfortable chief, always throwing upon the officers under his direction the fault of failure even in impossible schemes. His rancor towards those at whom he took offence was bitter and unending. His temper was petulant; his selfish passions were violent and constant, yet petty in their objects. Apparelled on Sunday morning in gala, as if for the drawing room, he constantly marched out all his household to his parish church; where he would mark time for the singing gallery, chide a rustic chorister for a discord, stand up during the sermon to survey the congregation, or overawe the idle, and with unmoved sincerity gesticulate approbation to the [167] preacher, whom he sometimes cheered on by name.

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Though smooth and kindly to his inferiors and dependents, he was capable of ordering the most relentless acts of cruelty; could chide his generals for checking savages in their career as destroyers; and at night, on coming home to his supper and his claret, the friendless man, unloving and unloved, could, with cold, vengeful malice, plan how to lay America in ashes, because he could not have the glory of reducing her to submission.

An opportunity soon offered for the new secretary to unfold his policy. On the sixteenth Burke brought forward a bill for composing the existing troubles, by formally renouncing the pretension to an American revenue. ‘If we are to have no peace,’ replied Germain, ‘unless we give up the right of taxation, the contest is brought to its fair issue. I trust we shall draw a revenue from America; the spirit of this country will go along with me in the idea to crush rebellious resistance.’

As he said this, the orders were already on the way to hire troops of the roytelets of Brunswick and Hesse Cassel, and in defiance of the laws of the empire to raise four thousand recruits in Germany; for if Germain was to crush the Americans, it could not be done by Englishmen. The ministry was the master of parliament, but not of the affections of the English people. Germain's appointment shows how little their sympathies were considered; the administration, as it was now constituted, was the weakest, the least principled, and the most unpopular of that century. The England that the world revered, the England that kept alive in Europe the [168] vestal fire of freedom, was at this time outside of the

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government, though steadily gaining political strength. ‘Chatham, while he had life in him, was its nerve.’ Had Grenville been living, it would have included Grenville; it retained Rockingham, Grenville's successor; it had now recovered Grafton, Chatham's successor; and Lord North, who succeeded Grafton, sided with Germain and Sandwich only by spasms, and though he loved his place, was more against his own ministry than for it. The king's policy was not in harmony with the England of the Revolution, nor with that of the eighteenth century, nor with that of the nineteenth. The England of to-day, which receives and brightens and passes along the torch of liberty, has an honest lineage, and springs from the England of the last century; but it had no representative in the ministry of Lord North, or the majority of the fourteenth parliament. America would right herself within a year; Britain and Ireland must wait more than a half century.

Still less did the ministry possess the hearts of the people of Ireland; though it controlled a majority of her legislature, and sought to allay discontent by concessions in favor of her commerce and manufactures. The consent of the Irish house of commons was requested to sending four thousand of the troops on the Irish establishment to America, and receiving in their stead four thousand German Protestants. ‘If we give our consent,’ objected Ponsonby, in the debate on the twenty fifth of November, ‘we shall take part against America, contrary to justice, to prudence, and to humanity.’ ‘The war is unjust,’ said Fitzgibbons, ‘and Ireland has no reason to be a party therein.’ Sir [169] Edward Newenham could not agree to send more

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troops to butcher men who were fighting for their liberty; and he reprobated the introduction of foreign mercenaries as equally militating against true reason and sound policy. ‘If men must be sent to America,’ cried George Ogle, ‘send there foreign mercenaries, not the brave sons of Ireland.’ Hussey Burg condemned the American war as ‘a violation of the law of nations, the law of the land, the law of humanity, the law of nature; he would not vote a single sword without an address recommending conciliatory measures; the ministry, if victorious, would only establish a right to the harvest when they had burned the grain.’ Yet the troops were voted by one hundred and twenty one against seventy six, although the resolution to replace them by foreign Protestants was negatived by sixty eight against one hundred and six.

The majority in parliament did not quiet Lord

North. Sir George Saville describes him ‘as one day for conciliation; but as soon as the first word is out, he is checked and controlled, and instead of conciliation out comes confusion.’ On the first day of December, he pressed to a second reading the American prohibitory bill, which consolidated the three special acts against the port of Boston, the fisheries, and the trade of the southern colonies, and enlarged them into a prohibition of all the trade of all the thirteen colonies. American vessels and goods were made the property of their captors; the prisoners might be compelled to serve the king even against their own countrymen. No one American grievance was removed; but commissioners were to be appointed to accept the submission of the colonies, or parts of colonies, [170] one by one; with power to grant pardons to individ-
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uals or to a whole community in the lump. The atrocity of the measure was exposed in the house of commons, but without effect; on the third reading, in the house of lords, Mansfield explained his own views, which in their essential features were also those of the king: ‘The people of America are as much bound to obey the acts of the British parliament as the inhabitants of London and Middlesex. I have not a doubt in my mind, that ever since the peace of Paris the northern colonies have been meditating a state of independence on this country. But allowing that all their professions are genuine, that every measure hitherto taken to compel submission to the parliamentary authority of this country was cruel and unjust, yet what, my lords, are we to do? Are we to rest inactive with our arms across, till they shall think proper to begin the attack, and gain strength to do it with effect? We are now in such a situation that we must either fight or be pursued. As a Swedish general said to his men of their enemy, “ If you do not kill them, they will kill you;” if we do not, my lords, get the better of America, America will get the better of us. Are we to stand idle, because we are told this is an unjust war? I do not consider who was originally in the wrong; we are now only to consider where we are. The justice of the cause must give way to our present situation; and the consequences which must ensue should we recede, would, nay must be, infinitely worse, than any we have to dread by pursuing the present plan, or agreeing to a final separation.’ After these words the bill was adopted without a division. [171]

From the beginning of the troubles, George the

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Third had regarded the renunciation of the colonies as preferable to the continuance of the connection on the American principles; for such a continuance would have overturned or endangered his system of government at home. To him it was an option between losing the brightest jewel in his crown, or losing the crown itself, in so far as it was an emblem of monarchical power. The same consideration animated Fox and Rockingham to defend American liberty as the bulwark of the rights of the British people. If a cordial reconciliation should not be speedily effected, to lose America entirely seemed to them a less evil than to hold her as a conquered country; for the maintaining of that dominion by an army only would inevitably terminate in the downfall of the constitution.

Outside of parliament, the most intelligent among the philosophers of North Britain yielded to the ministerial measures a reluctant acquiescence or discountenanced them by open rebuke. The lukewarm Presbyterian, William Robertson, whose smooth style in his more elaborate pages is like satin without a crease, and whose discreet method in history palliated or veiled the enormities of the Spaniards, forgot how well he had written at the time when the men in power were repealing the stamp act. ‘If the wisdom of government could now terminate the contest with honor instantly,’ he thought ‘that would be the most desirable issue;’ but yet he would have the British ‘leaders at once exert the power of the British empire in its full force.’ He would even have approved stationing a ‘few regiments in each capital.’ [172] He was certain that the Americans had been aiming

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all along at independence, and like the Bedford party in parliament, he held it fortunate that matters had so soon been brought to a crisis. As a lover of mankind, he was ready to bewail the check to prosperous and growing states; but, said he, ‘we are past the hour of lenitives and half exertions.’

On the other hand, John Millar, the professor of law in the university of Glasgow, taught the youth of Scotland who frequented his lectures, ‘that the republican form of government is by far the best, either for a very small or a very extensive country.’

‘I cannot but agree with him,’ said David Hume, who yet maintained that it would be ‘most criminal’ to disjoint the established government in Great Britain, where he believed a republic would so certainly be the immediate forerunner of despotism, that none but fools would think to augment liberty by shaking off monarchy. He had written the history of England without love for the country, or comprehension of its early popular liberty, or any deep insight into its parties, or exact study of its constitution. He that reads his lucid and attractive pages will not learn from them the formation of the ‘native English’ tongue, or of the system of English government, or of religious opinion, or of English philosophy, or of English literature; his work is the work of a sceptic, polemic against the dogmatism of the church, otherwise unbiassed except by the sceptic's natural predilection for the monarchical principle. But he had no faith in the universal application of that principle. ‘The ancient republics,’ said he, rising above the influence of his philosophy, ‘were somewhat ferocious [173] and torn by bloody factions; but they were still much

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preferable to the ancient monarchies or aristocracies, which seem to have been quite intolerable. Modern manners have corrected this abuse; and all the republics in Europe, without exception, are so well governed, that one is at a loss to which we should give the preference.’ ‘I am an American in my principles, and wish we would let them alone to govern or misgovern themselves, as they think proper; the affair is of no consequence or of little consequence to us.’

But one greater than Robertson and wiser than Hume gave the best expression to the mind of Scotland. Adam Smith, the peer and the teacher of statesmen, enrolled among the servants of humanity and benefactors of our race, one who had closely studied France as well as Britain, and who in his style combined the grace and the clearness of a man of the world with profound wisdom and the sincere search for truth, applied to the crisis those principles of freedom and right which made Scotland, under every disadvantage of an oppressive form of feudalism and a deceitful system of representation, an efficient instrument in promoting the liberties of mankind. He would have the American colonies either fairly represented in parliament, or independent. The prohibitory laws of England towards the colonies he pronounced ‘a manifest violation of the most sacred rights,’ ‘impertinent badges of slavery imposed upon them without any sufficient reason by the groundless jealousy of the merchants and manufacturers of the mother country.’ ‘Great Britain,’ said he, ‘derives nothing but loss from the dominion she assumes [174] over her colonies.’ ‘It is not very probable

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that they will ever voluntarily submit to us; the blood which must be shed in forcing them to do so is every drop of it the blood of those who are or of those whom we wish to have for our fellow citizens.’ ‘They are very weak who flatter themselves that in the state to which things are come, our colonies will be easily conquered by force alone.’ And he pointed out the vast immediate and continuing advantages which Great Britain would derive, if she ‘should voluntarily give up all authority over her colonies, and leave them to elect their own magistrates, to enact their own laws, and to make peace and war as they might think proper.’

Josiah Tucker, an English royalist writer on political economy, had studied perseveringly the laws of nature, which are the laws of God, in their application to commerce; and at the risk of being rated a visionary enthusiast, he now sought to convince the landed gentry, that Great Britain would lose nothing if she should renounce her colonies and cultivate commerce with them as an independent nation. This he enforced with such strength of argument and perspicuity of statement, that Soame Jenyns wrote verses in his praise, and Mansfield approved his treatise.

Thus rose through the clouds of conflict and passion the cheering idea, that the impending change, which had been deprecated as the ruin of the empire, would bring no disaster to Britain. American statesmen had struggled to avoid a separation, which neither the indefatigable zeal of Samuel Adams, nor the eloquence of John Adams, nor the sympathetic spirit of Jefferson, could have brought about. The [175] king was the author of American independence.

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His several measures, as one by one they were successively borne across the Atlantic—his contempt for the petition of congress, his speech to parliament, his avowed negotiations for mercenaries, the closing the ports of all the thirteen colonies and confiscating all their property on the ocean—forced upon them the conviction that they must protect and govern themselves.

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